Biodiversity Management Plan Implementation
Mining Land Disturbed/Land Rehabilitated
Committed to Preserving the Land
Consistent Consistent with Alcoa’s environmental policy and our published position on sustainable development, we actively endorse the concept of conservation of biodiversity by operating worldwide in a manner that minimizes effects on natural habitats and biological resources.
We uphold a commitment not to explore, mine, or operate in World Heritage Sites. We are also committed to avoiding legally designated protected areas where strict nature conservation is the management objective.
More broadly, we endorse the concept of multiple land use where possible. We have successfully operated mines, alumina refineries, and aluminum smelters in sensitive native ecosystems. We have demonstrated our ability to reestablish complex ecosystems and avoid impacts to protected species and significant biodiversity values, such as endemic and special-status species and critical habitats.
Our mining rehabilitation standard states that mining is a transient land use. It also supports the objectives of returning mined areas to a sustainable future use, which may include returning mines in natural areas to their pre-mining condition to maintain biodiversity values.
Accordingly, biodiversity conservation is a key consideration in planning for new or expanded operations, divestment of assets no longer operated, and day-to-day management of lands we own. Our basic approach is to avoid sensitive areas where possible, minimize the disturbance of the original habitat, and work closely with community and regulatory stakeholders to restore those lands we do impact to the most productive use possible, including, where feasible, re-establishing pre-operating conditions.
With the increasing concern for controlling greenhouse gas emissions and their potential impact on climate change, we also look to incorporate carbon offsetting opportunities in the re-vegetation and restoration work we perform.
One of our challenges is to measure our performance on biodiversity management. We recognize that this is a strategic environmental goal, but unlike emissions and discharges or the use of resources, it is difficult to find a metric that can be aggregated across our diverse businesses. We have an aspirational goal to provide a net positive impact on biodiversity everywhere we operate, but as yet we have been unable to develop a common, quantifiable global goal that measures such impact.
For land disturbed by mining or the construction of residue storage areas, we track the status of our footprint. We have programs underway to minimize that footprint, and we are committed to maintaining a progressive rehabilitation program in our ongoing operations.
Our metrics for mine and residue storage area footprints are quantitative measures. As such, they do not give an indication of the quality of the rehabilitation in terms of meeting land use and biodiversity objectives. However, our mine rehabilitation standard, bauxite residue closure guidance, and site-specific rehabilitation and closure plans require recognition of the unique biodiversity qualities at each of these operations. We develop each site’s rehabilitation program accordingly.
Most of our facilities are not mines, but many encompass large areas of land that are of substantial ecological value. These facilities do not necessarily disturb the land, but they may have negative or positive biodiversity impacts on it.
We want to recognize what ecological impacts we might have at all of our locations, minimize the negative ones, and promote the positive opportunities. To this end, we have a strategic sustainability target for all of our locations with substantive biodiversity values and land holdings to develop biodiversity action plans by 2015. These plans will:
- Identify the biodiversity values of the land, including sensitive habitats and the presence of threatened species, in context with surrounding land;
- Identify potential impacts, both positive and negative;
- Develop a management plan based on the hierarchy of biodiversity mitigation measures—avoid > minimize > rectify > compensate;
- Identify a specific communication process to inform our employees and communities where we operate about the importance of biodiversity protection, and encourage their participation in developing plans and implementation; and
- Set and report performance against site-specific targets.
Although difficult financial circumstances have slowed progress on this initiative in recent years, we have moved forward.
To select locations requiring a biodiversity action plan, we have developed criteria that are based on the extent of native vegetation, sensitive ecosystems, threatened species, ecological communities, and habitats.
In 2012, our global biodiversity team distributed a survey to 40 select locations around the world to acquire information on their ecological values. We have asked 20 of those locations to develop a biodiversity action plan, and we recommended another 14 develop a plan based on their potential to implement local biodiversity initiatives. Plans for the remaining six locations were deferred to a later point in time.
Five locations will complete their plans in 2013, and these will serve as examples to the other locations as they develop their plans. Our global biodiversity team will provide expert advice and support to these and other locations as they develop their plans.
Our mining location in Western Australia has made significant progress on its draft biodiversity action plan. We mine in the state’s northern jarrah forest, a unique forest ecosystem within a region recognized as one of 25 global biodiversity hotspots. The area is home to unique flora and fauna, some of which are listed as endangered or threatened.
As part of our biodiversity action plan for this location, we developed and implemented initiatives in 2012 to understand and mitigate mining impacts on threatened fauna species. Three species of endangered black cockatoo use the forest in the mine lease to feed, roost, and breed.
Our biodiversity initiative involves mapping critical nesting habitat for these iconic birds and protecting nest trees during infrastructure development and mining. Nest trees are, on average, 230-years-old, since it takes centuries for a suitable-sized hollow to develop.
During development of our 2012 mine plans, we repositioned five haul roads, three sedimentation sumps, and three soil stockpile locations to avoid more than 30 significant trees. This initiative will ensure the birds continue to have breeding habitat during and after mining.
Biodiversity Action Plan Implementation
Percent completed at key locations
|Goal: 100%||Progress: As of Dec. 2012 |
Impacts on Biodiversity
Alcoa operations can affect biodiversity in several ways.
Our mining activities, although often limited to relatively small pits where bauxite exists, can affect a region because the pits must be connected by haul roads or conveyors. We work successfully to prevent the isolation of wildlife and the disruption of stream flows. We also maintain vegetation cover and the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater. Our Western Australia operations have extensive programs around the management of soil erosion, weeds, feral animals, and forest pathogens to minimize impacts on biodiversity.
We are adopting such programs in Juruti, Brazil, Suriname, and elsewhere. A key objective at our mines is to minimize the footprint of disturbed land by implementing a program of progressive land rehabilitation. We adopt a similar progressive rehabilitation program for the surface of our bauxite residue storage areas.
Large process-water lakes and bauxite residue storage areas that are used at our refineries can contain highly alkaline water and be attractive to migrating birds, causing them injury if they land on these areas. Where necessary, we use various techniques to discourage the birds from using these bodies of water.
At our smelters, we control air emissions, such as fluoride, to protect vegetation and grazing animals in close proximity. We have sampling, monitoring, and emission-control programs in place at all major sources of these emissions to ensure that the impacts on the environment are acceptable.
Despite near best-in-world performance on fluoride emissions, we discovered impacts on native fauna at one of our smelters that were first suspected in 2006 and confirmed in the 2009/2010 timeframe.
A research program in collaboration with a local university identified that some kangaroos living within the buffer zone of the Portland Aluminium smelter in western Victoria (Australia) were affected by fluorosis, causing arthritic conditions and lameness.
In collaboration with external specialists, we developed and implemented a comprehensive management plan for the kangaroos. The actions aim to reduce the consumption of vegetation and water that have elevated fluoride content by fencing off areas to exclude kangaroos; relocating animals; and changing the species composition of the vegetation in areas where fencing wasn’t possible to make it less palatable to kangaroos. A detailed review of smelter equipment and operating procedures has also been undertaken to further reduce emissions. We are continuing our research to better understand the susceptibility of kangaroos to fluoride, identify safe levels of consumption, and monitor the health of animals relocated from areas of higher exposure.
Our facilities use water from streams, lakes, and catchments, as well as groundwater. This water use can affect biodiversity, as can the discharge of wastewater from our processes.
We have a corporate goal to reduce freshwater use across all of our operations, thereby reducing competition between communities and the environment for this finite resource. To meet our goal, we are exploring and developing opportunities for the reuse of wastewater and fit-for-purpose, lower-quality water.
Our mining operations can alter rainfall runoff patterns and surface and ground water hydrology, which can have impacts on stream ecology and biodiversity. We monitor and manage these situations to preserve biodiversity.
For example, frequent monitoring of more than 50 stream locations within our mining lease in Western Australia has revealed negligible impacts on stream quality and biodiversity due to mining operations that are located at a higher elevation.
We have performed extensive studies of the potential impacts on surface water quality and hydrology at a proposed mining site on the Nassau Plateau in Eastern Suriname. We are developing strict mitigation measures with input from a team of worldwide technical experts.
Our use of hydroelectric facilities to generate power can also have effects on biodiversity. When the reservoirs and water releases are properly managed, the effects can be positive. These include maintaining water flow and temperature within proper ranges to support indigenous fish populations and the vegetation and insect populations upon which they may depend, as well as protecting and managing forested watersheds and lakes for biodiversity conservation and community use.
Negative biodiversity impacts of these facilities may include potential loss of critical habitat, such as wetlands, through flooding or clearing, or scouring of streambeds downstream of discharges that are not controlled properly.
Ecosystem services are benefits obtained from natural ecosystems. These may be goods or raw materials, such as food, timber, or freshwater. They also may be services carried out by ecosystems, including climate regulation, erosion control, and disease control. A company can both benefit from ecosystem services as well as impact them, and these may be seen as either risks or opportunities to the company.
Awareness of these concepts is still emerging, and we have been following the development and deployment of the World Resources Institute/World Business Council for Sustainable Development Corporate Ecosystem Services Review tool. We have used the methodology to complement an environmental impact study for a smelter modernization project in Canada. The review did not reveal new major aspects, but it helped provide a better understanding of dependencies among ecosystem services. New avenues for action were identified, especially for cultural services. We shared the results of the review with the World Resources Institute.
There are many situations where ecosystem services benefit our business. These include the provision of essential water supplies for our operations; management of forested land in our hydropower watersheds; reclamation of mined land by providing seeds of native plants, naturally re-colonizing microorganisms, flora, and fauna; and restoration of ecosystem processes, such as nutrient, carbon, and water cycles, that ensure long-term success.
Protecting biodiversity and the essential ecosystem services linked to it are key environmental objectives.
Environmental Impact Assessments
Prior to constructing new facilities or expanding existing ones, Alcoa engages external consultants to conduct an environmental impact assessment to determine what, if any, effects the project would have on the environment.
This thorough analysis documents the level of ecosystem and species diversity within their area of influence using expertise and techniques, procedures, and information generally accepted by the international scientific community as a leading practice. Measures to minimize adverse impacts on ecologically significant ecosystems or species are identified and incorporated into the detailed design of the planned facilities. Particular attention is given to the conservation of threatened species, critical habitats, and unique floral and faunal communities.
Ten Million Trees
Launched on Earth Day in June 2003, our Ten Million Trees program encourages our facilities and employees around the globe to replenish their local environment by restoring forestland for the benefit of wildlife, neighboring communities, and more.
Through the end of 2012, more than 5.4 million trees were planted by Alcoa volunteers and through Alcoa Foundation grants to organizations like American Forests Global Releaf. These trees are in addition to the numerous re-vegetation programs we routinely undertake as part of our mine rehabilitation programs.
American Forests Global Releaf facilitated nine tree-planting projects for Alcoa Foundation in 2012 across six communities in China, France, Guinea, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. The projects engaged local citizens to help with the reforestation efforts and resulted in the planting of more than 300,000 trees on 117 hectares (289 acres).
Alcoa Foundation also funded the planting of 150,000 native trees at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, USA. The memorial honors the heroism of the 40 men and women aboard Flight 93, which was hijacked and crashed in the area during the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Reforestation tree planting is an essential feature of the memorial’s design, intended to symbolically create a living memorial and develop an environmentally sustainable model for the approximately 890-hectare (2,200-acre) reclaimed coal mine and national park.
The foundation partnered directly with tree-planting organizations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, and Jamaica. In addition, Alcoa volunteers from more than 16 countries planted some 50,000 trees. In total, more than 1 million trees were planted by Alcoa Foundation and Alcoa employees in 2012.
Additional information and updates can be found on the Ten Million Trees site.
Through Alcoa Foundation’s support for the Earthwatch Institute, our employees have the opportunity to participate in Earthwatch expeditions around the world. While helping add to the knowledge needed to build a sustainable future, this hands-on support for scientific field research offers a rich opportunity for personal development, nurtures relationships between environmental and business organizations, and helps raise awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s ecosystems.
Between 2003 and 2012, 169 Alcoa employees from 19 countries undertook Earthwatch expeditions, contributing more than 10,000 research hours to help solve some of the biggest sustainability challenges. In 2012, we sponsored 25 employees to work alongside scientists on critical environmental research projects in China, Brazil, and Canada. They shared their unique experiences through words and photographs posted on their individual blogs.
Since 2011, we have encouraged these Alcoa Earthwatch fellows to implement a sustainability project at their workplace or local community on their return home, using the knowledge they gained about sustainability while participating in the Earthwatch program. In 2012, a fellow who helped scientists study climate change in the Arctic tundra worked with teachers at a Beijing school upon her return to China to educate students about environmental issues, such as recycling and climate change.
Jamaica Bauxite Conveyor Eliminates Emissions, Generates Green Energy
During 2012, we validated our corporate objective to reduce our collective mining footprint to the minimum required for efficient resource recovery. Over time, we will reduce or eliminate legacy mined areas; identify minimum footprints for active mining and support at each of our mines; and work to reduce the footprints to those levels.
We finalized our minimum footprint targets for active mining and long-term infrastructure at each of our mines in 2012. Company-wide, our current target is to reduce the active mining footprint to approximately 4,300 hectares (10,625 acres) by 2020. We had approximately 15,000 hectares (37,065 acres) of open mine area at the end of 2012.
This aggressive target is based on current production forecasts and does not include data from the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) Mine in Guinea, in which we are a minority partner. We will review and modify the target as necessary to reflect significant changes in production.
To help achieve the target, we initiated a program to address rehabilitation and/or handover of long-term infrastructure (LTI) in accordance with the strategic plans for each location. We prepared a template LTI strategic management plan, and draft plans are in progress. We also continued to share benchmark mining and rehabilitation technologies throughout the company.
A key driver toward the minimum footprints will be our strategic sustainability targets:
- By 2020, achieve a rolling five-year corporate-wide ratio of 0.75:1 for new active mining disturbance to rehabilitation; and
- By 2030, maintain a ratio of 1:1 to ensure no net expansion in new disturbance (i.e., achieve a footprint-neutral condition).
Our mine rehabilitation team tracks compliance with the targets. In 2012, the team conducted quarterly meetings to update progress against plan for every mining operation.
At the end of 2012, each mine provided actual data for the current year and projections through 2017 to facilitate the review of progress against the goals. In conjunction with this review, some of our mining operations undertook more in-depth inventories of their open lands. Others have made significant progress in both reducing their current footprint and making aggressive projections for further reductions over the next five years.
Overall new disturbance, including new active mining areas and new infrastructure development, totaled 1,103 hectares (2,726 acres) in 2012. Approximately 680 hectares (1,680 acres) of that total were associated with our Western Australia mines. Rehabilitated land totaled 1,234 hectares (3,049 acres).
Based on actual data from 2010 through 2012, combined with projections for the following two years, we believe that our corporate-wide five-year average ratio will be approximately 0.95:1 in 2014. This is a substantial improvement on past performance and, in conjunction with the progress toward minimum footprint, puts us on a path to exceed the 2020 sustainability target of a 0.75:1 ratio.
The lowest five-year ratio for any of our active mines is projected to be 0.51:1 for the Moengo mines in Suriname, and we anticipate minimal future disturbance at these mines through 2014. We are engaged in an aggressive campaign to rehabilitate their legacy disturbance, some of which dates back to near the start of Surinamese mining operations in 1916. Through 2012, more than 200 hectares (494 acres) of previously mined land in the area have been rehabilitated. The pace of this rehabilitation is projected to increase significantly in 2015 once active mining has ceased.
We acquired significant mining assets from BHP Billiton Maatschapij Suriname (BMS) in 2009, adding approximately 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) to the open mine land inventory for our Suralco operations in that country.
The ratio for the 2010 to 2014 period at our Anglesea Mine (coal) in Australia is projected to be 0.63:1. Anglesea renewed its mining license in the Anglesea Heath for another 50 years in 2012. The current mining plans are under development, and projections can only be made through 2016.
Other active mines with ratios projected to be approximately at or below 1:1 for the same five-year cycle are the Friendsville Mine (coal) in southern Illinois, USA; the Poços de Caldas Mine in Brazil; and the Jamalco Mine in Jamaica.
Our Juruti Mine in Brazil, which has an expected life of more than 80 years, began to disturb areas for operations in 2008 and has shown mine land disturbance/mine rehabilitation ratios typical of a new mining start. Production at this mine is expected to increase, which will result in a corresponding increase in open area for the foreseeable future.
Juruti Mine’s current plan includes the use of mined-out pits as tailings basins to capture the sediments from the bauxite beneficiation facility. While this will serve to limit the overall area of disturbance, it means a number of the pits will not be available for rehabilitation as quickly.
We commissioned the Liberty Mine (coal) at our Warrick Operations in Evansville, Indiana, USA, in late 2012, and it is in the initial stages of mine development. As a result, the mine’s ratio through 2014 is projected to be 1.92:1, but it is expected to decline significantly with time as the rehabilitation draws even with the active mining.
The Willowdale and Huntly mines in Western Australia are projected to be at ratios of 1.17:1 and 1.40:1, respectively. They are working to increase the area of rehabilitation following some significant modifications in their operations over the past few years that have resulted in an increase in open area. For example, the Huntly Mine, which is our largest bauxite mine, constructed a new crusher site in 2012 while the existing site continued to operate fully. This commitment of additional land to infrastructure also increased our net disturbed areas.
Inactive mines with significant ongoing rehabilitation include our Arkansas Operations in the United States, as well as some other mines in Suriname.
For the CBG Mine in Guinea, we conducted substantive discussions during 2012 but have not yet reached agreement among the other partners and CBG management to commit to the Alcoa mine rehabilitation targets. As such, we have again elected not to include CBG mine statistics in our 2012 reporting. However, we continue to work closely with our partners to provide technical support and encourage sustainable mining and rehabilitation practices.
Mining Land Disturbed/Land Rehabilitated
||Open Mine Area
Cumulative as of Year End
Open Mine Area
Area Disturbed for Mining and Associated Infrastructure
Where relatively extensive mining operations are carried out in natural habitats, rehabilitation of the disturbed land will, in many instances, focus upon the return of the pre-existing floral and faunal communities. Such rehabilitation aims to restore the broadest practicable genetic base using only local species and provenances wherever possible.
Mining also takes place on agricultural land (in Jamaica) and degraded natural landscapes (in Guinea). At these locations, rehabilitation objectives aim to restore pre-existing land uses or establish alternative land uses that meet the expectations of local stakeholders. An example of this is the establishment of cashew nut and firewood plantations in Guinea on land that was previously used for transient, low-grade grazing. This supports sustainable development in the region.
Because biodiversity preservation is a major focus of the rehabilitation process, it is always a major component of any future land-use decisions or rehabilitation plans. To determine the biodiversity of our rehabilitated land, we routinely monitor tree establishment and growth, understory density and diversity, seed production rate, litter density, and other parameters to determine the health of the vegetation. We also conduct periodic fauna re-colonization surveys, including ones on birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates, for important groups of organisms. These include spiders (predators), ants (seed dispersal agents), and springtails and mites (active in leaf breakdown and nutrient recycling). In addition, we conduct extensive studies on surface water volumes and quality, as well as groundwater levels and quality.
One of our most advanced mine rehabilitation and biodiversity management programs is at our Western Australia bauxite mines, where our key biodiversity performance target is to reestablish the same level of plant species richness in rehabilitated areas as exists in the un-mined jarrah forest. To measure this, we monitor the number of indigenous plant species present when the rehabilitated areas are 15 months old.
Many strategies are applied to maximize the number of species we re-establish in rehabilitated areas. These include the return of fresh topsoil, broadcasting of collected and specially treated seeds, and planting of nursery-grown plants from seeds, cuttings, and tissue culture. Cuttings and tissue culture propagation are used for species that generally don’t produce much, or any, viable seeds and reproduce vegetatively in the wild. Since starting operations in 1992 through 2012, our Marrinup Nursery in Australia produced more than 1.2 million tissue culture plants for the mine rehabilitation program in the region.
Our Juruti Mine continues to innovate in the area of topsoil placement and rehabilitation. Most recently, it has utilized the nucleation technique, which relies on locally adapted plants and animals colonizing micro-environments. This natural approach to rehabilitation is resulting in a more rapid and effective restoration of the disturbed areas.
These microenvironments are created by placing topsoil in mounds to create an undulating topography. This traps surface water and controls runoff in an area that sees an average of more than 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain during each of the wet season months of January through April. Other aspects of nucleation include managing organic residue, such as tree stumps and brush piles, and creating specific shelter areas for wildlife and birds.
The mine also has restored 132 hectares (326 acres) of land using plant material from the top soil and bush branches that were cleared prior to mining to successfully facilitate re-growth of native vegetation. In addition, it has planted 44,600 Brazilian nut (Bertholletia excelsa) seedlings, which provide an income source to surrounding communities and enable opportunity for forest preservation on their own lands.
From November 2010 to August 2012, the mine undertook a pilot project to examine whether the use of larger equipment could be used effectively in overburden removal to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The pilot project resulted in a savings of more than US$500,000 and a net calculated reduction of about 2,500 metric tons of carbon emissions. The mine continues to utilize this overburden handling technique.
In Suriname, our Suralco operations embarked on a pilot project in 2012 to further develop and prove an innovative integrated closure planning (ICP) framework. The tool seeks to ensure areas disturbed by mining are subject to a closure that will facilitate viable and sustainable future land use.
The ICP framework involves significant upfront investigation to obtain data on topics that include demography, physiography, existing infrastructure, geotechnical aspects, environmental conditions, governmental development plans, and land use trends. We also have developed a number of tools to support the framework, including a preliminary land use viability assessment tool; a reforestation index; decision tree pathway analysis; and a detailed framework for stakeholder engagement.
We will complete closure plans for three pilot sites during 2013, after which Suralco will finalize the ICP framework and apply it to other mine sites.
Our expertise in biodiversity management, mine rehabilitation, and land remediation at a number of global locations has been recognized at state, national, and international levels. We have implemented an active program to transfer this knowledge within the company, build local capacity, and get all locations worldwide operating at best practice standards.
A major component of any mine land rehabilitation program or alternative land-use decision is the dialogue with stakeholders to ensure their inputs are fully considered. The Alcoa Community Framework outlines the essential processes for our locations to identify relevant issues and engage in open and transparent dialogue with stakeholders to evaluate all perspectives in an effort to agree on the directions and approaches.
Our stakeholder processes in mine areas that have been operational for decades, such as our Huntly Mine, are very mature. At these mines, stakeholders are actively involved in reviewing alternatives for restoration or other uses and contribute significantly to the ultimate decisions. In our newer mine areas like Juruti, where stakeholder processes are still in the maturing stages, we work to develop appropriate stakeholder knowledge and experience to enable full and fair engagement in, and review of, various alternative uses.
The development of the ICP framework in Suriname during 2011 and its piloting at three sites in 2012 and 2013 has included the development and implementation of stakeholder engagement plans. Components include presentations to various stakeholder groups; identification of issues and responses for each project; numerous face-to-face meetings with local communities and their leaders; and the establishment of communication and training opportunities for governmental bodies. The Suriname Bauxite Institute (BIS) has been engaged as a partner in the process.
The initial rounds of stakeholder engagement concluded in late 2012 with the assessment of potentially viable land uses. Development of conceptual closure plans and further stakeholder engagement is scheduled for completion in mid-2013.
Although some believe that rehabilitation of mine areas to pre-existing conditions is always the preferred restoration approach, in developing regions it is critical to assess alternative uses that may contribute more substantially to regional sustainable development. For instance, some stakeholders believe that reclaiming mining haul roads and re-vegetating back to forest conditions is always the preferred alternative. Other stakeholders, including many in government, prefer to maintain access roads to enable easier movement and facilitate development opportunities in the region.
In Suriname, our use of the preliminary land use viability assessment tool has been key to discerning alternative rehabilitation approaches and presenting them to the various stakeholder groups to solicit feedback.
Successful stakeholder engagement ensures open dialogue among stakeholders who may hold opposing views and a process to resolve differences and find solutions that can be acceptable to all stakeholders.
Impact on Indigenous Peoples
Our operations with the most direct impact on indigenous peoples are in Australia, Brazil, Guinea, and Suriname.
In Australia, we have developed a number of key partnerships with indigenous groups, including the following:
Since the inception of our Juruti Mine in the Brazilian Amazon, we have interfaced with the traditional community of Juruti Velho, located at Vila Muirapinima. Juruti Velho has a population of approximately 9,900 people (21% of the overall municipality of Juruti) and encompasses 56 communities located around Great Lake at the foot of the Capiranga Plateau, where we started mining bauxite ore in 2009.
Since 2008, Alcoa, INCRA (land tenure authority), and ACORJUVE have established a negotiation process on land use for mining and community. ACORJUVE is the formal organization that represents the Juruti Velho community, including landowner rights. From mine startup in October 2009 through December 2012, we paid approximately US$9 million in royalties to ACORJUVE.
Within this framework, a study to propose parameters, concepts, and methodologies to assess compensation is ongoing. The outcome of this work, which includes indicating an amount to be paid, is expected to be delivered in 2013.
We are working with Rio Tinto Alcan to assess the feasibility of constructing a state-of-art alumina refinery in Guinea’s Boké region. The project, if realized, may involve relocating up to 5,000 indigenous people. A resettlement advisory group consisting of representatives from the potentially affected communities, local government, Alcoa, and Rio Tinto Alcan provides a forum to discuss all issues and priorities regarding resettlement and development strategies. In addition, a permanent staff of local project representatives routinely meets with community members to provide updates.
In Suriname, we conducted consultations with the Paramarka maroon tribal community and the indigenous villages in connection with our plans to develop the Nassau Plateau bauxite deposits and the projected haul road. The engagement is a challenging process, as the recognition of the land rights of these minority groups is in a development stage with the national government.
Rooting Sustainability into the Mine Planning Process
Texas Mine Reclamation Project Prepares Land for Productive Use
We currently manage remediation projects around the world. Some of these are at locations that have been in continuous operation for more than 100 years, with many of the issues occurring before the potential for environmental contamination was clearly understood.
Many of the projects are at locations that are no longer operational but either were once operated by Alcoa or a predecessor company or have since been sold to other companies where Alcoa retained the environmental liability.
Some of the historical practices in use at these locations over the years, although legal and acceptable in their time, have resulted in contamination of soil, sediments, and/or groundwater. Today, we devote significant resources and an average of US$25 million annually to manage these sources of contamination.
Our remedial process is a science-based approach. We use it first to determine if, and to what extent, contamination exists. We then apply remedial techniques to manage the risks posed by the contamination to human health and the environment or to eliminate the problem.
Our remediation process includes the following specific steps:
- Identification that there is a known or suspected problem;
- Investigation to determine the nature and extent of the problem;
- Determination of the risks to human health and the environment;
- Determination of requirements to achieve compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and Alcoa standards;
- Evaluation of the various remedial alternatives to address identified risks;
- Where necessary, engagement of internal and external stakeholders in the selection of an appropriate remedial alternative; and
- Implementation of the remedial technique and, where necessary, continued monitoring and management.
The primary objective of any remediation project at Alcoa is the protection of human health and the environment. There are challenges in meeting this goal, as we must first collect sufficient information using sound scientific assessments to understand the nature of the environmental condition. Another challenge is identifying remedial solutions that are protective, feasible, and economically sound. The third and possibly greatest challenge is balancing multiple needs, desires, and expectations within Alcoa, the community, and regulatory authorities while keeping science as the driver in selecting a remedial approach. The identified risks ultimately must be addressed to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders.
Undoubtedly, the best approach to remediation is to eliminate the need for remediation by avoiding situations that would cause contamination. For current operations, we aggressively manage environmental issues through comprehensive environmental management plans and more than 16 Alcoa-developed mandatory environmental standards that relate to proper management of wastes. Before a new process or equipment is developed or used, it must undergo an environment, health, and safety review. These are just a few of the steps we’re taking to prevent future problems.
Remediation Project Creates Portal to Job Creation in Washington
Remediation Project Transforms Hazardous Site into Job, Revenue Generator
Facility End of Life
Dealing appropriately with closed facilities means actively working to develop an end-of-life strategy that benefits the community and positions the facility to be reused or redeveloped.
Perhaps even more important than during the operational phase of a facility, end-of-life activities require an active and engaged process that brings the right stakeholders to the table to ensure open and broad dialogue and that all ideas regarding remediation and future land use are fully considered.
Our principal objective is to help retain the strength and viability of the local and regional community following the closure of manufacturing operations. We recognize the significance of many of our locations to the health and prosperity of the community, and we seek to develop and nurture other opportunities for economic prosperity as we are considering the closure of our operations. Repurposing our facilities to accommodate alternative uses that will support the community is one of our highest considerations. We also may make a grant commitment to the affected community.
Our objective is to develop a management plan for every operating location. Currently, plans exist only for those operations that are close to the end of their operative lives. In 2012, 10 of our locations had such plans in various formats.
We also finalized an asset management standard in 2013 that covers considerations for the entire plant life cycle, including planning for end of life. We rolled out the standard in the first quarter of 2013 and will be implementing it across our operations over the next five years.
We evaluated a number of curtailed facilities in 2012. Some were able to be reused as industrial facilities and were sold. For others, we decided that their highest and best use was not compatible with the existing facility.
Though real estate and construction markets in the United States and Europe remained severely depressed throughout 2012, we continued our initiatives to repurpose and redevelop our portfolio of closed facilities. By performing this work now, these locations will be well-positioned for new employment and investment once the markets rebound. In addition, we continued to incorporate lessons learned from our decommissioning activities into the design of new facilities so they can be more easily reused or demolished at the end of their lives.
In Swansea, Wales, we continued the remediation and selective demolition of our former manufacturing facilities and have advertised the property for lease as an industrial park. In 2012, we were able to lease additional areas to various industrial users who have brought jobs and capital into the community.
At our Tennessee Operations in Alcoa, Tennessee, USA, we entered into an agreement with a development group to redevelop our former 162-hectare (400-acre) West Plant into a mixed-use town center that combines residential, commercial, and office space. In 2012, the development group signed an anchor tenant that will occupy the site once transportation upgrades are implemented. Alcoa and the development group have also agreed to sell 21 hectares (52 acres) of the site to the city of Alcoa for the construction of a new high school. This transaction will be outside of the agreed-upon structure that we developed for the balance of the site.
In January 2012, we announced that we would permanently close our smelter at the Tennessee Operations, which had been curtailed since 2009. By February, we had assembled and met with a task force of stakeholders, including local, county, and state economic development leaders, to plan for the facility’s redevelopment. In April, we began removing aluminum-specific process equipment and materials.
Though our used beverage can reclamation facility on the Tennessee site will continue to operate, we now have more than 80 hectares (200 acres) of land zoned as heavy industrial that we will continue to prepare for redevelopment. In 2013, we will complete the removal of the smelter potlines, begin to implement more than US$5 million in capital projects to reroute utilities and separate the former smelter from the can reclamation facility, and begin the overall decommissioning of the plant.
We also announced the curtailment of our smelter in Portovesme, Italy, in January 2012 and ceased production in the fourth quarter. Throughout 2013, we will continue to market the facility to other potential operators and engage with the region’s major stakeholders to determine the facility’s future use, which may include its sale.
We will be permanently closing our smelter in Fusina, Italy, in 2013. We performed a highest- and best-use study and are working with regional stakeholders to evaluate how that portion of the site could support new employment.
In Badin, North Carolina, USA, we completed the selective demolition of various buildings to make space available for redevelopment. In 2012, we invested US$5 million to refurbish the smelter’s former 13,935-square-meter (14,995-square-foot) casthouse to become the permanent home of Electronics Recyclers International, Inc. (ERI), which safely and responsibly disassembles and recycles electronics. ERI eventually will employ as many as 300 employees and is the anchor tenant for the site, which has been named the Badin Industrial Park. In early 2013, we signed a second tenant and are talking with other companies interested in locating to the business park.
In Frederick, Maryland, USA, we decided to remove our entire smelting facility and position the approximately 890-hectare (2,200-acre) location as a mixed-use development. In 2011, we retained a contractor to perform the multi-million-dollar project, which was approximately 80% complete as of April 2013. Removal of the facility will allow maximum flexibility to plan and develop the site.
In 2012, we continued developing a reclamation program for the four kilometers (2.5 miles) of stream within the property bounds of the Frederick site. Once the plans are approved by state and regional authorities, we will create a stream mitigation credit bank that can be used by this and other developments.
A public ceremony in October 2012 commemorated and finalized our donation of 11 hectares (27 acres) of the Frederick site to the Carrolton Manor Recreation Council (CMRC), which will develop athletic fields and potentially a gymnasium for the 1,000 young people who participate in its sporting activities. A master plan for the new park can be found on CMRC’s website.
Remediation Project Creates Portal to Job Creation in Washington
Remediation Project Transforms Hazardous Site into Job, Revenue Generator