American Journal of Applied Sciences

Integrating Life Cycle Assessment and Other Tools for Ex Ante Integrated Sustainability Assessment in the Minerals Industry

Deborah J Shields, Gian Andrea Blengini and Slavko V. Solar

DOI : 10.3844/ajassp.2011.1214.1227

American Journal of Applied Sciences

Volume 8, Issue 11

Pages 1214-1227


Problem statement: The minerals industry is faced with choices beginning in the exploration phase and extending over the life cycle of mine. Firms examine the technical feasibility of alternative actions and typically rank them based on economic performance. Increasingly firms also consider alternatives' contribution to sustainable development. Approach: Sustainable decision making before investment (ex ante decisions) should incorporate a broad suite of quantitative and qualitative information. One approach was to utilize an Integrated Sustainability Assessment (ISA) framework that supplements traditional technical and financial tools with other tools such as Objectives Hierarchies (OH) and Life Cycle Assessments (LCA). The outputs of these tools could be combined with additional qualitative measures and analyzed using Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA). Results: Our study extends previous literature by discussing how a combined OH-LCA-MCDA could support ex ante sustainability assessment by incorporating preferences, risk attitudes and monetized, non-monetized social and economic variables in a manner that captures their inherent complexity. Conclusion: Sustainable development is not a destination; it is an ongoing journey that must be supported by knowledge, social learning and adaptation. Decisions made in the context of sustainability are likewise part of an ongoing process. No single tool can adequately support an ISA. Multiple tools are necessary, with each used in a manner consistent with its strengths.


© 2011 Deborah J Shields, Gian Andrea Blengini and Slavko V. Solar. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.