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    Tiwai Point Aluminium smelter in New Zealand exempted from “Corona-virus” outbreak lockdown

  • China Aluminium Network
  • Post Time: 2020/3/26
  • Click Amount: 93

    The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, employing about 1000 Southlanders, has been exempted from the countrywide four-week lockdown in New Zealand.

    The aluminium smelter was launched in 1971 and has been running continuously. As decided the smelter has been kept out of the lockdown process, as it will keep its production persistent.

    Confusion over what services would be considered essential and permitted to remain open during the lockdown period led to a clarifying press release from the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) on 24th March night.

    The NCMC guidelines indicated that dairies would remain open, most liquor stores would close and the Warehouse would not receive the exemption it had claimed to have earlier in the day on 24th March.

    Industrial businesses received special focus: alongside Tiwai's exemption, the methanol production company Methanex was permitted to continue operating, while NZ Steel and pulp and paper plants were asked to shut down in a way that would make it easy to restart after the lockdown lifts.

    Aluminium smelters are insanely difficult to close and re-open. Shutting down the Tiwai Point smelter could take a week or more. In the same way reopening could take months and the outcome would be the expensing millions of dollars.

    The decision was delivered post the analysis of the cost of turning off the pots exceeded the benefits of the shutdown.

    Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie said: "It was a very careful decision. The coronavirus pandemic was a big threat to the health of New Zealanders.”

    She also said: “There would be a massive economic impact on Southland and New Zealand if the Tiwai smelter had to shut down.”

    She pointed out that Tiwai might struggle if its key suppliers and contractors have not deemed essential services themselves.

    Dowie said: "We have to make sure we are strategic about the suppliers and key contractors that work with Tiwai, because if they aren't operating it may force Tiwai to shut down, so we have to think strategically about the decisions we are making.”

    "But equally, we are acknowledging the threat of the pandemic which is spreading exponentially,"

    When Tiwai Point re-opened its fourth potline in 2018, it put $6 million into upgrading and restarting the line. The process took around six months.

    The decision to keep the smelter running came just a week before the deadline for Tiwai's owners, multinational mining company Rio Tinto, to announce the results of a strategic review of the plant. If the review concludes with a decision to close the plant, more than a thousand people could lose their jobs.

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