Measuring the Sustainability of a Proposed Copper Mine in Arizona : A Temporal Comparison Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9z9033191

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  • A proposed copper mine in Arizona has the potential to be the largest copper producing mine in North America. It is expected to produce over a billion pounds of copper per year, and individually produce more than half of the United State's demand for copper. The operation claims to be more sustainable than previous operations by being more efficient with their use of water, energy and material resources. An embodied energy, or EMERGY analysis, was used to evaluate the sustainability of the proposed copper mining operation. The post-mining externalized annual energy cost of copper waste management for previous operations had an EMERGY value of 1.50E+22 solar emjoules per year (sej/yr); the proposed mine plans to internalize the cost of waste management during operation by containing and reusing waste, resulting in an estimated annual EMERGY cost of 6.00E+18 sej/yr. These results indicate that the proposed method of waste management will potentially be more sustainable than past mining operations in terms of embodied energy cost savings. A 1992 copper mine required 7.35E+23 sej/yr for annual energy resource investment; the proposed mine is estimated to require 5.85E+20 sej/yr. These results indicated that the proposed mine will use energy resources more efficiently than old copper mining operations. However, these results do not account for the impacts of subsidence on water and land resources, nor do they account for other potential impacts of deep mining extraction that may occur as a result of the proposed mining operation. Further analysis will be necessary to evaluate these impacts.
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