Having mostly been a quiet fishing town since the war, Reyðarfjörður (and neighbouring communities) saw a revival in the early 2000s when Alcoa decided to build an aluminium plant there. It was built in 2003-7 by the contractor Bechtel, requiring thousands of workers from various countries, most notably from Poland. At one point the town had the highest concentration of foreign residents of any community in the country.
By 2008 the construction workers had left, but townspeople have faith in the aluminum plant for the continuing prosperity of their old community.
But aluminium smelting in Iceland is causing a huge amount of contoversy. There are currently three aluminium smelters in Iceland, with a fourth under construction and others planned. Iceland is one of the world’s top ten producers, despite having no bauxite (the main ingredient) and a population of barely 300,000. Aluminium has a huge share in the economy, accounting for 37% of exports in the early part of this year, compared with just 10% in 1995.
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