Heavy industry

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Integrated steel mill in the Netherlands. The two massive towers are blast furnaces. Hoogovens.JPG
Integrated steel mill in the Netherlands. The two massive towers are blast furnaces.
U. S. Steel Kosice (in Slovakia) - a typical example of a heavy industry factory Ussteel kosice slovakia.JPG
U. S. Steel Košice (in Slovakia) – a typical example of a heavy industry factory

Heavy industry is an industry that involves one or more characteristics such as large and heavy products; large and heavy equipment and facilities (such as heavy equipment, large machine tools, huge buildings and large-scale infrastructure); or complex or numerous processes. Because of those factors, heavy industry involves higher capital intensity than light industry does, and it is also often more heavily cyclical in investment and employment.


Though important to economic development and industrialization of economies, heavy industry can also have significant negative side effects: both local communities and workers frequently encounter health risks, heavy industries tend to produce byproducts that both pollute the air and water, and the industrial supply chain is often involved in other environmental justice issues from mining and transportation. Because of their intensity, heavy industries are also significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, and certain parts of the industries, especially high-heat processes used in metal working and cement production, are hard to decarbonize. [1] Industrial activities such as mining also results in pollution of heavy metals. Heavy metals are very damaging to the environment because they cannot be chemically degraded. [2]


Transportation and construction along with their upstream manufacturing supply businesses have been the bulk of heavy industry throughout the industrial age, along with some capital-intensive manufacturing. Traditional examples from the mid-19th century through the early 20th included steelmaking, artillery production, locomotive manufacturing, machine tool building, and the heavier types of mining. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th, as the chemical industry and electrical industry developed, they involved components of both heavy industry and light industry, which was soon also true for the automotive industry and the aircraft industry. Modern shipbuilding (since steel replaced wood) and large components such as ship turbochargers are also characteristic of heavy industry. [3] Large systems are often characteristic of heavy industry such as the construction of skyscrapers and large dams during the post–World War II era, and the manufacture/deployment of large rockets and giant wind turbines through the 21st century. [4]

As part of economic strategy

Many East Asian countries relied on heavy industry as key parts of their development strategies [5] and many still do for economic growth. [6] This reliance on heavy industry is typically a matter of government economic policy. Among Japanese and Korean firms with "heavy industry" in their names, many are also manufacturers of aerospace products and defense contractors to their respective countries' governments such as Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries, and Korea's Hyundai Rotem, a joint project of Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Heavy Industries. [7]

In 20th-century communist states, the planning of the economy often focused on heavy industry as an area for large investments (at the expense of investing in the greater production of in-demand consumer goods), even to the extent of painful opportunity costs on the production–possibility frontier (classically, "lots of guns and not enough butter"). [8] This was motivated by fears of failing to maintain military parity with foreign capitalist powers. For example, the Soviet Union's industrialization in the 1930s, with heavy industry as the favored emphasis, sought to bring its ability to produce trucks, tanks, artillery, aircraft, and warships up to a level that would make the country a great power. China under Mao Zedong pursued a similar strategy, eventually culminating in the Great Leap Forward of 1958–1960; an unsuccessful attempt to rapidly industrialize and collectivize, whilst severely depleting the production of agricultural products and not increasing the output of usable-quality industrial goods. [9] [10]

In zoning

Heavy industry is also sometimes a special designation in local zoning laws, allowing placement of industries with heavy impacts (on environment, infrastructure, and employment) with planning. For example, the zoning restrictions for landfills usually take into account the heavy truck traffic that will exert expensive wear on the roads leading to the landfill. [11]

Environmental impacts

Greenhouse gas emissions

As of 2019, heavy industry emits about 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions: high temperature heat for heavy industry being about 10% of global emissions. [12] The steel industry alone was responsible for 7 to 9% of the global carbon dioxide emissions which is inherently related to the main production process via reduction of iron with coal. [13] In order to reduce these carbon dioxide emissions, carbon capture and utilization and carbon capture and storage technology is looked at. Heavy industry has the advantage to be a point source which is less energy-intensive to apply the latter technologies and results in a cheaper carbon capture compared to direct air capture.


Industrial activities such as the improper disposal of radioactive material, burning coal and fossil fuels, and releasing liquid waste into the environment contribute to the pollution of water, air, and wildlife. [14] In regards to water pollution, when waste is disposed of in the environment, it affects the quality of the available water supply which has a negative impact on the ecosystem along with water supply used by farms for irrigation which in turn affects our crops. [14] Heavy metal concentrations can become deadly once they pass certain thresholds, which lead to plant poisoning. [15] Heavy metals such as lead, chromium, cadmium, and arsenic form dust fall particles and are harmful to the human body, with the latter two being carcinogens. [16] Soil contamination also occurs as a result of heavy industry when those heavy metals sink into the ground contaminating the crops that reside among it. [17] Long-term or short-term exposure of children to industry-based air pollution can cause several adverse effects, such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and even death. Children are also more susceptible to air pollution detriments than adults. [18]

Heavy metals have also been shown to pollute soil, deteriorating arable land quality and adversely impacting food safety (such as vegetables or grain). [19] As a result of pollution, the toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere also contributes to global warming due to the increase of radiation absorbed. [20] Heavy metals can affect many levels of the ecosystem through bioaccumulation. Plants can pick up these metals from the soil and begin the metal transfer to higher levels of the food chain, and eventually reaching humans. [21] Humans and many other animals rely on these plant species as sources of food.

Sacrifice zones

A sacrifice zone or sacrifice area (often termed a national sacrifice zone or national sacrifice area) is a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by heavy environmental alterations or economic disinvestment, often through locally unwanted land use (LULU). These zones most commonly exist in low-income and minority communities. [22] Commentators including Chris Hedges, Joe Sacco, and Steve Lerner have argued that corporate business practices contribute to producing sacrifice zones. [23] [24] [25] A 2022 report by the UN highlighted that millions of people globally are in pollution sacrifice zones, particularly in zones used for heavy industry and mining. [26]

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Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of any substance or energy. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Although environmental pollution can be caused by natural events, the word pollution generally implies that the contaminants have an anthropogenic source – that is, a source created by human activities. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. In 2015, pollution killed nine million people worldwide. This remained unchanged in 2019, with little real progress against pollution being identifiable. Air pollution accounted for 34 of these earlier deaths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Water pollution</span> Contamination of water bodies

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies, usually as a result of human activities, so that it negatively affects its uses. Water bodies include lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers, reservoirs and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants are introduced into these water bodies. It can be attributed to one of four sources: sewage discharges, industrial activities, agricultural activities, and urban runoff including stormwater. It can be grouped into surface water pollution or groundwater pollution. For example, releasing inadequately treated wastewater into natural waters can lead to degradation of these aquatic ecosystems. Water pollution can also lead to water-borne diseases in people using polluted water for drinking, bathing, washing or irrigation. Water pollution reduces the ability of the body of water to provide the ecosystem services that it would otherwise provide.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Human impact on the environment</span> Impact of human life on Earth and environment

Human impact on the environment refers to changes to biophysical environments and to ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources caused directly or indirectly by humans. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects including global warming, environmental degradation, mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crisis, and ecological collapse. Some human activities that cause damage to the environment on a global scale include population growth, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss, have been proposed as representing catastrophic risks to the survival of the human species.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marine pollution</span> Pollution of oceans from substances discarded by humans

Marine pollution occurs when substances used or spread by humans, such as industrial, agricultural and residential waste, particles, noise, excess carbon dioxide or invasive organisms enter the ocean and cause harmful effects there. The majority of this waste (80%) comes from land-based activity, although marine transportation significantly contributes as well. Since most inputs come from land, either via the rivers, sewage or the atmosphere, it means that continental shelves are more vulnerable to pollution. Air pollution is also a contributing factor by carrying off iron, carbonic acid, nitrogen, silicon, sulfur, pesticides or dust particles into the ocean. The pollution often comes from nonpoint sources such as agricultural runoff, wind-blown debris, and dust. These nonpoint sources are largely due to runoff that enters the ocean through rivers, but wind-blown debris and dust can also play a role, as these pollutants can settle into waterways and oceans. Pathways of pollution include direct discharge, land runoff, ship pollution, atmospheric pollution and, potentially, deep sea mining.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Soil contamination</span> Pollution of land by human-made chemicals or other alteration

Soil contamination, soil pollution, or land pollution as a part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotic (human-made) chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals or improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. Contamination is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical substance. The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapour from the contaminants, or from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil. Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanups are time-consuming and expensive tasks, and require expertise in geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air pollution</span> Presence of dangerous substances in the atmosphere

Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. It is also the contamination of indoor or outdoor surrounding either by chemical activities, physical or biological agents that alters the natural features of the atmosphere. There are many different types of air pollutants, such as gases, particulates, and biological molecules. Air pollution can cause diseases, allergies, and even death to humans; it can also cause harm to other living organisms such as animals and food crops, and may damage the natural environment or built environment. Air pollution can be caused by both human activities and natural phenomena.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental effects of mining</span> Environmental problems from uncontrolled mining

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental issues in Chile</span>

Environmental issues in Chile include deforestation, water scarcity, pollution, soil erosion, climate change, and biodiversity loss, especially in its industry-heavy "sacrifice zones". The country of Chile is a virtual continental island that spans over 4,200 kilometers. It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Andes Mountains on the east, and the Atacama Desert in the north; it is home to several important ecoregions, such as the Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests, a biodiversity hotspot that harbors richly endemic flora and fauna, and the Tropical Andes, which stretches into northern Chile. The country has a wide variety of climates due to its large size and extreme geographical features including glaciers, volcanoes, rain forests, and deserts. Chile faces many environmental issues that impact both its people and economy.

[Islamabad]] has many environmental issues, severely affecting its biophysical environment as well as human health. The industrialization as well as lax environmental oversight have contributed to the problems. The various forms of pollution have increased as Karachi which has caused widespread environmental and health problems. Air pollution, lack of proper waste management infrastructure and degradation of water bodies are the major environmental issues in Karachi.

A sacrifice zone or sacrifice area is a geographic area that has been permanently impaired by heavy environmental alterations or economic disinvestment, often through locally unwanted land use (LULU). These zones most commonly exist in low-income and minority communities. Commentators including Chris Hedges, Joe Sacco, and Steve Lerner have argued that corporate business practices contribute to producing sacrifice zones. A 2022 report by the UN highlighted that millions of people globally are in pollution sacrifice zones, particularly in zones used for heavy industry and mining.

Foreign direct investment and the environment involves international businesses and their interactions and impact on the natural world. These interactions can be observed through the stringency applied to foreign direct investment policy and the responsiveness of capital or labor incentive for investment inflows. The laws and regulations created by a country that focuses on environmental regimes can directly impact the levels of competition involving foreign direct investment they are exposed to. Fiscal and financial incentives stemming from ecological motivators, such as carbon taxation, are methods used based on the desired outcome within a country in order to attract foreign direct investment.

The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, just after the oil industry. The environmental damage the fashion industry causes increases as the industry grows. Less than one percent of clothing is recycled to make new clothes and the production of green house gas emissions continues to increase everyday. The industry produces an estimated 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion all contribute to differing forms of environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil degradation. The textile industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world, and is culpable for roughly one-fifth of all industrial water pollution. Some of the main factors that contribute to this industrial caused pollution are the vast overproduction of fashion items, the use of synthetic fibers, the agriculture pollution of fashion crops, and the proliferation of microfibers across global water sources.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mining in Asia</span>

Asia is rich in mineral resources due to unique geographical conditions. The main minerals are petroleum, coal, iron, manganese, tin, tungsten, antimony, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, gold, silver, mica and precious stone.


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