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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Novembre - Heavy metal pollution: Red mud in the creeks (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Wed, 7 Dec 2016 10:45:44 +0200
National Park Calanques between Cassis and Marseille is used for fifty years as discharge
Alteo, which operates the bauxite to produce alumina. In December 2015, the company
obtained the prefect of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur the right to continue to
dump its industrial waste for another six years. ---- Alteo world's largest producer of
alumina with over 1 000 tonnes exported every day, is controlled by the US investment fund
HIG Capital. For nearly fifty years, the Gardanne bauxite processing site, the company has
a right to ship by sea residues 200 m deep and 7 km off the coast of Marseille and Cassis.
Today it is at least 20 million tons of red mud thereby lining the seabed over 2400 km².
far exceeded legal norms
The authorization renewed in 1996 stipulated that the industrialist had until 31 December
2015 to stop shipping its waste at sea. To achieve Alteo has set in 2007 of three filter
presses, half funded by the Agency water. The dried red mud extracted from red mud is to
be used as fill material. Despite this, the plant continues to discharge liquid
effluents containing various metals, arsenic, chromium, lead, titanium, mercury, aluminum
... Of course effluent concentrations of pollutants far exceed legal standards. According
to data of the Ministry of Ecology, are still discharged into the sea every day 6 tons of
aluminum (instead of 64 tonnes previously), 83 kg of iron (against 270 tonnes), 11 kg of
arsenic (against 42 kg ), 20 mg of mercury (against 80 g). And beyond marine pollution,
the Gardanne plant also pollutes its immediate environment through leaks retention basins
and dust cleared, and so pose to residents of major health problems.
In 2015, the industrial requested two new permissions. One to continue to occupy the
maritime public domain until 31 December 2045 with its old pipeline; the other is a
necessary derogation to continue to discharge into the marine environment liquid effluents
as it has since 2007.
A public inquiry has been opened. But neither the observations of experts, nor the intense
mobilization for the rich public inquiry over 2300 contributions nor the refusal of
several municipalities - including that of Cassis where the pipe emerges - or the
opposition of the Minister Ecology have deterred the three commissioners of the public
inquiry. They made October 22 a unanimously favorable opinion to requests for Alteo: "At a
time when French public opinion fears offshoring" , it is imperative to "save several
hundred jobs" . An article in Le Monde Diplomatique counted "four hundred direct jobs and
more than a thousand in cash subcontracting" . In the aftermath, and despite the clear
violation of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea ratified
by France, the regional prefect, executing the directives of Manuel Valls, authorized for
six years pursuing these discards.
In March 2016, the environmental inspectors conducted a surprise visit to Gardanne. They
detected still too many suspended solids exceedances of permitted limits of mercury, zinc
and antimony, a high pH and a "biological oxygen demand" improper. Furthermore, on 9
March, a leak during the manufacturing process resulted in the formation of a cloud
containing caustic soda. The incident resulted in conspicuous whitish deposits on fifteen
hectares around the plant.
This situation calls for several types of comments. First, note once again the permanent
attitude of governments, left and right wing, whose decisions are and will be sized to
meet the short-term interests of the capitalists. Then technically an industrial unit
alumina production could be much cleaner. As stated by the BRGM (Geological and Mining
Research Office), there are solutions to filter waste water more within this extraction
process used in the Gardanne plant since 1894 and based on the dissolution of the of
alumina from bauxite using sodium hydroxide.
The false alternative employment and nature
But above all there is at least another extraction process, the process said Orbite
patented Orbite Aluminae Canadian company that does not produce red mud. In view of this,
the opposition between the defense of jobs and the nature seems artificial. What is at
stake today in Gardanne has actually little to do with the defense of employment. This is
basically to safeguard the short-term shareholder dividends of a multinational who refuses
to make the necessary investments in non-polluting alumina production.
Finally we intend to show that this opposition between job protection and nature is
fundamental to capitalism because it can divide in depth the social movement. Too often
organized labor and environmental groups are fighting under the eye bantering capitalists.
Although today the consciousness of damage productivism progresses, although in many wage
earners companies are asking questions about the effects of their work on the environment
is to fall into deep sense of powerlessness.
So we must conduct an ideological battle to convince that this employment opposition
against deep ecology is artificial. This fight is also to lead in associations and unions
where we campaign: every time this question will we seek to build bridges between those
who fight for jobs and those who fight industrial pollution that starts up a common
strategy that can address both aspects. At Gardanne, the defense of a sustainable
employment through the need to impose significant investments to eliminate any
environmental pollution. Apart from this perspective, not only offshoring will operate,
but in addition it is likely that in the host country a new polluting plant is built and
continues, moreover, to destroy life!
Jacques Dubart (AL Nantes)
The World January 30, 2016.
Use as backfill material containing large amounts of leachable heavy metals is likely
to cause further pollution
The World July 06, 2016.
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