Sep 14 2007
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This post is also available in: German

Global Actions Against Heavy Industry!

Trinidad protestOn the 12th of September 2007, the Global Day of Action Against Heavy Industry, people in South Africa, Iceland, Trinidad, Denmark, New York, Holland and the UK protested against the heavy industrialisation of our planet. This marked the first coordinated event of a new and growing global movement that began at the 2007 Saving Iceland protest camp in Ölfus, Iceland. The common target of these protests against heavy industry was the aluminium industry, in particular the corporations Alcan/Rio-Tinto and Alcoa.

The 12th of September was chosen as it marks the first anniversary of a historic action in Trinidad against ALCOA which helped build pressure strong enough to make the Trini Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, drop his ALCOA plans. In 2006 more than 80 locals threw themselves in front of the machinery of engineering company Trintoplan and their machine gun armed police escorts whilst they came to test drill for ALCOA. See the Rights Action Blog of the 13th September, 2006. On this Global Day of Action there was a gathering near San Fernando High Court in remembrance of that action.

“September 12 2006 was the day that activists confronted tractors and police on Foodcrop Road and this day will forever live in the hearts and minds of activists in Trinidad and Tobago as a crucial moment of our fight for environmental and social justice.”
Attillah Springer, Rights Action Group

Meanwhile, Trinidadian lawyers were regrouping ahead of a legal battle against the Environmental Management Authority [EMA], representing heavy industry, that will be pivotal in the islands path of development. The EMA, whose two main stakeholders are NEC and the aluminium corporation Alutrint, were significantly turned down by the Judge in their plea that three NGO’s – RAG, PURE and Smelta Karavan should not be able to bring action against them. This important ruling recognises that the issue of heavy industrialisation is to Trinidad national, not merely local. The people Vs EMA continues on Thursday 13th September.

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South Africa, for the Global Day of Action around 250 people marched on Alcan’s headquarters in Johannesburg to protest against Alcan’s preferential energy treatment ahead of a population of which 30% have no access to electricity. Alcan is to be provided with coal and nuclear powered energy for a new smelter in the Eastern Cape that will consume as much electricity as half of Cape Town, at some of the lowest prices in the world. The protesters blocked the entrance of the Alcan HQ for one and a half hours, allowing no one to come or leave!

The organisation Earthlife Africa Jhb, whose member Lerato Maregele attended the Saving Iceland 2007 Conference and protest camp, are taking part in the demonstration and have the following demands: First, Alcan and Eskom, the national power company, fully disclose all the details of their deal, including the actual price of electricity sold. Second, that Eskom allocate a basic lifeline of 100kwh per month to every South African.

Iceland, despite terrible winds and rain people visited the Minister for Environment at breakfast, protested outside the government offices in Reykjavik and gathered along the river Thjorsa (Þjórsá) in the day. The Icelandic Minister for the Environment, Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, was visited at her home to have a friendly chat with activists and receive a letter asking her to clear up her seemingly contradictory green opinions (read the letter hér.).

The Icelandic government is trying to rush through the construction of numerous new and expanded aluminium smelters to bring the islands total aluminium output up to three million tonnes per year. These hydro and geothermal powered heavy industry projects have been condemned by environmental scientists and lobbying groups. Three dam reservoirs are to be created along the Thjorsa river, where protesters have gathered, to power a new Alcoa smelter near the northern town of Husavik, or an expansion of the Alcan plant in Hafnarfjordur which was vetoed in a local referendum.

“Unemployment in Iceland is 0.9%. So this destruction is only based on the greed of Landsvirkjun [the national power company] and has no economical logic. We are here to show support with the local farmers who are fighting against Landsvirkjun to defend their land and our land.”
– Saving Iceland activist Siggi Hardarson.

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Denmark, 50 people marched along the roads of Copenhagen in an act of solidarity. The crowd marched with a banner that read “Global Struggle Against Heavy Industry,” pausing by a surprise en-route confetti and banner drop that proudly read “Queers Against Heavy Industry.” There they heard a talk about the aluminium industry globally. Finally they arrived at the Icelandic embassy and Greenland’s Representation Office, outside of which they heard talks by an Icelander about the situation in the country, and about Saving Iceland and our camps. Also a talk was given on the situation in Greenland, where Alcoa is in the planning stages of a smelter project whilst the Greenlandic prime minister Hans Enoksen is presently in New York seeking loans to finance the hydropower project.

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In the UK, a protest was held in the north-east of England at ALCAN’s Pharmaceutical Packaging Facility on Colbourne Avenue, Cramlington. They held in a letter of protest and held placards. Additional protests took place at the coal-fired power station at Lynemouth.

“The population of Iceland is roughly the same as that of Newcastle – we felt we had to come and show some solidarity with this little country that is trying its best to fight its corner against the newly ferocious aluminium corporations. The North East of England is slowly becoming a showcase of new, clean energies – we are well placed to spot it when the language of ‘greenwash’ is used to present terribly destructive and stupid developments as ‘clean’ energy. It has to be stopped, for all our sakes.”
– Mark from Newcastle

In Holland a solidarity message appeared along the traintracks near Arnhem (NL). The phrase “save the last wilderness of Europe” (in dutch) and “savingiceland.org” was spraypainted on a part of the concrete palisade of the ‘betuwelijn.’ The ‘betuwelijn’ is a controversial mega-infrastructural project that connects the Netherlands with Germany.

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In New York, a lively and loud bunch gathered outside of Alcoa’s New York headquaters, making trouble of themselves and giving the aluminium industries most greenwashing member a well needed image tarnishing. Whilst eco-warriors attempted to storm the Alcoa offices and do an office occupation and banner drop from the 3rd story terrace roof, Saving Iceland Superhero came to do battle with Super Villain Alcoa.
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“There was Aluminum Man, with black cape with alcoa symbol on the back. dr. doom face, shirt with alcoa symbol on front. a sith, and bone gloves and black spandex. And a saving iceland super hero with green cape w/ saving iceland logo on it, saving iceland logo on front of shirt. orange tights and green bandana around head. with a stick. and also a small river that was painted, that the Aluminum Man would block with stones and spray paint silver. They battled in the streets for a few hours.”
– Reported a witness of the dramatic events

Their banners read “ALCOA: Perpetrating Ecocide Across the Planet”, “Alcoa is killing Iceland and Trinidad” and “Dammed Rivers=Damned Planet”. After a while a certain Wade Hughes came from the Alcoa office to have a chat with the group. Wade Hughes has been on our Hall of Shame for a long time, shown shmoozing with Siv Fridleifsdottir, the politician who audaciously decided to overturn Iceland’s National Planning Agency ruling that the Alcoa Reydarfjordur plant was illegal. Mr. Hughes is an ex-Greenpeace activist and he cares so much for whales. One can only assume that he is one of the reasons why Greenpeace (corp.) has maintained an indifferent position to the heavy industrialisation of Iceland. After 30 minutes of chatting in the street, Mr. Hughes offers 3 of the activists to come up into the corporate conference room for a discussion that lasted 2 hours. here was a few of the many things that were discussed that made them look like idiot’s:
1)activist: so, how do you feel about the reindeer, pink footed geese and other bird species that breed here?
Hughes: they will find somewhere else!
2)activist:so, what are your plans for greenland.
Hughes:we will be there within 2 years. we have been well accepted by the people there!
3)activist: so, you have a hard time building these smelters and dams in the USA cause of tight regulations, so you are moving to places where you can?
Hughes: no, thats not true, we are moving to these places for(you ready for this)CHEAP ENERGY!(straight out of his own mouth!)
4)hughes:Karahnjukar is not in the highlands!!
Before the 2 parties parted, wade was told this fight will go on and on and on.

(man in white shirt in pic is Wade.)

In India, a small victory was made when the Supreme Court allowed its Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on forestry issues input into a survey on the impacts of bauxite mining on tribal peoples and the ecology on the Nyamgiri Hills. Three years ago the CEC condemned British mining company Vedanta for plans to mine the Nyamgiri Hills in Orissa for bauxite and for violating numerous forest protection laws in constructing its Lanjigarh smelter, which is now almost complete yet still completely illegal, much like ALCOA’s Reydarfjordur smelter whose failed Environmental Assessment Report and court condemnation were brushed aside by the government. The Ministry of the Environment and Forest (MoEF) had sought to do way with the CEC: can you spot a common theme of all the supposed ‘Ministries for Environment’ involved in the GDOA? More info on the Nyamgiri situation can be found here

In Australia, residents in the West have acquired the support of US Attorney Erin Brockovitch in a legal battle against Alcoa. The corporation intends to double the output of its operations in the region whilst residents of the nearby town Yarloop are demanding that Alcoa relocate them. They claim that they are “living in a toxic bubble” and that their health has dramatically suffered due to ALCOA’s work.

A global movement against heavy industry is becoming! We leave you with the words of Attillah from Trinidad, writing one year ago today after the critical Battle of Foodcrop Road.

“This is only the beginning of the struggle. We stand firm with the communities as they continue to agitate for change in Trinidad and Tobago. Change in how the government treats the people. Change in how we treat with our natural resources. Change in how we relate to the environment.

It’s an uphill struggle but a few of us are committed to it and we continue to believe that we are not putting our asses on the line in vain.

Translations of the above text in Spanish, Italian and German are available in the language sections to the left.

    Related Websites:

IcelandSavingIceland.org
fighting plans for pristine wilderness to be destroyed by mega-hydro and geothermal energy for the aluminium industry (ALCOA, ALCAN, Century, Hydro, Rusal).

TrinidadRights Action Group
fighting the islands most rural and wild peninsula from being invaded by two gas powered aluminium smelters (Alcoa, Alutrint)

South AfricaAlcan’t at Coega and Earthlife Africa
fighting away a coal and nuclear powered aluminium smelter (ALCAN) that will consume as much electricity as half of Cape Town, whilst 30% of the countries population have none at all.

IndiaAlcan’t in India
this campaign has recently managed to fight away Alcan but is now confronted by mining corporation Vedanta taking Alcan’s shoes, destroying the natural habitat of India’s indiginouse population of Orissa

Brasil – Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens – Brasil or Movement of Dam Affected People – Brasil
Huge dams are being built all over Brasil and the Amazon rainforest. Not only is the amount of greenhouse gasses released from these far greater than the equivalent amount of energy produced by a coal fire plant, but massive amounts of people are being displaced. Most of the energy is being used for heavy industry, including ALCOA.

AustraliaCommunity Alliance for Positive Solutions INC.
currently suing Alcoa with US attorney Erin Brockovitch due to the devastating affects on the health of residents around its mega smelter in the east of the country.

The plan for this international day of action was borne the Saving Iceland conference in Olfus, Iceland, on 8 July 2007.

2 Responses to “Global Actions Against Heavy Industry!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    YAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!! This is brilliant.. we are so strong together. Thanks to everyone who put energy into chipping away at the monster… you are all absolute legends! xx

  2. jaffa says:

    The links section on this website is now updated! Click top-right.

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