Oslo, Norway – WWF, the conservation organisation, today welcomed Norsk Hydro’s decision to indefinitely postpone plans to build a huge aluminium smelter in Iceland. The decision will also mean a second controversial project to build Iceland’s largest ever hydropower plant to power the smelter, is also unlikely to go ahead. There is currently no new partner to replace Norsk Hydro in sight.
The 700 megawatt Karahnukar Hydro power plant would significantly impact the largest remaining wilderness area in Western Europe through the construction of dams, reservoirs, ditches, channels and roads. The direct area impacted covers some 1000 sq. km. in the highlands north of the Vatnajoekull Glacier. The project will destroy a rare highland ecosystem.
Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian multinational, claimed the postponement is due to a re-evaluation of investment plans. It had hoped to make a final decision on the viability of the project by September 1, 2002, but a final decision has now been delayed indefinitely.
Samantha Smith, director of WWF’s Arctic Programme, said: “One project cannot exist without the other: Norsk Hydro’s decision means the hydropower project will now once again come under scrutiny and rightly so. Both projects are ill-conceived and will have irreparable consequences for the Icelandic environment.”
The decision by Norsk Hydro will be a serious set-back for the Icelandic Government and the Icelandic National Power Company, another partner in the project. "The Icelandic Planning Agency had decided to turn down the project because it would have serious consequences for the environment, but this was recently overruled by Iceland's Environment Minister Ms Siv Fridleifsdottir." Iceland Nature Conservation Association has filed a lawsuit against the minister in order to have the matter resolved in a court of law.
Arni Finnsson of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association said: “The delay is great news for conservationists everywhere. But Norsk Hydro should do the right thing and now commit to stay out of this unique wilderness area for good.”
For further information contact:
Samantha Smith, WWF International Arctic Programme, 00 47 22 03 65 18, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org