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Jose L Palacios, Guiomar Calvo, Alicia Valero, and Antonio Valero (2018)

Exergoecology Assessment of Mineral Exports from Latin America: Beyond a Tonnage Perspective

Sustainability, 10(723):1-18.

Latin America has traditionally been a raw material supplier since colonial times. In this paper, we analyze mineral exports from an exergoecology perspective from twenty countries in Latin American (LA-20). We apply material flow analysis (MFA) principles along with the concept of the exergy replacement cost (ERC), which considers both quantity and thermodynamic quality of minerals, reflecting their scarcity in the crust. ERC determines the energy that would be required to recover minerals to their original conditions in the mines once they have been totally dispersed into the Earth’s crust, with prevailing technology. Using ERC has helped us identify the importance of certain traded minerals that could be overlooked in a traditional MFA based on a mass basis only. Our method has enabled us to determine mineral balance, both in mass (tonnes) and in ERC terms (Mtoe). Using indicators, both in mass and ERC, we have assessed the self-sufficiency and dependency of the region. We have also analyzed the mineral exports flows from Latin America for 2013. Results show that half of the mineral production from LA-20 was mainly exported. High-quality minerals, such as, gold, silver, and aluminum were largely exported to China and the United States. Extraction of high-quality minerals also implies higher losses of natural stock and environmental overburdens in the region.

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