Friday, January 25, 2008

SN Power Prince to Avoid Chile Fish Farms Upon Advisement of the Chilean Government - Hydro-electric Visit Still On

Haakon 'safe,' but drops controversial fish-farm visit

An official royal visit to Chile has been trimmed once again, with Crown Prince Haakon dropping a long-planned visit to a Norwegian-controlled fish-farming operation because of labour and security trouble. Palace officials insist the crown prince is in no danger, though.

Chilean authorities advised the crown prince against going ahead with a visit to fish-farming facilities run by AKVA Group and Marine Harvest in Puerto Montt. Norway's ambassador to Chile, Pål Moe, told reporters the visit was cancelled because of an ongoing labour conflict at both plants.

No threats were lodged against the crown prince, and Chile's protocol chief Antonia Pena said "it's not dangerous for him to travel to Puerto Montt." Rather, the Chilean authorities issued a press statement that they didn’t want such a high-ranking person as the crown prince to visit places hit by such a conflict.

"It's too bad the visit can't be made, but I'll follow the advice the Chilean authorities give," Crown Prince Haakon said.

(But not the advice of the Mapuche: Mapuche Protest against Norwegian Hydroelectric Power )

Troubled trip

Environmentalists and critics of salmon farming had called for Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit to cancel their entire trip to Chile. They claimed that Norwegian-backed fish-farming operations in Chile exploit local workers and threaten wild salmon in the area.

(See: Chile's Flourishing Fish Farms Prompt Fears for Ecosystem )

Others have protested the royal visit because native groups in southern Chile are upset over plans by a Norwegian-owned firm, SN Power, to build a power plant in their area. A royal visit, they argue, would seem to condone the controversial plans.

Mette-Marit ended up staying home, after palace officials said she'd developed an acute case of stomach flu. Haakon traveled alone to Santiago, arriving Wednesday, and said he felt it was "right" to make the trip because of important ties between the countries.


Marine Harvest’s chief executive, meanwhile, claimed there was no conflict at his firm that warranted Thursday's cancellation. "We are very disappointed and don't understand this," said Leif Frode Onarheim. "At the same time, we respect the authorities' decision."

He thinks a workers' occupation at AKVA Chile may have prompted the cancellation, and that authorities fear the same could occur at other plants. AKVA Chile officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Representatives of Norway's trade unions' congress, LO, had visited fish-farming operations in Chile last fall, and called for improvements in working conditions and terms. Marine Harvest is the world's largest fish-farming firm, while AKVA Group supplies equipment to the industry.

Another controversial visit carried out

Crown Prince Haakon went ahead with the visit to SN Power. "I'm convinced that SN Power is in a good dialogue with the local population, the Mapuche folk,"

(See: SN Power representatives have been only arrogant and unyielding to local concerns up until now. )

Crown Prince Haakon said. "I have worked with native peoples and their challenges through my engagement in the UN. I’m well aware of the issues."

(This sounds positive: Chile Terror Law Violates Due Process for Mapuche)

SN Power was formed in 2002 by Norwegian state-owned power agency Statkraft and Norfund to construct export ($$$ to exploit) Norway's hydro-electric expertise overseas.

(See: Power for the Mapuches but not for Uganda- Norwegian Government owner, SN Power, pulls out of Uganda hydroelectric venture citing economic unviability )

The Mapuche people fear their lands will be damaged and their livelihoods threatened by a hydro-electric plant.

The crown prince said it was essential that the local population be included in all planning and that their concerns be heard (but not heeded) . He said he was relying on SN Power's management (instead of checking the facts for himself) that they're doing so.

Here is the full article.