Aug 10 2007
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A letter to ALCOA from Dr. Ragnhildur Sigurdardóttir and Gudmundur Páll Ólafsson

“The hurt many of us feel towards the developments in eastern Iceland is so great that we will never accept another aluminum smelter to be built in Iceland. We would not be surprised if the environmental NGO’s and grass root organizations would consider the proposed developments in Northern Iceland to be a serious provocation on the behalf of Alcoa.”

Stokkseyrarsel 27/02/2006

To the attention of the Alcoa Board meeting on March 1st, 2006:

Mr. Alain J.P. Belda, Ms Kathryn S. Fuller, Mr. Carlos Ghosn, Mr. Joseph T. Gorman, Ms. Judith M. Gueron, Mr. Klaus Kleinfeld, Mr. James Owens, Mr. Henry B. Schacht, Mr. Franklin A. Thomas, Mr. Ernesto Zedillo.

It has been brought to our attention that the board of Alcoa will decide at a meeting the 1sth of March 2006 whether the company will put forward its plans on the development of a new aluminum plant in Northern Iceland. Furthermore, the board of directors will decide on a location of such a plant based on a comparison study of three different locations, Brimnes, Dysnes or Bakki, which have a western, central or eastern location on the North coast of Iceland.

We have conducted an independent study on a draft of the comparison study of a proposed aluminum plant in Northern Iceland. Our reading has given us a considerable cause of concern. More often than not, such studies are heavily biased towards the needs of the developer and there are clear signs of such a case in the comparison study. There are many issues we would like have been addressed that are missing from the report. Some areas of concern make us wonder why Alcoa is really pursuing these development options.

– Concerns for workers safety. The Bakki location is very close to one of the most dangerous fault lines in Iceland, where earthquakes have occurred up to the magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale. The location is considered to be within the zone of highest seismic risk in Iceland. The other locations are not very far from dangerous seismic areas and large earthquakes and are considered to be at some risk. It is beyond us how placing industry which handles with molten metals within very dangerous seismic area is considered acceptable by your company.
– Is there really enough energy available? The environmental impacts of energy development and transmission is not discussed in any detail in the comparison study. It is clear, however, that the central site at Dysnes has no energy options available for an aluminum smelter. The western site at Brimnes will, according to the comparison study, use energy from three different hydropower stations, Blanda, Villinganes and Skatastadir, altogether 363 MW of energy. The current situation is, however, that the PowerStation at Blanda is already in operation and has a buyer for its energy. The only available energy in the area, is therefore only enough to support a smelter producing a 100 thousand tpy. According to the comparison study, the only site which will suffice the energy requirements of an aluminum smelter would be the eastern site Bakki. But how reliable are those energy sources? The report proposes 5 new Power Stations to be built, and one to be enlarged considerably. At Krafla, 60 MW of power have already been harnessed, but there is a buyer for its energy. As a consequence, there are 480 GWh/year less energy available for a smelter at Bakki than listed in the comparison study. The comparison study also expects 650 GWh/y or 80 MW to be harnessed from the Bjarnaflag station. Current power estimate from the National Energy Authority suggests a 20-40 MW Pover Station at Bjarnaflag. Gjastykki has hardly been investigated at all and an estimate of 650 GWh/y is therefore very optimistic. Furthermore, many harnessing problems have been encountered in some locations of the Krafla area. This area in whole is one of the most volcanic areas in Iceland, and an event in 1977 destroyed almost completely all power productions in some boreholes due to subterranean movement of magma and opening of new fissures. For most of the suggested Power Stations, there is very limited knowledge on the reservoir sizes and the amount of energy that can be sustainably harvested. It is therefore our conclusion that expecting to harness enough energy based on the assumptions of the comparison study is very optimistic and the security of the energy resources very highly overestimated.
– Is there future opportunities for enlargement of a smelter in Northern Iceland? The answer to this question is simple. No it is very highly improbable.

The above mentioned questions do not consider the environmental cost of these developments, such as destroying one or more of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Alcoa is already responsible for the greatest environmental and economic scandal in the history of Iceland. A scandal which will no doubt be an international textbook example in the years to come. The building of the dam at Karahnjukar is still very contested and there is a growing number of people within Iceland and abroad which want to see these developments halted. Today, the people of Iceland have in the last few months experienced the negative aspects of Alcoa’s development in eastern Iceland. Because of adverse effects on our currency, many of our most valued technology firms and entrepreneurs have had to leave the country. The opposition against aluminum plants is not only growing among the public but also within the business community.

The Karahnjukar hydroelectric project is currently facing considerable geotechnical difficulties, likely resulting in major delays of the start-up phase of the Fjardaral project. One can therefore envisage that some of the hydro- and geothermal resources, now considered for a new aluminum smelter in N-Iceland, to be used to make up for less than expected performance of the Karahnjukar project. Local communities in N-Iceland will for certain dislike that type of act and, as a worst case scenario, consider the current interest of Alcoa for the new smelter in N-Iceland as an act of deception.

The hurt many of us feel towards the developments in eastern Iceland is so great that we will never accept another aluminum smelter to be built in Iceland. We would not be surprised if the environmental NGO’s and grass root organizations would consider the proposed developments in Northern Iceland to be a serious provocation on the behalf of Alcoa. These developments will be fought very strongly and the aid of every prominent environmental group within the US and internationally will be enlisted.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir
Stokkseyrarseli
801 Selfoss
Iceland

Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson naturalist / writer
Neskinn 1
340 Stykkishólmur
Iceland

[ALCOA] Aluminium Plant in North Iceland – Comparison Study – HRV Engineering – January 2006

See also: ALCOA and Landsvirkjun in Full Swing with Preparations for Húsavik Smelter

One Response to “A letter to ALCOA from Dr. Ragnhildur Sigurdardóttir and Gudmundur Páll Ólafsson”

  1. Sigurður Magnússon says:

    Additionally see: The Myth of an Aluminium Plant at Húsavík
    http://www.savingiceland.org/?p=2720&language=en#comment-844

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