Villard-Bonnot (Isère): sabotage of the production of two semiconductor giants [updated]

Arson of several electric lines in Isère: the hypothesis of a new sabotage
Le Dauphiné/France bleu, 5 April 2022
This Tuesday, April 5, 2022, at 1:44 am, a fire of electric cables under the bridge of Brignoud which spans the Isère between Villard-Bonnot and Crolles was declared. Eight 20,000 volt lines and one 225,000 volt line caught fire. A security perimeter has been set up to prevent any risk to the population or the environment. Security services are on site. The fire was completely extinguished during the day.
The fire is reminiscent of the one that affected the ST Micro company in Crolles on Monday, April 4. The link between the two events has been made, announced Eric Vaillant, the Grenoble prosecutor. The research section of the gendarmerie has been informed. This Tuesday morning, smoke was still coming out of the burned cables, the Brignoud bridge being closed to traffic. The gendarmerie has cordoned off the whole area and forbidden access to the bridge, with major traffic jams being recorded in the whole sector.

Among the nine cables targeted by the arsonists was a 225,000 volt RTE very high voltage cable. At the height of the fire, 5539 customers were without power. Most were able to be connected before 6:30 am. 350 customers remained without electricity at 14:30, this Tuesday, April 5, announced the prefecture of Isère. Power was cut off in the towns of Crolles and Bernin and in the industrial zone that includes ST Micro and Soitec, two major companies in the Grésivaudan region, and more widely in the Grenoble area. Semiconductor production was halted in the middle of the night at these two companies, which employ several thousand people.
At Soitec, which has 1,700 employees in Bernin, only the maintenance teams are at work. “These are situations for which we train,” explains Thomas Piliszczuk, head of global business at Soitec, who manages the crisis unit. “We have teams on site in the clean rooms to start preparing for the restart. We are still assessing the situation and depending on the situation, some lines may be restarted earlier than others, but these are procedures that are in place. If the company has groups that can cope with micro outages, nothing can come to power it when there are cuts of several hours. Concerning security, “the site here is very secure,” explains Thomas Piliszczuk, “but when it happens outside the site, at the power station, it becomes much more complicated. It is the authorities who must take their responsibility and help us to secure everything.
* 12:15 pm: Soitec’s factories at a standstill
Soitec’s factories in Bernin have been shut down since the fire. “If we have not been affected by the fire at the RTE site in Froges, during the night of April 3 to 4, we are, as we speak [ 11:30 am this Tuesday], still without electricity. All production lines are therefore shut down,” Thomas Piliszczuk, Soitec’s executive vice president of global business, told Dauphiné Libéré. We regularly prepare for a power outage, so it’s a situation we know how to handle and there’s no risk, everything is secure. We are preparing for the restart, we hope in the next few hours.”
Soitec’s vice president assures that this outage will have no financial impact for the company – “a shutdown of a few hours or a few days, we know how to manage, we know how to catch up” – but “of course is concerned that the semiconductor industry can be the target of attacks. The incidents over the last couple of days have been outside of the enterprise. Everyone recognizes that we are a strategic industry for the country, but we can see that today malicious acts and attacks can target this industry, so we need to think collectively to secure the entire supply chain of industrial sites.”
* STMicroelectronics
STMicroelectronics, whose site is located in Crolles, was affected by the power outage. “A power cut at our Crolles site occurred as a result of a fire on high and medium voltage power cables located outside the site. All systems and procedures to ensure the safety of employees and installations have been activated. As of 8:00 a.m., power to the site has been restored [although production was interrupted for more than 6 hours in a row]. Assessments and verifications are underway. The gradual restarting of the installations is underway,” the company’s management told the Dauphiné Libéré late Tuesday morning.
STMicroelectronics was already targeted on Sunday night by an arson attack on an RTE high-voltage substation in Froges. The 225,000 volt lines were set on fire inside the electrical unit, as the cables feed the ST Microelectronics transformer after running three kilometers underground, via the Brignoud bridge. It is therefore likely that the arson attack set last night under this bridge was aimed at the same power lines that supply STMicroelectronics.
(Le Figaro, April 6, 2002): Target of these actions: the STMicroelectronics company, a Franco-Italian giant in the manufacture of semiconductors, one of whose production units, which employs 4300 people, is located in Crolles. The company, which is powered by the power lines that were set on fire, was specifically targeted by the tags found at the beginning of the week, denouncing its excessive power consumption. While the first fire, which occurred on a high-voltage substation, had only caused a temporary power cut on the site, this second act of malice led to a power cut of several hours and a suspension of production. A source familiar with the operation of the site told Le Figaro on Tuesday morning of the major work now required to restart the facilities: “We will have to reprogram all the machines and clean the clean rooms, which have been in contact with dust, because of the shutdown of the air recyclers. That may take some time.”
A growing list of cases
The Grenoble public prosecutor, Eric Vaillant, has entrusted the investigation to the research section and the Isère gendarmerie group. “If the total amount of damage is not yet known, it could amount to several tens of millions of euros,” said Eric Vaillant. The magistrate added: “Having been informed of the facts by myself, the national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office has not taken up the case as it stands. He concluded: “At this stage, no claims have been made. If all leads remain open, that of arson attributable to the libertarian ultra-left is obviously favored given the inscriptions found [notably on the RTE site in Froges, editor’s note], the modus operandi and the precedents identified in the area.
The public prosecutor’s office has referred the case to the gendarmes of the research section for the two arsons in Froges and Brignoud. It is this investigative unit that is also seized of other cases of damage attributed to the libertarian ultra-left and committed in the gendarmerie’s jurisdiction since 2017, notably the attacks committed in the fall of 2017 against infrastructures of the national gendarmerie in Grenoble and Meylan, against a shed and equipment of Enedis in Seyssinet-Pariset in January 2020, and against television and cell phone relays in Tour sans Venin (Seyssinet), Jarrie and Herbeys in 2020.
As for the judicial police, they are dealing in particular with the fires that devastated the party Les Républicains in March 2017 in Grenoble, of the Casemate the same year, of premises and equipment of the company Eiffage in Saint-Martin-d’Hères in October 2018, of the church Saint-Jacques and the premises of France Bleu Isère in Grenoble in January 2019, as well as of the room of the municipal council of the town hall of Grenoble in September 2019.
It is very likely that the last two facts of the Grésivaudan will join some 25 files already gathered in a commission entrusted to investigating judges in Grenoble. At the present time, none of the facts concerned have been elucidated.
* Public transport
In a press release, the Grésivaudan community of municipalities, chaired by Henri Baile, “offers its full support to the region’s Nanotechnology sector, and in particular to ST and SOITEC, which have been hard hit by these fires, and strongly condemns these criminal acts, hoping that the investigation will lead to a swift conclusion. On the side of the local public transport ToutGo, a manager explains that “the impact is very important because we have 4 lines which pass on the bridge of Brignoud”. This Tuesday morning, it is mainly schoolchildren who have been impacted. “The high school students who were supposed to go to Villard-Bonnot could not go. The 4 buses were blocked”. On the Brignoud side, “there are the regular G2 and G3 lines which also pass over the bridge and which will be impacted with services stopping on one side and on the other. This means that all the people who come by train to the Brignoud station (Chambéry-Grenoble line) to work on the other side in Crolles are blocked since, as it stands, it is not even possible to use the bridge on foot.
Elected officials from the Department and the Grésivaudan community of municipalities went to the site of the fire at the end of the morning. Their main concern, in the short term, is to be able to resolve the major traffic problems generated by the closure of the Brignoud bridge. More than 27,000 vehicles transit daily on the RD 10 and the bridge, between the left bank of the Isère (Villard-Bonnot town) and the right bank (A41 interchange and Crolles town).
* The administrations
At the headquarters of the Communauté de communes du Grésivaudan, in Crolles, deprived of electricity after the overnight fires, three generators must be delivered by Enedis in order to restore activity in the area. Public services and facilities have been affected: without telephone or server, “since this morning it is the system D with lines repatriated on other lines”; the school outings planned at the swimming pool, located just next door, have been cancelled.
[Editor’s note: Soitec is a company that designs and produces semiconductor materials used to make chips for smartphones, tablets, computers, computer servers and data centers.
STMicroelectonics is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electronic components, and more specifically of semiconductors (electronic chips), which are used in particular in the war industry, the automotive sector, communications (5G, Cloud), energy management and connected objects].
High technology in the crosshairs of anarchists
Le Dauphiné, April 6, 2022
   For more than five years now, ultra-left libertarian groups have been carrying out highly targeted attacks in Isère, particularly against targets related to high technology, which they consider to be tools of enslavement.
There is a reproach that one cannot address to the anarchist groups suspected of being at the origin of the last two actions directed against this vast plateau of high technology that has become the Grésivaudan: that of the lack of consistency in the line of what they believe to be a noble fight.
From the first struggles led in the depths of the 2000s against the construction of Minatec (an acronym for Micro and Nanotechnologies) in Grenoble to these direct actions aimed at cutting off the power supply to STMicroelectronics, through the burning of the Casemate center for scientific, technical and industrial culture (CCSTI) in 2017 and the repeated attacks on Enedis facilities and equipment, time has passed, but the concept of violent political action and the targets chosen remain invariable. A form of violence that, over the course of the claims put online by the perpetrators of these attacks, is justified generally by the conviction that this violence is only a response to those, more pernicious and omnipresent in their eyes, that society makes them suffer: inequality, capitalism, dictatorship of work and technology, sexism, submission to the elites produced by democracy and the company.
“Playing with life
“Assiduously refractory to this world that is not ours, we thought it possible to desert it to build others […]. But unable and unwilling to flee, we have stopped turning our backs on the enemy to face him,” wrote the authors of a text claiming the ransacking of Grenoble real estate agencies in 2018.
Taking up the great standards of 20th-century anarchist thematics (notably those of American environmental activists advocating the sabotage of man’s tools of enslavement of nature, such as large electric dams in the West), the Grenoble libertarians adapt it to what they see as more contemporary issues. While occasionally attacking the symbols of a democracy they detest (the burning of Grenoble City Hall and France Bleu Isère radio station in 2019), of a state (fires on two gendarmerie sites in 2017) they do not recognize, these ultra-left libertarian groups want above all to put down the technological avatars of a society they consider crushing. Sabotage the infrastructures of Enedis, therefore, “which promotes and propagates electricity and disaster […] because we like to play with fire. Playing with life […] which only holds on to all these electric wires […] that we would like to cut everywhere we can”, write the authors of an incendiary attack against the operator in Seyssinet-Pariset in 2020.
At the extreme limit of the armed struggle
There is little doubt that the fire set on Tuesday under the Brignoud bridge was aimed at the same objectives as the previous day’s attack on the high-voltage substation in Froges: the targeted wiring supplies not only STMicroelectronics (tags accusing this company were found at the scene of the fire in Froges, as revealed by Le Dauphiné Libéré on Monday), but also other high-tech companies such as Soitec. STMicro, a company that has developed its business (electronic chips) based on nanotechnology, and Soitec (which designs and produces semiconductor materials used to manufacture electronic chips) are therefore among the preferred targets.
“Everyone recognizes that we are a strategic industry for the country, but we see that today […] attacks can be aimed at this industry. So we need to think collectively to secure the entire supply chain of industrial sites,” the vice-president of Soitec said on Tuesday.
The commandos, who have been causing disruption in Isère for more than six years, have never been worried, particularly because their attacks have always been carefully prepared and carried out in an almost professional manner.