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Week of Direct Action in Iceland as Arms-Connections of Aluminium Industry get Exposed

The resistance against heavy industry and large dams in Iceland has heated up, and not just because of global warming. The week began with Reykjavik's first Reclaim the Streets on the 14th of July, where a rebel clown army raved in opposition to aluminium. The day after a public meeting was held with the people of Thorlakshöfn (named as a site for two new aluminum smelters) and activists from anti-heavy industry struggles in South Africa and Trinidad. On Wednesday the 18th, Saving Iceland closed the supply road to Century Aluminum's Grundartangi Smelter and the Icelandic Alloys steel factory. On Friday, Reykjavik Energy was targeted and a huge banner was raised accusing the electricity company of supplying energy to war-mongering corporations ALCAN-RioTinto and Century-RUSAL. That morning, the Icelandic consulate in Edinburgh, Scotland was painted red under the slogan 'Iceland Bleeds', and locks were glued.

Much of the aluminium produced goes directly to the war efforts of the US, Russia and others. Alumium is the single most important bulk metal for modern warfare (1). It is the most important bulk metal for missiles, tanks, fighter planes, and nuclear weapons. It s as if Iceland is organizing a competition which company - ALCOA, Alcan/RioTinto or Century/RUSAL - has committed the most human rights and environmental crimes to decide who to sell energy," says Saving Iceland.

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Rubrieken: Laatste Nieuws; Thema's (Biodiversiteit; Globalisering; Energie; Klimaat / Climate; Kernenergie/wapens)
Gepost: Sat 21-07-07 01:56:36 - Auteur: krater

Reclaim the Streets
On July 14th, Bastille-day, around a hundred people raved all over Reykjavik's ring road in a carnaval against heavy industry. Iceland's first Reclaim the Streets began cheerfully as Saving Iceland ran onto Reykjavik's western ring. A clown army danced to the beats down into the city centre. This Rave Against the Machine was organized by Saving Iceland to "reclaim our public space, space to be free to dance, to be free from dreary industrial car culture and to voice a sound of festival in opposition to the grim industrialisation plans for Iceland," says a Saving Iceland activist. "For years, people have petitioned, written to politicians and made legal arguments. Still there are at least eight new aluminum smelters and enlargements threatening us in the near future. We have to take radical direct action if we are to stop this happening. We have to do whatever we can to save the largest remaining wilderness in Europe." Although a massive traffic jam ensued, many car drivers responded sympathetically.

Smelter expansion
ALCOA, Alcan/RioTinto, Norsk Hydro and Century/Rusal are all scheming for new smelters in Iceland. Activists blockaded Century this week. Century Aluminum, a part of the recently formed Russian-Swiss RUSAL/ Glencore/SUAL conglomorate, want to build a second smelter in Iceland in Helguvik with a projected capacity of at least 250.000 metric tons per annum. The planned site is designed to accommodate further expansion. Grundartangi has this year been extended to 260.000 mtpa.

Currently, an environmental impact assessment (2) is under review for the Helguvik smelter, produced by the construction consultants HRV (Honnun/Rafhonnun/VST).

It is absurd that an engineering company with a vested interest in the smelter construction - they name themselves the chief architects of the aluminium industry on their own website, could be considered to produce an objective impact assessment. The document makes idiotic claims, such as that pollution is really not a problem because Helguvik is such a windy place that the pollution will just blow away.

This smelter will demand new geothermal power plants at Seltún, Sandfell, Austurengjar and Trölladyngju, in addition to the Hengill area which has already been seriously damaged by Reykjavik Energy. The impact assessment does not take these into account, nor the impact of the huge amount of power lines and pylons required. The plants will ruin the natural and scenic value of the whole peninsula. Also, the recquired capacity, 400 MW, exceeds the natural capactity of the geothermal spots, and they will cool down in three to four decades (3). And Century admits it wants the site to expand further in the next decades. So it is obvious that this smelter will not just ruin Reykjanes but also need additional hydropower.

The impact procedure seems to be completely irrelevant anyway, since the company has completed an equity offering worth $360 million to be deployed for partly financing the construction of the Helguvik smelter project (4). This indicates that Century already has high level assurances that the project is to continue no matter what.

This completely contradicts the claims of the new government of Iceland, and particularly it s environment minister Ţórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, that it is opposed to new smelter projects.

Icelandic Alloys
Icelandic Alloys wants to expand its facility for producing ferrosilicon for the steel industry. It is in fact one of Iceland s largest contributors to greenhouse gases and other pollutants (5).

Expansion of Icelandic Alloys and Century considerably contribute to Iceland s greenhouse emissions. If there are no further expansions of heavy industry beyond Grundartangi and ALCOA Fjardaal, Iceland will emit 38% more greenhouse gases than in 1990. If other expansion plans continue, levels would rise to an incredible 63% above 1990 levels. (6).

"This shows that all the talk about  green energy from hydro and geothermal is, in reality, a lie. Icelanders have to rise up against these transnational corporations," says Saving Iceland.

Century Aluminum and War
Century is a subsidiary of Glencore, which is well known for shady deals with apartheid South Africa, Communist Russia, Iran, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein" (7, 8). Glencore has merged with RUSAL (9), making the largest aluminium company in the world. RUSAL, as the main aluminium supplier of the Russian military, of course contributes directly to the war in Chechnya, where at least 35.000 civilians have been killed (10,11), with bombs and missiles made of aluminium. Glencore are also known to have recently  massacred (12) Wayuu Indians and local farmers in Colombia for mine expansion.

Geothermal Power
Reykjavik Energy was targeted as they are expanding the Hellisheidi geothermal plant at Hengill.  The goal of enlarging Hellisheidarvrikjun is to meet industries demands of energy, states the Environmental Impact Assessment, particularly the Century expansion at Grundartangi and possible new ALCAN and Century plants at Straumsvik and Helguvik (13, 14). The expansion of the Alcan smelter in Hafnarfjordur has been rejected by referendum, and other smelter projects in the south west are not definite. The current Icelandic government says to oppose more smelters, but Hellisheidi is still being expanded at a cost of 379.06 million dollars (15). The Icelandic people will be blackmailed. Once the expansion is completed, this will force Iceland into more smelters because the electricity needs to be sold to get investments back. In the mean time, farmers pay twice as much for electricity as Century does (16).

The expansion of the Hellesheidi power plant in Hengill is itself not as green as Reykjavik Energy suggests. Hot and toxic waste water is either disposed of by pumping it back into the borehole (as at Nesjavellir), commonly increasing the frequency of earthquakes in this very active fault zone, or it is pumped untreated into streams and lakes, wiping out valuable ecosystems as treatment is considered too expensive. The Northern end of lake Thingvallavatn is already biologically dead in parts due to wastewater pumping and must be protected from more damage.
Tourism will also be negatively affected. Extraction of underground fluids leads to changes in groundwater movements, commonly including drying of unique hot springs and geysers and pollution of pure subsurface spring water (17, 18).
Four endangered bird species are negatively affected: the falcon, greylag goose, harlequin duck and raven (19).

But some people are fighting back. A Saving Iceland activist states:  We will not stop until the corporate invasion of the Icelandic wilderness has ceased. The world is not dying, it is being murdered. And those who are doing it need to be held accountable.

Earlier feature on

More information:

Notes and references:
1. S. Das & F. Padel,  Double Death - Aluminium s Links with Genocide , Economic and Political Weekly, Dec. 2005, also available at
2. Environmental Impact Assesment, HRV, may 2007,ýrsla_2007-05-02_low%20res.pdf
3. Landvernd, Letter to national planning agency, 28th June 2007,
4. Credit Suisse, June 12th 2007,
5. Icelandic Ministry of the Environment, March 2006,
6. Idem.
7. Peter Koenig. "Secretive Swiss trader links City to Iraq oil scam", The Sunday Times, September 25, 2005.
8. Stephen Long. "Swiss link undermines Xstrata's bid for WMC", ABC Radio, February 11, 2005.
10. Amnesty International,  What Justice for Chechnya s disappeared? , May 23rd 2007.
11.  Tens of thousands were killed in the first Tchechen war,  25.000 in the second (since 1999).  Many of these were killed during the aerial bombardments of towns and villages in the first months of the conflict .
12. Frank Garbely, Mauro Losa. "Paradis fiscal, enfer social", Télévision Suisse Romande, 29 June 2006.
13. European Investment Bank,
14. VGK, Environmental Impact Assesment fot Helisheidarvirkjun,, page 2 and other pages.
15. Idem 13.
16. Iceland Review, June 7th, 20007,
17. Kristmannsdóttir, H, and Armannsson. H, 2003.  Environmental aspects of geothermal energy utilization. in Geothermics vol.32, p.451-461.
18. Rybach, L, 2003.  Geothermal energy: sustainability and the environment. Geothermics. vol.32, p.463-470.
19. Idem 3, p.24.

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