Hydro, the international aluminium company, is investing US$3.4 million (EUR 3 million) in a state-of-the-art water treatment plant at its Schwandorf legacy site located in the eastern region of Bavaria, Germany.
Hydro, which manages three bauxite residue sites at Schwandorf, inherited this site upon its acquisition of German aluminium producer VAW in 2002. VAW operated at this location from the 1930s through the 1990s.
Historically, the water management system at the site treated water from various sources, including rainwater and run-offs from the deposits. Up to September 30, this process was outsourced. But since October 1, 2023, Hydro has undertaken the water treatment internally. The company’s new plant aims to reduce chemical usage, enhance automation, and curtail health and safety risks for workers. The plant is also designed with climate change in mind, preparing for potential future extreme weather events.
Bjørn Kjetil Mauritzen, Hydro’s Head of Sustainability, noted, “At the Schwandorf facilities, we will use cutting-edge technology to protect both soil and water environments.”
The company’s transition to a new water treatment facility will involve a five-step process. This includes setting up a temporary water treatment plant, transitioning to this temporary facility, dismantling the old plant, erecting a new permanent plant, and finally switching operations to this new facility. The new plant is slated to be operational between Q2 and Q3 of 2024.
Hydro’s efforts in Schwandorf have been conducted in tandem with local authorities and are backed by local expertise. Over the next two years, the company plans an estimated investment of US$5.7 million to US$6.8 million (EUR 5-6 million) in Schwandorf and Stulln legacy sites, located in the Oberpfalz region.
Importantly, the legacy tailings facilities in Schwandorf and Stulln come under the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM) commitment, an initiative launched in August 2020 by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) and other global entities. GISTM aims to strengthen the safety, sustainability, and management of tailings facilities in mining. Mauritzen emphasized the significance of GISTM in the industry for risk mitigation, sustainable operations, and trust-building.