Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor 1

Pasi Lautala

Committee Member 1

Robert Handler

Committee Member 2

William Sproule

Committee Member 3

David Shonnard


Freight transportation of goods and commodities is a necessity and often accounts for a significant portion of the overall investment in the industrial development, especially in the natural resource industry. The economic costs of developing an infrastructure have long been factored into the project costs, but environmental and/or social impacts have received less attention. In addition, alternative transportation modes are rarely compared from both economic and environmental perspectives. This project uses a case study to assess the environmental impacts (emissions) of different transportation options for transporting ore between a planned mine and a processing plant, and concentrate from the processing plant to an intermediate location (Escanaba, MI). The ore transportation options include truck only option and two multimodal (truck-rail) options, while the concentrate transportation options include truck only, rail only and one multimodal (truck-rail) option.

Environmental impact assessment is done by a process called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) using SimaPro Version 8 software and includes all aspects related to the construction, operation, and maintenance (stages) of transportation infrastructure and equipment required for the project. The end of life stage was excluded from the analysis. The different processes that occur during the three stages are identified and data for each process is either collected from local sources or from datasets available in SimaPro. The analysis is conducted for four alternative mine lives, ranging from ten to thirty years.

The output of the LCA is provided in the overall Global Warming Potential (GWP) in terms of kilogram equivalents of CO2 (kg CO2eq) and the emissions generated by each transportation option are compared on the basis of one ton (US ton) of ore/concentrate transported. Overall, the results suggest that multimodal options generate the lowest emissions among all alternatives, for both ore and concentrate transportation. Operations stage accounts for the majority of the emissions for all six options, regardless of the life of the mine, but there are large differences in the operational emission quantities from truck only vs. multimodal options. It is also revealed that the construction emissions can be significant, especially for short mine lives, but emissions from maintenance activities remain fairly low for all options and all mine lives.

In addition to quantifying the emissions from each alternative, the integration of results into economic analysis is investigated. An overview of Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) for freight transportation options is discussed and the emission results from LCA are converted to dollar value for transporting one ton of ore/concentrate using costs of carbon from literature.