“With consistent documentation, proving the integrity of our bauxite waste disposal system, when based on the use of our filter press, and in alignment with SEMAS, we are now able to safely resume 50% of operations of Alunorte, ”said John Thuestad, Hydro's Bauxite and Alumina Executive Vice President. "This is a very welcome development to guarantee thousands of jobs in Pará, as well as to ensure the supply to our customers and global markets," he added.
Alunorte has been operating at half capacity since March, after state environmental authorities and the courts determined that the alumina refinery reduced production by 50%. Federal environmental authorities determined that the commissioning activities of the new bauxite waste deposit area, the DRS2 and the new filter press should be stopped, while the Justice also ordered the interruption of the DRS2 commissioning.
As a result, Alunorte limited itself to depositing bauxite residues in the former DRS1 deposit area using drum filters, which are less efficient. Last week, external geotechnical experts recommended that the use of DRS1, based on drum filter processing, be discontinued.
DRS1 is already being remodeled as a first step for the area to be closed and rehabilitated. With the use of the waste from the filter press in this remodeling, Alunorte will be able to continue to safely store bauxite residues in DRS1 pending permission to use DRS2. The new filter press generates stackable waste with considerably less water content than the drum filter.
In addition to Alunorte resuming operations at half its capacity, the decision will allow the Paragominas bauxite mine to restart deliveries to Alunorte with 50% capacity. The aluminum plant Albras, a joint venture of Hydro, located next to Alunorte and totally dependent on the supply of alumina from the refinery, may continue to produce 230 thousand tons per year, half of its annual capacity of 460 thousand tons.
Hydro maintains a dialogue with all relevant authorities to resume Alunorte's total production and normalize its operations in Brazil.
On February 16 and 17, the city of Barcarena, including the Alunorte alumina refinery, was hit by extreme rain, which continued for the following days. The rain caused flooding in the region.
Internal and external reviews confirm that there was no overflow of deposits of bauxite waste or harmful spills from the February rain event.
Since March 1, Alunorte has operated at 50% of its capacity, following orders from SEMAS and the Justice. Consequently, the Paragominas bauxite mine and the Albras aluminum plant also reduced production by 50%.
Both Alunorte and Paragominas granted collective vacations to around 1,000 employees to preserve jobs and mitigate the impacts of reduced activity. In July, Paragominas temporarily suspended employment contracts for 80 employees and terminated 175 contractors.
On September 5, Alunorte signed two contracts representing a milestone to resume normal operations. The contracts include a technical term for Adjusted Conduct (TAC) signed between Alunorte - Alumina do Norte do Brasil SA, Norsk Hydro do Brasil Ltda, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), the Public Ministry of the State of Pará (MPPA), the State Government. Pará, represented by the State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainability (SEMAS). In addition, a social Term of Commitment (TC) was signed between Alunorte - Alumina do Norte do Brasil SA and the Government of the State of Pará. The TAC regulates certain technical improvements, audits, studies and payments of food cards for families that live in the hydrographic area of the Murucupi River, while the TC addresses additional efforts and investments related to the social development of the communities in Barcarena