How to get precious metals without mining: Dig up city streets
We’re always looking for ways to reuse materials that humans have forcibly extracted from the Earth at great cost to human life and to the planet. Via Atlantic Cities, we now find that a whole bunch of scientists have realized that there’s a huge trove of materials just waited to be exploited — under city streets.
Kate Ravilious interviewed these scientists for a (paywalled) New Scientist article and found that, while city streets may not be literally paved with gold, they are covering up a whole bunch of valuable copper. Atlantic Cities summarizes:
Recently Eklund and company have focused their attention on copper stocks embedded in municipal power grids. They estimate that there’s upwards of 90,000 tons of the stuff buried beneath Swedish cities, though recovering it may not be “economically justified” at the present time. … If they did find a cost-efficient way to harvest and recycle the copper, however, the environmental savings compared to traditional mining would be substantial — roughly 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide, according to Ravilious.
Of course to get at resources like these, we’d have to forcibly extract them from the ground at great cost to human convenience and … well, actually, it’s nowhere near as destructive as actual mining. It’ll just make us late for work for a while as we drive around mining sites and deal with subway delays. Win-win?