The “Metal-Energy-Construction Mineral” Nexus in the Island Metabolism: The Case of the Extractive Economy of New Caledonia

The concept of island metabolism strives to implement the principles of social ecology at the island scale. It is, therefore, a question of analyzing the flows of materials and energy passing through these territories, as well as the resource base needed to sustain their activities. We propose to develop a nexus approach to the New Caledonian island metabolism to understand the interactions between biophysical structures and societal, as well as economic, activities. Metals, construction minerals, and energy are good symbols of economies based on the extraction of non-renewable resources. This is why, in this article, we sought to investigate how the “metal-energy-construction mineral” nexus can affect the resilience and metabolic sustainability of the extractive island of New Caledonia. We carried out the Material and Energy Flow Analysis (MEFA) of each nexus subsystem for 2016 and of the nodes of interdependence. We also interrogated the role of importing countries because the island’s metabolism is dominated by the nickel extraction industry. Indeed, the metabolic profile of this island corresponds to the one of a supply territory for other consumption territories. The latter outsource the impacts of their own consumption to New Caledonia. Finally, based on interviews with economic stakeholders, we studied the potential building blocks for the emergence of an industrial symbiosis in the nexus.