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Brazilian federal court allows Alunorte refinery to ramp up production

Sydney — The federal court in Belem, Brazil lifted on May 20 a production embargo on the Alunorte alumina refinery under a criminal lawsuit, allowing Alunorte to ramp up towards normal production after running at half capacity since March 1, 2018, due to environmental disputes, Norsk Hydro said in a statement.

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Alunorte is "expected to reach 75% to 85% utilization within two months. An additional press filter is expected to be operational in Q3 2019, further increasing the capacity," Hydro added.

Alunorte is the world's largest alumina refinery with a nameplate capacity of 6.3 million mt/year and typically turns out about 5.8 million mt/year. Its run cut has removed about 242,000 mt/month of alumina from the market.

As the federal court's embargo preventing Alunorte from using its new DRS2 bauxite residue deposit area remains in force, Alunorte continues to utilize the DRS1 depository.

"We will focus on ramping up in a safe manner, following several months of disrupted operations, as well as continue working to also lift the embargoes on the new, state-of-art bauxite residue deposit area," said Executive Vice President of Bauxite & Alumina John Thuestad.

Hydro said production at the Paragominas bauxite mine will be increased in line with the ramp-up speed at Alunorte. A decision to also increase production at the Albras primary aluminum smelter was expected shortly, the company added.

Hydro owns 92.1% of the Alunorte alumina refinery and 51% of the Albras aluminum smelter.

-- Joanna Lim, joanna.lim@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Wendy Wells, newsdesk@spglobal.com