Alcoa Agrees Bauxite Mining Practices With WA

Alcoa's Willowdale Mine Sampson dam reservoir and causeway
Alcoa Corporation Has Committed to Enhanced Environmental Safeguards & Stringent Rehabilitation Requirements as Part of Approval of Its Five-Year Mine Plan

Alcoa, a global industry leader in bauxite, alumina and aluminium products says it has a vision to reinvent the aluminium industry for a sustainable future. The company was quick to express its satisfaction on seeing the Western Australia government approval of Alcoa’s latest five-year mine plan – known as the 2023-2027 Mining and Management Programme (MMP) – for its Huntly and Willowdale bauxite mines. The decision, Alcoa says, will allow it to continue bauxite mining and downstream alumina refining in Western Australia (WA), at the same time pledging to enhance the way it operates to meet evolving requirements and expectations.

In addition, the government has granted an exemption that will allow Alcoa to continue its mining operations if the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decides to undertake a separate environmental impact assessment on all or parts of the MMP. The EPA’s determination is expected by the end of the year.

Alcoa will be subject to a range of stringent conditions addressing key environmental factors that will include enhanced protections for drinking water, including increased distances from reservoirs, and biodiversity along with accelerated forest rehabilitation. At the request of the State, Alcoa will also provide a A$100m (approximately US$66m) guarantee, demonstrating Alcoa’s confidence that its operations will not impair drinking water supplies. Clearing for mining in the Northern Jarrah Forest will be capped at 800 hectares per year and the current rate of rehabilitation will double to reach 1,000 hectares per year by 2027.

Separately, Alcoa has committed to work with the WA Government to modernise the State Agreements and the approvals framework for its two bauxite mines and three alumina refineries in the State. This includes transitioning all proposed new major mining regions to the more contemporary EPA assessment and approvals process. Alcoa started this process in 2020, when it referred its next two proposed mine regions (Myara North and Holyoake) for EPA assessment.

These commitments are in addition to Alcoa’s earlier decisions to forego mining around the forest towns of Dwellingup and Jarrahdale to enhance protections for lifestyle and recreation values.

Matt Reed, Alcoa Vice President Operations for Australia, said the decisions provided a balance between protecting local jobs and businesses while enhancing environmental protections. “We are absolutely focused on operating in line with these new requirements and evolving community expectations,” Reed said. “They mean we can continue to build on our 60 years of economic value creation, employment, and community support in WA while transitioning to more contemporary approvals.”

The new MMP will support mining at Alcoa’s current Myara and Larego regions at its Huntly and Willowdale mines. It does not affect the EPA environmental impact assessment already underway for Myara North and Holyoake, the two proposed new mine regions. That assessment is continuing with mining in these new regions not expected to occur any earlier than 2027. Until then, Alcoa expects bauxite quality to be similar to recently reduced grades. Bauxite quality at Myara North and Holyoake is expected to be consistent with historic higher grades.

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