A Cable Laid Is a Cable Played: On the Hibernation Logic behind Urban Infrastructure Mines
The Journal of urban technology
Our societies are reliant on metals to such an extent that the total amounts of some of them in the built environment are comparable in size to the remaining amounts in known mountain ores. Because of concerns about mineral scarcity, the United Nations has assessed alternative sources for metal extraction and targeted urban areas in general and infrastructure systems in particular, since these are large, spatially concentrated and rich in metals. Referring to the possibility of recovering these
... of recovering these metal stocks, infrastructure systems constitute what material flow researchers has conceptually termed "urban mines." While most urban infrastructure is in use, significant amounts of cables and pipes have been disconnected and remain in their subsurface locations; they are "hibernating." In this article, we analyze the occurrence of such hibernation in the Swedish city of Norrköping's urban infrastructure mine where, we know from a previous study, that every fourth kilo of infrastructure is discarded. Our applied perspective is different from the logic of system expansion as a way to meet increased demand often found in the field of infrastructure studies since we are interested in how systems are disconnected and left behind. This enables us to offer a refined understanding of the concepts of infrastructure "decline" and infrastructure "cold spots." We argue that to prevent the increase of dormant infrastructures and to engage in the urban mining of already dormant infrastructures, we must develop a sensibility to the materiality of derelict infrastructure components and the underlying causes for why they form different kinds of spatial patterns.