'Kárahnjúkar' Tag Archive

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

Jul 16 2010
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Greenland’s Decision: Nature or Culture?


Miriam Rose

Climate change has made Greenland the next industrial frontier, but at what cost?

 

 

Humanity is in denial. We know that our hyperactive extraction of fuels, metals and minerals, and their dirty processing, consuming and dumping for our consumer ‘growth’ society is killing the planet and ourselves. We also know that all of these sugary treats are finite. But like an insolent toddler we continue; more and more, faster and faster – running in denial from the planetary spanking that is undoubtedly coming our way.

I have often hoped that the global emergency of climate change, combined with the inescapable reality of peak oil would wake us up from this selfish resource-gorging, and perhaps it still will before it is too late (too late: I.e tomorrow? 2012? 2020? a few months ago?). But in the meantime,  nature has given western capitalism one last laugh. As the ice drips and cracks from Greenland’s white mass it is exposing a treasure trove of minerals, metals, ores and oil (one of the highest concentrations in the world), and plentiful hydro-power to help us heat, break and alter them into things we ‘need’. Just as the candle wick flares and gutters on our oil-driven consumptive society Greenland’s bounty has given it one more chance. One last bright flame, to hide from us the surrounding darkness.

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May 18 2010
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Landsvirkjun´s Spin on their Energy Prices to Heavy Industry


 

Aluminium PricesThe deals on energy prices between Landsvirkjun (Iceland´s National Energy company) and the aluminum companies working in Iceland have been kept secret from the public since they got signed. The only notion the public had was a pamphlet called ”Lowest Energy Prices”, published in 1995 to lure heavy industry to the country, which like the name states, was filled with promises about cheap, greenwashed, energy. Looking at surrounding countries many estimated that the prices were close to a half of what households in Iceland pay. But after Alain Belda, Alcoa´s president, had the now famous slip of his tounge in Brazil that revealed that they were paying $15 for the MWh (megawatt hour), and RUV´s (Icelandic National Broadcasting Association) exposure of Century Aluminum´s prices earlier in the year, Landsvirkjun decided to open their books in, what they call ”an attempt to create peace around the company´s actions”. In reality they´re just blowing smoke in people faces with well chosen figures in a desperate attempt to save the companies already ruined credibility.

The Price Revealed
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Dec 29 2009

Greenland’s Energy and Mineral Extraction Master-plan Revealed


As Greenland awakes from over 700 years of colonisation and heavy subsidisation by Denmark, it’s home rule government are promoting the development of huge hydro-power for aluminium smelters, and all the country’s other mineral and energy resources as a desperate measure to sustain their economy. The language of fear and imminent economic collapse used in the Prime Minister’s plan (below) is strongly reminiscent of the pro heavy-industry strategy in Iceland in the run up to the Kárahnjúkar dam, and right up to today.

The article attempts to justify aluminium production and other energy intensive extractive industries, claiming that using Greenland’s ‘green’ hydro energy will prevent ‘dirty’ emissions for the inevitable production of aluminium elsewhere. This is certainly the take of Alcoa who are ever keen to avoid carbon taxes, and claim that:
‘We have before us a wonderful opportunity to deliver mutual benefit to the people of Greenland and to Alcoa as we continue to work toward our common objective of building a world-class, sustainable aluminum smelter, powered by renewable hydroelectric energy in Greenland.’
The experience of Icelandic mega-hydro, as well as numerous studies have revealed this argument to be nothing but ‘greenwash’- a selling point for Alcoa, while carbon emissions, fluoride pollution, indigenous destruction, and weapons manufacture associated with aluminium production continue to rise unabated.
Plans for an aluminium smelter in Greenland have been reported since 2007, originally proposed by Norsk Hydro. Alcoa quickly stepped in and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in May 2007 for a smelter in the town of Nuuk, Sisimiut or Maniitsoq. The proposed smelter will begin at 350,000 tonnes (slightly larger than the enormous Fjardaal in Iceland) and will require 650 MW of energy from 2 dams, connected to the smelter by 240 km of powerlines. Public consultations are currently in progress with the next round in January 2010, with plans to have the smelter online by 2016.
In 2008 a contact in Greenland reported that most people there are in favour of the project, and with the urgent need for financial independence as they break away from Danish rule, this may well be the case. Greenland is geographically and politically isolated and lacks even the level of critique and information which Icelanders had in the run up to Karahnjukar, let alone the support of large NGO’s for the tiny environmental group who are trying to single-handedly address the many issues with the smelters and other developments there. Read More

Nov 27 2009

Is Heavy Industry the Way Out of the Economic Crisis?


By Indriði H. Þorláksson – Economist

The economic effects of heavy industry must take into account both short and long term economic policies.

Statements put forth without reasoning sometimes obtain more significance than they merit. Two such statements that are held aloft about the building of energy plants and heavy industry are particularly dangerous.

On the one hand that they are necessary and that they might even be the way out of the crisis and on the other that the future of the Icelandic economic system is best insured by utilizing energy resources and with heavy industry. One looks to the short term and the other to the long term but both are questionable, probably wrong and even dangerous.

The economic impact of heavy industry must take into account both short and long term economic policies, In the short term, say 3-5 years the goal is to restart the economy. In the long term the goal is to promote growth in the economic system to provide citizens with the good things in life. To do so the economy has to provide the highest augmented value to the nation for its work, capital and resources.

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Apr 25 2009

‘Green’ Deception Flops – A Statement from Saving Iceland Regarding Skyr Splashings of Election Offices


Olafur Pall Sigurdsson

Saving Iceland applauds the symbolic hits that the three pro-heavy industry political parties were dealt in the form of liberal splashes of green skyr (traditional Icelandic dairy product) on Monday.

According to Saving Iceland’s sources, three different groups, not just one, like the corporate media have claimed, did these actions almost simultaneously. Saving Iceland has also been informed that the activists were all Icelandic. It appears that this is a powerful group of activists, fighting the heavy industrialization of Iceland. Saving Iceland declares full support with the group.

The forces that stand behind Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Conservatives), Framsóknarflokkurinn (Right-wing opportunists) and Samfylkingin (New Labour equivalents), are guilty of what is tantamount to high treason with their heavy industry policy. Judging from their election propaganda, there is no sign that the parties have been willing to learn anything from the economic collapse about the expansion effects on the economy by heavy industry.

At the same time as these parties’ policy of uncontrollable greed has been pursued with the consequences of immense irreversible destruction of the country’s unique nature, this policy has just as much harmed Icelandic society as a whole. Read More

Apr 07 2009

Iceland Attacked by Economic Hitmen


John Perkins, the author of The Confessions of an Economic Hitman, is currently in Iceland. Perkins is here to be at the premier screening of The Dreamland, a documentary based on Andri Snær Magnason’s book, also titled The Dreamland. Last Sunday, Perkins was interviewed in a political TV show on RÚV (the state television station) where he spoke about the threat of Icelandic resources being sold to foreign corporations and advised Icelandic authorities not to collaborate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Perkins used to work for the U.S. National Security Agency and his job included “to convince poor countries to accept enormous development loans – and to make sure that such projects were contracted to U.S. companies,” as says on the back cover of his book. Perkins states that Iceland is the first ‘developed’ country in the world to be hit by the ‘Economic Hitmen’, referring to the invasion of the aluminium industry in Iceland. Read More

Mar 20 2009

The Dreamland – A Documentary by Andri Snær Magnason




From Draumalandið website – Dreamland is a truly epic film about a nation standing at cross-roads. Leading up to the country’s greatest economic crisis, the government started the largest mega project in the history of Iceland, to build the biggest dam in Europe to provide Alcoa cheap electricity for an aluminum smelter in the rugged east fjords of Iceland. The mantra was economic growth. Today Iceland is left holding a huge dept and an uncertain future

Dreamland is a film about exploitation of natural resources and as Icelanders have learned clean energy does not come without consequence. Iceland is a country blessed with an abundance of clean, renewable, hydro-electric and geothermal energy. Clean energy brings in polluting industry and international corporations. Read More

Feb 09 2009

Iceland’s Ecological Crisis: Large Scale Renewable Energy and Wilderness Destruction


From New Renaissance Magazine

By Miriam Rose

The economic issues currently causing mass demonstrations in Iceland have a less publicised ecological cousin, and one which the IMF has recently identified as part of the economic collapse. In 1995 the Ministry of Industry and Landsvirkjun, the national power company, began to advertise Iceland’s huge hydropower and geothermal energy potential. In a brochure titled “Lowest energy prices!!” they offered the cheapest, most hard working and healthiest labour force in the world, the cleanest air and purest water – as well as the cheapest energy and “a minimum of environmental red tape” to some of the world’s most well known polluting industries and corporations (such as Rio Tinto and Alcoa). This campaigning has led to the development of an ‘Energy Master Plan’ aimed at damming almost all of the major glacial rivers in Iceland, and exploiting all of the geothermal energy, for the power intensive aluminium industry. The loans taken by the Icelandic state to build large scale energy projects, and the minimal payback they have received from the industry, has been a considerable contributing factor to the economic crisis, while at the same time creating a European ecological crisis that is little heard of.

The Largest Wilderness in Europe
I first visited Iceland in 2006 and spent a week with activists from the environmental campaign Saving Iceland, a network of individuals from around Europe and Iceland who decry the fragmentation of Europe’s largest wilderness in favour of heavy industry. From these informed and passionate folk I learned of the 690 MW Kárahnjúkar dam complex being built in the untouched Eastern Central Highlands to power one Alcoa aluminium smelter in a small fishing village called Reydarfjörður. The dams formed the largest hydro-power complex in Europe, and were set to drown 57 km2 of beautiful and virtually unstudied wilderness, the most fertile area in the surrounding highlands. Ultimately it would affect 3% of Iceland’s landmass with soil erosion and river silt deprivation. They also explained how materials in the glacial silt transported to the oceans bonds with atmospheric CO2, sinking carbon. The damming of Iceland’s glacial rivers not only decreases food supply for fish stocks in the North Atlantic, but also negatively impacts oceanic carbon absorption, a significant climatic effect. After taking part in demonstrations at the construction site of the Alcoa smelter (being built by famous Iraq war profiteers Bechtel), I went to see the area for myself. Read More

Oct 26 2008
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More Power Plants May Cause More Economic Instability


Jaap Krater, Morgunblaðið, 26-10-2008

In times of economic crisis, it is tempting to embrace new megaprojects such as new power plants and aluminium smelters. But will this realistically improve Iceland’s economic prospects?

Prime minister Geir Haarde recently explained on Stöd 2’s chat show Mannamál that one of the main reasons for the fall of the Krona, was due to the execution of heavy industry projects: the construction of Kárahnjúkar and Alcoa’s smelter in Reyðarfjörður. If more large projects are executed, what will the cost be for the Icelandic taxpayer?

Haarde’s comments were not surprising. Before construction of Kárahnjúkar many economists predicted the negative impact on inflation, foreign debt and the exchange rate of the ISK.

Of course there is some economic benefit from new smelters, but “it is probably outweighed by the developments’ indirect impact on demand, inflation, interest rates and the ISK exchange rate,” stated a report by Glitnir in 2006 on the impact of aluminium expansion in Iceland. The report expected an increase in inflation and a depreciation of the ISK.

“Kárahnjúkar will never make a profit, and the Icelandic taxpayer may well end up subsidising Alcoa,” said the eminent economist Thorsteinn Siglaugsson after publishing another report on the profitability of the Alcoa dam in East Iceland before construction commenced. Read More

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