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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Novembre - Heavy metal pollution: Red mud in the creeks (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date 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[1].

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[2]. 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[3].

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)

[1]The World January 30, 2016.

[2]Use as backfill material containing large amounts of leachable heavy metals is likely to cause further pollution

[3]The World July 06, 2016.

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