15 Feb 2020

Gore mayor puts heat on mining company to remove toxic waste

6:23 pm on 15 February 2020

Gore mayor Tracy Hicks is putting pressure on mining company Rio Tinto to speed up the removal of its dangerous waste from a Southland site.

The flooded Mataura River rips past the former Mataura paper mill

The flooded Mataura River rips past the former Mataura paper mill. Photo: ODT / Stephen Jaquiery

Flooding threatened to turn the dross stored in a old Southland paper mill into toxic waste last week, leaving residents of Mataura desperate to see the aluminum smelting byproduct gone.

During the floods, Rio Tinto told the council it would speed up the removal.

But the company that owns the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter has since reneged on the handshake deal, leaving residents of Mataura furious.

Many residents were evacuated last week because of fears flooding could have soaked the waste product, ouvea premix, and released a highly dangerous cloud of ammonia gas.

Hicks said about 250 tonnes of the dross had been shifted in recent months. But with 10,000 tonnes in total, the process was going to take years.

"It's taking too long and the people of Mataura don't deserve this," Hicks said.

"It shouldn't be costing ratepayers anything, but indeed it is and the more this goes on, the more it is a cost to ratepayers."

Environment minister David Parker is also considering legal action over the company's failure to deal with the hazardous waste.

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