Prime Minister Ardern re-opens potline at New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter

06 December 2018

Rio Tinto today welcomed the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern to officially re-open Potline 4 at New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS), at Tiwai Point on the South Island.

Rio Tinto has invested $4.1 million this year along with its joint venture partner Sumitomo Chemical Company to upgrade and restart the potline, adding 31,000 tonnes of production capacity. Rio Tinto owns 79.36 per cent of NZAS with 20.64 per cent owned by Sumitomo Chemical Company.

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief operating officer Pacific Operations Kellie Parker said "We are proud the Prime Minister has joined us to mark this important milestone for the team at Tiwai Point and the country’s manufacturing sector.

"Expanding the production capacity at NZAS will allow us to meet the demand from customers for the value added products made here.

"Restarting this potline will increase the smelter’s production capacity by around 10 per cent and, with increased orders for other products, has created 45 jobs."

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 chief executive and general manager 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.

"I am proud to announce that NZAS will 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.

"Rio Tinto is the first in the industry to be able to produce ASI Certified Aluminium through its smelters in Canada, and once NZAS is also certified, this ground-breaking product will be available to customers in all markets."

Notes to editors
NZAS produced nearly 340,000 tonnes of aluminium in 2017 and provides work for around 900 employees and contractors.

Rio Tinto is pioneering responsible production for the aluminium industry as the only company currently able to sell material independently certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), that customers can be assured has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards.