Engaging with the Community for the
By engaging the local community in the development of long-term
residue management strategies, Alcoa’s operations in Western Australia made
better environmental and social decisions, reduced regulatory review, and gained
lower long-term costs in residue planning and management.
residue is a by-product of the alumina refining process. For every ton of
alumina produced, approximately two tons of bauxite residue results. The
material is deposited into beds for drying and long-term storage.
refinery’s long-term residue management strategy provides the direction for
managing the environmental and social risks associated with the residue over a
25-year period. In the past, the Western Australia operations developed the
strategy with little involvement from the local community. In the new approach,
Alcoa has residue stakeholder reference groups (SRGs) with broad representation
from the local community and state and local governments at each location.
During the most recent round of planning, Alcoa and the SRGs addressed
every issue regarding residue management within a sustainability framework. The
SRGs developed guiding principles for each issue they wanted Alcoa to adopt,
with Alcoa adopting some and committing to work in the direction recommended for
others that could not be instituted immediately. For example, the Pinjarra SRG
recommended a change in the proposed location of the next residue storage
facility. Although it cost an additional A$10 million, Alcoa accepted the
“The involvement of community members was important, as
they and their children are the people who will be directly affected by what
Alcoa might do in establishing new residue areas,” said John Smith, a member of
the Pinjarra residue SRG. “Many community members have very strong views about
what Alcoa should or should not be doing, and Alcoa rightly sought to listen to
these views and take them into consideration in its plans for future
developments. Community involvement also works the other way around by giving
Alcoa a means of explaining clearly what was intended, thereby dispelling
uncertainties about its intentions in the future."
He adds, “Sitting on
the SRG gave me an insight into the management philosophy of Alcoa, and I have
come to the belief that the management of Alcoa is genuinely concerned for the
welfare of the communities that surround it."
The residue community
engagement initiative received a 2005 Alcoa EHS Achievement