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Model of environmental life cycle assessment for coal mining operations

Burchart-Korol, Dorota, Fugiel, Agata, Czaplicka-Kolarz, Krystyna, Turek, Marian
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.562 pp. 61-72
coal, coal industry, drainage water, ecosystems, electricity, energy, environmental assessment, environmental impact, environmental indicators, environmental models, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, heat, human health, life cycle assessment, methane, mining, processing waste, raw materials, steel, Poland
This paper presents a novel approach to environmental assessment of coal mining operations, which enables assessment of the factors that are both directly and indirectly affecting the environment and are associated with the production of raw materials and energy used in processes. The primary novelty of the paper is the development of a computational environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) model for coal mining operations and the application of the model for coal mining operations in Poland. The LCA model enables the assessment of environmental indicators for all identified unit processes in hard coal mines with the life cycle approach. The proposed model enables the assessment of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) based on the IPCC method and the assessment of damage categories, such as human health, ecosystems and resources based on the ReCiPe method. The model enables the assessment of GHGs for hard coal mining operations in three time frames: 20, 100 and 500years. The model was used to evaluate the coal mines in Poland. It was demonstrated that the largest environmental impacts in damage categories were associated with the use of fossil fuels, methane emissions and the use of electricity, processing of wastes, heat, and steel supports. It was concluded that an environmental assessment of coal mining operations, apart from direct influence from processing waste, methane emissions and drainage water, should include the use of electricity, heat and steel, particularly for steel supports. Because the model allows the comparison of environmental impact assessment for various unit processes, it can be used for all hard coal mines, not only in Poland but also in the world. This development is an important step forward in the study of the impacts of fossil fuels on the environment with the potential to mitigate the impact of the coal industry on the environment.