Leadership at New Zealand Aluminium Smelter said this week that they were optimistic that the Tiwai plant will stay open past the planned closing date in 2024.
Commenting at a local open forum, NZAS CEO Chris Blenkiron told attendees that he has plans to confer with local energy firms to land an agreement to power the aluminium smelter by year’s end.
“My biggest impact on morale is to get a future beyond 2024 and to get clarity. A lot of people get impacted by the ambiguity, it impacts Southland in general saying ‘are we open or are we closed’ […] for me that’s the focus, to get rid of the ambiguity in the future, one way or another.”
Blenkiron went on to acknowledge a statement by Meridian Energy that it is not currently discussing a new energy contract with NZAS.
“That is an absolute true statement because we are not in active negotiation,” Blenkiron explained.
“There are disclosure obligations due to our size and impact that an electricity contract may have on a generator, so they have to be very explicit […] we’re constantly talking to them [Meridian Energy], and I don’t get the sense that they are not up for a conversation.”
Remediation at the site was a major concern brought up at the meeting, but Blenkiron said that work at NZAS continues in that realm as well. The aluminium smelter currently has a contract to ship 30 thousand metric tons of spent potlining, but the firm must first secure appropriate permits before shipping can begin.
“That is a long, drawn-out process. We would start having it on a ship tomorrow if we could, but that is a long process.”
“We’re constantly looking through all of those details,” he continued. “We’re constantly engaging with commercial partners as to where it can add some value, and where in the industrial process it can be used […] there’s lots of detail that sits behind this stuff, it’s a pretty complex problem to solve.”