Mining Land Disturbed/Land Rehabilitated
Mining Land Disturbed/Land Rehabilitated

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Bauxite Mining

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Serving as Stewards of the Land 

 

 

Biodiversity

We actively endorse biodiversity conservation by operating in a manner that minimizes our effects on natural habitats and biological resources.

 

Our approach is to avoid sensitive land 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 re-establishing pre-operating conditions when feasible.

 

We have committed to not explore, mine, or operate in World Heritage sites. We also avoid designated protected areas where strict nature conservation is the management objective. We do endorse the concept of multiple land use where possible, having successfully operated bauxite mines, alumina refineries, and aluminum smelters in sensitive native ecosystems.

 

 

 

Sites Within or Adjacent to Protected Areas or Areas of High Biodiversity Value
Operational Site
Site Location & Size
Position
Biodiversity Value
Huntly and Willowdale Mines (bauxite mines) Jarrah Forest, Western Australia

712,900 hectares
(1,761,614 acres)
Within protected area Recognized by Conservation International as an international biodiversity hotspot; threatened species and ecological communities (International Union for Conservation of Nature—IUCN—and federal government listed)
Anglesea Power Station
(coal mine and power station)
Anglesea, Victoria, Australia

7,221 hectares (17,843 acres)
Within and adjacent to protected area Adjacent land zoned for conservation and listed on the National Estate Register; threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN and federal government listed)
Wagerup Refinery (alumina refinery) Wagerup, Western Australia

6,000 hectares (14,826 acres)
Contains portions of area of biodiversity value Ramsar listed wetlands adjacent; threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN and federal government listed)
Portland Aluminium Smelter (aluminum smelter) Portland, Victoria, Australia

500 hectares
(1,236 acres)
Adjacent to protected area Threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN and federal government listed)
Juruti Mine (bauxite mine, railroad, and port facility) Juruti, Pará, Brazil

6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) that will be mined
Within protected area Amazon rainforest and river; threatened species and ecological communities (IUCN listed)
Poços de Caldas Operations (bauxite mine, alumina refinery, and aluminum smelter) Poços de Caldas, Minas, Gerais, Brazil

2,327 hectares
(5,750 acres)
Within area of biodiversity value Fragmented native forests; threatened species (IUCN listed)
Paranam Mine (bauxite mine) Paramaribo, Suriname

37,000 hectares (91,429 acres)
Adjacent to protected area Adjacent to IUCN protected area; threatened species (IUCN listed)
Point Comfort Refinery
(alumina refinery)
Point Comfort, Texas, USA

1,417 hectares
(3,501 acres)
Adjacent to protected area Native grassland and intertidal emergent marsh (protected under the Clean Water Act); threatened species (IUCN and federal government listed)

 

Biodiversity impacts from our operations vary, and we implement industry-leading processes and techniques to mitigate disruption to plants, animals, and natural resources. For example, mining bauxite requires shallow pits, haul roads, and other infrastructure that result in the removal of native vegetation. We use progressive rehabilitation techniques to return this land to either a native state or other sustainable use. (See the Mine Rehabilitation section below.)

 

One of our challenges is measuring our biodiversity management performance since 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.

 

We have established a measurable strategic sustainability target that calls for all locations with substantive biodiversity values and land holdings to develop a biodiversity action plan by the end of 2015. These plans will:

  • Identify the biodiversity values of the land, including sensitive habitats and the presence of threatened species and communities, in context with surrounding land;
  • Pinpoint potential impacts, both positive and negative;
  • Develop a management plan based on the hierarchy of biodiversity mitigation measures—avoid > minimize > rectify > compensate;
  • Inform our employees and communities where we operate about the importance of biodiversity protection, and encourage their participation in biodiversity initiatives; and
  • Set and report performance against site-specific targets.

 

We have asked 34 locations representing approximately 17% of our locations worldwide to develop a biodiversity action plan. Three locations (our mining operations in Western Australia, the Portland Aluminium smelter in Australia, and the Juruti mine in Brazil) are developing draft plans that, when finalized, will serve as models for the other locations to follow.

 

Although we expected these three plans to be finalized in 2014, limited internal resources delayed the finalization of two until at least 2015. That has pushed back development of the other 31 plans, jeopardizing attainment of our goal.

 

Biodiversity Action Plan Implementation
Percent completed at key locations
Goal: 100%Progress: As of Dec. 2014 
  3%

 

In 2014, Alcoa Foundation launched Eco-A, a new program dedicated to protecting ecosystems where we operate around the world. At year’s end, projects were under way in Iceland, Norway, Brazil, and the United States in collaboration with partners that include Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Using a multi-stakeholder approach, the partners are actively engaging governments, corporations, scientists, non-profit organizations, and community members to restore or protect plants, wildlife, and nearly 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of land.

 

Environmental Impact Assessments

Prior to constructing new facilities or expanding existing ones, we engage 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 techniques, procedures, and information generally accepted by the international scientific community as a leading practice. We incorporate measures to minimize adverse impacts on ecologically significant ecosystems or species into the detailed design of the planned facilities. We give particular attention to the conservation of threatened species, critical habitats, and unique floral and faunal communities.

 

Ecosystem Services

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.

 

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.

 

Case Studies

Diverse Programs Creating Tomorrow’s Environmental Stewards

 

Mine Rehabilitation 

At Alcoa, we believe that mining is only temporary use of the land.

 

Huntly Mine Rehabilitation

Rehabilitated mining area at Huntly mine in Australia

 

Before operations commence at any of our mines, we engage with stakeholders to develop a rehabilitation plan to ensure that the site can be returned to conditions that will promote future sustainable use of the land. In many cases, we strive to return the land to its original state, such as forests, swamps, and grasslands. If the government or local community wishes, our rehabilitation supports other productive land uses, such as farming and residential, commercial, or industrial developments.

 

To lessen the impact of our mining, we have set minimum environmental footprints for each mine to achieve by 2020. This includes not only minimizing the land disturbed for mining, but also the amount disturbed for the long-term infrastructure needed to support mining activities, such as haul roads, railroads, and washing plants.

 

To achieve this, all mines are rehabilitating any excess land disturbed for mining. Each also has developed a strategic management plan for long-term infrastructure, committing to repurpose the buildings, haul roads, and railroads for future use. Areas that cannot be repurposed will be rehabilitated.

 

Both the minimum footprint and long-term infrastructure plans are reviewed annually.

 

In 2014, we had seven active bauxite mining areas and three active coal mines. A number of inactive mines in Australia, Brazil, Jamaica, Suriname, and the United States also contribute to the total open area to varying degrees. We sold our stake in the Jamaica bauxite mine in late 2014.

 

Four of our active mines have already achieved their minimum environmental footprint as of 2014. Another three are projected to meet their target by 2020, and we are working with the remainder to ensure they are on a path for success.

Mining Land Disturbed/Land Rehabilitated
Hectares
  Open Mine Area
Cumulative as of Year-end
Area Disturbed
Annual

Area Rehabilitated
Annual

2010 16,488 2,087 985
2011 14,960 1,484 1,027
2012 14,815 1,104 1,197
2013 15,111 1,437 1,140
2014 15,632 1,414 1,008
Open Mine Area
Hectares
  Asia Australia Europe/Africa North America South America Total
2010 0 4,111 2,109 1,088 9,180 16,488
2011 0 4,592 0 1,094 9,274 14,960
2012 0 4,468 0 1,091 9,256 14,815
2013 0 4,562 0 1,248 9,301 15,111
2014 0 4,804 0 1,261 9,567 15,632
Area Disturbed for Mining and Associated Infrastructure
Hectares
  Asia Australia Europe/Africa North America South America Total
2010 0 1,293 81 343 370 2,087
2011 0 1,169 0 84 231 1,484
2012 0 680 0 94 330 1,104
2013 0 890 0 268 279 1,437
2014 0 818 0 179 417 1,414
Area Rehabilitated
Hectares
  Asia Australia Europe/Africa North America South America Total
2010 0 409 60 336 180 985
2011 0 686 0 79 262 1,027
2012 0 804 0 97 296 1,197
2013 0 796 0 111 233 1,140
2014 0 576 0 166 266 1,008

 

Rehabilitation Approach

The material excavated in our mining operations is typically made up of several layers that include topsoil (surface soil), overburden, and bauxite ore. The topsoil is an important resource, as it contains the seed and nutrient reserves essential for successfully establishing a sustainable vegetative cover following mining. The overburden also may contain valuable nutrients and microbes essential for the effective establishment of native vegetation. 

 

Overburden and any rock removed to access the bauxite ore and coal are generally returned to the mine pits. Wherever possible, any removed topsoil and overburden is moved to landscaped areas over pits that recently have been filled—a process called progressive rehabilitation or direct return. In some situations, it is not possible or practical to return all of the overburden to a mine pit. In these cases, the overburden is stockpiled, and the stockpile areas are rehabilitated.

 

In certain locations, overburden containing naturally occurring sulfide minerals has the potential to release low pH (acidic) water when exposed to air, resulting in elevated salinity and dissolved metal concentrations in surface water and groundwater. Some clay overburden materials exhibit these characteristics, and we manage this material to prevent the potential release of acid and metals by selective handling, which may include encapsulation or sub-aqueous (underwater) cover. 

 

Because biodiversity preservation is a major focus of our 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, the density of accumulated organic materials (known as litter density), and other parameters to determine the health of the vegetation. We also conduct periodic fauna re-colonization surveys and studies on surface water volumes and quality, as well as groundwater levels, productivity, and quality.

 

Many strategies are applied to optimize the number of species we reestablish in rehabilitated areas. In addition to returning fresh topsoil, we spread collected and specially treated seeds and plant nursery-grown vegetation. We use cuttings and tissue culture propagation for species that generally don’t produce viable seeds. In many instances, we create and supervise our own nurseries to ensure high-quality planting stock.

 

Our Juruti mine in Brazil continues to innovate in the area of 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. (See related case study.)

 

In Suriname, our Suralco operations developed an integrated closure planning framework to facilitate viable and sustainable future land use for mined out areas. We completed closure plans for three pilot sites during 2014 and expanded the program to include additional mine sites.

 

Impact on Indigenous Peoples

Our mining and other operations with the most direct impact on indigenous peoples are in Australia, Brazil, and Suriname.

 

In Australia, we have developed a number of key partnerships with two indigenous groups—Gunditj Mirring (including Winda Mara) and Fairbridge.

 

We have engaged with the traditional community of Juruti Velho, located at Vila Muirapinima, since the inception of our Juruti mine in the Brazilian Amazon. Juruti Velho has a population of approximately 9,900 people (21% of the overall municipality of Juruti) and encompasses 56 communities located near 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 2014, we paid approximately US$11.9 million in royalties to ACORJUVE. 

 

The negotiations and a study to propose parameters, concepts, and methodologies to assess compensation continued in 2014, with the study expected to be finalized in 2015. Both processes require multiple consensus meetings among community leaders, public authorities, and Alcoa.

 

In Suriname, we had extensive engagement with the local communities when developing the integrated closure planning framework.

 

Case Studies

Juruti Mine Lessens Impact in Amazon through Innovation

 

Remediation

As science and technology advanced throughout the more than 125 years since Alcoa’s founding, we have adapted our manufacturing practices to minimize their impact on the environment. Unfortunately, some of our historical practices, which were legal and acceptable in their time, have resulted in the contamination of soil, sediments, and groundwater.

 

In 2014, we spent approximately US$46 million to address more than 80 ongoing remediation projects around the world. Many are at locations that are no longer operational but were once operated by us or a predecessor. Others have since been sold, but we retained the environmental liability.

 

The primary objective of any remediation project we undertake 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 key stakeholders.

 

Significant remediation projects in 2014 included the closure of two former bauxite residue storage areas in the United States and St. Croix and the remediation of mine spoils at two U.S. locations.

 

Facility End-of-Life Strategy

Whenever we close one of our facilities, we work closely with relevant stakeholders to develop an end-of-life strategy that positions the facility for reuse or redevelopment so the strength and viability of the community can be retained.

 

Some facilities can be reused with few changes. Others may require remediation, modification, or even demolition before they or the land on which they sit can be repurposed.

 

We continued to implement our asset management policy in 2014. Finalized in 2013, the policy covers the entire facility life cycle, including planning for end of life. Thirteen locations that are close to the end of their operational lives had management plans in place in 2014. Our long-term goal is to develop a plan for every location.

 

A major focus of our work in 2014 was the Point Henry smelter and rolling mill, both of which we closed during the year. We have embarked on a multi-faceted program to decommission and remediate the locations to position them for redevelopment. A team of outside experts is informing the master plan for the combined 525 hectares (1,270 acres) of land and numerous structures.

 

We also closed our Yennora rolling mill in Australia at the end of 2014. We plan to begin remediation and selective building demolition during 2015 to facilitate the redevelopment and reuse of the 32-hectare (79-acre) property.

 

In the United States, we sold a small research facility outside of Reno, Nevada, to a firm that will produce chemicals for the electronics industry. We also sold a former packaging facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, that we had remediated following its closure in 2006. The new owner is a regional industrial laundry company.

 

We permanently closed our curtailed smelter in Portovesme, Italy, during 2014. We are engaging with the government on remediation plans.

 

At our permanently closed smelter in Fusina, Italy, we completed the removal of materials and aluminum-specific equipment in the potroom in March 2015.  We next plan to begin both the demolition of the smelter buildings and remediation in accordance with agreements that have been finalized with the government.