Ambiguity looms over fate of 1000 workers and local ecosystem on Tiwai Point closure

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Ambiguity looms over fate of 1000 workers and local ecosystem on Tiwai Point closure

 Ambiguity looms over fate of 1000 workers and local ecosystem on Tiwai Point closure


  • No solution yet on closure of Tiwai Point smelter, causing lot of anxiety and worry amongst workers, and local communities.
  • The Government is trying hard to get an extension for three to five years after the due month of closure in August of 2021.
  • Local leaders were hopeful of some decision to be taken before Christmas.

As per the latest reports, there is no solution in sight for the future of 1000 workers and local communities, as no decision has been reached yet on Tiwai Point smelter closure.

Despite efforts being made by the government to keep the smelter functioning for another three to five years, if no solution is found, the smelter’s closure looks imminent in August of 2021.

Government trying hard to get extension

It is learnt that the Government and local Iwi are working hard to get a workable deal that will help the local communities as well as workers.

But Tracy Hicks who is the chairperson of Southland Mayoral Forum said that it was a bit disappointing because all stakeholders had expected for some solution before Christmas holidays.

Negotiations are on with Rio Tinto and everyone is hopeful of a solution by the beginning of next year. Megan Woods, the Minister for Energy and Resources said that the government was doing all it could to ensure that the smelter plant runs for another few years more ahead of the date of closure in August next year.

Apart from 1k workers directly employed with smelter, there are another 1.6k people who earn their salary from the contract and services that are needed for a plant to function.

Cost of Rehabilitation unknown

Further, the environmental impact of the toxic wasteland, which would remain, is also a huge worry for the local communities.

Sir Tipene O’Regan, a local leader said that there is a lot of anxiety about the impact on environment, the closure of smelter is going to have.  

It may be recalled that the smelter’s running costs have been going up, with power cost being high and the low metal prices low, this has made smelters less viable across the globe. 

About New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS)

NZAS is the nation’s sole aluminium smelter and is positioned on Tiwai peninsula, lying at the entry to Bluff Harbour (Southern coast of the South Island of NZ region).

The Tiwai Point smelter is owned by Rio Tinto (79.36%) and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Company (20.64%), and in line with the global trend they have been debating shutting down this smelter also.

Earlier, in July 2020, Rio Tinto had notified on its intention to shut down Tiwai Point since it was getting difficult to get cheap power to run the smelter smoothly.

It has been learnt that the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter has set aside NZ$298 million as a provision in its account for the shutting down and rehabilitation of its Tiwai plant, but the cost might exceed the figure.


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