Norsk Hydro's Alunorte alumina refinery. Source: Norsk Hydro
Aluminum maker Norsk Hydro filed a joint petition — along with its alumina refinery Alunorte, the Pará state environmental agency SEMAS and the Ministerio Publico Federal — asking the Brazilian federal court to lift embargoes on the refinery’s DRS2 bauxite residue deposit area.
On May 20, 2019, the federal court in Belem lifted production embargoes on the Alunorte alumina refinery, which had been running at half capacity.
However, embargoes first imposed in March 2018 remained in effect with respect to the facility’s new DRS2 deposit area. A return to full capacity at Alunorte cannot take place until the DRS2 embargoes are lifted.
The embargoes were prompted by flooding caused by a heavy rainfall in the city of Barcarena and the surrounding area — including the Alunorte refinery — on Feb. 16-17, 2018. Production at the refinery returned to 50% on Oct. 8, 2018, shortly after the company announced a full curtailment of operations on Oct. 3, 2018.
“This is an important step forward, arising from our ongoing dialogue with the authorities. The DRS2 and press filters is the most sustainable bauxite deposit technology available in the world, and the only long-term solution for Alunorte operations,” said John Thuestad, executive vice president of Hydro’s bauxite and alumina business area.
Hydro said the petition came after “Alunorte, Hydro, Pará state environmental agency SEMAS and Ministerio Publico Federal signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing an agreement regarding the necessary measures to resume commissioning activities at the new, state-of-art deposit area.”
“As part of the agreement, Alunorte will perform a socioeconomic study on possible impacts of DRS2,” Hydro said. “If the study indicates a need for compensatory measures, such measures shall aim to contribute to sustainable and long-term improvements in potentially affected communities. Moreover, Alunorte is committed to involve Ministerio Publico Federal in the potential necessary updates of the environmental license.”
While Hydro awaits the lifting of the embargoes on DRS2, it continues to utilize its older DRS1 bauxite residue deposit area to “sustain production at the refinery,” the company said.