Jul 28 2008

Saving Iceland Shuts Down Geothermal Drilling Work in Hengill

“Reykjavik Energy Sponsors Human Rights Abuse in Yemen”

HELLISHEIDI (ICELAND) – This morning the direct action campaign Saving Iceland has occupied one of the main geothermal drill sites in Hengill where the Hellisheidi power plant is being expanded by Reykjavik Energy. 20 activists have chained themselves to machinery and have climbed the drill to hang up a banner saying “Reykjavik Energy out of Hellisheidi and Yemen”. They have also occupied the power control room of the drill site. The power to the drill was shut off and drilling was stopped for the rest of the day. Seven people got arrested. The protest was aimed at Reykjavik Energy supplying electricity to aluminium smelters in Iceland, destruction and pollution of the Hengill area and RE’s sponsoring of severe human rights abuse in Yemen.

In the last week, Saving Iceland took action at the Glencore and ALCOA headquarters in Switzerland as well as all Swiss Icelandic consulates, the Icelandic embassy in Rome, Icelandic consulate in Milan and also the headquarters of Impregilo. In Iceland Century Aluminum and Landsvirkjun both saw two actions against them and now Reykjavik Energy was targeted.

Click Images to Enlarge

“We have been camping at Hellisheidi for two weeks now and we are witnessing the scale of destruction, most of which is not very visible to the public. People should really come and have a look what is happening here. What used to be a beautiful natural area is now full of tarmac and pollution. It used to be full of tourists. Now the hiker huts are abandoned while mountains are being blown up to power the Century smelters,” says Saving Iceland’s Jaap Krater.

Most of the work is being done by Eastern Europeans who are living in a work camp, in similar conditions to the Karahnjukar construction.

Reykjavik Energy Invest in Yemen
Saving Iceland also criticises Reykjavik Energy for it’s investments in Yemen (1,2), a country with a Shari’a regime, where there is no free press and security services are routinely involved in torture and even extrajudicial executions (3,4).

“RE say that geothermal investments will benefit the poor in the country. The reality is that the energy will not go to the poor. The regime is very corrupt and Yemen is even advertising for aluminium smelters to come there. If someone would have said ten years ago: I’m making a deal with Sadam Hussein to help the poor, would you believe them?”
“RE should not make deals with anyone involved in serious human rights violations, whether it’s a fundamentalist state or heavy industry corporations,” says Krater.

A factsheet on the REI deal with the Yemen regime is attached as a pdf file.

Impact of Hellisheidi extension

The environmental impact asessment for Hellisheidarvrikjun says explicitly that the only purpose is to supply energy for the Century expansion at Grundartangi and possible new ALCAN and Century plants at Straumsvik and Helguvik (5). At the same time, farmers pay twice as much for electricity as these corporations (6).
Saving Iceland has published reports documenting a long list of human rights violations of these companies (7, 8).

Saving Iceland spokespeople Miriam Rose and Jaap Krater have documented the effects of the geothermal power in Hengill in the journal the Ecologist (9):

“Laced with various and sometimes toxic compounds from deep within the bedrock, the [geothermal borehole] water is either pumped back into the borehole – which can lead to geological instability – or is pumped untreated into streams and lakes. This particular technique has already created a huge dead zone in lake Thingvallavatn.”

Pictures of the physical impact of the drilling can be seen on the Saving Iceland website (10 / see below) and in the attached pdf file.

Download MBL.is – Report

About Saving Iceland

In the last two weeks, Saving Iceland stopped work at the construction site of Century Aluminum’s planned new smelter in Helguvík, they blockaded the existing Century smelter on Hvalfjordur, and took a number of actions against Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s national power company. This is part of their fourth summer of direct action against heavy industry in Iceland.
Saving Iceland was started by Icelandic environmentalists asking for help to protest the Icelandic wilderness, the largest remaining in Europe, from heavy industry. Aluminium corporations Alcoa, Century Aluminum and Rio Tinto-Alcan want to construct new smelters. This would require exploitation of all the geothermal areas in the country, as well as damming all major glacial rivers (see https://www.savingiceland.org/sos).
This year, the fourth action camp to protect Icelandic nature has been set up near the Hellisheidi geothermal plant.

More information


1. Yemen News Agency (2008). Yemen, Icelandic REI sign document to invest in generating electricity by geothermal. http://www.sabanews.net/en/news151190.htm [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
I2. ceNews (208). Electricity agreement signed between Yemen and Iceland. http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2008/04/14/electricity-agreement-signed-between-yemen-and-iceland/ [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
3. BBC News (2008). Country Profile: Yemen. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/784383.stm [Accessed July 17th, 2008]
4. Embassy of Yemen in the US (2008). http://www.yemenembassy.org/economic/index.htm. [Accessed July 17th, 2008]
5. VGK (2006). Environmental Impact Assesment fot Helisheidarvirkjun. VGK, Reykjavik.
6. Iceland Review (2007). Century Smelter to Pay Less for Energy than Farmers. June 7th 2007. Also available at https://www.savingiceland.org/?p=821. [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
7. Saving Iceland (2007). Alcan’s Links to the Arms Industry. https://www.savingiceland.org/?p=882 [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
8. Saving Iceland Press Release (2007). Saving Iceland Blockades Century and ELKEM. https://www.savingiceland.org/?p=841 [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
9. Krater, J., Rose, M., Anslow, M. (2007). Aluminium Tyrants. The Ecologist 2007 (10). Also available at https://www.savingiceland.org/?p=1021 [Accessed July 27th, 2008]
10. Saving Iceland (2008). Destruction of Hengill. https://www.savingiceland.org/?page_id=2374 [Accessed July 27th, 2008]

Images of destruction at Hengill

7 Responses to “Saving Iceland Shuts Down Geothermal Drilling Work in Hengill”

  1. savitri d says:

    Thank you for connecting issues across the globe, making it clear that what happens in Iceland has implications in Yemen and what happens in Yemen matters to Iceland, these massive corporations are intentionally unattached to people, to nations, or to any organizing principals other than profit and growth. They manage to float in an unanchored ether and are never held accountable by regulatory agencies or governments. Until that changes, until their profits no longer supersede all other needs our only hope is brave work like yours. We treasure you! We treasure Iceland! We Treasure the Wilderness and the wildness in our own souls.

  2. Jaap says:

    OR says it hopes to get a new political agreement to open a new private investors fund for Reykjavik Energy Invest’s projects, such as those in Yemen, Djibouti and the Phillipines.
    Earlier a similar fund ended in a big row on the use of public funds in high risk projects for private benefit. In the new fund the risks for private investors would not be covered with public money. The board of the new REI investment fund is formed by Kjartan Magnússon, Ásta Þorleifsdóttir and Sigrún Elsa Smáradóttir.

    Source: http://www.mbl.is/mm/frettir/innlent/2008/08/16/orkuveitan_afram_i_utras/

    So it is now the question whether OR is trying to find private investors willing to finance their questionable operations in Yemen.

  3. Icelandic boy says:

    Geothermal power is the most enviromental friendly form of energy the world has. what do you suggest we do for power. It doesnt blow enough for windmills and the sun doesnt shine enough for solar power.

  4. Jaap says:

    If you look at the power production in Iceland, currently 61% of it goes to heavy industry. That is set to double with the current projects at Helguvik, Straumsvik and Bakki.
    There is a big difference between modest utilisation of geothermal power, as Iceland has done in the past, with the massive, large scale landscape and ecosystem destruction that is now going on and which is totally unnecesary.

  5. Icelandic boy says:

    It is not unnecesary if it creates the a healthy form of living, money.
    and you had never been at kárahnjukar before the construction was well on the way and really the landscape is fine up there as is the birdlife and ecosystem.

  6. Sigurður says:

    I have been there before and after. It is a complete disaster. Farms are getting covered in dust when the reservoir levels are low. Lagarfljót has become muddy and brown due to the silt from the dam.

  7. Charles Darwin says:

    Blasts rock US embassy in Yemen

    BBC report – There has been a series of explosions and heavy gunfire close to the US embassy in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
    Arab media reports say a suspected car bombing was followed by an exchange of gunfire between embassy guards and unidentified attackers.
    There are reports of a fire burning outside the embassy compound. There was no immediate word on casualties.
    Police are said to have cordoned off the area. There has been no official comment by Yemeni or US officials.
    A journalist for the Associated Press, who was at the scene, said the emergency services were at the scene and that hundreds of heavily-armed troops had been deployed around the compound.
    The US ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel from Yemen earlier this year after mortar bombs were fired towards the embassy. They missed but hit a nearby school.
    The government of Yemen, which backs America’s “war on terror”, has often blamed al-Qaeda for attacks on Western targets in the country.
    US special forces have been helping the government fight the Islamist militants.