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Mine Profile: Barro Alto

For the latest in our series of mine profiles, we turn our attention to Barro Alto - one of our nickel operations located in Brazil - examining production, the operations and work in the local community.

What is Barro Alto?

Barro Alto is a nickel-producing mine and processing plant, with the plant built at a capital cost of $1.9 billion and commissioned in 2011.

It is located in the State of Goiás in Brazil, about 170km north-west of Brasilia, 240km north of Goiânia and 150km from Anglo American's Codemin nickel operation. The Barro Alto nickel deposit was discovered in the late 1960s and Anglo American completed its purchase of the deposit for $35 million in 2002.

We began to mine in Barro Alto in 2004, initially transporting the nickel to the Codemin plant for processing, before the Barro Alto plant was built.

How much nickel does it produce?

In 2014, Barro Alto produced 28,300 tonnes of nickel. Codemin is currently fed with ore from the Barro Alto mine and produced 8,900 tonnes of nickel in 2014. Anglo American has 100% ownership of Barro Alto.

Production increased by 8% in 2014 from 2013 due to the improved performance of Barro Alto’s furnaces and recovery from different operational issues in 2013.

What operational improvements are being made?

Barro Alto's two furnaces have been rebuilt to address certain design flaws. The first furnace was completed in April 2015 and the second came back online this month.

As a result of the now improved furnace performance, Barro Alto is expected to produce 25-30,000 tonnes in 2015 and reach full design run rate of 36,000 tonnes per year in 2016.

The good progress made to date is testimony to the strength of the Barro Alto operational team, who have managed to simultaneously combine rebuilding of the furnaces with continued and improved safe production.

What about the local community?

At Barro Alto, we have worked in collaboration with the local municipality and Reprolatina – an NGO partner dedicated to empowering women and improving the sexual and reproductive health of the disadvantaged populations of Latin America – to help promote sexual health for adolescents.

Through a combination of research, action and education, the initiative seeks to decrease vulnerabilities to unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, drug use, violence, sexual exploitation and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health. Success has depended on building the local technical capacities of health service providers, educators and young people at schools, as well as on empowering women.

Between 2010 and 2014, we had invested $890,000 in the programme and, by 2011, the number of adolescent pregnancies registered in Barro Alto had reduced to 40% of the total number of pregnancies registered, and by 2012 it had dropped further to just 16%. 

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