Norwegian aluminium company Norsk Hydro will restart its Alunorte alumina refinery, in Brazil, at 50% capacity, following approval by federal environmental agency IBAMA to use its press filter technology for processing bauxite residues.
The “exceptional” authorisation, which was granted on Friday, will extend the life of the residue deposit area 1 (DRS1), which is close to reaching its capacity, and will allow Alunorte to continue operations.
Following IBAMA’s decision, Alunorte will be working with the Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainability to obtain the authorisation to use the press filter on DRS1. This filter provides stackable residues with considerably less water content than the drum filter.
“We are ready to restart our operations and we thank for all the support that we have received from the authorities and society. We are now making every effort to go back to producing as we maintain our dialog with authorities to resume full production,” head of Hydro’s Bauxite and Alumina business area, John Thuestad, said in a statement on Friday.
Resuming 50% production at Alunorte would also allow Hydro’s bauxite mine Paragominas and its joint venture primary aluminium smelter Albras to continue operating at half capacity, as opposed to being fully shut down as a consequence of Alunorte being idled.
Last week, Hydro said that it would shut the Alunorte refinery and that the mine would be closed too, resulting in 4 700 workers being laid off.
Brazilian regulators in February ordered Hydro to slash output by half at the refinery after the company admitted to making unlicensed emissions of untreated water during severe rains.
Alunorte is the world’s biggest alumina refinery and accounted for about 10% of global alumina output outside of China last year.