Metal Mining’s Environmental Pressures: A Review and Updated Estimates on CO2 Emissions,Water Use, and Land Requirements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


  • Michael Hitch
  • Stephan Lutter
  • Susanne Feiel

External Organisational units

  • Tallinn University of Technology
  • Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien


The significant increase in metal mining and the inevitability of the continuation of this
trend suggests that environmental pressures, as well as related impacts, have become an issue of
global relevance. Yet the scale of the impact remains, to a large extent, unknown. This paper examines
the mining sector’s demands on CO2 emissions, water use, as well as demands on land use focusing
on four principal metals: iron, aluminium (i.e., bauxite ore), copper, and gold. These materials
represent a large proportion of all metallic materials mined in terms of crude tonnage and economic
value. This paper examines how the main providers of mining data, the United Nations, government
sources of some main metal producing and consuming countries, the scientific literature, and company
reports report environmental pressures in these three areas. The authors conclude that, in the global
context, the pressure brought about by metal mining is relatively low. The data on this subject are still
very limited and there are significant gaps in consistency on criteria such as boundary descriptions,
input parameter definitions, and allocation method descriptions as well as a lack of commodity
and/or site specific reporting of environmental data at a company level.


Translated title of the contributionUmweltauswirkungen des Metalbergbaus: Status und aktuelle Zahlen für CO2, Wasser und Landnutzung
Original languageEnglish
Article number2881
Number of pages14
JournalSustainability / Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018