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No mining activities, no environmental impacts? Assessing the carbon footprint of metal requirements induced by the consumption of a country with almost no mines

Abstract : All economies rely today on metal use either in the construction or energy sectors or in more advanced technology sectors. Nevertheless, not all countries have mining industries, which implies that these countries need to import primary metal concentrates and semi-finished goods containing metals to fulfill their final consumption. By importing these goods, they also import their associated environmental externalities. Considering the French metropolitan territory where mining industries are on hold since the 1990’s, this study assesses the impacts on climate change of metals-related activities (i.e. mining, production and recycling) induced by the French final demand, as well as their share in the total French carbon footprint. The EXIOBASE v3.3 hybrid database is used to perform the assessment, showing that the metal sector represents 13% of the total French carbon footprint. This contribution is mainly due to the “iron and steel production” activities that are linked to the “construction” and “motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers” goods consumed in France. The assessment also shows that France outsources 79% of the metal sector GHG emissions induced by its consumption. 55% of these emissions occur in the European Union and more than 17% specifically in China. Therefore, despite metallic ores are pratically not anymore mined in France, the embodied metal on the French final demand indirectly generates large greenhouse gases emissions abroad (in particular CO2). This detailed overview can be used as support to policy-making, e.g. regarding actions on metal domestic production, trade and more generally supply chains, potentially key to reduce the share of metals in the French carbon footprint. Finally, three major rooms of improvement are identified to refine the assessment of the contribution of the metal sector to the whole environmental footprint of French consumption.
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Stéphanie Muller, Frédéric Lai, Antoine Beylot, Baptiste Boitier, Jacques Villeneuve. No mining activities, no environmental impacts? Assessing the carbon footprint of metal requirements induced by the consumption of a country with almost no mines. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 2020, ⟨10.1016/j.spc.2020.02.002⟩. ⟨hal-02476973⟩

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