Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for September, 2017

Environmental damage in Iceland minimized

The minke whale hunting season for the year has finished, with a final total of 17 whales. That’s their worst catch ever, and they clearly haven’t caught any since the end of July as I updated Minke whaling gets off to a shaky start on August 1 with the news that only 17 whales had been caught this year. They had been hoping to at least equal last year’s catch of 46 whales, and preferably to exceed it.

The main person behind minke whaling, Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson, says that they will “most probably” go out whale killing next year, though the hunting season will be shorter, only two to three months. I can’t see how it’s economical for him to employ people for the season and catch so few. Maybe next year there will be no whaling in Iceland and most of the rest of the world will rejoice, as fin whales have now not been hunted for the last two seasons due to bureaucracy in Japan, not to mention stores of unsold meat.

Another piece of good news is that Silicor Materials has told Icelandic port officials that it no longer intends to build the solar silicon plant in Grundartangi, which had been highly controversial and I had already predicted would not be built. They had had funding problems, amongst other things. The decision will please many people.

The United Silicon plant will remain closed for the next few months – if it ever reopens at all.

Iceland’s oldest aluminium smelter, currently owned by Rio Tinto Alcan and located just outside the Greater Capital Area, is up for sale. Apparently some entities have shown interest – my inkling is that Century Aluminium might be interested, as their proposed aluminium smelter close to the United Silicon smelter has never been completed. But Rio Tinto say that if they can’t find a suitable buyer, they’ll keep the plant.

The other big news, of course, is the fall of the Icelandic government and the election which will now take place on October 28. Apart from the stated reason for the election, which centred around the father of our current Prime Minister signing a letter of support for the clemency of a sex offender, it’s obvious that Bright Future and Vidreisn (Reform) had always been dissatisfied to some extent with working with the Independent Party in the Coalition, both in terms of working procedures and having to water down their politics. Everyone knew the situation was delicate from the start.

Fun and games.

 

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Former United Silicon owner charged with embezzlement and forgery

Remember Magnus Gardarsson, ex Board Member of United Silicon who was taken for reckless driving and speeding earlier this year – in fact many times, here and abroad – in a Tesla electric car? He left the company in April, and has now virtually disappeared, or at least is overseas and not responding to media enquiries.

He’s in the news again at the moment. The United Silicon plant is not operating at the moment as the Environment Agency finally said NO on September 1, there had been too many aberrations from the operating licence and the repairs were not helping in any way.  But the company has kept its employees as it still hopes it can restart when its technical problems have been sorted out, and it has even recruited a few more, like press officer Karen Kjartansdottir who is obviously meant to smooth out the company’s image. (She, by the way, had been recruited for a morning programme on national radio but resigned “for personal reasons” before taking on the job. A few days later she was working for United Silicon.)

Besides trying to sort out the smelter’s technical problems, staff are also attempting to sort out the company’s financial mess, as they have been given an extension of a few months to the payment difficulties they experienced when building subcontractor ÍAV took them to arbitration. As part of this, they have discovered that Magnus Gardarsson had been (albeit very professionally) swindling the company since he co-founded the it in 2014, even continuing after he left the Board on April 6. He has taken over ISK 1.5 billion kronur out of the company by sending in pseudo-invoices, etc. The company sued him yesterday for large-scale embezzlement and forgery, while Arion bank, which now owns up to 67% of the company, and three pension companies are seriously thinking about suing him too. The pension companies own most of what Arion doesn’t.

United Silicon’s workforce of around 80 is mostly made up of foreigners, although that was not the original idea. It’s ironic that one of the reasons for the plant’s location was to provide employment for locals, as unemployment was a problem at the time in the area. But the situation has changed, mostly because of the nearby airport and Iceland’s tourist industry, so that now airport personnel as well as smelter personnel are being recruited from overseas as otherwise they cannot fill the positions.

The soon-to-be-opened PCC silicon plant in North Iceland is also having difficulties recruiting non-professional staff. So at least if United Silicon gives up or is closed for good, it’s workers can go and work in the north instead – until that plant too ends in difficulties!