Reclaiming the Planet, Field Notes


14 11 2021

Apart of the “Reclaiming the planet project”: COMPTE-RENDU D’UN VOYAGE EN ABITIBI-TÉMISCAMINGUE.

Today many communities around the world face the question of how to inhabit disturbed environments, and what to do with the remainders of industrial and mining processes. On a planet that is increasingly negatively impacted by industrial activities, the good management of mine waste and the reclamation of mines, in particular abandoned contaminated mine sites (mining reliability), is a pressing imperative. This project is a collaboration between geologists, environmental scientists, social scientists, architects and artists to collectively envision and study both how extraction industries and technology are changing in the present, and how to treat the future of large scale toxic mining sites in the Abitibi region of Quebec.

To respond to the complex challenges that these communities and their immediate environments are facing, we are conducting year long research-studio titled Architecture/Territoire/ Information 4.0, and a series of on-site engagements with mining installations in Abitibi, Quebec. The purpose will be to examine the changing landscape of extraction, the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data on these industries, and to envision new more sustainable and equitable futures for these environments.

To do so, we hope to disrupt standard practices of waste management and mine site reclamation in the interest of better environmental care. We will develop new pathways of recycling and reusing waste materials targeting the zero waste trends, create more ethical and holistic approaches to mine reclamation that take into consideration both the communities and the affected ecosystems, and rethink the measures, tools, and methods used to evaluate more accurately the environmental and social impacts of metal extraction industries and the related infrastructures.We will also be studying the impacts of industry 4.0 and big data and AI on mine lifecycles and for possible use in reclamation.

Reclaiming the Planet will be a three year long joint research collaboration between the Speculative Life Research Cluster at the  Milieux Institute at Concordia University, headed by Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Dr. Orit Halpern, a team from the Mining and Environment (RIME) research lab directed by Dr. Mostafa Benzaazoua (Mining environments) as well as his colleague Dr Martin Beauregard (Plastic and media arts) from Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Faculty of Planning at the School of Architecture of Université de Montréal through the involvement of Professor Alessandra Ponte, along with community organizations, mine operators and environmentalists in the Abitibi region. This collaboration is truly intersectorial merging design and architecture, the social sciences and humanities, and the earth sciences.