IBAMA suspended the DRS 2 embargo after analyzing the information requested from Alunorte and SEMAS - Pará State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainability. The decision to lift the embargo came after an exceptional authorization granted by IBAMA to Alunorte, on October 5th. This authorization released the company to use its press filter technology, the latest generation in the processing of bauxite waste. The use of DRS2 in combination with filter press technology represents the only long-term sustainable solution for Alunorte.
The suspension of the embargo by IBAMA does not allow an immediate resumption of the DRS 2 testing and commissioning phase, as the Federal Justice embargo remains valid.
"The new bauxite waste deposit, together with the press filter, is the most modern bauxite waste treatment technology in the world. We will continue the dialogue with the authorities to seek permission to use the new deposit. This it is fundamental for the sustainability and continuity of the refinery's operations ", says John Thuestad, Hydro's Executive Vice President of the Bauxite & amp; Alumina.
DRS2 is specially built to safely store the bauxite residues processed by the filter presses. State-of-the-art filter press technology significantly reduces moisture in the waste, allowing it to be stacked dry. This reduces the area required for storage. This increases safety and reduces the environmental footprint.
Alunorte started the project to migrate operations to the new filter press technology in DRS 2 in August 2014. Before the embargoes imposed in March, the refinery was in the process of commissioning the filter presses and DRS2, with the intention to gradually increase its use. At the same time reducing the activity of the drum filters and the old DRS1 storage area.
The resumption of commissioning and testing activities in DRS 2 would allow Alunorte to make the planned transition from DRS1 to the new waste deposit and the new technology.
“This is a development in the right direction for Alunorte, approaching our original plan to replace DRS1 with DRS2, based on modern press filter technology,” says John Thuestad, VP of Bauxite and Alumina at Hydro. “In a long-term perspective, the use of filter presses in combination with DRS2 represents the only sustainable solution for Alunorte - both environmentally and operationally,” says Thuestad.
The deadline for the suspension of embargoes that limit Alunorte's production to 50% of total capacity remains uncertain.
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 the determination of 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.