Oct 08 2007

Behind the Shining: Aluminum’s Dark Side

Tajikistan

The aluminum smelter in Tursunzade has been a focal point of civil war

combatants. In 1997, up to 25 casualties were reported in a battle between

two army units “apparently over control of the aluminum plant there,”

according to the United Nations. (“Report of the Secretary-General on the

Situation in Tajikistan,” United Nations, S/1997/415, May 30, 1997)

United States

Alcoa digs lignite reserves in the central Texas counties of Bastrop and

Lee. This lignite, a kind of coal, fuels an Alcoa smelter in Rockdale,

Texas. County residents are fighting the company’s plans to expand

strip-mining to 15,000 acres of land owned by San Antonio’s City Public

Service. In the deal, Alcoa would pump aquifer water that would be

extracted as part of the mining operations. (Peggy Fikac, article in

Express-News, Oct. 19, 1999)

Local residents formed the organization Neighbors to Neighbors to fight

resettlement and water depletion that could result from the pact.

According to Bastrop County resident David Houghtling, the Alcoa/San

Antonio “water deal will affect scores of families in Bastrop and Lee

counties. Some of this property has been in families for generations. It

appears that Alcoa intends to use the condemnation powers of San Antonio to

push people off their property.”

He said that Alcoa officials in 1999 contacted “an 85-year-old widowed

family member of mine and told her that she would have to sell her land and

house to them. When she asked what Alcoa was going to do with her house,

she was told that they were going to tear it down. This home has afforded

her a sense of independence and freedom in her later years and Alcoa has no

legal right to condemn property. They have made similar threats to other

neighbors.” (Statement by David Houghtling, on the website

 neighborsforneighbors.com, March 8, 1999)

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