TIWAI POINT, SOUTHLAND, NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) converts alumina into aluminium using renewable hydroelectricity, resulting in one of the lowest carbon footprints for an aluminium smelter in the world.
The smelter is located on Tiwai Peninsula in Southland and the majority of the plant's alumina is supplied from our Yarwun operation and Queensland Alumina Limited refineries. Around 90% of the aluminium produced at NZAS is exported.
NZAS is a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (79.36%) and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Company (20.64%).
In July 2020, we announced the planned wind-down of operations and eventual closure of NZAS, scheduled for August 2021. Our decision followed a strategic review and extensive discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, which showed the business is no longer viable given high energy costs and a challenging outlook for the aluminium industry.
We will continue working with our partners as we progress towards closure, and will do all we can – together with the government – to find ways to support the Southland community.
Innovation at NZAS
Innovation is at the heart of our operation. Our General Manager’s Innovation Awards, held three times per year, recognise creative and practical ways to improve our workplace by reducing risk and adding value.
For example, we have used virtual reality (VR) for more than a decade to create safer, more productive and effective processes. It has been applied to improve training, enrich the understanding of communities about the site, and improve the planning of projects.
Recently we developed an application using VR technology to re-enact an incident. This pioneering use of VR helped to answer questions about the incident, increase learning and improve safety.
We also have a “Leading for Safety” project that pioneered our Vehicle Prestart Check App. This app is being used in production on 40 vehicles – replacing the former paper-based approach. The app allows drivers to use in-vehicle tablets to perform quick and easy checks; it notifies drivers immediately with on-board warnings and guidance if there are any failed checks. The app also provides consolidated reports on the status of each fleet's pre-start checks at a glance.
Low Carbon Aluminium
NZAS is proud to have its metal marketed under Rio Tinto's RenewAl brand. As the world moves towards a lower carbon future, the RenewAl brand can help NZAS take advantage of growing demand for high-quality aluminium to be used in more sustainable, low-carbon products. RenewAl certifies NZAS metal as being some of the lowest carbon in the world.
In 2019, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) granted its Performance Standard and Chain of Custody certifications to our NZAS aluminium smelter. ASI certification means customers can be assured that the aluminium they purchase has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to human rights.
We strive to establish and maintain community relationships that positively contribute to the quality of life where we live and work, and by supporting partnerships that are mutually beneficial and deliver long-term, sustainable results.
We have been the major sponsor of the annual NZAS Southland Science & Technology Fair since 2003. Students are required to investigate a topic of their choice using a scientific method of hypothesis, method, test and conclusions.
We also have a longstanding partnership with Southland Girls' High School, designed to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and science. Each year we host students at the smelter for a week so they can learn about career options and work on a project gathering, testing and analysing data. We sponsor the Kiwi Can Operating in local schools, the programme aims to equip young Southlanders with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence, valuable life skills, an ability to take responsibility for their actions and a "can-do" attitude to life.
We are making an effort to increase our gender diversity through a programme that includes increasing the intake of female apprentices, hosting workshops to focus on how we can attract more women and how our recruitment advertising is pitched. We have a big opportunity to make our site a more diverse and inclusive workplace and we are doing everything we can to step up to that challenge.
We strive wherever possible to buy locally and employ locally, investing in our community by supporting economic activity and contributing towards a sustainable future.
We also focus on training, apprenticeships and employment opportunities. Our graduate programme is designed to attract and develop employees to bring fresh thinking, different perspectives and new skill sets.
We have identified 27 cultural heritage sites located on land owned and managed by the smelter. They include European burials and structures, as well as Māori sites such as middens/ovens, burials and an adze workshop. Wahi tapu, wahi taoka and mahinga kai are also present on Tiwai Peninsula. We have a Cultural Heritage Management System Plan in place to look after these important sites.