The government of the northern Brazilian state of Pará has ordered Norsk Hydro to halve production at Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A. (Alunorte) due to the company’s failure to reduce the water level at a bauxite residue deposit at the site.
The Secretariat of Environment and Sustainability in the Brazilian state of Pará (SEMAS) made the announcement yesterday, noting that Alunorte did not lower the freeboard in the DRS1 deposit to 1 meter. The government made the order after the region endured a deluge of rain ten days ago, which led to significant flooding in the area.
In addition to a mandated 50-percent cut in production, the state government also ordered the Paragominas bauxite mine to suspend operations at one of its two tailing dams at the site.
Hydro CEO Svein Richard Brandtzæg responded to the news in a press release, emphasizing his company’s continuing efforts at bringing operations at Alunorte into compliance.
“We have taken considerable measures to meet the deadline at Alunorte, and we will continue with full force to make sure that we comply with expectations and requirements. We will continue our dialog with local authorities to ensure that we take all necessary steps to ensure safe and sound operations – with respect for people, the environment and for the local communities that we are a part of.”
Hydro, who owns 92.1 percent of Alunorte and 100 percent of the Paragominas bauxite mine, said it is not entirely clear what the impact of the mandated shutdowns will be at this juncture, but it did warn that the fallout from the shutdowns may be “significant.”
In addition to the shutdowns described above, SEMAS indicated that it is likely to implement fines of R$1 million (US$307,500) per day until the freeboard of 1 meter at DRS1 is achieved.
Beginning production in 1995, Alunorte is the world’s largest alumina refinery. Boasting a nameplate capacity of 6.2 million metric tons per annum, the plant supplies alumina to buyers in Brazil, the Middle East, North America, and Europe.