Hydro operates and maintains three bauxite residue facilities at the Schwandorf legacy site in the eastern part of Bavaria, Germany. The site holds residue from operations by German aluminium producer VAW in the period 1930s-1990s. The site became a part of Hydro with the acquisition of VAW in 2002. It was a legacy site already then.

Due to various water streams at the site, there is a water management system which collects and treats water, consisting of rainwater falling within the parameters and run-offs from the deposits. Up until September 30, the water treatment was outsourced.

Since October 1, 2023, Hydro has taken over the water treatment and will implement several improvements as the company is building a new water treatment plant. Improvements are including reduced use of chemicals and increased level of automation, which will reduce the HSE risk of workers at the site. In addition, the new water treatment plant is engineered for climate adaptation preparing for future extreme weather events.

Protecting environment using state-of-the-art technology

“Hydro has in place dedicated capabilities and resources for managing our legacy portfolio worldwide. At the Schwandorf facilities we will be using state-of-the-art technology, and protect soil and water environments,” says Bjørn Kjetil Mauritzen, Head of Sustainability in Hydro.

To meet new upcoming requirements on tailings management, Hydro is currently installing a new water treatment plant. The project is carried out in five steps:

  • Erection of a temporary water treatment plant next to the old water treatment plant
  • Switch-over from old water treatment plant to the temporary plant, in operation from October 1, 2023
  • Dismantling of the old water treatment plant
  • Erection of a new permanent water treatment plant in the same spot as the old plant was located
  • Switch-over from temporary water treatment plant to the permanent water treatment plant
Temporary water treatment plant
The temporary water treatment plant in Schwandorf started operating October 1, 2023.

The new permanent water treatment plant at Schwandorf is planned to be in operation during Q2/Q3 2024. Hydro is carrying out the project at Schwandorf in close collaboration with local authorities and with support from local expertise. Over the next two years, Hydro plans to invest approximately EUR 5-6 million at the legacy sites in Schwandorf and Stulln in the Region of Oberpfalz.

New framework for tailings facilities

The closed legacy tailings facilities in Schwandorf and Stulln fall under the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) commitment. GISTM is a robust framework developed to enhance the safety, sustainability, and overall management of tailings facilities in the mining industry. It was launched in August 2020 by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), PRI (an investor initiative in partnership with UNEP Finance Initiative and UN Global Compact) and the International Council on Mining & Minerals (ICMM).

“The implementation of GISTM in the mining industry is important for mitigating risks, fostering sustainable operations and building trust. Given the dynamic nature of the framework conditions, GISTM represents an ongoing process of improvement, utilizing the most advanced technology, integrated thought, proactive measures, cooperation, and knowledge acquisition,” says Mauritzen.