Alcoa is using a new, natural method for reforestation at its Juruti bauxite mine in Brazil that is efficient, cost effective and sustainable.
“The nucleation system is cheaper and ecologically more efficient because it makes the worked areas 'look for' its sustainability in a spontaneous way”
The technique is based on the theory of nucleation, where small dense nuclei of plants and animals facilitate the arrival of other species. At Juruti, birds and other elements of nature are helping recover the soil rather than traditional reforestation, which works the soil and then plant saplings.
"The nucleation method restores the environment in a short amount of time, leading to greater richness in biodiversity," explains Pedro Pinto, Alcoa Environment, Health and Safety Manager for the Juruti bauxite mine. "It benefits the formation of the soil by keeping the micro-environment more humid. This technique also reduces the need for using machinery, resulting in lower use of diesel oil and emissions," says Pinto.
The natural nucleation approach to reforestation was created by Professor Ademir Reis of Brazil's Federal University of Santa Catarina. Techniques used include artificial shelters for animals; perches to attract birds and bats, which deposit seeds and help trees to germinate alone; laying out seeds, roots, branches and small tree trunks to stimulate the natural regeneration of species, which attracts animals and creates a food chain in the restoration process; and ecological stepping-stones of small refuges for fauna inside crop plantations.
"The nucleation system is cheaper and ecologically more efficient because it makes the worked areas 'look for' its sustainability in a spontaneous way," says Professor Reis.
The Juruti bauxite mining area is among the first places in Brazil to use the nucleation method of environmental conservation. Alcoa began using the technique last August on a 175-acre (70 hectares) area there. In about two years, the area will have an understory favorable to the introduction of new species, like Brazil nut trees, andiras, trumpet trees, copaibas and others.
Alcoa is the world's leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa's operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for ten consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 61,000 people in 31 countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.