Background

Jul 20 2007

Saving Iceland Invades Reykjavik Energy


Saving Iceland Invites Reykjavik Energy to Discuss their Ethics Publicly “STOP PRODUCING ENERGY FOR WAR”

REYKJAVIK – Saving Iceland’s clown army has this afternoon entered the head office of Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (OR, Reykjavik Energy) on Baejarhals 1. Simultaneously, protestors climbed onto the roof of the building unfolding a banner stating ‘Vopnaveita Reykjavíkur’ (Reykjavik arms-dealers). Saving Iceland demands that O.R. stop selling energy to the aluminium corporations Century and ALCAN-RioTinto. 30% of aluminium produced goes to the military and arms-industry (1).

Currently, O.R. are expanding the Hellisheidi geothermal plant at Hengill. “The goal of enlarging Hellisheidarvrikjun is to meet industries demands of energy,” states the Environmental Impact Assessment, particularly the Century expansion at Grundartangi and possible new ALCAN and Century plants at Straumsvik and Helguvik (2, 3).
Read More

Jul 18 2007

Saving Iceland Blockade Century and ELKEM Factories


Century smelterPress Release

GRUNDARTANGI – Saving Iceland has this afternoon closed the single supply road from Highway 1 to the Century/Nordural smelter in Hvalfjordur and the steel factory Elkem – Icelandic Alloys. Saving Iceland opposes the planned new Century smelter at Helguvik and the expansion of the Icelandic Alloys factory. Activists have used lock-ons (metal arm tubes) to form a human blockade on the road and have occupied a construction site crane.

Century Aluminum, a part of the recently formed Russian-Swiss RUSAL/ Glencore/SUAL conglomorate, want to build a second smelter in Iceland in Helguvik with a projected capacity of at least 250.000 metric tons per annum. The planned site is designed to accommodate further expansion. Grundartangi has this year been extended to 260.000 mtpa.

Currently, an environmental impact assessment (1) is under review for the Helguvik smelter, produced by the construction consultants HRV (Honnun/Rafhonnun/VST).

“It is absurd that an engineering company with a vested interest in the smelter construction could be considered to produce an objective impact assessment. The document makes absurd claims, such as that pollution is really not a problem because Helguvik is such a windy place that the pollution will just blow away,” says Saving Iceland’s Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson.”

“This smelter will demand new geothermal power plants at Seltún, Sandfell, Austurengjar and Trölladyngju. In addition to the Hengill area which has already been seriously damaged by Reykjavik Energy. The impact assessment does not take these into account, nor the impact of the huge amount of power lines and pylons required. The plants will ruin the natural and scenic value of the whole peninsula. Also, the recquired capacity, 400 MW, exceeds the natural capactity of the geothermal spots, and they will cool down in three to four decades (2). And Century admits it wants the site to expand further in the next decades. So it is obvious that this smelter will not just ruin Reykjanes but also need additional hydropower.”

The impact procedure seems to be completely irrelevant anyway, since the company has completed an equity offering worth $360 million to be deployed for partly financing the construction of the Helguvik smelter project (3). This indicates that Century already has high level assurances that the project is to continue no matter what.

This completely contradicts the claims the new government of Iceland, and particularly it’s environment minister Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, is opposed to new smelter projects.

Icelandic Alloys wants to expand its facility for producing ferrosilicon for the steel industry. It is in fact one of Iceland’s largest contributors to greenhouse gases and other pollutants (4).

“Expansion of Icelandic Alloys and Century considerably contribute to Iceland’s greenhouse emissions. If there are no further expansions of heavy industry beyond Grundartangi and ALCOA Fjardaal, Iceland will emit 38% more greenhouse gases than in 1990. If other expansion plans continue, levels would rise to an incredible 63% above 1990 levels. (5). That is completely irresponsible.

This shows that all the talk about ‘green energy’ from hydro and geothermal is, in reality, a lie. Icelanders have to rise up against these foreign corporations,” says Úlfhildarson. Read More

Jul 17 2007

Blackmail by Hengill


View from Hengill
July 18th 2007 a number of Saving Iceland activists made a courteous -first- visit to the Reykjavik Energy geothermal power station (Hellisheidarvirkjun), at Hengill volcano, to ask questions about the expansion of the geothermal power plant to provide electricity to aluminium smelters (Source: EIB). It is striking, that although the expansion of the Rio Tinto ALCAN smelter in Hafnarfjordur has been rejected by referendum, and other smelter projects in the south west are not definite, and the current Icelandic government says to oppose more smelters, Hellisheidi is still being expanded by Reykjavik Energy – at a cost of a whopping 379.06 million dollars. The Icelandic people are again blackmailed: once the expansion is completed, this will force Iceland into more smelters because the electricity needs to be sold to get investments back. The expansion must be stopped.

The Hengill geothermal area is one of the largest and most active geothermal zones in Iceland, with over 112 km2 of unique geological landscape featuring warm pools, hot springs and bubbling mud pools. The area is culturally and historically fascinating, located below and on the slopes of the dramatic Hengill volcano where travellers on their way to Reykjavik and Þingvellir have traced the ancient Cairns since Iceland’s first settlement. Þingvellir national park and Alþingi, the most precious Icelandic cultural landmark, can be seen from Hengill across the stunning lake þingvallavatn and stands to be affected by the developments here.

Geothermal Electricity
In addition to the existing geothermal boreholes and power plants at Hellisheiði, Reykjavik Energy has declared plans to vastly expand the number of boreholes and power stations in order to produce electricity planned Aluminium smelters at Keflavik and Hvalfjordur (Century) and an expansion to the Rio Tinto / Alcan plant at Hafnarfjordur. The implications of this exploitation are far-reaching.

  • Increased power generation means increased noise and industrial visual disturbance to this exceptionally rare and valuable landscape type.
  • Extraction of underground fluids leads to changes in groundwater movements, commonly including drying of unique hot springs and geysers and pollution of pure subsurface spring water.
  • Hot and toxic waste water is either disposed of by pumping it back into the borehole (as at Nesjavellir), commonly increasing the frequency of earthquakes in this very active fault zone, or it is pumped untreated into streams and lakes, wiping out valuable ecosystems as treatment is considered too expensive. The Northern end of lake þingvallavatn is already biologically dead in parts due to wastewater pumping and must be protected from more damage.

Green Energy?
RE and Landsvirkjun justify this tragedy under the guise of ‘green energy’, intended for the expansion of heavily polluting aluminium industry. The Aluminium industry is an environmental and social hazard from start to finish:

  • Mining of bauxite (raw Aluminium) destroys vast areas of tropical forest in Australia and the Amazon.
  • In the smelting countries, sulphur dioxide causes acid rain and potent greenhouse gases lead to climate change. 13 tons of CO2 are produced for every ton of aluminium.
  • The production process results in far more tonnage of pollution than aluminium, including fine red silt containing radioactive elements which cause cancer and silicosis in the developing countries in which they are mined.
  • Emissions of highly toxic fluorides poison fish and all other aquatic life.
  • After smelting, the aluminium is used to build cars, cans and planes and 30% of production goes to the military. ALCOA use the blurb ‘lighter, faster, stronger’ to advertise tanks, missiles, and F16s used to kill and maim civilians in Iraq and other controversial conflicts.
  • Smelters have a limited lifetime. They close after a few decades, leaving communities in disarray. This has happened in the US, in Suriname, Brazil, and many other countries. Geothermal plants are also limited in their lifespan. They are exhausted after a few decades, after which they need an unknown rest period.

Suggesting that Iceland has an ethical duty to sell all it’s energy possibilities, whether green or not, is an insult to our intelligence.

Change
In recent years the public consciousness against such damaging and outdated heavy industry has grown. In September 2006 15,000 people marched in Reykjavik and around the country as the exceptionally beautiful Karahnjukar highlands were finally and tragically drowned. For the third year, Icelandic and international activists have gathered in the wild of this incredible country to protest the blackening of this pure land by heavy industry. We welcome all those who share a love for nature and are willing to stand up against its destruction. Read More

Jul 02 2007

Role of River-Suspended Material in the Global Carbon Cycle


Sigurdur R. Gislason, Eric H. Oelkers, and Árni Snorrason

Geological Society of America
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52
Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 2006)
Article: pp. 49–52

Abstract:

1. Institute of Earth Science, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland, 2. Géochimie et Biogéochimie Experimentale—LMTG/Université Paul Sabatier, 14 rue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France, 3. National Energy Authority, Grensásvegi 9, 108 Reykjavík, Iceland

The reaction of Ca derived from silicate weathering with CO2 in the world’s oceans to form carbonate minerals is a critical step in long-term climate moderation. Ca is delivered to the oceans primarily via rivers, where it is transported either as dissolved species or within suspended material. The relative importance for climate moderation of riverine dissolved Ca vs. suspended Ca transport stems from the total Ca flux and its climate dependence. Data in the literature suggest that, within uncertainty, global riverine dissolved Ca flux is equal to suspended material Ca flux. To determine how these fluxes depend on temperature and rainfall, a 40 yr field study was performed on 4 catchments in northeastern Iceland: Jökulsá á Fjöllum at Grímsstadir, Jökulsá á Dal at Brú, Jökulsá á Dal at Hjardarhagi, and Jökulsá í Fljótsdal at Hóll. Suspended material Ca flux depends more on seasonal and annual temperatures and rainfall variation than does dissolved Ca flux in all four catchments. For example, the average difference between the annual maximum and minimum daily suspended Ca flux for the Jökulsá á Dal at Brú is four orders of magnitude, whereas the difference for dissolved Ca flux is only approximately one order of magnitude. Similarly, the annual dissolved Ca flux for this river varies by a factor of 2.6, whereas its annual suspended Ca flux varies by a factor of 7.1. Because suspended material Ca flux is more dependent on climate, it provides a stronger negative feedback for stabilizing Earth’s temperature through the greenhouse effect. Read More

Feb 04 2007

Smokestacks in a White Wilderness Divide Iceland – New York Times


NY Times puts the spotlight on Kárahnjúkar
Alcoa is building an aluminum smelter in eastern Iceland, part of a project that is reshaping the wilderness. But a coalition of groups says Iceland is sacrificing its most precious asset — its pristine land — to foreign industry.

 

The New York Times

By SARAH LYALL

NORTH OF VATNAJOKULL GLACIER, Iceland — In the depths of winter there is almost nothing to see here but snow and rock: snow across the uneven, unearthly landscape, snow on the mist-shrouded mountains, snow stretching to what looks like the edge of the world.

But tucked into Iceland’s central highlands, where the Karahnjukar mountain meets two powerful rivers flowing north from Europe’s largest glacier, a nearly completed jigsaw of dams, tunnels and reservoirs has begun to reshape the wilderness.

This is the $3 billion Karahnjukar Hydropower Project, a sprawling enterprise to harness the rivers for electricity that will be used for a single purpose: to fuel a new aluminum smelter owned by Alcoa, the world’s largest aluminum company. It has been the focus of the angriest and most divisive battle in recent Icelandic history. Read More

Nov 09 2006
1 Comment

‘Blood and bauxite’ by Chandra Siddan


Montreal Mirror
Nov 20-26.2003
Vol. 19 No. 23

kashipur dance 

 

Impoverished Indians fight ALCAN’s bid to open a mine in their backyard. Since this article was written the repression has been stepped up.
Read More

Oct 12 2006

A Sheffielder’s Account of the 2006 Protest Camp


Sheffield activists were amongst the many people who headed out to Iceland this summer to support the protest camp against the Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Project, and the Icelandic governments dam building and industrialisation programme more generally. This dam building programme is threatening some of the largest and most incredible pristine areas of wilderness in Europe. The Kárahnjúkar dam is north of the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s biggest glacier. The protest camp was set up in the affected area and activists from Iceland, other parts of Europe and North America took part in a series of actions over July and August. Read More

Apr 27 2006
13 Comments

ALCOA in Trinidad and Tobago


Trinidad has its own Alcoa Powered Energy Master Plan:

The area around the town of Vessigny, also known as Union Village will get a Aluminum Smelter plus a handful of other gas based industries. The mega acre site is currently totally cleared of all vegetation, people in the surrounding area are asked to move and the contract for delivery of one cash and carry Chinese smelter plant has been signed. An “agreement in principle” has also been signed with Aloca for the Chatham smelter.

The area between (and including) the village of Chatham and Cap de Ville is earmarked for an Alcoa Aluminum Smelter producing 340,000 tons of Aluminum per year. By the way, that is US$10 billion dollars worth of Aluminum which exceeds the entire annual budget of the country by 4 billion. Read More

Apr 23 2006

The Nature Killers – A Brief Run Down of the Corporations Involved in the Kárahnjúkar Dam


CorporateNews.org.uk
April 4th, 2005

Barclays Bank
Already fund the notorious Narmada dam project in India – and have played a ‘key role’ in financing the dam by arranging a $400 million loan to Landsvirkjun, the Icelandic power company that will run the dam.

Impregilo

work 

Dodgy Italian construction conglomerate, in charge of building most of the dam . One of Impregilo’s consultants has already been found guilty in 2003 of offering bribes to a Lesotho hydro-electric firm, and the company itself will face another hearing before the Lesotho courts in April 2005. Impregilo were also involved in building the Argentina’s Yacyreta dam, which went almost $10 million over budget and was labeled byPresident Carlos Menem ‘a monument to corruption’ . Impregilo were also one of the firms planning to build the infamous Ilisu dam.

Invest In Iceland
Part of the Icelandic Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Promotes investment in Iceland, and seem to be one of the quasi-governmental agencies that has been pushing for the hydro dam.

National Power Company of Iceland (Landsvirkjun)
This is the company that will run the Karahnjukar dam. Initially set up to explore hyro-electric power opportunities, Landsvirkjun now supplies electricity to the whole of Iceland. Owned jointly by theIcelandic State (50%) and the two biggest towns Reykjav í k (45%) and Akureyri (5%). Landsvirkjun also take part in greenwash operations with Alcoa, such as ‘The Alcoa/Landsvirkjun Sustainability Group’, which co-oprdinates projects such as spreading hay to stop soil erosion – which won’t, however, stop the massive erosion caused by the dryung out of dammed river beds. More on greenwash in the Alcoa section. You can track the progress on the dam, day by day, on this part of their website: http://www.karahnjukar.is/en/

Alcoa
The US company that will run the aluminium smelter. Alcoa is the world’s largest producer of aluminium, serves the most industries as well as producing ‘bacofoil’. It is very influential in US as well as Icelandic poltics: Ethical Consumer described Alcoa’s operations as ‘a near textbook example of how to win friends in high places’, counting the US Treasury Secretary, Paul O ’ Neill, as one of its former CEOs. While a major polluter, Alcoa undertakes greenwashing exercises such as the ‘Alcoa forest’ project, which claims to plant ‘ten million trees’. However, in Western Australia Alcoa have simply planted trees on top of the blasted and mined remains of former forest land; the new growth cannot compensate for the loss old eco-system, resulting in substantial erosion of topsoil. Read More

Mar 16 2006

Megaprojects and Risk – An Anatomy of Ambition


In this book Bent Flyvbjerg and others outline the exact blueprint of the methods employed by the Icelandic authorities to drive through their energy policies. Original edition is in Danish.

“Megaprojects and Risk provides the first detailed examination of the phenomenon of megaprojects. It is a fascinating account of how the promoters of multi-billion dollar megaprojects systematically and self-servingly misinform parliaments, the public and the media in order to get projects approved and built. It shows, in unusual depth, how the formula for approval is an unhealthy cocktail of underestimated costs, overestimated revenues, undervalued environmental impacts and overvalued economic development effects. This results in projects that are extremely risky, but where the risk is concealed from MPs, taxpayers and investors. The authors not only explore the problems but also suggest practical solutions drawing on theory, experience and hard, scientific evidence from the several hundred projects in twenty nations and five continents that illustrate the book. Accessibly written, it will be the standard reference for students, scholars, planners, economists, auditors, politicians and interested citizens for many years to come.” Read More

Náttúruvaktin