22 April 2021
by Andrea Gaini

Urban mining has potential to provide raw materials, research finds

According to research by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) cities, the human habitat and built environment has the potential to become a source of raw materials supply through urban mining.

old pipes
© Pisauikan/Unsplash

The research found that by exploring for, extracting and refining anthropogenic resources urban mining can secure raw materials, for example, copper through resources such as electronic goods, buildings and mine tailings. These metals and minerals still originate from conventional mining, but their recovery through urban mining allows for a degree of independence from natural resources, increasing supply security.

By recycling end-of-life products and keeping them in the supply chain for longer, where possible, the urban mine is an important element of the circular economy; the system collects already discarded products and returns the secondary raw materials to the economy.

Luis Tercero, Coordinator of Business Unit Raw Materials at Fraunhofer ISI says, “Urban mining presents a potential opportunity for the future copper industry, and wider mining, to adopt more sustainable practices. By treating waste as a resource, this study finds urban mining is important, alongside conventional mining, to meet the increasing demand for raw materials.”


Andrea Gaini