In this letter, we respond to the article in this journal by Weng et al. (2016) which performs a cradle to gate scale life cycle impact assessment for 26 operating and potential rare earth element (REE) mining projects. The work focuses on gross energy requirement and the global warming impacts of the primary REE production stage. The results suggest that the declining ore grades of REE significantly increase the environmental impact of REE production. We agree that a life cycle impact approach can be useful in comparing proposed REE production routes in the various different deposits currently under exploration, and were pleased to see a range of deposit types included in this work. However, we would like to make five points to clarify some of the results, which if taken at ‘face value' from the graphs presented by Weng et al. (2016) may be misleading.
Pell, R., Wall, F., Yan, X., & Bailey, G. (2017, September 20). Response to ‘Assessing the energy requirements and global warming potential of the production of rare earth elements’’.’ Journal of Cleaner Production. Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.06.059