On 6 December Rio Tinto officially re-opened Potline 4 at New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS), at Tiwai Point on the South Island. Rio Tinto and its joint venture partner Sumitomo Chemical Co. have invested USD4.1m this year to upgrade and restart the potline, adding 31,000 tonnes of production capacity. Rio Tinto owns 79.36% of NZAS with 20.64% owned by Sumitomo Chemical. NZAS produced nearly 337,000 tonnes of saleable aluminium in 2017 and provides work for around 900 employees and contractors.
The investment is underpinned by the strong market for NZAS’ products, significant enhancements in the competitiveness of the smelter and a new partnership with Meridian Energy to provide additional clean hydro energy until 2022. The potline was shut down in 2012 as the industry faced historically low aluminium prices and higher energy cost. NZAS CEO Stew Hamilton said: “We produce aluminium with one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. This is incredibly important to many of our manufacturing customers and helps them to meet the expectations of consumers buying products like computers, cars, food and drinks.” He said that NZAS would soon undergo the rigorous Aluminium Stewardship Initiative certification process. “This will extend our leadership on responsible production by providing independent verification that our metal meets the highest environmental, social and governance standards.”