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    8 April, 2011
MOZAL completes bypass operation
 
The Mozal aluminium smelter, located on the outskirts of Maputo, on Friday announced that it has completed the rebuilding of its two Fume Treatment Centres (FTCs).

Mozal had to rebuild the FTCs because their structure had become badly corroded and threatened to collapse. The FTCs are part of the carbon plant which makes the anodes used in the electrolytical process that converts the raw material, alumina, into molten aluminium.

The FTCs filters gases (mainly hydrogen fluoride), dust and tars emitted by the carbon plant. But during the rebuilding of the FTCs the filters were bypassed, and emissions from the carbon plant were sent straight into the atmosphere via a 62 metre tall chimney.

The bypass led to protests by environmental groups. A loud campaign in parts of the Mozambican press predicted dire health consequences from the bypass, ignoring Mozal’s reassurances that, even with the bypass, the smelter’s emissions would remain within safe limits.

The first FTC was switched off on 17 November, and the second on 1 December, and there have been no reports of any increase in the number of deaths or illnesses among smelter workers or people living in the surrounding communities.

The Friday Mozal statement said that the first FTC resumed normal operations with filters on 17 March, and the second on 29 March – well within the 137 day deadline given under the Special Authorisation for the by-pass issued by the Environment Ministry.

The Mozal release announced that “both FTCs are operational at their maximum potential and are functioning in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications”.

Air quality was monitored intensively for the fortnight before the bypass began, throughout the bypass operation, and will continue for a further two weeks. The Mozal emissions were measured by the Swiss company SGS, the largest company in the world that specializes in inspection, certification and verification.

The Mozal release said the monitoring confirmed that, even without the FTC filters, the emissions were well below the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) also assessed the risks during the bypass, and found that the operation posed no risk to human health.

The results of the SGS monitoring were presented at a public meeting in Maputo on 22 February, when the operation was more than two thirds complete, showing that emissions of hydrogen fluoride, dust and tars were within WHO limits, and within the limits set by Mozambican legislation itself.

The main pollutant associated with aluminium smelters is hydrogen fluoride. The legal limit for fluoride emissions is one kilo for every tonne of aluminium produced – or 17 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

The SGS figures showed that, although there were significant hourly fluctuations, the fluoride emissions were generally less than half the limit. There was just one exception – one of Mozal’s ten “passive monitoring points” on one day gave an anomalous reading of 27.7 micrograms per cubic metre. No other monitoring point came anywhere near this reading.

Mozal promises to hold a further public meeting later in April to present a final report on the SGS monitoring, and to clarify any remaining questions about the FTC reconstruction.
(AIM)
 
 
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