Smelter talks still on track

Rio Tinto is trying to sell the smelter at Tiwai Pt. Photo / Supplied
Rio Tinto is trying to sell the smelter at Tiwai Pt. Photo / Supplied

Both parties to negotiations over electricity prices for the aluminium smelter near Bluff say there is no truth to reports that Meridian Energy has abandoned the talks.

"We haven't walked away from anything," said Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw in response to media reports and statements from trade unions urging government intervention to save the smelter and bring down the high value of the New Zealand dollar, which is hurting exporters.

Rio Tinto-owned New Zealand Aluminium Smelters also confirmed negotiations were continuing.

The call for government intervention from the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union coincides with a push by Opposition parties for changes to the way monetary policy is managed by the Reserve Bank in a bid to lower the dollar.

Shaw said the reports on the contract negotiations failing were wrong, including in their claim that the alleged walkout had occurred on Thursday.

The Bluff smelter is one of a portfolio of older Australasian plant that Rio is attempting to sell and has packaged as a new entity, Pacific Aluminium.

The multinational had said it hoped to renegotiate the 27-year electricity contracts concluded with Meridian in 2007 and taking effect from next year as the high NZ dollar and plummeting aluminium prices saw the smelter lose money for the second year in a row.

- BusinessDesk

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