November 13, 2018 / 8:10 PM / a month ago

Brazil lawmakers slam Norsk Hydro, regulators for Alunorte leak

FILE PHOTO: A ship navigates at Para river as alumina refinery Alunorte, owned by Norwegian company Norsk Hydro ASA, is pictured in Barcarena, Para state, northern Brazil March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - “Failures and possible crimes” led to a February leak of mineral byproduct at Norsk Hydro ASA’s Alunorte alumina refinery in the Amazonian state of Para, a special commission in Brazil’s lower house said in a report released on Tuesday

A congressional commission assembled to look into the incident blamed both the company and regulators, and called for civil and criminal investigations to continue.

“The matter of criminal and civil responsibility was emphasized, not only for the company involved in the matter, but principally for those who have the duty of enforcing and issuing operating licenses,” Éder Mauro, who represents Para in Brazil’s lower house, said in comments to the legislature’s official news service.

In a statement sent to Reuters, a representative for Alunorte rejected several assertions made by the commission, saying that “there was no leak or overflow of bauxite waste” as the report asserted.

Norsk Hydro has been in a months-long dispute with Brazilian authorities after the metals maker admitted to unlicensed emissions of untreated water during severe rains. The nature of those emissions has been a matter of hot dispute between the company and Brazilian authorities.

The Alunorte refinery is currently barred per court order from operating at more than 50 percent capacity.

At full capacity, the plant can produce some 6.4 million tonnes of alumina, or 10 percent of the world’s capacity outside China. Alunorte transforms bauxite into alumina, which is turned into aluminum at huge smelter.

Reporting by Marta Nogueira and Gram Slattery; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Leslie Adler

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