Rusal’s Aughinish Alumina has applied to the local planning commission to begin several new improvements that it says will insure that Europe’s biggest alumina refinery will stay online through 2039.
Local media reports that officials from the plant say that without these improvements the plant is likely to cease operating by 2030 at current production levels. The plant, which produces about 1.2 million metric tons of refined alumina per annum, employs almost 500 locally, with another 400 in downstream roles.
Rusal said in its application to the Limerick government that the improvements were necessary to keeping those hundreds of individuals employed at the plant.
“The closure of the facility at Aughinish would result in a significant loss in highly-skilled employment opportunities in the wider area and result in the loss of one of the state’s major industrial manufacturing facilities.”
Rusal went on to opine that the improvements are of “increasing importance as economies transition towards a low carbon future,” as the metal is of increasing importance to production of electric vehicles and photovoltaic panels.
Among the changes sought by Aughinish Alumina is an increase in the permissible on-site storage of bauxite residue and salt cake. The refinery would like to expand its Bauxite Residue Disposal Area (BRDA) by storing bauxite residue to a height of 44 meters and salt cake to a height of 35 meters. At present the refinery is permitted to store up to 32 meters of bauxite residue and 29 meters of salt cake.
Rusal says the plant’s current permit for salt cake storage will lapse next year, and that it expects to have in place a new process that will decrease the site’s overall production of it.
The increased storage space would have “no significant negative effects,” said Rusal, as landscaping of the area would shield it from view. Widening the area to increase storage volume would “necessitate additional infrastructure” which Rusal says is impractical.
The relevant board is expected to return a decision on the application by mid-June.