Yesterday Norsk Hydro ASA, Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A. (Alunorte), and Brazil’s Ministerio Publico Federal together asked the Federal Court in Belem to end the production embargo it placed upon the world’s largest alumina refiner in March of last year.
The parties filed a joint petition to allow Alunorte to resume work on installing and commissioning bauxite residue disposal area (DRS2) after Alunorte, Hydro, Secretaria de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade Pará (SEMAS), and Ministerio Publico Federal signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the steps necessary to go forward on the installation.
Per the MoA, Alunorte will conduct a socioeconomic study to determine the likely result of completing and employing DRS2, and the firm has pledged to take the necessary compensatory measures if the study finds that any nearby community may be affected. Alunorte has also promised to involve the Ministerio Publico Federal should any new licenses be necessary.
“This is an important step forward, arising from our ongoing dialogue with the authorities,” noted John Thuestad, Executive Vice President of the Bauxite & Alumina business area. “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.”
The 6.3-million-metric-ton-per-annum alumina refinery has been operating under severe constraints for over a year after torrential rains and resultant flooding in the area raised fears of a red mud release from the plant’s retention ponds, though several studies, both internal and conducted by third parties, found no evidence that such a release occurred.
Alunorte has been operating at near-normal capacity since late May after the Federal Court lifted an embargo keeping production at 50 percent. The plant continues to utilize the original bauxite residue deposit area (DRS1), and it says it continues to abide by the technical agreement (TAC) signed with Ministério Público and SEMAS.