Urban mining: hibernating copper stocks in local power grids

Large technical systems serving the everyday needs of people, such as water supply systems, power grids or communication networks, are rich in accumulated metals. Over time, parts of these systems have been taken out of use without the system infrastructure being removed from its original location. Such metal stocks in hibernation thus constitute potential resource reservoirs accessible for recovery. In this paper, obsolete stocks of copper situated in the local power grids of two Swedish cities are quantified. Emphasis is also on economic conditions for extracting such 'hibernating' cables. The results show that on a per customer basis, the two power grids contain similar amounts of copper, i.e. 0.04-0.05 tonnes per subscriber. However, the share of the copper stock that is in hibernation differs between the grids. In the larger grid of Gothenburg, almost 20% of the copper accumulated in the grid is no longer in use, while the obsolete share does not exceed 5% in the city of Linköping. For managers of local power grids, recovery of hibernating cables could be beneficial if integrated with other maintenance work on the grid. At the present price of copper, however, separate recovery of obsolete cables is not economically justified.

Associated space

Gothenburg , Linköping