Ministry of Environment and Forests finally gave its statement formally rejecting permission for Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine. This move brings a conclusive end to the ten year struggle of the Dongria Kond tribe, alongside local farmers and dalits, to prevent the mining of this sacred mountain range which is their livelihood. Saving Iceland has followed the struggle and supported our comrades at Foil Vedanta as part of the global solidarity campaign which helped win this unique victory. Read More
'Red Mud' Tag Archive
After the election, we see the old parties of economic mass destruction are coming back to power. Giving enormous promises of easy money to be wrestled from evil vulture funds, debt relief and tax reduction, The Progressive Party doubled in size after a few years of hardship. There is a jolly good feeling between the two young new leaders of a brave new Iceland, and when a radio host called them up and offered to play them a request, they asked for Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys.’ I Googled the lyrics, not quite remembering the lines, and got a nice chill down my back:
Wild boys fallen far from glory
Reckless and so hungered
On the razors edge you trail
Because there’s murder by the roadside
In a sore afraid new world
They tried to break us,
Looks like they’ll try again
Sounds quite grim. This, coupled with the new government’s announcement that it would be effectively dismantling the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources and that there will be no Minister for the Environment, gave me a strange flashback feeling. I decided to revisit the state of mind that we used to call normal in 2006. When the economic policy, the energy policy, the expansion of our towns, the mortgages on our homes—almost all aspects of our daily life had become totally mad. This is not my own diagnosis; if you search the homepage of the IMF for the phrase “Collective Madness,” you’ll find this:
“’Iceland, in the decade and a half leading up to the crisis, was an example of collective madness,’ said Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup, a remark that elicited spontaneous applause from the more than 300 participants, many of them Icelandic policymakers, academics, and members of the public.”
In our daily lives, we usually sense what is normal and what is over the top. Sometimes the discourse will blind us; PR and propaganda can create a kind of newspeak. It can be a good exercise to try to talk about things in a foreign language, to view them in a new light. As an Icelander, you could for instance try to tell someone from another country that Iceland’s government sold one state bank and received payment in the form of a loan from another state bank—and vice versa. That the state banks were thereby handed to men that were closely connected to the then-reigning political parties. The manager of one of the parties became head of one of the banks’ board of directors, while the other party’s former Minister of Trade belonged to the group that was given the other bank. That man had access to every bit of inside information about the bank’s standing.
In the meantime, this former Minister of Trade became Central Bank Manager. He went to the US and made Alcoa an offer that the company could not refuse. He had thus set in motion the largest-scale construction project in Icelandic history, greatly increasing economic activity in Iceland—a grand boon for the bank he just finished selling to himself.
If you tell this story in a foreign language, people shake their heads. They gape in disbelief. They use words like “corruption” and “mafia.” They exclaim, full of disbelief and even disappointment, “no, not in Scandinavia!”
THE ACCEPTED INSANITY
It is insane to expand a banking system by tenfold in eight years. We know that now. It isn’t technically possible to grow all the knowledge and experience needed to build up and manage such a contraption in such a short time. Not even by shoving an entire generation through business school. It is impossible.
But the megalomania was not just confined to the banking sector. Energy production in Iceland was doubled from 2002–2007, when the huge Kárahnjúkar dam was built in the eastern part of the highlands—to serve one single Alcoa smelting plant. The energy it produces, about 650MW annually, is enough to power a city of one million people. Doubling the energy production in a developed country over a five-year period is not only unheard of, but it would also be considered ridiculous in all of our neighbouring nations. Most industrialised states increase their energy production by around 2–3% annually. Doubling it would be unthinkable. It has been proven again and again that gargantuan investments generally destroy more than they create. Read More
May 24 2011
On 16th May after heavy rain, toxic red mud poured from a breach in one of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery red mud ponds, spilling onto the village below. The next day landless people displaced by the project held two blockades demanding adequate compensation; a five day walking protest ended with a meeting of 500 people on the threatened Niyamgiri hills; and the funeral of a tribal movement leader, killed by factory pollution, was held. Two months before Vedanta’s often-subverted AGM this will be bad news for the company. This is a direct report from the scene. Read More
First Published : 20 Oct 2010 on Expressbuzz.com
When news spread that the red mud pond in a Hungarian alumina refinery had broken open on October 3 , spilling toxic sludge over a huge area, killing people and livestock, this confirmed our worst fears regarding new refineries going up in Orissa [India] and neighbouring states. For Hungarians a nightmare scenario has begun, as their country faces to its worst-ever environmental disaster. Apart from villagers killed or maimed by the toxic sludge, many farmers face economic ruin, as their fields are contaminated beyond repair. How much worse would a similar disaster be in India, where the population density of farmers is much higher? Read More
Oct 12 2010
The residents described « a mini-tsunami ». A toxic one.
Last Monday, the red mud reservoir of an alumina plant ruptured in Hungary, near Ajka, 165km west of Budapest. As a result, 1.1 million cubic meters of red mud wiped out several villages through waves more than 2 meters high. It flooded 40 square kilometers of land, including affluents of the Danube, then reached one of Europe’s longest river on Thursday morning. So far, 7 people have been killed, 1 is still missing, and more than 150 have been injured, mostly by chemical burns. The death toll is still expected to rise.
As we write these lines, surrounding villages are being evacuated as the structure threatens to break in another point, which would result in another 500 000 cubic meters flooding the area.
The disastrous chemical accident has been declared Hungary’s largest and most dangerous environmental catastrophe, exceeding by far the 130000 cubic meters of cyanide-tainted water that spilled in 2000 in Baia Mare, Romania. Ten years later, traces of cyanide are still found in the area. It is worth noting that this cyanide was in a liquid form, therefore very quickly carried aways by the river whereas the thick red mud will sit there for years, sipping into the ground and reaching ground waters.
The Sidney Morning Herald
By Gerard Ryle
May 7 2002
Quentin Treasure was a member of a local land-care group when he was approached to take part in an unusual experiment by the West Australian Agricultural Department.
The department wanted to spread a reddish substance over his farmland to see if it would stop unwanted phosphorus from entering waterways.
The bonus, Mr Treasure was assured, was not just environmental. He could look forward to vastly increased crop yields using a soil-improving agent that would cost him just 50¢ a tonne.
But this was no ordinary product. It was industrial waste.
The trucks dumping tonne after tonne of the ochre-like material were coming straight from settling ponds at the nearby Alcoa aluminium refinery, which was co-funding the project.
“We never talked a lot about whether it was safe or not,” Mr Treasure said. “We were just told it was dirt from the hills that came from Alcoa. And being a little bit naive at the time, that is all we assumed it was.” Read More