Arion Bank and PCC Conclude Talks Over Sale of Silicon Plant

Stakksberg Silicon Plant Helguvík.

Arion Bank and PCC BakkiSilicon have concluded their talks over the sale of the silicon plant in Helguvík.

The fate of the Reykjanes silicon plant has been up in the air since the 2018 bankruptcy of former owner United Silicon, with many local residents concerned about the environmental impact of the facility. In wake of the talks ending, Arion Bank has cancelled the utility contract with Landsvirkjun, most likely meaning that the plant is now slated to be repurposed or possibly relocated.

Since the bankruptcy, extensive renovations to the plant were planned, with increased sustainability a major priority. There has been some interest in investors acquiring the plant, and Arion Bank has looked for potential buyers with experience in the industry.

Since the beginning of this year, Arion Bank has been in talks with PCC, an international silicon manufacturer with a facility in Bakki, near Húsavík in North Iceland. The PCC facility is also notable for its use of green technologies and has existed alongside the Húsavík community without problems.

PCC is said to have presented ambitious renovation plans for the Helguvík plant, but despite this, talks have fallen through, and Arion is now looking to sell and repurpose the facility.

Benedikt Gíslason, director of Arion Bank, stated to Vísir: “The story of the Helguvík silicon plant is well-known. We consider it our duty to make the best use of the infrastructure and everything that has been invested into it. We’ve looked to all stakeholders, including the residents of Reyjanesbær, who were negatively impacted by its operation.”

Read the official statement from Arion Bank here.

Residents and Local Council Oppose Silicon Plant Reopening

Stakksberg Silicon Plant Helguvík.

Arion Bank has plans to sell the silicon plant in Helguvík, Southwest Iceland, to PCC BakkiSilicon. The two parties have signed a statement of intent for the sale. Kjarninn reports that both residents and municipal authorities oppose the reopening of the plant. The plant opened in 2016, but was quickly plagued by operational troubles and ultimately went bankrupt amidst widespread community outcry over the environmental and health impact it was having on the surrounding communities. 

“The Municipal Council of Reykjanesbær has repeatedly expressed its views on the operation of the silicon plant to Arion Bank,” local councillor Friðjón Einarsson stated, adding that there is opposition both among residents and local councillors to opening the plant. “We have formally requested to work with with the bank to dismantle the plant and start collaborating on developing employment in Helguvík. Unfortunately, that has not happened.”

Arion Bank has drawn up plans to renovate, reopen, and expand the plant. The Icelandic National Planning Agency (Skipulagsstofnun) released a report on those plans on December 31, 2021, which stated that the changes would likely reduce malfunctions at the plant, a repeated issue when the plant was still in operation. The report also stated that while the renovations would lessen the plant’s impact on air quality, the impact would still be negative in the first phase of operation and quite negative if all four ovens were to operate at once.

Read More: Emissions Will Increase by 10% if Plant Reopens

“We will try everything we can to stop the reopening and will continue to ask the bank to halt [its plans],” Friðjón stated. “In my opinion, the bank has no right to do this and it’s really unbelievable that the bank isn’t listening to the area’s residents.” He points out that it was Arion Bank that funded the plant, a project that “failed miserably and [the bank] thus holds a lot of responsibility for how it went.” Friðjón says Reykjanesbær authorities have heard there is interest from abroad in buying the plant, dismantling it and exporting its parts abroad. Friðjón says local authorities have told PCC BakkiSilicon that the local residents have no interest in their purchase and reopening of the plant and will fight against it.