Early this morning 40 activists from over 10 countries occupied the construction site where Century Aluminum are preparing to build their Helguvík aluminium smelter, and chained themselves to machinery and cranes. The protest is aimed at damage to geothermal areas in southwest Iceland and Century’s environmental and human rights abuses in Jamaica and Africa.

The construction of the Century Helguvík plant depends on the expansion of geothermal energy in Hellisheiði and Reykjanes (1). Construction began in June, without a valid Environmental Impact Assessment, or a guarantee of sufficient energy (435 MW) for the smelter. (2) ’Just as with Alcoa Fjardaal, the government shows no interest in following the the legal process for these huge projects. Instead they act as if the smelter and power projects are inevitable, creating mass apathy. At the same time, Century’s human rights abuse record has largely gone unnoticed.’, says Snorri Páll Jónsson Ulfhildurson from Saving Iceland.

American corporation Century Aluminum is involved in a number of projects in Africa and the Caribbean which are contended by environmental and human rights campaigners.
In Jamaica, Century jointly owns a 4.8 million tonne bauxite mine which is causing large-scale deforestation of rainforest. (3,4,5) Century are also involved in a joint venture to open up a second mine and alumina refinery with Chinese company Minmetals, who are associated with prison labour factories and gross human rights abuses in China and elsewhere (6,7).

In February 2007 Century Aluminium signed a memorandum of understanding with the Republic of Congo for the exclusive right to develop a smelter, an alumina refinery and a bauxite mine with a minimum commitment of 500 megawatts of gas-generated electrical energy in Pointe Noire.(8)

’Congo is renowned for its horrendous human rights conditions including terrible mass rapes, unlawful killings, torture and corruption. Transparency International has also rated it one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. That’s usually exactly the kind of regimes corporations like Century prefer to deal with…’, says Saving Iceland’s Snorri. (9,10)

’The financial scams orchestrated by aluminium companies have created economic and environmental ruin in many countries, dramatically affecting the lives of thousands of their citizens. In each case, a sustained and costly PR campaign promising a new age of prosperity preceded this construction.’ Indian scientist, Aluminium expert and writer Samarendra Dasexplains.(11) Das will be giving a number of talks in Iceland in July, including a conference with Andi Snær Magnusson on the 23rd in Reykjavikur Akademian.(12)

(1) Landvernd report, Nóvember 2007, ’Athugasemdir vegna umhverfisáhrifa orkuöflunar fyrir álver í Helguvík, sbr. frummatsskþrslur Orkuveitu Reykjavíkur fyrir Bitruvirkjun og virkjun við Hverahlíð.’

(2) In the table below, the planning agency details that the 435 MW required for the smelter will come from a number of geothermal sites in Reykjanes and Hellisheiði. With Bitravirkjun on hold and Reykjanes not yet guaranteed, the energy requirements are far from filled. Landvernd states that only 60% of required energy had been found in 2007, before Bitravirkjun was suspended. (see reference 1)
For more information on the lack of proper Environmental Impact Assessment see The Ecologist, October 2007,’ Aluminium Tyrants’. Jaap Krater, Miriam Rose and Mark Anslow.

(3) Century Aluminium website. http://www.centuryca.com/st_ann.html

(4) Zadie Neufville, April 6, 2001, ’Bauxite Mining Blamed for Deforestation’. See http://forests.org/archive/samerica/baux….

(5) Mines and Communities report,’Bauxite Mine Fight Looms in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country’, 24th October 2006 at http://www.minesandcommunities.org/artic….

(6) ’Century Aluminum in Jamaica mining deal’, Monday, May 15, 2006, Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal.

(7) In 2004 Minmetals attempted a takeover of Canadian mining company Noranda but were declined in 2005 due to serious concerns over human rights abuses by the Chinese company. This report details Minmetal’s association to forced labour.

Aaron A. Dhir, ’Of Takeovers, Foreign Investment and Human Rights: Unpacking the Noranda-Minmetals Conundrum’, Banking & Finance Law Review, Vol. 22, pp. 77-104, 2006.

(8) http://sec.edgar-online.com/2007/03/01/ … tion11.asp
and http://www.afriquenligne.fr/news/africa … 83302.html

(9) Amnesty International Report 2007, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/africa/….

(10) Transparency International (2006). Corruption Perceptions Index 2006. Transparency International, Berlin.

(11) Samarendra Das, ’Mining sacred mountains to fuel the war on terror’. June 2008. See https://savingiceland.puscii.nl/wordpres…

(12) On Wednesday July 23, 19.30 h. Saving Iceland will hold a conference with the Indian writer, scientist and aluminium expert Samarendra Das and ‘Dreamland’ author Andri Snær Magnusson, on the influence of the aluminium industry in the third world. Also, the concept of aluminium as a ‘green’ product will be examined. The evening is organised jointly with Futureland. It will take place at the Reykjavikurakademian house on Hringbraut 121.

July 19, 2008
Saving Iceland
Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson „Saving Iceland stöðva vinnu á lóð Norðuráls í Helguvík“, Náttúran.is: July 19, 2008 URL: http://www.natturan.is/d/2008/07/19/saving-iceland-stoova-vinnu-loo-norourals-i-helguv/ [Skoðað:Dec. 4, 2023]
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