Hydro’s alumina refinery Alunorte in Brazil has announced that the plant is preparing for full curtailment of its operation.

The decision was taken as the bauxite residue deposit area 1 (DRS1) is close to reaching its capacity, due to the embargo on the state-of-the-art press filter and the newly developed bauxite residue deposit area (DRS2).

Alunorte has been running at 50% production since March, following embargos from Brazilian authorities. Environmental authorities have confirmed that there was no spill or overflow from the residue areas. The embargos have prevented Alunorte from utilising the newest bauxite residue deposit area (DRS2), which was under commissioning in February, as well as the state-of-art press filter technology, representing an investment of more than BRL 1 billion. The press filter is the most modern and sustainable technology for depositing bauxite residue, reducing the required storage area and environmental footprint. Alunorte has since the embargo made efforts towards authorities for permission to utilise the press filter, as well as DRS2, without success.

Due to the embargo Alunorte has been forced to operate only DRS1, which was originally planned to be phased out, and the less efficient drum filters. DRS1 is therefore approaching its end of life faster than anticipated, forcing Alunorte to take the responsible decision to temporarily shut down 100% of its operations. This will have immediate effect on the bauxite mine Paragominas, which will also shut down 100% of operations. Both Alunorte and Paragominas have initiated the shutdown process safely.

“Our people have been working hard during the last seven months to maintain safe operations and preserve jobs. This is a sad day because we have the world’s most advanced technology available to continue safe operations, which we are prevented to use, and this will impact jobs, communities, suppliers and customers”, says John Thuestad, EVP Bauxite & Alumina.

Hydro is working in collaboration with unions and will do its utmost to reduce the consequences for employees, but the decision to close Alunorte and Paragominas will impact direct and indirect employees at both plants.

While it is too early to determine the full impact, the decision to close Alunorte and Paragominas will have significant operational and financial consequences, potentially also for Hydro’s primary aluminium portfolio, including Albras.

“We will continue to work constructively with the authorities to lift the embargo and to resume operations in order to re-establish Alunorte as the world’s leading alumina refinery”, says Thuestad.