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ALCOA'S REPLY AND COMMENTS
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ALCOA's REPLY WITH COMMENTARY

Dear Freek in Holland, and others who may have received a reply from ALCOA,

In answer to, or in anticipation of your questions, here is a very brief summary of comments on ALCOA's reply. To answer all their points in full would require a doctoral thesis and the support of the world's leading environmental organisations. Suffice it to say that Greenpeace, WWF and very many others oppose this project - and I hope that most of what I have written below is common (environmental) sense anyway. Proact also will continue to campaign against ALCOA and the Icalandic givernment in this matter.

To ALCOA's reply (in << >>)

<<Thanks for sharing your views on this project. First of all, we are not building anything in the highlands of eastern Iceland. Alcoa is building a plant in a coastal town that will receive power from a project that is being built by the National Power Company of Iceland. That hydro project has approved by the Icelandic parliament and the Ministry of the Environment.>>

This is superficially correct - but begging the question. Of course it is the hydroelectric project, which will involve flooding vast unspoilt areas to create a dam, building access roads and ancillary facilities etc., and will irrevocably change the nature of the Icelandic highlands is not being done by ALCOA directly. But without a dam the smelter will not be built. The Icelandic Minister for the Environment approved the project despite a damning environmental impact report produced by the Planning Agency answerable to her ministry. She just ignored it. Norsk Hydro, ALCOA's predecessors as partners, took fright at the bad publicity and opted out.

<<We do think that both projects in eastern Iceland offer a good opportunity to foster economic development there which is strongly supported by the local population and the national government. As the fishing industry becomes less labor-intensive, it is critical that rural parts of Iceland develop a more diversified economic base. We understand that there is significant opposition to the project in Iceland, but the fact remains that a majority of the people there (and not just elected officials) are in favor of the aluminum plant.>>

Big global business playing local politics again. Very dangerous and undemocratic. Of course many people who are at present unemployed or face the threat of unemployment will support the prospect of a well-paid job. But for how long and at what long-term cost? How much investment or profit will Alcoa leave in Iceland at the end of the day (quite apart from what ends up in politicians' pockets; but that's another story and I'll leave it up to the Icelanders to tell it! The aside "and not just elected officials" is too Freudian to be a coincidence!). ALCOA is NOT a welfare organisation. There are other ways of diversifying the economic base (ask Ireland for example) without destroying national or European heritage. Perhaps Iceland should consider joining the EU rather than depending on a profit-making global player for regional economic support.

<<From an environmental perspective, this plant will allow us to rebalance our global portfolio to rely less on fossil-fuel power which tends to be a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. Replacing fossil-fuel-based power with renewable hydropower will help us lower our CO2 emissions, thus contributing to the fight against global warming.>>

So Iceland and Europe have once again to pay a high price for the USA not signing the Kyoto protocol and George Bush not believing in climate change. I don't believe it!!! (Of course I do - regrettably.) Perhaps someone with more time and knowledge of the financial world could research how much ALCOA paid in to GWB's election campaign fund. (A superficial web search shows that ALCOA Inc donated $100,000 just for the _founding_ of the Bush-Cheney 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee alone.) The question why we need more aluminium (for unrecyclable Budweiser beer cans or cluster bombs (weapons of mass destruction - I'm an ex-Army staff officer!) and ofcourse the American's (and others) second home - the automobile (another weapon of mass destruction) is a bigger one than I care to tackle in this summary.

<<We understand that there are all sorts of environmental challenges associated with this project and we will do our absolute best to minimize them.>>

I think they mean the effects; but that would mean of course admitting that environmental damage would be caused. Minimising the 'environmental challenges' is just what the minister did - and will not solve the problem. Preventing the problems from asing in the first palce would be MUCH better.

<<In fact, GEO magazine wrote an extensive piece several years back about our success in constructing a very sustainable, environmentally friendly aluminum plant in Australia -- a plant even Greenpeace has visited and recognized.>>

No comment - we're talking about Iceland here. ALCOA omits to add that GEO (a German magazine similar to National Geographic but more politically independent) published 2 articles on this very problem in August 2002. Without translating the articles in full (which I may do later) the summaries read.

"Island: Land unter am Vatnajökull (The Submerging of Vatnajökull)

The (Icelandic) government is prepared to sacrifice this biotope to a hydroelectric project in order to permit the building of a gigantic aluminium plant. The supporters hope for a new boom. The opponents reckon with, in the worst case, a government bankruptcy and the ruin of a wilderness of priceless value.

[The full article is in German at < http://makeashorterlink.com/?K159323A2 >]

 

"How energy is converted to sheet metal.

In 1990 the aluminium industry used as much energy as the whole African continent for the production of this silvery light metal. Is this immense squandering of resources justified?"

[The full article is in German at < http://makeashorterlink.com/?O149253A2 >]

 

<<Please check our website for more information on the project (www.alcoa.is.) We welcome any ideas you have on how to make economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand as we proceed.

Thanks for the note.

Jake Siewert>>

Jake is the PR boss of ALCOA on Iceland. As more of us speak English as Icelandic < http://www.alcoa.com/iceland/en/home.asp > is a better reference.

David Conlin, Proact