Metal Bulletin’s Latin America team visited Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte alumina refinery, which has a production capacity of more than 6 million tpy.

The plant, located in the city of Barcarena, in the state of Pará, in the north of Brazil, has been under Hydro´s management since the beginning of 2011, when the company made a deal with Vale and acquired 91% of Alunorte stakes.

The deal also guaranteed the control of the Paragominas mine (one of the largest bauxite projects in the world, located 244km from Barcarena), as well as 51% of aluminium producer Albras, which is within walking distance of Alunorte.

The remaining stakes at Albras are controlled by Nippon Amazon Aluminium Company – a consortium of Japanese companies.

Hydro Alunorte industrial director Geraldo Brittes gave his insights on what has changed with Hydro’s arrival at Alunorte, as well as his views on the challenges of the aluminium industry in Brazil.

Metal Bulletin’s Latin America team has travelled to the city of Barcarena, in the state of Pará, in the Amazon region of Brazil in order to visit Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte, the largest alumina producer in the world.

Twenty-seven years ago, Vale, at the time a state-owned company, built Albras to produce aluminium. Ten years after, in 1995, alumina producer Alunorte was built.

In 2011, Hydro bought the aluminium business from Vale.

Geraldo Brittes: With Hydro’s management, there was a big integration between the bauxite and the smelter operations, and this has improved the performance of the bauxite and alumina operations here in Brazil.

Part of the output goes to our neighbour Albras, which also belongs to Hydro in a partnership with a Japanese consortium, and the rest is exported.

In fact, most of it is exported. Out of the 6 million tpy [we produce], 1 million tpy go to Albras and 5 million tpy to the international market.

Carolina Guerra: Being the largest producer in the world, however, also brings numerous challenges. Low aluminium prices and the high costs of electricity in Brazil are among these challenges.

GB: Energy nowadays in Brazil is probably the most expensive in the world. For an electro-intensive industry like the aluminium, it is obviously a critical factor for the sector growth and we expect some measures from the government to reduce this cost so that we can be more competitive.

2012 was a hard year for the global aluminium industry. The price of the metal on the London Metal Exchange, which serves as a reference for the prices of alumina and bauxite, is at a very low level, and this has been causing difficulties for all aluminium producers in the world.

So it has also been a very, very hard year for us here in Alunorte.

Carolina Guerra
Twitter: #!/cguerra_mb