Norsk Hydro Closes Down the Controversial Alumina Refinery in Brazil

Alunorte plant in Brazil (Photo: Hydro/Jo Michael)

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Norway’s Aluminum giant Hydro announced today that ’s alumina refinery Alunorte in Brazil is preparing for full curtailment of its operation.

Half state owned Norwegian aluminum company Hydro was accused of serious environmental damage in Brazil in February 2018. In addition to a leak of toxic mining debris that has contaminated several communities in Barcarena, the Norwegian giant Hydro was accused to have used a “clandestine pipeline to discharge untreated effluent”, according to Brazilian media.

The company today wrote in a press release that the decision was taken as the bauxite residue deposit area 1 (DRS1) is close to reaching its capacity, and the embargo on the state-of-the-art press filter and the newly developed bauxite residue deposit area (DRS2).

Alunorte has been running at 50% production since March, following embargos from Brazilian authorities. The embargos have prevented Alunorte from utilizing the newest bauxite residue deposit area (DRS2), which was under commissioning in February, as well as the state-of-art press filter technology, representing an investment of more than BRL 1 billion. Alunorte has since the embargo made efforts towards authorities for permission to utilize the press filter, as well as DRS2, without success.

Due to the embargo Alunorte has been forced to operate only DRS1, which was originally planned to be phased out, and the less efficient drum filters. DRS1 is therefore approaching its end of life faster than anticipated, forcing Alunorte to take the responsible decision to temporarily shut down 100% of its operations. This will have immediate effect on the bauxite mine Paragominas, which will also shut down 100% of operations. Both Alunorte and Paragominas have initiated the shutdown process.

“Our people have been working hard during the last seven months to maintain safe operations and preserve jobs. This is a sad day because we have the world’s most advanced technology available to continue safe operations, which we are prevented to use, and this will impact jobs, communities, suppliers and customers”, says John Thuestad, EVP Bauxite & Alumina.

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About Hydro

Norsk Hydro ASA (often referred to as just Hydro) is a Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy company, headquartered in Oslo. As of 2016, Hydro is one of the largest aluminium companies worldwide. It has operations in some 50 countries around the world and is active on all continents. The Norwegian state owns 43.8% of the company through the Ministry of Trade and Industry. A further 6.5% is owned by Folketrygdfond, which administers the Government Pension Fund of Norway.

Hydro’s bauxite mine is situated approximately 70 kilometers from the municipality of Paragominas in northeastern Pará, on Miltonia Plateau 3.

Hydro Paragominas began operating in March 2007 and today it mines about 15.2 million metric tons of ore per year, producing 9.9 million metric tons of bauxite annually.

Current deposits in Paragominas represent a lifetime of 41 years for mining activities, in a process aligned with the best environmental and operational safety practices.

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