Archive for August, 2010

Aug 23 2010
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Battles over Bauxite in East India: The Khondalite Mountains of Khondistan


By Samarendra Das & Felix Padel
(Article for ‘The Global Economic  History of Bauxite’, Canada 2010)

Most critiques of the aluminium industry focus on refineries and smelters, which are among the worst culprits of global heating. But bauxite mining excavates a huge surface area, and has caused environmental devastation in Jamaica, Guinea, Australia, India and recently also in Vietnam.

Perhaps no bauxite deposits are located in more sensitive areas than those in India, whose most significant deposits occur as cappings on the biggest mountains in south Orissa and north Andhra Pradesh. Tribal people live in hundreds of communities around these mountains, which they regard as sacred entities for the fertility they promote. Appropriately, the base rock of these mountains was named ‘Khondalite’ after the region’s predominant tribe, the Konds. Early geologists noticed the perennial streams flowing from these mountains, and modern evidence suggests that their water regime is severely damaged when the bauxite cappings are mined.

Bauxite has probably never been sold for a price commensurate with the damage done by mining it. For Konds and other small-scale farmers in East India, the aluminium industry brings a drastic disturbance to their way of life and standard of living that amounts to cultural genocide. If mainstream society sees these bauxite cappings of India’s Eastern Ghats as resources standing ‘unutilised’, Adivasi culture understands them as sources of life, and sees mining them as a sacrilege based on ignorance. Read More

Aug 18 2010
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Does Man Own Earth?


On Magma, Björk, the separation of philosophy and reality, xenophobia, green industry, false solutions, borders, Earth conservation and liberation. By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson and originally published in The Reykjavík Grapvine, August 13th 2010.

There are countless reasons for Magma Energy not being allowed to purchase HS Orka. Those who have no idea why should quit reading this and get their hands on books like Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’ and documentaries like ‘The Big Sellout’ by Florian Opitz. They show how the privatisation of natural resources brings about increased class division and poor people’s diminished access to essentials—without exception.

People could also study the history of Ross Beaty, the man that wants to build Magma Energy to being ‘the biggest and best geothermal energy enterprise in the world.’ Ross is the founder and chairman of Pan American Silver Corporation, which operates metal mines in Bolivia, Mexico and Peru, where mining is done by the book: environmental disasters, human rights violations, low paid labour and union restrictions, to mention but a few of the industry standards. Read More

Aug 16 2010

Inside a Charging Bull


Iceland, one year on
By Haukur Már Helgason

After Iceland’s three banks collapsed in October 2008 – a bankruptcy bigger than Lehmann Brothers’ in a republic of 300,000 inhabitants – the public overthrew a neoliberal government through mass protest, precipitating a general election. On election day, 25 April 2009, the conservative head of Iceland’s public radio newsroom sighed his relief: ‘Judging from the atmosphere this winter a revolution was foreseeable in spring, some sort of revolution – that something entirely different from what we are used to would take over. Now we know better.’(1) Read More

Aug 14 2010

Open Meeting With Samarendra Das in Akureyri


This Sunday, August 15th at 20:00, an open meeting with Indian author, filmmaker and activist

Samarendra Das, will take place in the Akureyri Academia, Þórunnarstræti 99, Akureyri. The meeting is a part of Samarendra’s second visit to Iceland, now presenting his and Felix Padel’s recently published book, Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel. For the last decade, Samarendra and Felix have been researching the global aluminium industry and working with the Dongria Kondh tribes of Odisha, India, who are struggling against the British mining company Vedanta, that wants to mine bauxite there for aluminium production.

Samarendra will be in Iceland from August 14th to 21st and will have more talks and presentations during his stay. This Wednesday, August 18th, he will have a talk in the Reykjavík Academia, Hringbraut 121 at 20:00. More talks will be announced soon.

Click here for a full-length press release about his visit and the book.

Aug 14 2010
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Samarendra Das in Iceland – Lectures and Presentations on the “Black Book” of the Aluminum Industry


The Indian author, filmmaker and activist, Samarendra Das, will be in Iceland from August 14th to 21st. This is the second time that he comes here in collaboration with the environmental movement Saving Iceland. The occasion this time is the recent publishing of his and Felix Padel’s book, Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel, which is published by Orient Black Swan and could be refered to as the “black book” of the aluminium industry. Samarendra will have a talk and presentation on his book, in the Reykjavík Academia, Hringbraut 121, on Wednesday August 18th at 20:00. More talks will take place in other place around the country while Samarendra is here and will be advertised later.

For the last decade, Samarendra has been involved with the struggle of the Dongria Kondh tribe in Odisha, India, against the British mining enterprise Vedanta, which plans to mine bauxite for aluminium production on the tribes’ lands – the Niyamgiri hills. The struggle has gained strength lately and for example, many official parties have sold their shares in Vedanta on the grounds that the company does not live up to expected demands about respect to human rights and local communities. Samarendra’s part in this can not be undermined, but he has written hundreds of articles, published and edited books, and made documentaries about the struggle and related issues. The new book, Out of This Earth, can be called the “black book” of the aluminium industry, since it addresses all the dark sides of the industry. In a press release from the publisher, Orient Black Swan, this says e.g. about the book: Read More

Aug 13 2010
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Unusually High Rate of Work Related Accidents in Kárahnjúkar


Since 2002, when work began on constructing the Kárahnjúkar dam, which today provides electricity to Alcoa’s aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður, until end of the year 2009, 1700 work related injuries have been reported in relation to the dam’s construction. 120 of those injured are still disabled from work, ten of them having irrecoverable injuries – and four workers have died as results of their accidents.

When put into context with work related accidents in the rest of Iceland during that same eight year period, it becomes crystal clear that Kárahnjúkar was by far the single most dangerous workplace in the country. The 120 workers still disabled from work ammount to over 70% of all work related disabilities registered in the period, with eight times as many disabilities spawned from Kárahnjúkar than the rest of the country combined. The four who died as results of their accidents count 15% of all work related deaths in the country for those eight years, but they were 26 in all. Read More

Aug 12 2010
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The Energy Export and the Privatisation of HS Orka


It has hardly escaped the attention of anyone living in Iceland of late, that the Canadian geothermal company, Magma Energy, recently bought Geysir Green Energy´s (another geothermal energy company) stock in HS Orka (southwest-peninsula power company), making Magma a majority stockholder with 98,5% partnership. Magma´s purchase of GGE´s stock comes as no surprise whereas it´s been clear from the onset that Magma intended to claim majority ownership over HS Orka.

Small and Cute – For Concerned Icelanders

Ross Beaty, CEO of Magma Energy, has repeatedly been asked if he´s exploiting Iceland´s economic turmoil to claim control over the country´s resources, which he has always denied. On the 26th of August last year when he appeared on Kastljós, an ‘after-news special’ program on RUV (Icelandic National Broadcasting Association), Beaty also denied being interested in more power plants. “No, we´re focusing on this now. This is a small nation and it doesn´t serve our purposes to become to big”.

Because of exactly these comments, the announcement that HS Orka had sought permission to do test drilling in Hrunamannaafrétti, from Flúðir and into Kerlingarfjöll in search of geothermal areas garnered a considerate ammount of attention. Keep in mind that a research permission is not a permission to raise a power plant, but still, just drilling one test hole can cause a considerate ammount of damage on pristine land. Then, just a few days later, RUV news reported that Suðurorka, an energy company owned by HS Orka and The Icelandic Power Company (a consulting company), has plans of building a dam in Skaftárhreppur, the 150 MW Búlandsdam, over the next four years. HS Orka seems therefore to be on the warpath.

Read More

Aug 10 2010
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Update on the Reykjavík 9 – August 2010


News from Haukur Már Helgason:

On the 17th of August 2010 the local court of Reykjavík will continue prehearings for the most absurd case in the country’s recent history: The first public prosecution related to the economic collapse of 2008 is not sought against any of those scores of people indicted with corruption, crimes and misdemeanours in a 3000 pages thick detailed report published by Parliament earlier this year, but against nine demonstrators, who in December 2008 entered the public benches of Parliament to read a declaration, concisely summarized in haste as ‘Get the fuck out! This house no longer serves its purpose!’. If anyone honestly disagreed at the time – there were a few – they can make no objections today that this analysis was quite correct. 40 days later, in January 2009, mass protest outed the right-wing government and election followed. Rhetorically, we are all socialists now, whatever that actually means. That winter was the first time public protest actually achieving something in Iceland’s history.

A year later someone seems to have felt it was time for retribution. Read More