Industrial Ecology: A Review with Examples from the Canadian Mining industry/L'ecologie Industrielle: Une Revue Avec Des Exemples De L'industrie Miniere Du Canada

Article excerpt

In this paper a major theoretical framework that pertains to geographic study, Industrial Ecology, is reviewed through a detailed literature review which seeks to define the field, examine its genealogy, summarize popular critiques, and situate this area of thought in relation to the closely related fields of Industrial Symbiosis, Industrial Metabolism, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Next, the potential for meaningful Industrial Ecology fieldwork to be conducted in Canada is illustrated by a brief example of the Industrial Ecology type phenomenon in the Canadian Mining Industry, as exemplified by the recycling activities of two of Canada's largest mining firms--Falconbridge and Noranda. It is argued that the potential exists to expand upon the sparse Industrial Ecology literature which examines Canadian case studies and that such research could make a meaningful contribution to this field.

Dans cet article, l'ecologie industrielle est presentee en tant qu'un schema theorique important pour la geographie. Une revue detaillee de la litterature permet une definition du domaine; les antecedents du domaine sont presentes, ainsi qu'un resume de ses critiques les plus courants et une analyse de son positionnement en rapport avec des domaines connexes tells que la symbiose industrielle, le metabolisme industriel et la responsabilite sociale corporative. Puis le potentiel d'un travail de terrain serieux dans le domaine de l'ecologie industrielle est illustre un brievement avec un exemple du phenomene dans l'industrie miniere canadienne, en utilisant comme exemples les activites de recyclage de deux de plus grandes compagnies minieres au Canada, Falconbridge et Noranda. On raisonne qu'il y a un potentiel d'elargir l'envergure de la litterature relativement limitee qui traite des etudes de cas canadiennes de l'ecologie industrielle et qu'une telle recherche peut contribuer de facon significative au domaine.

Introduction: Industrial Ecology

Industrial Ecology is a relatively new and prescriptive field of study which seeks to transform the current industrial system by placing it within, and modeling it after, natural systems (Jelinski et al 1992; Lifset 1997; Gallopoulos 2006). As a key analogy that motivates the field's thinking, Industrial Ecology relates the flow of energy, resources, and wastes in modern industry to their natural corollaries arguing that an "... ecological system operates through a web of connections in which organisms live and consume each other and each other's waste. The system has evolved so that the characteristic of communities of living organisms seems to be that nothing that contains available energy or useful material will be lost ..." (Frosch 1992). Following this analogy, Industrial Ecology seeks to emulate mature ecological systems in order to reduce environmental impacts through maximized efficiency of energy and resource inputs and the minimization of unutilized waste (Jelinski et al 1992). Industrial Ecology argues that traditionally industry operates in a 'linear' fashion, creating 'open' resource and energy loops where "...the flow of material from one stage to the next is independent of all other flows ..." (Jelinski et al 1992). This leads to 'end-of-the-pipe outcomes' where both useful and useless (waste) products are generated as part of the production process. It is argued that in mature ecosystems all resources loops are 'closed' and that nearly all resource utilization in nature results exclusively in products that are useful to other organisms--anything that is generated as 'waste' by one organism is eventually taken up by another as food. Following the natural model, Industrial Ecology seeks to 'close' the industrial loop so that all waste products and available flows of energy are put to a productive use (Jelinski et al 1992; Lifset 1997; Gallopoulos 2006). This involves the evolution of increased complexity and interconnectedness within the industrial system (Ruth 1998). …