On October 5, Hydro’s alumina refinery Alunorte was granted an exceptional authorization by federal environmental agency IBAMA to utilize its filter press technology in its processing of bauxite residues, which will extend the life of its DRS1 bauxite residue disposal area and allow Alunorte to continue operations on safe conditions. Following IBAMA’s decision, Alunorte will be working with the secretary of state for environment and sustainability (SEMAS) to obtain the authorization to use the press filter on DRS1. This filter press provides stackable residues with considerably less water content than the drum filter. After receiving this authorization, Alunorte will be able to restart the operation at 50% of capacity.
“We are ready to restart our operations and we thank for all the support that we have received from the authorities and society,” said John Thuestad, head of Hydro’s Bauxite and Alumina business area. “We are now making every effort to go back to producing as we maintain our dialog with authorities to resume full production.”
Thuestad added that resuming 50% production at Alunorte would also allow Hydro’s bauxite mine Paragominas and its joint-venture primary aluminum smelter Albras to continue operating at half capacity, as opposed to being fully shut down as a consequence of Alunorte being idled.
Since March 1, Alunorte has been operating at 50% of its capacity, following orders from SEMAS and the court system. Consequently, Paragominas bauxite mine and Albras aluminium plant have also reduced production by 50%.
Both Alunorte and Paragominas have granted collective vacations to around 1,000 employees to preserve jobs and mitigate the impacts of the reduced activity. In July, Paragominas temporarily suspended work contracts for 80 employees and terminated 175 contractors.
On September 5, Alunorte signed two agreements to resume normal operations. The agreements include a technical Term of Adjusted Conduct (TAC) signed between Alunorte, Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A, Norsk Hydro do Brasil Ltda, the Ministério Público Federal (MPF), the Pará State Ministério Público (MPPA), the state government of Pará, represented by SEMAS. In addition, a social Term of Commitment (TC) was signed between Alunorte and the state government of Pará. The TAC regulates certain technical improvements, audits, studies and payments for food cards to families living in the hydrographic area of the Murucupi River, while the TC addresses additional efforts and investments related to the social development of communities in Barcarena.