Auginish Alumina secures approval for Foynes expansion
Bord Pleanála rules plant extension is strategic infrastructure
Aughinish Alumina: An Bord Pleanála has ruled that a proposed extension of an extraction facility at Europe’s largest alumina plant can be considered a strategic infrastructure development.
An Bord Pleanála has ruled that a proposed extension of an extraction facility at Europe’s largest alumina plant can be considered a strategic infrastructure development, which means the company can apply directly to the board for planning permission without first having to apply to Limerick City and County Council.
Aughinish Alumina had claimed the project was of strategic economic importance to both the State and the midwest region.
It noted that the European Commission has deemed that bauxite was a critical raw material in Europe because of its importance in the aluminium “value chain”.
Aughinish Alumina wants to increase the height of its large bauxite residue disposal area (BRDA) which covers an area of 183 hectares. It claims the increased height will provide an additional nine-year capacity for storing bauxite residue at the facility and allow for the disposal of 1.59 million tonnes per annum.
It warned that the current permitted BRDA will reach capacity by 2031 which could limit the operation of the refinery.
The company is also seeking approval for an extension of its existing disposal area for salt cake, a hazardous waste byproduct of the refinery process for dissolved bauxite.
It will accommodate an additional 22,500m³ or three years extra capacity.
In addition, planning permission is being sought to double the size of an area known as a “borrow pit” to 9.1 hectares from which rock is extracted for use in the ongoing development of the BRDA.
The company, which has operated its plant on Aughinish Island since 1983, is permitted to produce up to 1.95 million tonnes of alumina each year through the treatment of bauxite ore.
It accounts for about 33 per cent of all alumina produced in western Europe each year.
The company was taken over by its current owner – the Russian aluminium producer, Rusal – in 2007.
Rusal, which has valued its Irish facility at just under €2 billion, employs about 460 people as well as 220 long-term contractors at the Co Limerick plant.
It estimates its contribution to the local economy is €130 million with €85 million spent on Irish suppliers.
Aughinish Alumina’s operating licence is under review by the Environmental Protection Agency.
An Bord Pleanála ruled that any application for planning permission must be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report and Natura Impact Statement because of the site’s proximity to several protected EU habitats including the Lower Shannon Special Area of Conservation.