Urban Mining in Amsterdam: PUMA

Header image: Urban Mining in Amsterdam: PUMA

The buildings of Amsterdam contain tons of steel, copper, aluminium and lead. Amsterdam can be seen as an urban mine. In a circular economy, under conditions, the metals of Amsterdam can be mined. Leiden University will write scenarios of urban mining. TU Delft will develop methods to deduce metal content of buildings. The Waag Society will make a geological map of the built environment of Amsterdam. Metabolic will do a ground truth check. Finally, Leiden University will write a draft mining plan. Together, in the AMS project PUMA, we will find out under what conditions Amsterdam as urban mine is viable.

Amsterdam as an urban mine

Amsterdam is an urban mine. Amsterdam is a wealth of metals. Amsterdam is tons of steel, copper, aluminium, gold. Steel in high-rise buildings, copper in the cables, aluminium in window frames, gold in the telephones. Tons. If you need metals, go prospecting Amsterdam. It might be a valuable urban mining ground.

Obviously, the metals are in use and not free to process yet. It will take time before you can get them out. But in the mining industry this is business as usual – getting any mine running takes decades. Traditionally, mines are underground. There is iron, copper and aluminium in the earth. Ore concentrations are going down, and it takes ever more energy to get the metals out. Worldwide, 7-8% of all energy consumption is now used to producing metals. It takes far less energy to take the metals from urban mines. Still, we have to ask: can it be done? Is it worthwhile?

Project stages

The first step in any mining process is prospecting: the first stage of the geological analysis by a physical search for minerals and precious metals. To start, we need to make a geological map of the built environment. Where are the metals, how much, what is the quality, when will these metals become available? We teach the principles of this in a two-year master course, called industrial ecology, run in cooperation between Leiden University and the Technical University of Delft. We participate in a European project, MICA, a consortium involving the European geological bureaus, to develop the methodology of urban prospecting.

Expected results

This project, Prospecting the Urban Mines of Amsterdam (PUMA) will deliver two products. The first is a geological map of the built environment. The results will be shared as open data and visualised in an interactive geological map, giving an overview of available resources, their quality and ‘time to mine’. The second is an outline for an urban mining plan, indicating the steps needed to actually exploit the urban mine. We intend to take this idea further in other, larger projects, funded for example by the EU Horizon 2020 program or the KIC Raw Materials.

The project is a joint research of TU Delft, Waag Society, CML Leiden University, and Metabolic.

Project duration: January 2016 – December 2016

Partners:

Leiden University, Institute of Environmental Sciences: Ester van der Voet, Ruben Huele

Waag Society: Job Spierings, Ruben Huele

Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment: Ellen van Bueren, Alexander Koutamanis, Boukje van Reijn

Metabolic: Anna Krotova

Industrial Ecology students: Luuk Gremmen, Sho Lin

This project is an AMS Stimulus Project. The aim of Stimulus Projects is to give to new and existing AMS partners support to innovative research that has a strong upscaling potential. The projects should realize short-term research output, which acts as a catalyst of a new solution direction, concept or approach.

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