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Noise concerns at Wagerup prompt action from Alcoa

ALCOA is looking to buy more land surrounding the Wagerup alumina refinery in an effort to quell growing local fears of noise and pollution levels.

Company spokesman Brian Doy said Alcoa had been in talks with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that neighbours to the refinery were not subject to noise levels above regulations introduced in 1997.

Mr Doy said some neighbours were, at times, subject to noise levels of 40 decibels – above the limit required from the noise regulators.

He said a buffer zone of about three kilometres would ensure neighbours were not exposed to noise levels above those regulated. Wagerup has a number of residents who live within three kilometres of the site.

Already the Wagerup property is about 4,000 hectares, which is about 1,500 hectares more than the Worsley alumina refinery, although the latter is a larger operation.

The nearest neighbour at Worsley is almost seven kilometres away, however.

Mr Doy said the consultation period would continue over the next few weeks and the company will go back to the Government by the end of September with proposals.

Alcoa also was considering the possibility of applying for a variation to the noise regulations, which would give the company the freedom to go beyond the conditions set by the Department of Environmental Protection.

With world aluminium prices remaining soft, a feasibility study looking into the possibility of doubling capacity at Alcoa’s Wagerup refinery could be shelved for some time.

The US company had been considering a 50 per cent expansion of the Wagerup refinery, bringing production to 3.3 million tonnes a year. The expansion would have more than matched the 80 per cent expansion of the BHP-Billiton Worsley refinery completed last year before Alcoa was forced to sell its 56 per cent stake following its acquisition of Reynolds Metals Co. Worsley’s capacity is now about 3.1 million tonnes a year.

Mr Doy said that Wagerup stood a good chance of receiving expansion approval from the Alcoa board ahead of its other refineries around the globe. He said any expansion of the refinery would not increase the actual footprint at the Wagerup refinery.

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