Meradalir Eruption Site Closed Tomorrow

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The Meradalir eruption site on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula will be closed tomorrow due to weather. The closure was announced by the Suðurnes Police Department in a press release.

The Icelandic Met Office has issued a yellow weather alert for the Reykjanes peninsula tomorrow, where considerable rainfall and gale-force winds are expected. Wind gusts in the area could reach speeds of 30 metres per second. Milder conditions are expected again on Thursday.

Lava flow decreased

The rate of lava flow at the eruption has decreased significantly since it began on August 3, according to the latest measurements published by the University of Iceland’s Earth Sciences Institute. While the flow rate measured 11 cubic metres per second between August 4-13, the average flow between Saturday and Monday was much lower, 3-4 cubic metres per second.

“It is impossible to say at this stage whether the end of the eruption is near, or whether it is only a temporary low point in the eruption,” a notice from the Institute reads.

Proposed Sand Mine Would Operate Trucks at 7- to 8-Minute Intervals Along Ring Road

Mýrdalssandur

Large transport trucks could be driving along Iceland’s South Coast at 7- to 8-minute intervals – 24 hours a day – if German company EP Power Minerals’ plan to open a sand mine east of Vík is realised. The sand would be exported to Europe and possibly North America, where it would be used as an additive in cement. The company plans to ship the material from Þorlákshöfn, but the local mayor says the town does not have adequate facilities for its storage and EP Power Minerals is yet to apply for a lot in the harbour.

An environmental evaluation of the proposal published earlier this month judged the project’s impact on traffic and noise pollution to be “considerably negative.” Its impact on birdlife, plant life, and the geology of the area was, however, evaluated as “insignificantly negative.”

Former landowners tried to sell to Icelandic state

EP Power Minerals purchased the land where the proposed mine is to be located in 2020. Some 15 km [9.3 mi] east of Vík í Mýrdal, the property stretches from Kötlujökull glacier down to the coast, and consists mostly of sand plains.

The property was listed for sale in 2016 by its former owners, three siblings who have stated that they made several unsuccessful attempts to sell it to the Icelandic state. The land was sold to EP Power Minerals through the company Mýrdalssandur ehf., in which three Icelanders own a 10% share (through the company Lásastígur ehf.).

Trucks at 7- to 8-minute intervals

The proposed mine would be located by Hafursey mountain and north of the Ring Road, which runs through the property. The proposed mining area covers 15.5 square kilometres and it is estimated that the usable sand within the area measures around 146 million cubic metres. According to the mining plans, there should be enough material within that area for 100 years of mining.

EP Power Minerals plans to transport the sand by truck to Þorlákshöfn. The amount of material would entail a full truck leaving the mine every 15 minutes, and empty trucks returning from Þorlákshöfn at the same rate. This means that transport trucks will be driving at 7-8 minute intervals 24 hours a day along the ring road between Vík and Hveragerði, as well as on the roads between Hveragerði and Þorlákshöfn.

Concerns about impact on traffic and roads

Residents of the capital area and South Iceland have expressed concern at the impact this transport would have on traffic and roads in the area. Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, CEO of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, also expressed concern about the impact the mine and its associated traffic would have.

“There has been talk about the tourism industry in that regard, but it’s recognised that one heavy truck such as those that transport fish between regions, it damages the road to the equivalent of 10,000 Yaris cars or small rental cars,” Jóhannes Þór told Vísir, expressing doubt as to whether road infrastructure could handle so much heavy transport. He added that a project such as the mine would affect the experience of tourists in the area.

Environmental impacts considered negligible

The environmental evaluation conducted by Efla and published earlier this month judged many of the mine’s negative impacts to be negligible. Its impact on plant life and birdlife in the area was considered “insignificantly negative,” as the sand plains in question are not a habitat for endangered or protected plant species and the mine would not greatly impact nesting areas.

Despite the fact that the mine would have a “direct and permanent effect on the sedimentation of Mýrdalssandur,” the effect would only be on a “tiny percentage of the total formation,” lowering the surface by 10 metres at a site where the sand is 120 metres thick. Therefore, Efla’s assessment was that the overall impact on geological formations would be “insignificantly negative.” The same was determined of the mine’s impact on tourism and outdoor recreation in the area.

The project’s climate impact was considered to be “considerably positive,” as the material produced would replace cement clinker and would therefore reduce carbon emissions due to concrete production by 800 million kg of CO2 equivalents annually (when emissions due to transportation are taken into account).

Lack of Housing Affecting Ukrainian Children’s Access to School in Iceland

Some Ukrainian children who have come to Iceland as refugees have not been able to register for school because their parents do not have an electronic ID or because they have not found permanent housing, RÚV reports. Around 1,500 refugees have come to Iceland from Ukraine since the war started, and the number is expected to grow to 4,000 by the end of the year.

One of the biggest challenges facing Ukrainian families when they arrive in Iceland is finding housing. While they are provided with temporary housing upon arrival, they must search for permanent housing on their own. Not having a permanent address affects their access to services.

“Municipalities’ regulations are such that if a child does not have a permanent address here in Iceland, they are denied entry to the school system wherever they happen to be located,” explained Sveinn Rúnar Sigurðsson, who runs a shelter for refugees in the capital area. Sveinn says that finding housing for everyone who needs it is difficult even with the current number of refugees, much less with 4,000.

One Ukrainian mother, Natalia, who spoke with reporters, stated that her 12-year-old daughter was not given a spot in the school system because Natalia does not have an electronic ID. “We are in temporary housing. We can stay [there] until October 13. We came here with Ukrainian passports, but we don’t have electronic ID and therefore we can’t register her in school. She wants to go to school and is very worried about this,” Natalia stated.

Nadia, another Ukrainian woman, stated her child was accepted into a school in Hafnarfjörður after a significant waiting period. She says she is worried about her son who does not yet speak any Icelandic, but trusts the Icelandic school system.

Tina, a 15-year-old from Ukraine, is starting school at the junior college Menntaskólinn í Hamrahlíð in the coming days. She stated she was excited to meet Icelandic kids her age and experience new teaching methods.

Animal Welfare Inspectors to Join Whaling Ships

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) will regularly monitor whether whaling companies are complying with Icelandic laws on animal welfare, thanks to a new regulation implemented by Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir. The Directorate of Fisheries will conduct the monitoring. Only one company is actively whaling in Iceland and Svandís has suggested that their licence will not be renewed after 2023.

The Directorate of Fisheries will be responsible for sending inspectors on whale hunting trips, making video recordings of hunting methods, and keeping a registry of them, according to a government notice. All inspection data will be sent to the supervising veterinarian. The Directorate will also monitor whether the whaling ships are complying with the requirements of their licence, such as regulations on fishing equipment.

“It’s a cause for celebration that these key institutions will collaborate on the inspection,” Svandís stated. “That’s where the expertise lies and the data collected will be able to confirm whether whaling is practised according to law.” The regulation has already taken effect and monitoring will start immediately. The notice does not clarify whether inspectors will be present on all whaling expeditions.

Whaling restarted in Iceland in June 2022 following a four-year hiatus. In an op-ed published in Morgunblaðið newspaper, Svandís stated there is little evidence the practice is economically beneficial to Iceland. The current government regulations allow for whaling until the year 2023, and Svandís stated she sees little reason to permit the practice after that licence expires.