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Jakob Ehrensvärd | profile | all galleries >> Sicily >> An abandoned processing plant tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

An abandoned processing plant

The structural complexity of mineral processing- and chemical plants makes them very exciting objects to explore. This particular one is surely not an exception and seems to have been processing rock salts from nearby mines, presumably for industrial- and agricultural use. The sign of a large rotary kiln in an abandoned plant to me is an apparent piece of evidence in the chain of events that eventually brought it down.

Large-scale, combustion-centric processes do by their very nature require vast amounts of energy, which in turn likely result in an equally large generation of carbon dioxide. Until the first oil shock in the early 1970s, heavy fuel oil was an inexpensive way of firing various industrial processes, from cement kilns to chemical plants. Slow processes, like crystallization of sugar, manufacturing of bricks or evaporating water from limestone slurry could suddenly be done much faster in a massive scale at a very low cost, quietly ignoring the apparent waste of energy and the massive release of CO2, NOx, SO2 and other pollutants. Steeply increasing oil- and coal prices topped with international competition, lowering transportation costs and an overall recession made life difficult for several industries relying on this apparently non-sustainable condition. This reality in Sicily must have added up to the overall troublesome structural problems in the mining industry. Even without adding the EU carbon dioxide cap-and-trade costs and tightening environmental rules on top of this very gloomy situation, the 1980s must have been a painful journey down the drain and it seems like this plant finally closed in the early 1990s.

Whatever the background, this really is a spectacular ruin, but our adventure here was regrettably ended way to early by the Carabinieri showing up out of nowhere, politely escorting us out together with their German shepherd dog, who spotted us in the first place. I somewhat guess that we did not show any of the typical trademarks of traditional scrappers combined with our non-existent Italian saved us from further trouble this time...
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