South32 and Alcoa to restart long-shuttered aluminium smelter in Brazil

Australia’s South32 will spend around US$70 million on the restart of an aluminium smelter in Brazil, which has been on care and maintenance since 2015.

The global diversified miner and its joint venture partner Alcoa Corp aim to bring the Aluma smelter back online by June 2022, with South32’s 40% share to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

It forms part of South32’s Brazil Alumina operations, which include a stake Brazil’s biggest bauxite mine and a refinery. The Australian outfit anticipates output of 5,000 tonnes this year and 140,000 tonnes next year from its share of the operation.

“With this decision we continue to make substantial progress in reshaping our portfolio, increasing our exposure to the base metals required for the critical transition to a low-carbon future,” CEO Graham Kerr said in a statement.

“With the smelter benefiting from existing infrastructure, access to our own supply of alumina and long-term green energy sources, we expect our investment to deliver strong returns through the cycle,” he said. “We see strong long-term market fundamentals for aluminium.”

Access to clean energy from Brazil’s hydroelectric systems seems to have been key in shaping the decision to revive Aluma, with operators coming under increasing pressure to decarbonise the energy-intensive smelting stage of the aluminium supply chain.