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Legacy iron and steel wastes in the UK: Extent, resource potential, and management futures

Riley, Alex L.; MacDonald, John M.; Burke, Ian T.; Renforth, Phil; Jarvis, Adam P.; Hudson-Edwards, Karen A.; McKie, Jessica; Mayes, William M.


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Dr Alex Riley
Lecturer in Environmental Science

John M. MacDonald

Ian T. Burke

Phil Renforth

Adam P. Jarvis

Karen A. Hudson-Edwards

Jessica McKie


The iron and steel industry has a long tradition of bulk reuse of slags for a range of construction applications. Growing interest in recent years has seen slag resource recovery options extend to critical raw material recovery and atmospheric carbon capture. Full scale deployment of such technologies is currently limited in part by absent or partial inventories of slag deposit locations, data on composition, and volume estimates in many jurisdictions. This paper integrates a range of spatial information to compile a database of iron and steel slag deposits in mainland United Kingdom (UK) for the first time and evaluate the associated resource potential. Over 190 million tonnes of legacy iron and steel slag are present across current and former iron and steel working regions of the UK, with particular concentrations in the north west and north east of England, and central Scotland. While significant potential stockpiles of blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace slag could provide up to 0.9 million tonnes of vanadium and a cumulative carbon dioxide capture potential of 57-138 million tonnes, major management challenges for resource recovery are apparent. Over one third are located in close proximity to designated conservation areas which may limit resource recovery. Furthermore, land use analyses show that many of the sites have already been redeveloped for housing (nearly 30% urban cover). Deposits from recent decades in current or recently closed steel-working areas may have the greatest potential for resource recovery where such ambitions could be coupled with site restoration and regeneration efforts.


Riley, A. L., MacDonald, J. M., Burke, I. T., Renforth, P., Jarvis, A. P., Hudson-Edwards, K. A., …Mayes, W. M. (2020). Legacy iron and steel wastes in the UK: Extent, resource potential, and management futures. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 219, Article 106630.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 18, 2020
Publication Date 2020-12
Deposit Date Sep 1, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 3, 2020
Journal Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Print ISSN 0375-6742
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 219
Article Number 106630
Keywords Steel slag; National assessment; Resource recovery; Carbon capture; Legacy wastes; Anthroposphere
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