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Brazil's IBAMA OKs Alunorte use of bauxite dam, but court permit pending

Sydney — The Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil received on October 25, approval to use its new bauxite residue deposit area (DRS2) from Brazilian federal environmental agency IBAMA. However an embargo on DRS2 by the federal court remains in place, majority shareholder Norsk Hydro said on Friday in a statement.

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Using DRS2 in combination with Alunorte's new press filter is the only long-term sustainable solution for Alunorte, Hydro said.

The clearance by IBAMA does not allow for an immediate resumption of DRS 2 testing and commissioning phase, as the embargo from the federal court remains outstanding.

"The timing for when the embargoes limiting Alunorte's production to 50% of full capacity may be lifted remains uncertain," Hydro's EVP of Bauxite & Alumina, John Thuestad said.

Prior to the embargoes imposed in March 2018, the refinery was in the process of commissioning of the press filters and DRS2, with the intention to gradually ramp them up while simultaneously reducing the use of drum filters and the old DRS1 deposit area. The resumption of commissioning and tests activities on DRS2 would allow Alunorte to make the planned transition from DRS1 to the new residue deposit and to the new technology.

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.

The plant had been producing at 50% capacity since March 1 due to environmental disputes with Brazilian authorities.

The refinery supports the 450,000 mt/year Albras aluminum smelter in Brazil, and in addition Alunorte exports sizable volumes of alumina to Norway, Iceland and Canada.

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

-- Edited by Elizabeth Thang, newsdesk@spglobal.com