Should we really save Alteo, the world leader in alumina… famous for its red mud?

Should we really save Alteo, the world leader in alumina… famous for its red mud?

Its buyer could be chosen on December 8, 2020. Leader in the production of alumina, the Alteo plant, formerly Péchiney, is especially famous for the red mud that it dumped for fifty years in the creeks of Marseille. Not everyone will be happy to see her continue her activity, even being brought up to environmental standards …

Further investigation.  Should we really save Alteo?

The factory sits above Gardanne, with a population of 21,000. It has brought the Provençal city to life for over a century. Every day, she spits out smells of soda and dust that have ended up staining the walls. These shades of red have become the symbol of a working-class city that sees its industry disappear. The mines first, the coal plant soon. And maybe tomorrow, the end of alumina… But should we really save Alteo (ex-Péchiney)?

A working-class city that sees its industry disappear, hundreds of jobs at stake

The imposing factory employs 480 people. It produces 1,200 tonnes of alumina every day, a component found in our smartphone or computer screens… It is one of the leaders in the sector.

Its notoriety, it owes it however above all to a scandal: that of the red mud, which feeds the chronicle for fifty years. Millions of tons of sludge containing heavy metals poured into the sea from the 1960s, via a pipe connecting the plant to the Mediterranean… In the Calanques national park, these discharges destroyed the seabed.

“We want them to stop polluting. If that corresponds to a closing of the factory, let them close the factory! ”

Today Alteo, in search of a buyer since December 2019, assures us: over, pollution at sea. The plant only rejects water cleaned by a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, inaugurated with great fanfare. in September 2020. The sludge is now stored on land, in Bouc-Bel-Air.

A solution which satisfies neither the inhabitants of this commune near Gardanne, nor the environmental activists. The latter demand an end to pollution, both on land and at sea. For them, Alteo’s difficulties could be an opportunity to permanently close the plant.

Extract from “Alteo: stop ou encore?”, A report to see in “Complément d’inquête” on November 19, 2020.

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