Yet again our little cinema offered this documentary by Laetitia Moreau & Olivier Dubuquoy. It was about the production of Aluminium at Gardanne.
Gardanne is a sleepy town which lies to the north of the Calanques which is the beautiful rocky region which runs along the south coast to the east and west of Marseille. We have passed through it on the train to Marseille. The presence of the Aluminium works dominates the area. We remarked on the red dust covering the vehicles around the station area. Little did we realise what was hidden behind the hills surrounding the town.
In the documentary we see an areal view which is like an alien landscape with its red mountains and lake.
Aluminium is not a metal which is found in its pure form. It is always found imbedded in bauxite. Bauxite is mined along the Equator. The process of extracting the aluminium is the problem. It takes 30 to 40 tons of bauxite to create a single ton of aluminium. The material left behind is full of toxins. The plant at Gardanne was set up in 1963 and the mountains and lakes of residue have been building ever since. At one time it it was decided to create a tunnel from the production plant to the Mediterranean and flush the red lake through into the sea. This was done for many years causing the fish in the area to die at worst but to live with a coating of red dust at best. The fishermen were irate but they were powerless against the might of the aluminium producers. Eventually the practice was stopped but the mountains of red dust grow ever higher in Gardanne while the great minds of Europe try to work how how to make it disappear and the area of the Mediterranean sea where the effluent rushed out for years is now dead.
For those of you who understand french here is a link to the documentary:
Pour ceux d’entre vous qui comprennent le français, voici un lien vers le documentaire
What is to be done? The other metals could be extracted from the residue but that would be too costly so the mountains grow ever higher. The documentary interviewed some of the people living in the area who talked about their own ill health and that of their neighbours. The number of cancers among the people in the immediate area of the plant is very high but no one seems to be paying attention. The French government talk about the loss of jobs in the area if the plant closes but no one is talking about the fishermen who cannot fish the area where the red liquid killed the fish. No one is talking about the people dying of cancers which are apparently being caused by the red dust which whips up when the Mistral blows.
France needs aluminium but it does not need this growing mountain of bouxide as it is called. Over the years the authorities have tried to come up with names for the toxic material which are less alarming but the fact remains people are being poisoned by this material.
A solution needs to e found at a worldwide level or at the very least at a European level.