As the price of aluminium breaks new records, closing in on $US3000 a tonne, global giant Rio Tinto must be having a quiet chuckle to itself.
Only a year ago it was threatening to close the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, consigning it to the scrap heap with the loss of 700 jobs, directly, and another 1600 indirectly. For Southland’s economy it would have been a mortal blow.
At that time, aluminium was fetching only $1800 a tonne.
Rio Tinto said the smelter was uneconomic because the price of electricity was too high. In July last year it said it would close the operation because of high costs and a challenging market.
The decision to close the smelter had disappointed politicians and local power firms as it came when the COVID-19 pandemic began to cripple the economy.
Some economists argued NZ should let it go and divert the Manapouri electricity, the cheapest in the country, to other uses. Continue reading “Soaring aluminium prices look likely to encourage Rio Tinto to press for extending its Tiwai Point sweetheart deal”
Should we really be cheering news of a giant global company picking up the tab for cleaning up its own mess? Surely that’s what it should be doing.
But hey, we are talking about Rio Tinto, a company widely criticised by environmental groups around the world and at least one national government for the environmental impacts of its mining activities. Or so we are told by Wikipedia.
And it has been a dab hand at persuading governments in this country to help power its aluminium smelter operations near Bluff at a modest cost.
But the PM, helped by some of her ministerial team., has urged the company to do something about its toxic waste and – hurrah – the company has obliged.
The company has made a raft of commitments, including recognising Ngai Tahu (at least by the looks of things) as an organisation akin to a co-governor.
In fact, in the press statement from the Beehive Ngai Tahu is listed ahead of the central and local government bodies involved in the agreement. Continue reading “Rio Tinto strikes a deal with the Ardern govt on cleaning up its mess – and it brings Ngai Tahu into an array of commitments”
Latest from the Beehive –
Northland was missing from the regions to benefit from government announcements in the past 24 or so hours. Southland, on the other hand, is being promised government support for its economy in the aftermath of Rio Tinto’s decision to close its operations at Tiwai Point.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson pledged:
“As we have done in Taranaki, we will support a just transition to more job opportunities. We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.”
But the only figure in the joint press statement with a dollar sign in front related to a sum of money the government expects Rio Tinoto to cough up.
Energy Minister Megan Woods said she wanted to make clear that
“ … the Government expects Rio Tinto to meet their obligations for clean-up of the site (an estimated $256 million) and do the right thing on the dross.” .
Good luck with that. Continue reading “Help is promised for Southland after Rio Tinto pulls plug but money more immediately will be pumped into West Coast rail”
The Ardern government has a real headache, as global giant Rio Tinto threatens to close one of the country’s major manufacturing plants.
Rio Tinto has launched what it calls a “strategic review” of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, one of the two smelters in the world producing ultrahigh-purity metal, and the only one doing so from renewable energy.
It says it doesn’t want another handout from the government (like the $30m it got in 2012) but it urgently needs action on transmission costs from Meridian’s Manapouri power station.
Some of the country’s top journalists have been on the case. The New Zealand Herald says fear of a shutdown has worked before, but it may not work this time. Stuff detects a consensus emerging within Parliament that the smelter should close. Political commentator Matthew Hooten says “Let’s say no to Rio’s trantrum”. He argues government support will just encourage it to ask for another handout.
Others contend that because the smelter consumes 13% of the electricity generated in NZ, the government should welcome the smelter’s closure because it will mean cheaper power for the rest of us. Who cares, they say, about the 1000 jobs lost in Southland, the $600m a year in export earnings, or the fact NZ would have to start importing aluminium from fossil-fueled smelters? Continue reading “The issue for the Govt – as the fate of Tiwai Point smelter is decided – is to work out where the national interest lies”