A class action lawsuit against the owner of a producing refinery aluminium ore used to make cars and EVs, including the Ford F-150 Lightning, argues that the refinery is polluting nearby rivers and streams, endangering thousands of Brazilians in the process. The lawsuit represents 11,000 residents living in nearby communities Hydro Alunorte refinery in Barcarena, Brazil, owned by the Norwegian aluminum company, Norwegian Hydro ASA.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say Norsk Hydro is responsible for a disease epidemic stemming from rampant pollution at the refinery; Those living in nearby communities claim toxic waste is seeping into Barcarena’s water supply, according to an investigation by Bloomberg. The lawsuit will seek to hold Hydro accountable for 10 incidents that have polluted and endangered the community, and these incidents date back nearly two decades.
The Hydro refinery would release traces of aluminum, among other things heavy metals (arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead and nickel) in the area, leading to birth defects and cancer, among other horrific diseases.
According to the report, Alunorte’s ore can be traced back to aluminum used to build it Ford F-150 Lightning in the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center and the assembly complex of the US automaker, in general, where the best-selling car in America is made. Go read this reportbecause it’s a thorough investigation into pollution allegations in the Amazon, which can only get worse as the industry ramps up production of all-electric vehicles.
G/O Media may receive a commission
Powrun P-One Jump Starter
This jump starter is incredibly easy to use, has an LCD screen to help you stay informed, and has plenty of built-in protection to keep the user safe.
Bloomberg explains that Ford switched from heavy steel to lighter aluminum to build the F-150 in 2015, and now that the truck is being sold as an EV, the company will have to offset the truck’s weight even more because of the F-150 Lightning’s battery. Basically, the advent of EVs requires more mining and production of the lightweight metal to balance the load on heavy batteries in EV models like the Lightning. Automakers are trying to squeeze every last mile of range out of their upcoming EVs, including Ford.
While the average North American car contains 500 pounds of aluminum, the Lightning’s frame takes 682 pounds to make: The metal is used in the windshield header, frame tubes and exterior panels, as well as the rockers, according to Ford. But since the US produces less than a million tons of the five million tons of aluminum it needs each year, America imports up to 75 percent of all Canadian-made aluminum, which in turn is made with ore from Brazil — painful and painful. . precariously extracted from the Amazon rainforest.
The danger does not necessarily come from the actual mining, as the claws of heavy machinery are rust-colored bauxite from the ground, per Bloombergbut from the toxic waste from bauxite mining and refining to white aluminum oxide powder, which then becomes the lightweight metal used to make laptops, phones and cars – both electric and gas.
The by-products of refining bauxite into alumina have seeped into the water supply of Brazilian communities for years, the lawsuit argues. In 2018, Norsk Hydro was fined $6.1 million for discharging untreated wastewater from the Alunorte Refinery during a flood. But the pollution goes back decades and involves a network of major mining companies in Brazil, including Alcoa and Rio Tinto.
These companies, as well as the country of Brazil, respectively operate and host an export network that ships aluminum ore around the world, with a third of Hydro Alunorte’s alumina going to North America. Alcoa was once Ford’s main supplier, but Ford switched to Hydro in 2016; Ford maintains its supply chain Aluminum Stewardship Initiative Certificationmeaning it has been vetted by an independent third party to ensure producers adhere to certain standards.
But what good is an ASI seal of approval for the people of Barcarena who have fallen ill, many of whom are indigenous? Indeed, one of the most shocking and, frankly, disheartening revelations in the Bloomberg report are the first-hand accounts of residents living near the refinery who show elevated levels of lead in their blood and hair. For example:
Researchers studying the communities around the Alunorte Refinery in Barcarena, a sprawling industrial landscape of sludge tanks and tailing ponds on the outskirts of Belém, have found that rivers and streams are polluted with toxic metals. Some were 57 times higher than what health experts consider safe. Residents showed Bloomberg the results of medical tests with even higher levels — in one woman’s case, 175 times the limit for aluminum in her hair and 81 times higher in her blood.
The report then quotes many other residents and says:
“Every day we die a little bit,” said Maria do Socorro, 57, whose community group Cainquiama is the chief plaintiff and who lives in an open-air house not far from the refinery. Her grandson’s organs broke through his skin at birth, and eight people in her family have been affected by cancer, she says, including herself and her husband, who she believes died as a result. “We are victims of this company, Hydro. They come and make money and leave nothing for us.”
It’s a long and exhaustive explanation of the lawsuit and the preconditions that precede it, but I encourage you to do so read it all because it shows how aluminum is just a raw material with difficult origins that will be used to make so-called eco-friendly EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning.
It details how the effort to reduce frame weight by using more aluminum comes at a high cost to those in the rainforest who are exposed to the toxic waste from mining and refining materials for electric cars. For now, the inhabitants of the neighboring communities can only sing solemn songs and watch as the bodies of water and the soil on which they live turn the color of rust. Bauxite mining in Brazil will double in the coming years due to the expected demand for aluminum.