SEEDS 21. The old mine of Helgustaðir
Eskifjorður is a town in the East Fjords and located on the opposite side of Iceland´s capital, Reykjavik. It is known for its fishing industry and since 2005 for the massive and controversial aluminium smelter built just behind the city.
The aluminium smelter employs a significant number of local inhabitants and dividing the Icelandic society into its supporters and opposers. The first day of the workcamp, our group of 7 volunteers had great opportunity to see the southern part of Iceland during about 11 hours of drive by minibus to Eskifjorður. Spectacular views, walks to waterfalls and a glacier…this all was a great appetizer for our work in the field.
The task of our group was to fix a short (about 800 meters long) walking path to the old mine in Helgustaðir. This crystal mine played an important role in Icelandic history and is now under protection of the Environmental Agency of Iceland. After about 30 years, we were the first group of people to fix the trail, which was badly affected by water and soil erosion and in need of better marking for the increasing number of tourists visiting this site.
The work involved building of water drains, steps, removing big stones from the path and other stone construction – stones, stones, stones. All this helped to make the path safer for tourists and to conserve it for next generations. All necessary support was provided by both the local community and the Environmental Agency of Iceland.
In leisure time, we caught a few fish in the fjord from small boats (not enough to feed our group, though), we hiked to the highest mountain it the area and enjoyed the beautiful local swimming pool with hot-tops, slides and sauna as our second home. Of course, this all took place after the work.
A visit to the sci-fi like aluminum smelter, further discussion and inquiry in the town with locals helped us to understand better the positive and negative impact of the smelter on the local and national environment, society and economy.
During the last night, a farewell party and an international evening in one, the local community let us feel that our work was appreciated. It might even be “the small stone which will help to move the rock,” meaning that it might bring even bigger positive changes in the future for the path and the local environment.