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Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena, Pará, Brazil.


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]

Hydro Alunorte refinery started its operations in 1995, since then it supplies domestic markets but mostly international ones (as 86% of the production goes for export). The plant transforms a mineral abundant in the Amazon, bauxite, into alumina. The refinery’s owners are today Norsk Hydro, whose main shareholders are the Norwegian state (34,3%), the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (6,81%), and several transnational financial corporations. The factory Albras (Alumínio Brasileiro S.A.) transforms Alunorte’s alumina into aluminum and is owned by Norsk Hydro (51%) and the Japanese consortium NAAC (Nippon Amazon Aluminum Co. Ltd) (49%). Industries in the region also include, amongst others, steel plant Usipar and kaolin processing Imerys Rio Capim Caulim S.A. and PPSA (Pará Pigmentos S.A.).

Since the 2000´s irregularities were detected by public entities such as the Instituto Evandro Chagas (IEV) from the Ministry of Health. Scientific experts from the IEV detected water pollution in the community of Barcarena threatening the environmental and human health. Especially children which some of them were previously diagnosed with skin and visual problems related with water pollution according to the doctors. Workers of the company have also been affected.

By that time, IEV confirmed that water pollution was caused by leakage and toxic waste of Hydro Alunorte. The whole process of producing aluminum is in fact water-and energy-intensive and is highly air-polluting. One of the most important leakage was in 2009 when the company contaminated important rivers with lead and mercury.  In that year, the company was fined with (R$ 17.000.000) but it never paid.

The company admitted it discharged untreated rain and surface water into a river, which it called “unacceptable,” but has denied significant parts of prosecutors’ allegations and has said there was no evidence of a lasting environmental impact.

Dwellers and local organisations with the support of Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB) have highly denounced this situation against Brazilians authorities. Violence against environmental defenders is visible, Paulo Sérgio Almeida Nascimento who was active in denouncing the company was shot dead in March 2018 he was the leader of the Associação dos Caboclos, indígenas e Quilombolas da Amazônia (CAINQUIAMA) an environmental justice organization who denounced the company several times. Based on death threats Paulo had asked for governmental protection but it was denied which resulted in his death.

In May 2018, a Brazilian federal judge upheld a state court decision forcing Norsk Hydro to cut output at a major alumina refinery, after the metals maker admitted to making unlicensed emissions of untreated water during severe rains in February. As a result, the company was ordered to slash output by half at the refinery [2]  .

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

- After 20 years in operation, the company supplies the domestic and international markets.

-Currently, Hydro Alunorte exports its products to ten countries in the Middle East, North America and Europe.

-Since it was inaugurated in 1995, the refinery has undergone three expansions that increased its production capacity, all of which were implemented without any production downtime.

- The company generates around 4,400 direct and indirect jobs.

- The 14% of its production is for internal consumption and 86% for exportation.

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).

[2] Reuters - NOVEMBER 7, 2018

Brazil court upholds partial shutdown at Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery

Marta Nogueira, Alexandra Alper

Pollution, illness, threats and murder: is this Amazon factory the link?

Brazil: mines mean murder (again)

O lider sindical morto tambem objeto de denuncia das centrais sindicais do Brasil


Comprovado vazamento de rejeitos de mineradora estrangeira em Barcarena (PA)

Uma boa materia de uma agencia independente

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

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

Aqui um bom artigo de um militante e academico

Mineradora norueguesa tinha 'duto clandestino' para lançar rejeitos em nascentes amazônicas

Veja que na grande imprensa — e na reuters — a NOrsk NEGAVA o vazamento!!!

Norsk Hydro accused of Amazon toxic spill, admits ‘clandestine pipeline’

Líder comunitário é assassinado em Barcarena, Pará

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

Assassinado líder que denunciava poluição da Hydro no Pará

Justiça Federal determina suspensão parcial das atividades de mineradora em Barcarena

Alunorte - Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Intoxicaciones, un asesinato y una gran refinería de aluminio: qué ocurre en la Amazonía

Meta information

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




A satellite view of the Norske Hydro Alunorte facility as seen from space.

Source: a Satellite image from Google Maps.

Hydro Alunorte

Source: Hydro Alunorte

A satellite view of the Norske Hydro Alunorte facility as seen from space.

Source: a Satellite image from Google Maps.

Hydro Alunorte

Source: Hydro Alunorte