PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Major Rio Tinto will close one of its four potlines at Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, in New Zealand, as part of measures to combat Covid-19.
CEO and GM of the New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter, in which Rio holds a 79.36% interest, Stewart Hamilton, said that the company had worked hard to segregate its teams and develop processes to ensure workers did not come into contact with each other during shift changes, while employees with underlying health issues were self-isolating and non-operational employees were working from home.
“Given these measures and the current climate, we also need to stabilise our operation by reducing load. To do this, we will engage with Meridian to reduce the 50 MW of electricity that supports Line 4. The work to deliver this will take place this week where we will release the Line 4 team of 35 people to support production on the other three full lines.
“Given the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 and the four-week lockdown in New Zealand, our focus is on supporting our employees in a time of uncertainty and running a safe and efficient operation to meet our obligations with customers and suppliers who are also challenged at this time,” Hamilton said.
Energy provider Meridian Energy confirmed that consumption to the smelter would reduce for a period of up to six months.
“Reducing consumption on the fourth potline provides the smelter with more flexibility to manage the safety of its on-site staff as it manages operations through the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Meridian CEO Neal Barclay.
“New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter has advised us this possible reduction is not related to the wider strategic review currently being conducted by the smelter’s owner Rio Tinto,” he added.
Rio in October last year announced that it would conduct a review into the future of the smelter, to determine the operation’s ongoing viability and competitive position.
The strategic review will consider all options, including curtailment and closure, and was scheduled for completion in the first quarter of this year.