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13 arrested at Rio Tinto-Alcan smelter blockade

Erik Bauxitebasher | 25.07.2007 01:01 | Anti-militarism | Climate Chaos | Repression | London | Sheffield | World

ICELAND: Today about 20 protesters climbed cranes and blocked access to the Rio Tinto-Alcan smelter in Hafnarfjordur. 13 were arrested and one is still being held hostage by the police in Reykjavik. Saving Iceland has organized a 'summer of dissent' as a part of a campaign against the war-mongering aluminum industry and their subservient pets in Government. Beyond protesting against the devastating exploitation of Iceland's rivers and wilderness for cheap energy, the network is linked to groups with the same corporate enemies in Brazil, Trinidad, South Africa, and India. The struggle continues with Iceland's second Critical Mass this Friday.

Saving Iceland
Press Release
July 24th, 2007

HAFNARFJORDUR – Saving Iceland has closed access to RioTinto’s Straumsvik smelter in South-West Iceland. About 20 protesters have locked their arms in metal tubes and climbed onto cranes on the smelter site. 13 were arrested arrested and later released, but one 23 year-old British activist is still being held hostage by the Icelandic police for at least another week. Several other protesters are now facing prison after last year's actions, and the police has stolen passports of those arrested on July 14th at Iceland's first RTS, 'Rave Against The Machine', thus preventing them from leaving the country. Iceland can now pride itself on having political prisoners.

Saving Iceland opposes plans for a new RioTinto-Alcan smelter in Keilisnes or Thorlakshöfn, expansion of the existing smelter, and a new coal and nuclear powered smelter in South Africa.

“Protests against Alcan have been successful. Of course the people of Hafnafjordur have stopped the expansion of Straumsvik and recently, in Kashipur, Northeast India, Alcan had to give up it’s participation in a bauxite mine because of protests against their human rights violations and environmental devestation. Alcan has been accused of cultural genocide in Kashipur, because mining and dams have already displaced 150.000 mainly tribal people there . Norsk Hydro left the project when police tortured and opened fire on protestors, and then Alcan moved in,” says Saving Iceland’s Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson.

“This case and similar cases, and Alcan’s involvement in arms production, shows how ruthless they are. The takeover by RioTinto is rather unlikely to make Alcan into a responsible corporate citizen.”

“RioTinto-Alcan haven’t blown off their interest in a new smelter in Iceland. Hafnafjordur is still being named by Alcan despite the referendum , and a new smelter might be built in Thorlakshöfn or Keilisnes. Saving Iceland rejects this, and we express our solidarity with the people in South Africa opposing RioTinto-Alcan’s coal- and nuclear powered smelter plans there. Landsvirkjun has also gotten involved in this , so it is very important that people in Iceland reject these neo-colonial developments that destroy the environment and communities. ” says Úlfhildarson.

Documentation of Alcan’s links to the arms industry, the South-African deal with Landsvirkjun, and some of the history of Rio Tinto is attached to this press release.

More information:
Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson

RioTinto-Alcan’s aluminium alloys are sold for a whole range of military purposes. Alcan is the main supplier for European Aerospace and Defense and Space, producer of military helicopters, military satellites, the Eurofighter Tycoon, Mirage F1, EF18 Hornet and other jets . EADS is the world’s leading producer of missiles . Deals made between the EADS and Alcan are presented as between Airbus and Alcan, to cloud the military involvement ; it is common for all aluminium companies to hide their ‘defense’ products under the title ‘aerospace’. But at the same time, military products need to be marketed, so images of fighter jets are displayed on Alcan Aerospace’s website .

EADS claims to sell to countries that “guarantee a responsible approach to high-tech military air systems. It draws on decades of expertise in military aviation.” But can you trust a company that is sick enough to add video fragments from Nazi Germany, glorifying first world war and Nazi airplanes , on the same webpage as this quote?

Alcan further supplies Boeing a “variety of high performance aluminum-products” . Boeing produces the Apache and Chinook military helicopters used in Iraq and less known products that brighten your day, such as the the ‘Small Diameter Bomb’ and the ‘Joint Direct Attack Munition.’ Then there are Alcan’s associations with Dassault ., a French arms manufacturer, which produces a range of aluminium fighter-jets . Alcan has also been promoting itself to Naval services .

RioTinto-Alcan has signed a letter of intent with the Govt. of Cameroon to expand the existing Alucam smelter with 150.000 Mtpy, and build a new 150.000 Mtpy smelter. The Lom Pangar Dam, to be constructed by the government, would power this . Alcan have a large number of projects planned Africa – their “greenfield project pipeline” includes Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar and South Africa. ‘Greenfield’ means that untouched nature will be destroyed for the mines, infrastructure, smelters, and dams that would power them.

Alcan was active in apartheid South Africa between 1949-1986 . Now they want to come back and develop a new smelter in the near zero-tax ‘Coega Development Zone’ near Port Elizabeth, powered by coal and nuclear delivered by Eskom, one of the worlds largest electricity companies. “Thirty percent of the poor communities of South Africa don’t have electricity, and now that will be going straight to Alcan,” says Lerato Maregele, a S-African activist visiting Iceland .
Elkom is a ‘sister-company’ of Iceland’s Landsvirkjun . Landsvirkun want to be part of this deal and more generally branch out to Africa.
Landsvirkjun can be expected to try and sell their expertise to Eskom’s various hydroprojects in Mozambiqu, Uganda and Congo. They will try to be part of damming the Congo river, a project twice the size of China’s Three Gorges, that will have a devastating effect on the central African rainforest.

While we can conclude that Alcan itself heavily supplies the arms industry and is invading Africa as it invades Iceland, it is now part of Rio Tinto, the world's largest private mining company, “long criticized for gross human rights violations dating back to its support of apartheid in Southern Africa.”
We will name some of the many cases. Rio Tinto has been know to subject it’s own workers to poisoning in mines, having security guards shooting locals on the spot looking for small amounts of gold in one of it’s mines and having union-members spied upon or fired in its Brazilian gold mines.

Rio Tinto has been involved with mercenary scandals. The Papua New Guinean (PNG) Government, in joint venture with Rio Tinto, hired private mercenary companies Sandline International, a London-based private military company, composed primarily of former British and South African special forces soldiers, which had been involved in the civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone and were now payed to fight the population of Bougainville, an island near PNG. The mine had been closed by the people of the island because of the disastrous ecological effects .
Citizens of Bougainville have filed a class action lawsuit in the United States against Rio Tinto arising from the environmental damage caused by the mine and war crimes occurring during the civil war years. In August 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Rio Tinto's effort to dismiss the claim.

S. Das & F. Padel, “Double Death - Aluminium’s Links with Genocide”, Economic and Political Weekly, Dec. 2005, also available at
Chandra Siddan, “Blood and Bauxite”, Montreal Mirror, Nov 20-26, 2003, Vol. 19 No. 23.
“Smelter Expansion on Landfill?”, Iceland Review, June 20th 2007.
RUV News, 26-02-2007, Note that RUV has Alcoa and Alcan confused.
EADS website,
EADS promotion film, “A Brief Glance at EADS”,
AFX News, June 13, 2007,
Alcan Press Release, “Company To Provide Critical Aluminum Materials For Full Range Of Aircraft Including A380”, June 13, 2007,, dd. 22-7-2007.
EADS promotion film, “90 years of aircraft history in Augsburg”, and
US Geological Survey, “Minerals Yearbook 2005,” September 2006, p. 5.2.
Boeing Website Image Gallery of Small Diameter Bomb:
Boeing Image Gallery:
Alcan Press Release, “Alcan Contributes to Success of Eighth Ariane 5 ECA Launch,” Dec 13th, 2006.
“Pacific 2004, International Naval and Maritime Exposition for the Southern Pacific,” Aerospace Maritime and Defence Conference,
US Geological Survey, “Minerals Yearbook 2005,” September 2006, p. 5.5.
Alcan Press Release, “Alcan to Explore Development of Bauxite Mine and Alumina Refinery in Madagascar,” September 11th 2006.
Alcan’t website,
Grapevine, Issue 10, July 13, 2007. Interview also available at
RUV News, 26-02-2007, Note that RUV has Alcoa and Alcan confused.
International Rivers Network & EarthLife Africa, “Eskom’s Expanding Empire
The Social and Ecological Footprint of Africa’s Largest Power Utility,” June 2003,
Asia-Pacific Human Rights Network, “Rio Tinto’s Record and the Global Compact,” July 13th 2001,
SBS Australia’s television program Dateline in a report on Rio Tinto, August 2000.
Wikipedia Germany (22-7-2007),äre
Contract between PNG Government and Sandline:
Sarei v Rio Tinto, 456 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2006), USA.

Erik Bauxitebasher
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