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Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena, Pará, Brazil.

Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte refinery in Barcarena accused by local authorities of contaminating the waters of communities with toxic waste overflowing from a holding basin.


Hydro Alunorte is the world's largest alumina refinery and it is located in Bacarena, close to Belém, State of Pará. In 1984, the first industry established in the area was a project with Japanese capital called Albras-Alunorte, which now belongs to Brazilian-headquartered private corporation Vale. According to Aguiar, Cardoso and Vecchione [1], "The project was part of the global process of relocating polluting and energy-intensive industries to the South. More specifically, it was part of Japan’s decision –in the context of the 1970s oil crisis– to outsource the production of aluminum needed to feed its post-War industrial boom. The Brazilian military regime embraced the opportunity to host aluminum processing in the Amazon, signing up to huge debts denominated in Japanese yen. It then took on the task of building the energy infrastructure needed for the industry to flourish. The Tucuruí megadam, built in the late 1970s in the Tocantins River, was inaugurated in 1984 and resulted in social and environmental disasters of great proportions. Since then, Tucuruí megadam has been providing energy to the aluminum industry at subsidized rates." The authors continue: "The process of turning Barcarena into an industrial center started during the time of the military dictatorship but continued unabated in the era of post-democratization government planning. It turned the area into an important vector of several trade corridors with hydroways and pipelines transporting kaolin and bauxite. In recent years, continued extractivism and little aggregate value processing of its produce has become part of the economic policy of ensuring continuous trade surplus through the export of commodities." [1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena, Pará, Brazil.
State or province:Pará
Location of conflict:Barcarena
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Tailings from mines
Metal refineries
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Aluminum/Bauxite
Calcined alumina (intermediate stage between bauxite and aluminum)
Project Details and Actors
Project details

- Hydro Alunorte is the world's largest alumina refinery

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Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:Norsk Hydro from Norway
Alumínio Brasileiro S.A. from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actors:IBAMA (Brazil’s environmental agency); Federal Public Ministry (MPF); Secretaria Estadual de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade (SEMAS);Ministry of Health;
International and Finance InstitutionsNorges Bank from Norway
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ejos: Amazon Association of Mixed Race; Associação dos Caboclos, indígenas e Quilombolas da Amazônia (CAINQUIAMA); Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB);
Supporters: Evandro Chagas Institute of Brazil’s Ministry of Health; Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA); Comissão de Direitos Humanos da Assembleia Legislativa do Pará;
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
National EJOS
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Waste overflow
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsVisible: Skin problems in children due to the exposition to contaminated water;
"According to studies made of the soil, the leaked material had high concentration of iron, aluminum, zinc and cadmium—these accumulate in the body and may cause degenerative diseases, hepatic dysfunctions, immunological deficiencies, and dementia."[1]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:On April 2018, the federal court ordered the partial suspension of mining activities in Barcarena.
Sources & Materials

[1] EJOLT blog - The marketing behind poisoning people

by Diana Aguiar (FASE), Alessandra Cardoso (INESC), and Marcela Vecchione (NAEA/UFPA).
[click to view]

[2] Reuters - NOVEMBER 7, 2018

Brazil court upholds partial shutdown at Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery

Marta Nogueira, Alexandra Alper
[click to view]

Pollution, illness, threats and murder: is this Amazon factory the link?
[click to view]

Brazil: mines mean murder (again)
[click to view]

O lider sindical morto tambem objeto de denuncia das centrais sindicais do Brasil
[click to view]

[click to view]

Comprovado vazamento de rejeitos de mineradora estrangeira em Barcarena (PA)
[click to view]

Uma boa materia de uma agencia independente
[click to view]

Porque quem denunciou inicialmente foram os proprios moradores, ou seja, um caso classico do que o joan chama de ecologismo dos pobres
[click to view]

Uma das estrategias da Norsk, nesse periodo, claro, foi corrupção e conseguir apoio do governo para "divergir" as informações
[click to view]

Aqui um bom artigo de um militante e academico
[click to view]

Mineradora norueguesa tinha 'duto clandestino' para lançar rejeitos em nascentes amazônicas
[click to view]

Veja que na grande imprensa — e na reuters — a NOrsk NEGAVA o vazamento!!!
[click to view]

Norsk Hydro accused of Amazon toxic spill, admits ‘clandestine pipeline’
[click to view]

Líder comunitário é assassinado em Barcarena, Pará
[click to view]

Essa crise começou há um mes e foi APENAS ONTEM!!! que os noruegueses — que se colocam como tão civilizados na Europa — reconheceram os erros
[click to view]

Assassinado líder que denunciava poluição da Hydro no Pará
[click to view]

Justiça Federal determina suspensão parcial das atividades de mineradora em Barcarena
[click to view]

Alunorte - Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Intoxicaciones, un asesinato y una gran refinería de aluminio: qué ocurre en la Amazonía
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJustice Project
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2952
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