Southland Environment to Release Independent Monitoring Report for Tiwai Point

The Tiwai smelter is due to close at the end of 2024, leaving excess power for other projects.

John Hawkins / Stuff

The Tiwai smelter is due to close at the end of 2024, leaving excess power for other projects.

Environment Southland will not publicly release an independent report on its monitoring at the Tiwai Point smelter, saying its release could hinder any investigation and detection of breaches.

In February, Environment Minister David Parker allocated $ 300,000 to the area council to increase testing and monitoring at Tiwai Point to determine the environmental corrective measures needed to shut down the smelter.

Regional Council CEO Rob Phillips hired Aurecon, an engineering, design and consulting firm, to provide specialist technical expertise to the site.

The company had produced a report, but Glen McMurdo, Environment Southland’s Acting Compliance Officer, said: “The Aurecon report cannot be released at this point as its release could hinder any investigation and detection of offenses “.

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The Ministry of the Environment confirmed that it had not received this report.

Environment Southland also hired EHS Support, an environmental consultancy with international experience in foundry shutdowns, to review a detailed investigation report on the site, which was released by New Zealand Aluminum Smelters (NZAS) on Friday.

NZAS said the report, which included the results of the foundry site contamination, “may cause concern.”

The aluminum producer hired GHD Limited to complete the detailed site survey as part of studies to ensure the site was remediated to the level required when it closed.

Samples were collected from 238 locations, mostly at levels 10 cm to 1 m below the surface, and were assessed against a series of criteria in accordance with the Ministry of the Environment’s Contaminated Land Management Guidelines in depending on potential future land use: industrial or recreational.

In total, GHD found that 83% of the groundwater samples exceeded the guidelines for New Zealand Drinking Water Standards and Southland Environmental Rules on Groundwater.

In July 2020, Rio Tinto announced that it would end operations at the foundry, which employs more than 1,000 people, by August 2021 due to high energy and transmission costs. However, after reaching an agreement on a new electricity deal with Meridian Energy, operations were to continue until December 31, 2024.

Foundry owner Rio Tinto has confirmed that it will remove all of the spent cellular liner, a hazardous byproduct produced during the aluminum smelting process, at Tiwai Point near Bluff.

However, documents released under the Official Information Act show that until a recent meeting with government ministers, Rio Tinto was unwilling to make the pledge, citing that it had not a complete understanding of the condition of the foundry site.

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