Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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Australia - 2006

Engaging with the Community for the Long-Term

 

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.

Bauxite 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.

A 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 recommendation.

“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 Award.