Tuff processing
in Þorlákshöfn

Heidelberg Materials plans to build a grinding plant in an area west of Þorlákshöfn that processes Icelandic tuff for use in cement production. Plans assume that tuff will mostly be extracted from seamines off shore but also from a mine in Litla-Sandfell in Þrengslin. The material will be ground in closed spaces for export and mixing with cement in order to significantly reduce carbon footprint of cement production. There is no significant noise, smell or environmental pollution associated with the tuff processing. However it is accompanied by approximately 60-80 jobs in addition to purchased services and income for the municipality.

Initial plans called for a different location. In conversation with the local community, concerns were expressed about the size of the buildings and the proximity to the town, as well as increased traffic stress due to transport from the mines. Extensive changes have been made to the project and a new location has been found for the factory, further from the town of Þorlákshöfn. The new location significantly reduces the visual impact of the processing, due to the distance from the town, but the increased land space also gives the option of lower buildings than originally planned. There will also be a change in leveling, where the material will largely be taken from sea mines, which will significantly reduce traffic due to the activity.

A public election on the organization of the area will be held at the same time as the presidential election, on June 1st. The residents of Ölfus will have the opportunity to express their opinion on the future development of the Þorlákshöfn business area and at the same time the continued development of the Heidelberg factory. We encourage all residents to familiarize themselves thoroughly with the project and participate in the election. Detailed information about the project can be found here on the web page, i.a. in the Q&A section but also in other promotional material and news on this website.

Map that show the mines Lambafell and Litla-Sandfell

Picture that shows intended industrial area of Heidelberg Materials

Why Þorlákshöfn?

Why is this planned?

The project is part of Heidelberg Materials’ plans to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of its cement production, but the cement industry is responsible for 6-8% of man-made carbon emissions worldwide. By mixing tuff with cement, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by up to 20%, and with the production in Þorlákshöfn, it is estimated that carbon dioxide emissions due to cement production can be reduced by up to 1.3 million tons per year. That corresponds to roughly a quarter of Iceland’s total emissions, or close to what the entire national car fleet emits per year.

Heidelberg’s goal is to become a global leader in sustainable building materials. Because of this, one of Heidelberg Materials’ main goals is to reduce its carbon footprint and the negative impact of cement production. The project in Þorlákshöfn is a major part of the company’s plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry, but with the use of tuff in cement production and its processing with renewable energy in Iceland, the climate impact of cement production would be reduced to an amount unprecedented in the industry. In this way, an important industry would bring such an important industry closer to sustainable production.

Why Þorlákshöfn?

Þorlákshöfn boasts undoubted advantages that make the location ideal. First of all, tuff can be found in large quantities in the area around Þorlákshöfn, both in the sea and on land, and this is a prerequisite for the location being examined. The town is also geographically well located, especially with regard to transport to other countries and boasts a strong infrastructure. There is good access to electricity and fresh water, enough land space and the fact that Ölfuss’s policy of utilizing the municipality’s natural resources resonates well with the focus of the project. Emphasis is placed on finishing the pocessing of the material in the municipality, which maximizes its added value for the residents of Ölfuss. Ölfus is a powerful and modern municipality and has ample human resources that can work at the company in one way or another.

New port and factory buildings.

New port and factory buildings.

New port and factory buildings.

What will the proposed factory look like?

What will the buildings look like?

The attached images give an indication of the height and the extent of the buildings, but the final design and appearance is not yet known. Buildings such as those that house tuff processing take up space, but with the relocation of the factory to the west of the Þorlákshöfn village, its visual environmental impact on the settlement in Þorlákshöfn will be negligible. With the new location, more land is also available, and with that the buildings can be lowered from what the original plans assumed. Heidelberg Materials also strives to make buildings fit well with their surroundings and emphasizes building them in harmony with the local community.

Environmental impact and transport of materials

Turf mining is non-polluting in nature as only natural rock is being ground. Still, the processing takes place entirely in closed buildings so there is no risk of fumes or other contamination. In addition, the processing does not cause any significant sound, odor or environmental pollution. The processing calls for some water use, but the measurements assume that there is enough water in the working area so that the factory will be completely or almost completely self-sufficient in terms of water supply.

The majority of the tuff will be taken from sea mines just off-shore, while the rest will be taken from a mine in Litla-Sandfell hill in Þrengsli and transported from there on the highway to the processing plant.

What are the benefits for the municipality and the local community?

Activities like this are extensive and, according to assessments, would have a significant positive economic impact for Ölfus. It will create at least 60-80 well-paid jobs plus approximately 50 secondary jobs, according to KMPG’s assessment (link to it). The municipality will then have income from the purchase of goods and services, as well as income for the municipality obtained through taxes and fees.

Due to changes in location from initial plans and since the material has to be loaded directly onto a ship, a new port has to be built. Heidelberg will bear the cost of that port. Its operational form is not yet known, but the idea is that not only Heidelberg will be able to use it and that over time the municipality will acquire the port with associated benefits.

Heidelberg will continue to work on its community program and continue to support sports, leisure and cultural events as well as certain entrepreneurial projects.


Í síðustu viku hélt Heidelberg Materials vel heppnaðan íbúafund um fyrirhugaða móbergsvinnslu í Þorlákshöfn þar…

Hér er á þessari slóð er hægt að nálgast þá kynningu sem fram fór á…

Fyrirtækið hefur nú fengið vilyrði fyrir lóðum í Þorlákshöfn en að öðru leyti er verkefnið…

What is Heidelberg Materials?


Heidelberg Materials is one of the largest manufacturers of construction materials in the world, and the company’s products are used in the construction of houses, roads and commercial and industrial structures. Originally German, the company is now multinational with operations in many countries. It is also the majority shareholder in Hornsteinn, an Icelandic holding company, which owns and operates three subsidiaries, all of which have a long history in Iceland; BM Vallá, Sementsverksmiðjan and Björgun.

Why does Heidelberg have these plans?


Heidelberg’s goal is to become a global leader in sustainable building materials. The cement industry is responsible for 6-8% of global anthropogenic carbon emissions. Because of this, one of Heidelberg Materials’ main goals is to reduce its carbon footprint and the negative impact of cement production. The project at Þorlákshöfn is part of the company’s plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry and thus bring an important industry closer to sustainable production. The use of tuff in cement production and its processing with renewable energy in Iceland would reduce the climate impact of cement production to an extent unprecedented in the industry.

Why is Þorlákshöfn suitable for this project?


The reason Þorlákshöfn was chosen is its good geographical location. Also, good harbour options and the fact that tuff can be found in large quantities in the area around the town, both in the sea and on land. In addition, the town has strong infrastructure and human resources and is growing rapidly.

How much is the carbon footprint of cement production reduced by using tuff in production?


It is estimated that the carbon footprint will be reduced by 20-25%. That is a medium goal, but an even higher replacement rate is aimed for, which requires further product development and the introduction of new products. Every step towards a lower carbon footprint of cement is a step in the right direction. A reduction of 20-25% is a good step forward, and with continued research and increased use of the material, a higher replacement rate may become a possibility.

Is cement necessary for the construction industry?


Cement production is and will be important to the modern construction industry for years to come. It is likely that in the future it will be possible to use more other materials in some branches of the construction industry, but cement is absolutely necessary in various structures and will be so for many years to come.

Has ground tuff already been used in cement production?


Tuff, a natural pozzolanic material (volcanic material), has long been used as an admixture in cement production. The material is already part of the European cement standard EN 197-1.

Where will the ground tuff be taken?


Primarily to destinations in Northern Europe, to Norway and Sweden, but possibly also to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and/or Germany.

How will the municipality and the state receive income from the project?


Ölfus receives income through taxes and fees from the activity as well as the project, which creates between 60-80 new jobs as well as secondary jobs. That can lead to an increase in the number of inhabitants in the town, which would mean increased income, e.g. through local government. Taxes and fees will of course be paid to the Icelandic state as required by law and regulations.

How does this project benefit the community in Þorlákshöfn?


In addition to that, creating increased employment and employment opportunities and generating taxable income for the municipality, the project will contribute to an attractive business life and the development of the municipality, as for excample a new port. Heidelberg Materials will – as it has always done – operate according to a community program where the company sponsors individual sports, leisure and cultural events and certain entrepreneurial projects.

What is Hornstein’s connection to the project?


Heidelberg Materials in Iceland and Hornsteinn are sister companies that both operate in Iceland. Heidelberg Materials is the sole owner of HPM and the majority owner of Hornsteinn. Hornstein’s CEO, Þorsteinn Víglundsson, has worked with Heidelberg Materials on the project and has been its advocate in Iceland.

What effect will the operation have on traffic in the vicinity of Þorlákshavn?


A final decision has not been made on how material will be transported from the mine to the factory. Several alternatives are under consideration, but Heidelberg Materials’ plans assume that the activity will not have an inhibiting effect on traffic in Þrengsli or in the vicinity of Þorlákshöfn.

Will there be pollution from the tuff processing?


Tuff mining is not inherently polluting. The processing takes place by grinding material that is found naturally in the town’s environment. The processing itself takes place in a closed space so that there will be no danger of fumes. The factory’s buildings have a visual impact, but otherwise the activities will not have noise or odor pollution or other negative side effects on the daily life of the townspeople.

What economic impact will the operation have on Þorlákshöfn?


Due to the size of the project for Þorlákshöfn, it is expected that the project will have a very large positive economic impact for the municipality. Job creation and secondary jobs will greatly increase the employment opportunities of the townspeople and the municipality’s income. It is difficult to give exact figures on the increase in the municipality’s income, but it is expected that local government payments and other fees to the municipality will increase the municipality’s income significantly, probably by tens of percent.

When is the plant scheduled to start operations?


The design and construction of the plant, along with the preparation for mining, will take about two years if plans go ahead. Production is expected to begin in 2025, but the final timing has not been confirmed.

How and how many jobs will follow the activity?


It is estimated that around 60-80 jobs will be created at the factory when it is fully operational. The jobs are of various types and include, among other things, in equipment control, engineering, electrical engineering and general management. There are also countless other secondary jobs that are created due to the purchase of various services related to the operation.

What effect will the activity have on traffic at Þorlákshöfn?


The environmental impact of transportation via Þrengslavegur is discussed in the environmental assessment report for leveling from Litla-Sandfell. There, the impact of the transport on safety is assessed as insignificantly negative. Annual traffic on Þrengslavegur is 1900 vehicles. Today, heavy vehicles pass through it, as there are large quarries located next to the road. In the master plan, it is assumed that up to 625,000 m3 of material will be collected per year in Litla-Sandfell, which is intended to be partially used for a milling plant. The aim is for the transports amounting to around 500,000 m3 of material per year when the factory is fully operational. If that traffic is divided evenly over the year, it amounts to 112 trips (round trip in total) per day. Such traffic amounts to about 6% of the total traffic per day on Þrengslavegur. Based on the plans for the mine’s operating license, we can expect more trips from the mine on Þrengslavegur, regardless of the milling plant. The Road Administration has already started looking at road improvements and has already improved Þrengslavegur from Highway 1 to Litla-Sandfell. Further road improvements on this section are planned for the future which fits well with the timetable of this project.

Will Little Sandfell disappear?


It is assumed that the hill will disappear, but that it will happen in 30-40 years, based on current exploitation plans. In general, the government’s policy has been to make full use of individual mines rather than open wounds in many parts of nature.

Where are the sea mines and why isn’t all the material taken from there?


The sea mines are off Markarfljótsós and are at a depth of 20-40 meters. It is better to mix marine and terrestrial materials to ensure a stable raw material throughout the winter, but the processing of sea mines during the dead of winter is difficult due to the weather.

What is the result of heavy ship traffic at Þorlákshöfn due to the activity?


1-2 ships per week are expected to pick up materials for export, as well as 5-7 trips by smaller ships when landing marine materials, per week.

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