"Recent events show that strengthening Alunorte's water treatment system is necessary to ensure the plant's robustness in the future, from an environmental perspective," says President and CEO Svein Richard Brandtzaeg.
After a period of extreme rain in mid-February in the Barcarena region, the authorities determined several measures to be followed by Alunorte, due to concerns about damaging spills to the surrounding areas, including the Pará River, which is nearby. Among the measures, it was required to reduce the production by 50% and suspend the commissioning activities of the new filter press and the DRS 2 solid waste deposit.
"We are now in a constructive dialogue with the competent authorities on these issues, but we also recognize that pressure on Alunorte's water treatment system will most likely increase in the coming years, due to the trend of more extreme weather conditions That's why we took this step with the objective of taking Alunorte to a new environmental standard ", says Brandtzaeg.
The intention is to finalize the planned upgrade in the first quarter of 2019.
Lessons learned by Hydro
"In view of the issues that have emerged in recent weeks, Hydro recognizes the concern of the people in Barcarena with water contamination. The local communities have not received the information they deserve and have not felt confidence in us. So I apologize, "says Brandtzaeg.
"We recognize that in order to build trust, we have to make changes in our attitudes, our actions and the way we work with local communities," he says.
So far, no overflow or leakage has been detected from Alunorte's solid waste deposits after the extreme rains in February.
As a precautionary measure and to relieve pressure on the Industrial Effluent Treatment Station, Alunorte disposed of rainwater from the refinery, through the Canal Velho. Due to a power failure on February 17, diluted caustic soda was released from an internal area of the refinery, which mixed with rainwater before entering the containment basin, overflowing to the Old Canal. Alunorte had applied for a license to use Canal Velho in extraordinary circumstances. However, at the time of disposal, the company did not have a license for such activity and notified the competent authorities.
Hydro contracted the Brazilian company SGW Services Consultoria Ambiental to conduct a totally independent analysis, in parallel to an assessment that has been carried out by a specialized internal task force. The conclusions and recommendations are expected to be presented on April 9th.
"Regardless of the conclusions of the studies, we are committed to working with the authorities, neighboring communities and local partners, investing in providing adequate water," says Brandtzaeg.
Hydro is the largest aluminum company in South America after the acquisition of Vale's aluminum assets in Pará in 2011. Alunorte is the largest alumina refinery in the world. It employs around 2,000 people and has a nominal capacity of 6.3 million tons per year. Hydro owns 92.1% of Alunorte.