herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

No danger of toxic sludge spill here, company claims

A MASSIVE alumina plant on the Shannon Estuary has denied claims it poses risks similar to the ones which caused an environmental disaster in Hungary.

Aughinish Alumina said its way of dealing with the toxic bauxite residue was different to the method used by the plant in Hungary where the catastrophe happened.

The facility, like the one in Hungary, extracts alumina from bauxite, leaving a huge red mud residue.

And farmers in the area say the bauxite is hazardous.

However, Aughinish, which is the largest refinery of its kind in Europe, insists there is no danger of spillage.

It treats the bauxite waste totally differently to the process used at the Hungarian plant, it added.

Aughinish said its bauxite residue is spread over a 200-acre dry area beside the river, unlike the storage method at the Hungarian plant where experts say the residue was not sufficiently treated to keep it dry.

Aughinish is the largest alumina refinery owned by Russian corporation Rusal.

The company employs 440 people at its bauxite extraction plant near Foynes.

It was built between 1978 and 1983 and had an initial rated capacity of 800,000 tonnes a year.

The refinery started processing imported bauxites into alumina in September 1983 and its current annual capacity is in excess of 1.8m tonnes of alumina.



Frozen

This is shipped to aluminium smelters around the world.

Following the disaster, the Hungarian government announced it was to take control of the alumina plant. Parliament on Monday approved a bill allowing the government to take control of private companies in disasters, and the company's assets have been frozen.

Police detained the managing director of the MAL Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company, Zoltan Bakonyi.

A reservoir of chemical residue burst at the alumina plant in Ajka, 160 kilometres west of Budapest.

It sent a torrent of red toxic sludge across 40 square kilometres, ruining the Marcal River and polluting the Danube and many of its tributaries.

The death toll is now eight, while 45 people remain in hospital, two in a very serious condition.

comurphy@herald.ie

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