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Sydney — The Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil obtained permission at the weekend to use a press filter for processing bauxite residues, which in turn will allow the refinery to continue operations, shareholder Norsk Hydro said Saturday in a statement.

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"Hydro's alumina refinery Alunorte was granted an exceptional authorization, on October 5, by federal environmental agency IBAMA to utilize its state-of-the art press filter technology in its processing of bauxite residues, which will extend the life of its DRS1 bauxite residue disposal area and allow Alunorte to continue operations on safe conditions," Hydro said.

"Following IBAMA's decision, Alunorte will be working with SEMAS, Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainability, to obtain the authorization to use the press filter on bauxite residue deposit area 1 (DRS1). This filter provides stackable residues with considerably less water content than the drum filter. After receiving this authorization, Alunorte will be able to re-start the operation at 50% of capacity."

"We are ready to re-start 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," said John Thuestad, Hydro's Bauxite and Alumina head.

Thuestad said resuming 50% production at Alunorte would also allow Hydro's Paragominas bauxite mine and its joint-venture primary aluminum smelter Albras to continue operating at half capacity, as opposed to being fully shut down as a consequence of Alunorte being idled.

Alunorte had been producing at 50% of its capacity since March 1 due to environmental disputes with Brazilian authorities. Embargoes by authorities prevented Alunorte from utilizing DRS2, which was under commissioning in February, as well as the new press filter.

On October 3, Hydro announced operations at the refinery would be fully curtailed immediately, as DRS1 was close to reaching its capacity, due to embargoes on the press filter and DRS2.

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.

--Joanna Lim,

--Edited by Maurice Geller,