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
NameHydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena, Pará, Brazil.
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
Mineral processing
Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesCalcined 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 Date1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesNorsk Hydro from Norway
Alumínio Brasileiro S.A. from Brazil
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actorsIBAMA (Brazil’s environmental agency); Federal Public Ministry (MPF); Secretaria Estadual de Meio Ambiente e Sustentabilidade (SEMAS);Ministry of Health;
International and Financial InstitutionsNorges Bank from Norway
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEjos: 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;
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
National EJOS
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement 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
OtherVisible: 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-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.On April 2018, the federal court ordered the partial suspension of mining activities in Barcarena.
Sources and Materials

Assassinado líder que denunciava poluição da Hydro no Pará
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Líder comunitário é assassinado em Barcarena, Pará
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Alunorte - Alumina do Norte do Brasil S.A.
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Brazil: mines mean murder (again)
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Pollution, illness, threats and murder: is this Amazon factory the link?
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Norsk Hydro accused of Amazon toxic spill, admits ‘clandestine pipeline’
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Comprovado vazamento de rejeitos de mineradora estrangeira em Barcarena (PA)
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O lider sindical morto tambem objeto de denuncia das centrais sindicais do Brasil
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Uma boa materia de uma agencia independente
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Porque quem denunciou inicialmente foram os proprios moradores, ou seja, um caso classico do que o joan chama de ecologismo dos pobres
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Essa crise começou há um mes e foi APENAS ONTEM!!! que os noruegueses — que se colocam como tão civilizados na Europa — reconheceram os erros
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Uma das estrategias da Norsk, nesse periodo, claro, foi corrupção e conseguir apoio do governo para "divergir" as informações
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Aqui um bom artigo de um militante e academico
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Mineradora norueguesa tinha 'duto clandestino' para lançar rejeitos em nascentes amazônicas
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Veja que na grande imprensa — e na reuters — a NOrsk NEGAVA o vazamento!!!
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Justiça Federal determina suspensão parcial das atividades de mineradora em Barcarena
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[1] EJOLT blog - The marketing behind poisoning people

by Diana Aguiar (FASE), Alessandra Cardoso (INESC), and Marcela Vecchione (NAEA/UFPA).
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[2] Reuters - NOVEMBER 7, 2018

Brazil court upholds partial shutdown at Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery

Marta Nogueira, Alexandra Alper
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Media Links

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

Hydro Alunorte Source: Hydro Alunorte
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A satellite view of the Norske Hydro Alunorte facility as seen from space. Source: a Satellite image from Google Maps.
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Meta Information
ContributorENVJustice Project
Last update19/02/2019