Icelanders lead campaign against the sale of a national geothermal company, 2011

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Time Period:  
18 July
31 January
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
"This proposal, concerning the sale of Iceland’s natural resources to the company Magma Energy, aims to initiate an open discussion and encourage reconsideration of this sale, ensuring that the interests of the public are being protected and that clarification is achieved on all aspects of this decisive case concerning the future of Iceland."

On 18 July 2010, Icelandic pop-singer and cultural icon Bjork called for Iceland’s Parliament to review the sale of Iceland’s geo-thermal company HS Orka to Vancouver-based company Magma Energy Corporation in order to consider the environmental and political implications of such a sale. Bjork argued that the sale of Iceland’s natural resources, like geo-thermal energy, should be decisions made by all Icelanders, and not just those affiliated with the company.

Iceland’s Left-Green party was concerned over this particular issue due to its environmental implications. Geo-thermal energy, which is used to heat over 90 percent of homes in Iceland, is accessed by drilling into the earth and extracting heat that is then converted into usable energy. Of this process, Bjork denounced the control Magma Energy Corp. would have over Iceland’s geo-thermal-rich Reykjanes Peninsula for the next 65 years. She and others in solidarity did not want their country to become the “aluminum smelter for the planet,” which could grossly upset the ecological balance in Iceland. Magma Energy Corp. planned to erect their firm next to the famous Blue Lagoon hot springs, a popular tourist destination, which would also harm tourism revenue.

Icelanders wrote letters of protest to their Parliament, urging them to review the case and open the decision up to a referendum vote. Bjork began a movement to collect signatures for a petition that opposed the sale of HS Orka to Magma Energy Corp. She capped off the drive for signatures with a three-day karaoke festival to protest the sale. The festival, aptly named Voice of the People, began on Thursday, 6 January 2011, and lasted until 8 January 2011.

On Monday, 17 January 2011, Bjork led seventy protestors in a march to the office of Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. Sigurdardottir invited Bjork and a few protestors into her office to discuss the details of their demands, as well as to present their petition. Sigurdardottir conducted the meeting, then joined Bjork and others singing in solidarity outside her office. In an interview, Sigurdardottir revealed that she accepted the petition “with great pleasure.” However, a referendum was never held.

Eventually, Magma Corp. agreed to sell 25% of its corporation to Icelandic pension funds, thus, allowing Iceland to retain up to 25% ownership in its geothermal power. Yet, Magma largely controlled geothermal energy in Iceland.

Research Notes

The movement was inspired by a different Icelandic movement which occurred in 2007 to oppose the sale of the same company, HS Orka (1)

Huff-Post Green. 23 January 2011. 30 March 2013 <>.

Lapatine, Scott. 19 July 2010. 29 March 2013 <>.

newsonline. 31 January 2011. 30 March 2013 <>.

Times, Financial. 19 July 2010. 29 March 2013 <>.

Ward, Andrew. Financial Times- Europe. 18 July 2010. 29 March 2013 <>.

Province, The. 13 January 2011. 30 March 2013 <>.

Magma Energy Corp., April 18, 2011. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
John Pontillo, 30/03/2013