4 May 2021

Rio Tinto executive to meet ministers but Tiwai Pt smelter talks still on hold

10:37 am on 4 May 2021

Government ministers will meet a top Rio Tinto executive this week but are not resuming talks with the company about the Tiwai Pt smelter.

Tiwai Point

Rio Tinto aims to close the Tiwai Point smelter by the end of 2024. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Rio Tinto global aluminium business head Ivan Vella met with iwi at Bluff yesterday.

Ministers Grant Robertson and Megan Woods will hold an introductory meeting this Thursday with Vella as part of routine dialogue with business leaders.

A spokesperson said this did not signal a resumption of talks about cleaning up when the smelter closes in 2024.

"The government has paused talks with Rio Tinto until it gets a commitment from the global corporate to remediation and what it would actually do to clean up the smelter site in Bluff," they said.

"That position still stands."

A clean-up is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, most of it dealing with more than 217,000 tonnes of toxic spent cell liner (SCL) waste.

The company last week said it had discovered it had 36,000 more tonnes of this SCL waste than it thought.

New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) said all the SCL waste would be removed.

It said Vella's meetings this week reinforced the "company's commitment to a safe and responsible closure" of operations.

He met Sir Tipene O'Regan and the Te Murihiku regeneration group in Bluff on Monday.

"Ivan recognises Ngāi Tahu as mana whenua of Tiwai Point and is committed to a positive and collaborative relationship as we discuss the remediation of the site," NZAS said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs