August 07, 2023

Alcoa reaffirms its commitment to modernise its mining approvals

Aluminium producer Alcoa has reaffirmed its commitment to modernise the approvals framework for its bauxite mining in Western Australia as the State’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) seeks public comment on the matter.

The EPA today opened a public comment period on whether it should conduct an environmental impact assessment into parts of Alcoa’s current and next rolling five-year plans for its mines in the south-west of WA. The plans were referred to the EPA for assessment by a third party in February.

Following public consultation, the EPA will decide whether to conduct an assessment into parts of these mine plans – known as the 2022-2026 and 2023-2027 Mining and Management Programs (MMPs) – and, if so, at what level. There is no set timeframe for the EPA’s determination.

Alcoa Australia President Matt Reed said the public comment period, which closes on 15 August, was an important step forward in the EPA process and therefore gaining clarity on the Company’s WA bauxite mining.

“Our utmost focus remains on securing certainty for our current and future bauxite mining operations. We firmly believe we can continue to operate safely and responsibly under both our existing robust statutory approvals framework set under our WA State Agreements and the more contemporary EPA approvals framework we are committed to transitioning to over a reasonable timeframe,” Mr Reed said.

The annual MMP review process involves expert input by a host of government departments and agencies, and approval by the Minister for State Development in consultation with other ministers.

Mr Reed said Alcoa’s referral in 2020 of its next major Huntly mine regions – Myara North and Holyoake – for EPA environmental impact assessment was a demonstration of the Company’s commitment to modernising its approvals framework.

“There must be a reasonable transition period during which we will continue to work collaboratively with various stakeholders and regulators to meet evolving requirements and expectations,” Mr Reed said.

“We are increasing controls to protect drinking water, stepping up mine site rehabilitation and enhancing the management of social impacts including recently announced no mining zones around the towns of Dwellingup and Jarrahdale.

“We are proud of our environmental track record and economic and social contributions to WA over the last 60 years and firmly believe we can continue to operate safely and responsibly.”

Alcoa continues to mine lower grade bauxite at the Huntly mine in areas approved under the existing statutory approvals process to extend ore supply. Given the uncertainty of an EPA assessment decision, if any, and the potential impacts on its mining and refining operations, the Company is currently unable to estimate the financial impact of a potential EPA assessment.

Alcoa’s two bauxite mines supply the Company’s three alumina refineries in WA. Combined, these operations employ about 4,300 people in the State and produce about 50 per cent of Australia’s alumina, the feedstock for aluminium, which is an increasingly important element in a world working to further decarbonise.

In 2022, Alcoa paid about $700 million in wages and benefits in WA and spent $1.7 billion with some 920 local businesses.