Environmental groups have begun a legal challenge against the decision to allow Aughnish Alumina to expand its facilities.
The west-Limerick factory, on the Shannon Estuary, off N69 and close to Askeaton, is Europe’s largest alumina refinery, and is one of the biggest employers in the region.
Aluminium firm EN+, which is controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, is the majority shareholder of Russian aluminium giant, Rusal, which owns Aughinish Alumina.
An Bórd Pleanála granted permission to the company to expand the Bauxite Disposal Area, which is used for leftover bauxite residue associated with production of alumina.
Aughinish Alumina has also been given permission to extend the permitted borrow pit which is an area of quarried stone, and to extend the existing Salt Cake Disposal Cell; salt cake is a by-product in the aluminium recycling process.
An alliance of environmental groups, including Futureproof Clare, Ecojustice Ireland, and Cappagh Farmers Group, has now launched judicial review proceedings against An Bórd Pleanála’s decision.
They say that if the dam holding in the now-larger amount of leftover bauxite was to breach, it would cause the largest environmental catastrophe ever in Ireland.
They say the bauxite waste already impacts on local human and animal health, and the nearby Shannon Estuary Special Protected Area, and an expansion would make matters worse.
The alliance says its legal team is of the opinion that An Bórd Pleanála has not taken into account the overall environmental impacts of the Aughinish facility, in deciding to permit further expansion of the red mud disposal area.
The environmental groups are launching a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe, and at an in-person event in the Horse and Hound Bar in Limerick City, next Wednesday November 9th.