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Towards a circular economy of critical raw materials : the case of niobium

Freiin von Rennenberg, Theresa Simone (2021) Towards a circular economy of critical raw materials : the case of niobium.

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Embargo date:6 October 2023
Abstract:The central research goal of this thesis was to assess how the implementation of a circular economy strategy through urban mining impacts the criticality of the critical raw material niobium as well as the generation of waste and emissions along its supply chain. To find an answer to this question a scenario analysis with three different scenarios for varying possible future paths was established in order to explore imminent developments which impact the niobium supply chain and trigger circular economy. As a method to measure the changes in environmental implications along the supply chain enterprise input-output modelling (EIO) was adopted. The results of the EIO model showed how the amount of inputs, outputs and by-products changed in each scenario. In a final step, the supply risk was calculated for each scenario in accordance with the European Commission’s criticality assessment framework to evaluate how circular economy affects niobium’s criticality under differing conditions. The results show that urban mining is a viable strategy to both strongly reduce niobium’s criticality and to mitigate its supply chain’s negative impact on the environment. The European Union would prevent a shortage of supply by becoming less dependent on Brazil which produces 92% of all niobium products globally but is also a country which faces strong economic, environmental, social and political issues. However, joint efforts of academia, politics and the economy are needed to reduce the supply risk as well as the environmental implications. Even though circular economy has a high potential to reduce the supply risk in all scenarios, an even higher recycling input rate or a mix of a recycling and a substitution strategy is necessary to reduce the supply risk below the criticality threshold of 1 and offset niobium’s criticality.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/87807
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