Russia’s Aughinish alumina refinery faces environmental protests in Limerick


Rusal, the international mining and metals giant headquartered in Moscow, Russia, which owns the huge Aughinish alumina refinery in the Shannon Estuary, is facing environmental protests as the High Court challenges the facility’s expansion in Limerick. 

Aughinish is part of Rusal’s business in Ireland. In all, the Russian company employs more than 55,000 people in Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Sweden, Australia, and many other places. The Shannon Estuary employs more than 400 people who process imported bauxite into alumina, which is shipped to France and Sweden and remelted for aluminum production. Rusal produces aluminum used in industries ranging from aircraft and machinery to cooking utensils and gardens.

Aughinish Europe’s largest bauxite refinery is located on the island. The site includes a deep-water jetty in the Shannon through which the refinery imports bauxite from Guinea and Brazil and exports alumina to be refined into aluminium metal.

The nearly 1,500-acre plant wants to expand the area to bury bauxite residue that has long been known to be Ireland’s dirtiest place of nature, observed by astronauts in space.

Futureproof Clare (FPC) claimed that local farmers and residents have long residues from the Aughinish refinery have made animals and people sick. In 1997, the waste from the factory was classified as hazardous, and Inspectors reported that groundwater was contaminated. Somehow, blood and soil samples were lost by state bodies, which could have linked local health issues with contaminants from Aughinish.

“We have organized legal and environmental experts to speak so it may be of interest to any campaigners who would like to stand up to unsustainable developments, like the proposed Aughinish waste disposal area expansion” explained Sinéad Sheehan of FPC.

In the 1990’s, the local farmers did not have a legal team to continue to press the issues. Now Futureproof Clare started High Court challenges.

Aughinish Alumina has already created over 35 million tonnes of waste which is stored on the banks of the River Shannon.