Resource processing & industrial strategy in Western Canada: What can we learn from Western Australia?


October 4, 2012 :: Ian MacLachlen
Moderated by Bev Muendel-Atherstone

Considering Western Canada’s continued dependence on crude and semi-processed resource exports, it could be argued that Albertans ought to find more sustainable and profitable ways to process their natural resource wealth. The speaker will briefly consider regional development challenges in Western Canada before turning to Western Australia, a booming resource-based economy that shares much in common with Alberta.

This presentation will explain how the Kwinana industrial complex on Cockburn Sound has been in operation for nearly 60 years. Initially based on an Anglo Iranian oil refinery which came on stream in 1955, Kwinana has become a large and densely-interconnected industrial zone with the largest harbour on Australia’s Indian Ocean coastline. Just 30 km south of Perth, it features a wide range of large-scale resource-processing refineries and processing plants (oil, gas, nickel, alumina, titanium dioxide, chemicals, water and electrical power generation).

The speaker will discuss the Kwinana success story in light of some relatively new theories of industrial ecology and symbiosis. This alternate explanatory framework has exciting implications in an age in which sustainability objectives are becoming increasingly important in the planning of industrial districts, particularly to Western Canada. It briefly considers the potential for industrial symbiosis on the prairies in projects as large and complex as “Alberta’s Industrial Heartland” (Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan and associated municipalities) and as small as Lethbridge’s industrial park.

Speaker: Ian MacLachlen

Ian was born and raised in Montreal and obtained his B.A. and M.A. from Carleton University in Ottawa. He completed his doctorate at the University of Toronto in 1990. Ian has taught in geography departments at University of Toronto at Mississauga (1985-86), University of Windsor (1986-88), and Carleton (1988-89) before joining the Department of Geography at the University of Lethbridge in 1989.

In 1991, Ian taught International Studies on a faculty exchange with Hokkai Gakuen University, Sapporo, Japan. He was a Research Associate at the Instituto de Geografía, Universidad Autónoma de México during study leave, 1995-1996. In 2003-04, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Centre of Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. On Ian’s most recent sturdy leave, he was at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Ian’s last presentation to SACPA was entitled “Lethbridge’s Beef Bonanza” on February 14, 2002.


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