On February 5, 2021, CAINQUIAMA – Associação dos Caboclos, Indígenas e Quilombolas da Amazônia (an association with office in Barcarena) and nine Brazilian individuals filed a lawsuit in the Netherlands against Hydro’s Dutch entities and Norsk Hydro ASA (Hydro). They seek compensation for alleged financial damages and personal injuries suffered as a result of Alunorte and Albras activities in the municipality of Barcarena, including alleged polluting following the rainfall in the region in February 2018. Since 2017, CAINQUIAMA has initiated five lawsuits in Brazil against Hydro entities. The matters brought forward in the Netherlands are similar to the cases that are already ongoing before Brazilian courts and Brazilian authorities and earlier publicly reported by Hydro. For more information about the lawsuits, see note S10.2 in Hydro’s Annual Report 2020.
The Brazilian companies’ activities in the State of Pará are duly licensed by the competent environmental agency, the State Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainability – SEMAS, and the companies regularly report on their environmental performance as determined by the current legislation and the licenses granted by the environmental agency.
Regarding the heavy rains of 2018 and allegations of impacts that would have been caused in Barcarena by Alunorte's operations, the event is described in detail on Hydro.com. More than 90 inspections / audits carried out by public bodies, such as the Municipal Environment Secretariat of Barcarena, State Environment Secretariat, IBAMA, Civil Defense of Barcarena and Abaetetuba, among others, confirmed that there was no overflow from the water basins or bauxite residues during the heavy rains in February 2018. There was no evidence of contamination in the communities caused by Alunorte related to the February 2018 rains.
Other more in-depth studies were done after February 2018, including studies by i. research institutions, such as the Federal University of Pará (UFPA), ii. companies specialized in the environment, iii. literature reviews of studies, some of which produced even before the implementation of Alunorte, and after the implementation, such as the 2008 research conducted by UFPA in partnership with the Mineral Resources Research Company (CPRM in Portuguese), on the physical environment (soils, surface and groundwater) and biotic environment (aquatic life and vegetation) which indicates that the presence of metals such as iron and aluminum is related to the local / regional geological formation and therefore are found naturally in water, sediment and organisms.
This research by UFPA and CPRM points out that no elements were found to suggest man-made contamination, but rather an indication of the characteristics of the region as a natural origin of those elements. Abnormal geogenic (i.e., natural) concentrations of aluminum, boron, copper, iron, lead, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, fluorine and mercury have been found.
Directly following the rainfall event, from March to May 2018, the Brazilian arm of the Red Cross was engaged to perform a multi-disciplinary health diagnostic of the allegedly affected communities. The Red Cross team did not identify, on the basis of their work, any of the clinical symptoms typically linked to elevated metal levels. The study did note signs and symptoms of probable diseases which could be linked back to the general living conditions observed in the region. The health diagnostic was independently validated by a toxicology expert, who concluded that no signs or symptoms had been identified that could be linked back to high aluminium levels. The conclusions of the health diagnostic are in line with the UFPA and CPRM study from 2008, which found no increased levels of morbidity when investigating the elevated levels of metals naturally occurring within the region.
In September 2018, Alunorte and Hydro signed an agreement with state and federal authorities in Brazil that includes independent audits and studies to further understand potential impact of operations in Barcarena. The agreement foresees socioeconomic, ethnographic and environmental studies and an epidemiological assessment with focus on neighboring communities. The activities under the agreement are being monitored by a committee formed by representatives from the authorities and the communities.
We promote open and transparent dialogue about our operations with neighboring communities, having had more than 700 interactions with local communities’ members in 2020, including traditional communities. The interactions followed strict Covid-19 protocols.
We continue to intensify our Private Social Investment efforts in Pará, following our Social Responsibility strategy guided by four of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Quality education; Decent work and economic growth; and Peace, justice and effective institutions. Over the past three years, around 40,000 people have benefited from our social investments.
Hydro and Albras support the Sustainable Barcarena Initiative (SBI), an independent platform set to promote dialogue and social change in the municipality. As part of SBI, Hydro and Albras have established the Hydro Sustainability Fund to drive development in Barcarena through a BRL 100 million investment. In 2020, to support initiatives to prevent and combat Covid-19 in Pará, Hydro made donations totaling approximately BRL 20 million.