Historic Hjörleifshöfði Estate Sold to Sand Mining Companies

Hjörleifshöfði

Hjörleifshöfði mountain and the black sand beach surrounding it have been sold to two companies, one Icelandic and one German. The companies plan to mine and sell sand from the location for use in sandblasting and cement making. The price tag of the South Iceland site has not been made public, though Vísir’s sources pin it at ISK 500 million ($3.96 million/€3.27 million) or more. The land’s previous owners say they made several unsuccessful attempts to sell the historic property to the Icelandic state.

A Historic Locale

Hjörleifshöfði is a 221-metre tall mountain located on a black sand plain, near the southernmost tip of Iceland, some 15 kilometres east of the town of Vík í Mýrdal. It was named by one of the first legendary settlers of Iceland, Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson, who settled there at the end of the ninth century, and he is said to be buried on it.

The land area bought by the two companies includes both Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey mountains. It stretches from Kötlujökull glacier down to the sea and consists mostly of sand plains. The Ring Road, or Route 1, passes through the land.

Sandblasting and Concrete

Jóhann Vignir Hróbjartsson, Páll Tómasson, and Victor Berg Guðmundsson are the purchasers of the land, which measures over 11,000 hectares, through their company Mýrdalssandur ehf. alongside German company STEAG Power Minerals. The new owners plan to mine and sell sand from the location, an idea they have researched and developed since as early as 2008. The raw materials will be used in concrete and sandblasting and will mostly be exported for sale.

The companies plan to set up two sand mines on the land to begin with, though possibly more in the future. They have already made agreements with other landowners in the area regarding processing of the raw materials. Jóhann, Páll, and Victor state that environmental considerations are paramount to the company, which also plans to develop tourism at the location to attract local and foreign tourists.

Government Showed Little Interest

The Hjörleifshöfði estate previously belonged to three siblings: Þórir Kjartansson, Áslaug Kjartansdóttir, and Halla Kjartansdóttir. It was listed for sale around four years ago. Þórir told Vísir that the siblings made several unsuccessful attempts to sell the land to the Icelandic state. He says neither the previous government nor the current one showed much interest in the historic land. “I tried for a long time to get a meeting with [Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir] through her secretary to discuss the issue but without success. Then I decided to send her a personal letter, which I knew she would receive, where I included all the main information about the land along with pictures and more and asked her to contact me either by phone or email.” Þórir never received a response.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Restrictions Relaxed from December 10

Sundlaugin Laugardal

Social restrictions due to COVID-19 will be moderately relaxed in Iceland this Thursday, December 10. The country’s swimming pools will reopen at 50% capacity, while shops, schools, performing arts venues, and restaurants will also see moderately relaxed restrictions. The national gathering limit will remain at 10 people, though with several exceptions. The new regulations will remain in effect until January 12.

While Iceland saw a rise in new COVID-19 case numbers at the end of November, new domestic case numbers and overall active cases have been dropping in recent days. The country appears to have contained the current wave of cases.

Ten-Person Limit Still in Effect

Health Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir just announced the updated COVID-19 restrictions that take effect this Thursday, December 10, following a government meeting that took place this morning. Current restrictions mandate a 10-person gathering limit across the country and bars, gyms, swimming pools are closed.

While the 10-person limit will remain in effect from December 10, several exceptions to the rule have been granted from that date. All shops will be permitted to take in 5 customers per 10 square metres up to a maximum of 100 customers. This regulation applies to non-essential shops as well.

Restaurants may take in up to 15 guests at a time (up from 10 previously) and may remain open until 10.00pm, one hour later than current regulations allow. They may, however, not admit any new guests after 9.00pm.

Performing Arts, Sports Permitted

Swimming pools may reopen on Thursday, though only at 50% capacity. Athletic activities for adults in the top league of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) will be permitted to restart. This applies to both contactless and contact sports.

Performing arts, currently banned, will be permitted again from Thursday. Groups of up to 30 performers are permitted to rehearse and perform together, and can entertain up to 50 seated, mask-wearing guests, though neither intermissions nor alcohol sales are permitted at performances. Funerals may have up to 50 guests.

Children born in 2005 or later will no longer be required to wear masks in schools, shops, or other locations. Preschools will no longer be required to keep classes separate.

Consensus Within Government

Svandís stated that the regulations are slightly different from Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason’s recommendations, though the changes were made in consultation with him. The Health Minister stated that there was consensus on the updated regulations within the government.

Asked whether the regulations would be sufficient to avoid a new wave after the holidays, Svandís stated: “If everyone follows the rules then they will be sufficient.” The regulations will be in effect until January 12.