Archive for July, 2011

Jul 31 2011

Lake Langisjór Finally Declared Protected


After many years of planning to change lake Langisjór, located at the western edge of Vatnajökull, into a reservoir for energy production, Landsvirkjun’s fantasies have finally been permanently ceased. Last Friday, July 29th, Iceland’s Ministry of Environment announced the publication of a regulation to validate the enlargement of Vatnajökull national park, which includes the protection of Langisjór and partly the volcanic canyon Eldgjá and its surroundings. The regulation is the final step in an agreement, signed in February this year, between the Ministry of Environment and local authority of Skaftá district concerning the enlaregment of the national park, based on the priceless value of the area’s natural features. This manifests the full realization of one of Iceland’s environmental movement’s biggest victories.

Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national energy company, intended to channel river Skaftá to river Tungnaá river through Langisjór, which would effectively become a reservoir. The Skaftá dam (Skaftárveita) would have added another 7 km2 to the lake-reservoir with the purpose of increasing the energy capacity of planned dams in rivers Þjórsá and Tungnaá. The three planned dams in Þjórsá have been met with fierce local and national opposition whereas the construction of Búðarháls dam in Tungná is already taking place, its energy meant for increased aluminium production in Rio Tinto’s Alcan smelter in Straumsvík. Effectively, the damming of Langisjór would lead to a sediment build-up and increased turbidity which would destroy the lake ecosystem. Read More

Jul 29 2011
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Shoot Teenagers, Fight Environmentalists


By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson. Originally published in the Reykjavík Grapevine.

In a very short time the discourse following last week’s right-wing terrorist attacks in Norway reached both absurd and scary heights, with one of the best examples being American TV and radio host Glenn Beck’s attempt to justify the mass murderer by comparing the social democratic youth camp on Utøya with the Hitler Youth. In Iceland it was the writings of Björn Bjarnason, a right-wing conservative and Iceland’s Minister of Justice from 2003 to 2009.

Only a day after the attacks, Björn, who systematically voiced what he called “the need” for the establishment of an army-like police force when he was Minister of Justice, wrote on his website – one of Iceland’s oldest blog-sites, frequently quoted by journalists – that the Norwegian state, with its powerful secret police force, should have all the necessary tools to fight the threat of terrorism. According to Björn, this police force keeps a strict eye on potential terrorist cells – groups that operate “in service of political ideals” or “under the banner of environmentalism or nature conservation.” Read More

Jul 23 2011

Mixed Feelings About Iceland’s Energy Master Plan – Landsvirkjun Presents its Future Strategy


The making of Iceland’s Energy Master Plan, a framework programme concerning the exploitation and protection of the country’s natural resources, which has been in the making since 1999, has reached a critical state as a report on the process’ second phase was published in the beginning of July. The report includes a list of more than 60 areas, arranged from the perspectives of both protection and exploitation, which is supposed to lay the foundation for a final parliamentary resolution concerning the Master Plan. While those in favour of further exploitation, parallel to the continuous build-up of heavy industry, seem generally happy with the report, environmentalists are both sceptical and critical, stating that the exploitation value was always in the forefront of the process.

Like explained on the project’s official website the process was “split into two phases. The first phase, 1999–2003, evaluated and ranked 20 large-scale hydro-power options, mostly located in the highlands, and the same number of geothermal options in 8 high-temperature areas.” The second phase was supposed to “rank all the options to produce the final result,” including “an evaluation of whether some areas should be conserved completely, without any energy-harnessing activities.” Proposed power projects were said to be “evaluated and categorised on the basis of efficiency, economic profitability, and how they will benefit the economy as a whole,” while the “the impact on the environment, nature, and wildlife” was also supposed to be evaluated, “as well as the impact on the landscape, cultural heritage and ancient monuments, grazing and other traditional land use, outdoor activities fishing, and hunting.” Read More

Jul 21 2011

Foil Vedanta: New Website on the Struggle Against British Mining Giant Vedanta in India


The Saving Iceland collective is happy to point its readers to the newly established website of Foil Vedanta, an independent campaigning organization focused primarily on the British-Indian mining giant Vedanta Resources PLC. Explaining the campaign, Foil Vedanta, says on its website that “ Vedanta is headed by Britain’s seventeenth richest billionaire, Anil Agarwal, and was launched on the London Stock Exchange in 2006 with the assistance of the UK’s Department for International Development and Department of Trade and Industry, who continue with their support. Vedanta is a major producer of aluminum, a strategically important metal for the UK’s huge arms industry.” And continues:

Vedanta has mines, refineries and factories in various states in India – including Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Goa – as well as in Zambia. In Orissa Vedanta hopes to mine the mineral-rich Niyamgiri mountain. This would destroy the lives and livelihoods of the Adivasi (aboriginal) Dongria Kond people who live in the region. Despite the Indian Ministry of Environment repealing permission to mine Niyamgiri in 2010, Vedanta continues to push for the project, which if successful would be an act of cultural genocide. Read More

Jul 20 2011

Blood and Treasure – Rio Tinto’s Bloody Path in Bougainville


Originally published on Dateline

It’s 14 years since the war ended over what was once the world’s largest copper mine, at Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, but Dateline has uncovered claims that the PNG government was acting under instruction from mining giant Rio Tinto, when it killed thousands of people who wanted the mine shut down. The allegations come from PNG’s former Opposition Leader, and now Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, in 2001 court documents obtained by SBS Senior Correspondent Brian Thomson for Dateline. In them, Somare says the company, and its subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited, effectively used its wealth to control the government – a claim denied by BCL. With negotiations now underway to reopen the abandoned mine, could Bougainville be heading for a repeat of the bloody battle over its resources?

Jul 16 2011
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Reykjavík Energy in Deep Water: The Untold Story of Geothermal Energy in Iceland


By Anna Andersen, photos by Alísa Kalyanova. Originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine.

Overrun by Viking ambition, Reykjavík Energy built headquarters fit for Darth Vader, expanded ambitiously, dabbled in tiger prawn farming and flax seed production, went into the fibre optics business, invested in a new geothermal plant, speculated in places like Djibouti, and finally managed to run itself so completely into the ground that foreign investors will no longer offer the company loans.

In hopes of rescuing its multi-utility service company from the depths of abyss, the city of Reykjavík stepped in this March with a 12 billion ISK (105 million USD) loan, which is nearly its entire reserve fund set aside for the company, but still only a fraction of the company’s massive foreign debt of 200 billion ISK (1.7 billion USD).

With thousands of captive lifetime subscribers and a means of producing energy at very little cost, the company had all the makings of a cash cow. So what happened to Reykjavík Energy, an entity that less than a decade ago was a perfectly viable, municipally owned company providing the city with basic utilities: cold water, hot water and electricity? Read More

Jul 11 2011
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“We stand in solidarity…” – Protest at the Vedanta Annual General Meeting in London, July 27th


Call for protest at the Vedanta AGM (Annual General Meeting) 2011, 3pm on 27th July, Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, London, SW1P 3EE.

Please join us for the 7th annual protest outside the AGM of Vedanta Resources, the now infamous UK registered Indian mining company who have this year been exposed by the Indian government for serial environmental and human rights violations. We stand in solidarity with the Dongria Kondh and other inhabitants of Niyamgiri and Lanjigargh who have lost land, health and livelihood to Vedanta’s refinery, and faced repression and struggle in fighting Vedanta’s plans for a 73 million tonne bauxite mine and a six fold increase in the refinery’s capacity. We oppose Vedanta’s attempted take-over of British Oil company Cairn Energy who plan to drill in Greenland and Sri Lanka.

In 2010, protests outside Vedanta’s AGM made headlines as protesters on the outside shouted slogans targeting CEO ad majority shareholder Anil Agarwal for the ‘blood on his hands’, as well as David Cameron who was in India promoting joint UK-Indian business ventures at the time. Meanwhile activist shareholders held Vedanta to account inside the AGM, and key investors Aviva threatened to pull out due to the company’s ‘disdain’ for OECD environmental law. One month later the Indian government’s Saxena Report damned Vedanta for violations of tribal rights and environmental law at the Niyamgiri hills. Vedanta is also being investigated by the Indian government’s Lok Pal anti-corruption ombudsman for massive corruption over the illegal acquisition of 3000 acres of land for a ‘Vedanta University’ in Puri, Orissa. Read More