Globally emerging smart city concepts aim to make resource production and allocation in urban areas more efficient, and thus more sustainable through new sociotechnical innovations such as smart grids, smart meters, or solar panels. While recent critiques of smart cities have focused on data security, surveillance, or the influence of corporations on urban development, especially with regard to intelligent communication technologies (ICT), issues related to the material basis of smart city technologies and the interlinked resource problems have largely been ignored in the scholarly literature and in urban planning. Such problems pertain to the provision and recovery of critical raw materials (CRM) from anthropogenic sources like scrap metal repositories, which have been intensely studied during the last few years. To address this gap in the urban planning literature, we link urban planning literatures on smart cities with literatures on CRM mining and recovery from scrap metals. We find that underestimating problems related to resource provision and recovery might lead to management and governance challenges in emerging smart cities, which also entail ethical issues. To illustrate these problems, we refer to the smart city energy domain and explore the smart city-CRM-energy nexus from the perspectives of the respective literatures. We show that CRMs are an important foundation for smart city energy applications such as energy production, energy distribution, and energy allocation. Given current trends in smart city emergence, smart city concepts may potentially foster primary extraction of CRMs, which is linked to considerable environmental and health issues. While the problems associated with primary mining have been well-explored in the literature, we also seek to shed light on the potential substitution and recovery of CRMs from anthropogenic raw material deposits as represented by installed digital smart city infrastructures. Our central finding is that the current smart city literature and contemporary urban planning do not address these issues. This leads to the paradox that smart city concepts are supporting the CRM dependencies that they should actually be seeking to overcome. Discussion on this emerging issue between academics and practitioners has nevertheless not taken place. We address these issues and make recommendations.
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