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ALCOA

Alcoa, the worlds largest aluminium producer, is being called upon by conservation organisations worldwide to live up to its own environmental standards and pull out of a project that would destroy Dimmuglj˙fur Canyon, one of Iceland's great wilderness areas.

The project would see Alcoa, well-known for household brands like Reynolds Wrap« and Baco « foil building a giant aluminium smelter in Eastern Iceland. At the same time, the Icelandic government would construct a major dam complex to power the smelter. Alcoa claims that leadership in environmental, health, and safety performance is inseparable from its aspiration to be the best company in the world.
 
However, this joint project will submerge parts of Dimmuglj˙fur canyon, and breeding grounds for pink-footed geese and reindeer under a 57 square kilometre reservoir and three giant dams, and involve building kilometres of new roads and tunnels. The project will also dam and divert two of the three main river systems in the area, cutting off the vital arteries that feed streams, wetlands and habitat for wildlife.

Alcoa's performance in environment, health, and safety has qualified the company as a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI); but, according to Samantha Smith, Director of WWF's Arctic Programme. "Although they publicly emphasize their environmental principles, a decision to build this smelter would help destroy one of the last great wilderness areas of Western Europe. WWF is calling on Alcoa to live up to its environmental principles and back out of this devastating project."

Alcoa's move is all the more surprising given that it follows a decision by the Norwegian multinational, Norsk Hydro, to withdraw from the project after substantial criticism from environmental groups (including PROACT) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that concluded that the project would have huge and negative consequences on the area. On the basis of the EIA, the Icelandic Planning Agency ruled that the project should not go forward. Subsequently the Icelandic government overturned that ruling, and allowed the project - a decision that has now been challenged in court.

Alcoa, which has 129,000 employees worldwide and last year generated revenues of USD 22.9 billion, is urged to live up to its environmental principles and back out of its joint plan with the Icelandic Government.

We support calls by Icelandic NGOs for the Eastern Highlands to be declared a national park. Such a park would ensure long-term protection for the highlands that risk to be affected by the Alcoa project. This could create more jobs through tourism than will be generated by the power and aluminium development, at much lower cost.

The Arctic is under pressure. From the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Barents Sea, and now the Dimmuglj˙fur Canyon, governments and industry see the Arctic as a new frontier for large-scale industrial development. The Arctic region is one of the last places left on earth where nature still works as it has for centuries. When we lose this, well never be able to turn the clock back. 


WHAT CAN WE DO?

The draft text below is based on arguments provide by the Icelandic Nature Conservation Assossiation - INCA - and WWF research. Send this text (or use your own words) as email to ALCOA and the Icelandic Environment Ministry.

DIRECT MAILING

Addresses in full:
 
ALCOA
 
Environment Minister
 
Morgunbladid (Iceland's leading daily newspaper)
 


DRAFT TEXT


To:
 
The responsible Executives and Company Officers of ALCOA Inc.
 
cc.
Ms. Siv Fridleifsdottir
Icelandic Minister for the Environment and Nordic Co-operation
 
ICELAND'S WILDERNESS MUST NOT BE DESTROYED
 
 
Dear Sir/Madam,
Dear Ms. Fridleifsdottir

We must appeal you stop your plans to build an aluminium smelter in eastern Iceland

After the withdrawal of Norsk Hydro from this project we were dismayed to learn that Alcoa is now about to become involved in the destruction of a unique European wilderness.

If this project goes ahead, the planned 700mW hydropower plant will flood or permanently change a vast wilderness in Iceland's central highlands and will severely impact on one of the largest wilderness areas remaining in western Europe. 
 
Negative environmental consequences are inevitable when dams, channels, diversions, reservoirs and roads are built in what is still a pristine natural region. Roughly 1,000 km▓ in the central highlands north of the Vatnaj÷kull Glacier will be directly affected, with irreparable damage to a rare oasis of highland vegetation and geological formations and landscapes, some of which are rare on a world scale. Damming activities will also result in habitat destruction and rivers, lakes and wetlands will be impoverished or disappear altogether.
 
You are fully aware that the Icelandic Planning Agency made a clear ruling against the Kßrahnukar hydropower facility because of the proved enormous environmental impact. Iceland's environment minister, Siv Fridleifsdˇttir, who has chosen to totally disregard their findings, is being sued by the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) and others for overturning the previous decision by the Planning Agency.
 
Despite your public arguments to the contrary, and your continued insistence that the project will bring benefits to Iceland, the truth is that irreversible damage on a massive scale will be caused by the proposed activities of your organisation and its partners. No amount of special pleading or carefully slanted impact studies can alter this fact.
 
In the long-term interests of Iceland and the Arctic region we strongly urge you to follow Norsk Hydro's example and withdraw from this project NOW without wasting time and resources; and without loss of face. Present and future generations of  Icelandic and European citizens, and conservationists worldwide, will be deeply in your debt if you take this courageous decision.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
[Name and Address]