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23 Oct 2019 | 07:14

Rio Tinto reviews future of New Zealand aluminium plant

Rio Tinto said it would conduct a strategic review of its majority interest in a loss-making aluminium smelter at New Zealand's Tiwai Point, to determine the operation's ongoing viability and competitive position.

The review would consider all options, including curtailment and closure and be complete in the first quarter of 2020.

Rio Tinto owned 79.4% of the asset and Sumitomo Chemical Company the rest. The smelter employs around 1,000 people.

The mining giant said the short- to medium-term outlook for the aluminium industry was challenging, amid high energy costs. The company would hold discussions with the New Zealand government and energy providers to explore economically viable solutions to find a pathway to profitability for the asset.

'The aluminium industry is currently facing significant headwinds with historically low prices due to an over-supplied market,' aluminium chief Alf Barrios said.

'This means that many aluminium providers are reviewing their positions.'

'Rio Tinto will work with all stakeholders including the government, suppliers, communities and employees in order to find a solution that will ensure a profitable future for this plant.'

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