RIO TINTO has reversed its plans to close its New Zealand aluminium smelter this August, agreeing a new power contract that will see the plant operate until December 2024.
Rio Tinto announced last year that it would close its Tiwai Point aluminium smelter following a decline in aluminium prices and a failure to negotiate a lower price for power with its supplier Meridian Energy. The two companies have now reached a new agreement that Rio Tinto says makes the smelter competitive over the next four years.
“It also provides Rio Tinto, the New Zealand Government, Meridian, and the Southland community more time to plan for the future and importantly gives our hard-working team at Tiwai and our customers the certainty they deserve,” said Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios. The smelter directly employs 1,000 people.
In a briefing with investors, Meridian Energy said it is exploring the use of batteries, process heat, and hydrogen production to consume its surplus power once the Tiwai Point smelter permanently shuts down in 2024.
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