Rio Tinto clean-up pledge welcomed

An environmental group which took New Zealand Aluminium Smelters to court over the ouvea premix issue in Mataura is pleased Rio Tinto is pledging to clean up the Tiwai Point site.

Environmental Defence Society (EDS) chief executive Gary Taylor said the announcement was unexpected but he was happy the company had made fresh commitments to responsibly manage the waste products.

Majority owner of the Tiwai Point smelter Rio Tinto made a series of promises on Thursday to pay for the clean-up of waste from the smelter across the South.

It said it would remove discarded dross, significantly reduce cyanide getting into the marine environment and work with others to show it could operate and close the Tiwai Point site responsibly.

The company went further and said it would take over the $4million in funding commitments already pledged by the Government, southern councils and landowners to deal with the ouvea premix waste stored in Mataura.

"Whilst EDS contends that all of these undertakings are what should be expected from a responsible corporate citizen, they are nonetheless very welcome and represent a fundamentally changed approach to what we experienced in the early phases of the litigation," Mr Taylor said.

He said it was noteworthy the company would take over previous agreements for government funding contributions and meet all costs itself.

He also commended NZAS, Rio Aluminium and Rio Tinto on their "new approach’’ to environmental management.

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