Rio Tinto - CAFCA Press Release

Just Close The Bluff Smelter & Bugger Off

Here we go again. Every time that Rio Tinto, the gargantuan mining and processing transnational which owns 80% of the Bluff smelter feels that its charmed existence in New Zealand is going to become less cushy, it threatens to pull the plug, close the smelter and walk away. This time it has threatened to do so because of the Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme. Previously it has made an identical threat as a negotiating tactic in power price contract talks with Meridian. And it has done so before when the Government of the day called for power use reductions because of electricity shortages.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa calls Rio Tinto’s bluff. Stop crying wolf, stop holding Southland and the country to ransom. Go ahead and close the smelter and bugger off. See if we care, the country will be much better off without you. The smelter is the single biggest user of electricity, consuming one sixth of the total, 24/7 for the past nearly 40 years. It pays a top secret super cheap price that is not available to any other user and all it does is export electricity from NZ in the form of alumina, while being subsidised by all other electricity users. Once again we are being told to brace for power shortages this winter and once again this parasite is being given top priority of guaranteed uninterrupted supply.

The smelter is the textbook example of corporate welfare in New Zealand. It is the biggest bludger in the country. Those who extol the bracing discipline of market forces for everybody else are strangely coy when it comes to this corporate recidivist. When the Government renationalised the railways last week, one pejorative word which was heard a lot was “featherbedding”. If you want to see the most feathered of beds, look no further than the Bluff smelter.

What about the people who work for the smelter, directly or indirectly? The P industry provides an income for thousands of people too, but we don’t hear any demand for that insidious trade to be kept going to keep them in a job. This smelter constitutes a bigger crime against the people of New Zealand and has done for the nearly 40 years that it has been operating. In the national interest, it must be closed and the sooner the better.

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