Alcoa to vandalise Iceland wilderness
CorpWatch, an organisation holding corporations accountable is appealing for support to stop the government of Iceland signing a deal that would give a subsidiary of aluminium smelter Alcoa, the go ahead to construct a large hydropower project in Iceland's Eastern Highlands. This is one of Europe's largest remaining wilderness areas. The subsidiary would supply power to an aluminium smelter owned by Alcoa. The "Kahranjukar Project" involves building miles of roads, boring a series of tunnels and diverting dozens of rivers to create three reservoirs and erect nine dams, including one that is 750 metres — Europe's highest. Alcoa is the world's largest aluminium producer and is moving to Iceland, not to expand production, but to cut costs. It is closing smelters in the US and moving to Iceland where the government is offering dirt-cheap electricity. The aluminium plant will get a subsidised rate, thought to be about 1.5 cents/kwh. The utility has yet to release the price at which it will sell Alcoa its hydropower. But it is not just cheap power that draws Alcoa to Iceland: Iceland's reliance on geothermal power gives it an exemption from the Kyoto Protocol's fossil fuel emissions. This would allow Alcoa's smelter to operate without having to pay penalties for any carbon dioxide emissions. If the project goes ahead, a large wilderness area would be sacrificed. The project would drown 50 square kilometres of tundra, presently the grazing grounds for more than 2000 reindeer and the nesting ground for the pink- footed goose. It will affect the flow of close to 60 waterfalls. In early summer, silt from the exposed banks will blow over the countryside. There are a number of other serious environmental consequences. Project officials claim that it will create close to 750 jobs in eastern Iceland, an economically disadvantaged region. Yet the economics of the project are questionable. According to an independent analysis commissioned by Iceland's Nature Conservation Agency, it is likely to produce annual losses of US $36 million. These funds could be spent creating other jobs that do not destroy a major wilderness area. Take Action! The Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) has led a strong campaign against the project with regular large demonstrations, daily protests at the parliament building, a hunger strike and a court case against the environment minister. The environmental activists want to turn the area into a National Park of "Fire and Ice". But time is running out. The Icelandic Government plans to sign go ahead agreements before the national elections of May 2003.
* * *For more information visit: http://www.inca.is Readers wishing to support the campaign may send a free fax to Alcoa tell the company to withdraw from its destructive project in Iceland immediately. To do this, visit http://www.corpwatch.org/action/PAA.jsp?articleid=5828