Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Truck it back and send them the bill

Last week, toxic waste from the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter almost caused an environmental disaster in Mataura during a flood. In the wake of the flood, a deal was apparently struck to remove it. But now Rio Tinto, the foreign multinational which owns the smelter and which is ultimately responsible for the waste, has backed out at the last minute and is refusing to pay:

Environment Minister David Parker says it is "disgraceful" that aluminium manufacturer Rio Tinto has backed out of a deal to remove a hazardous substance from a building in Mataura.

Gore district council chief executive Stephen Parry announced on Wednesday morning that the deal he had struck with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters CEO Stewart Hamilton has been scuppered by Rio Tinto.

"To say I am devastated is an understatement.

"We had a deal, sealed with a good old-fashioned Southland handshake, but Rio Tinto's bosses have reneged."

Parker is right: this is disgraceful. As for what to do about it, this is Rio Tinto's waste, and cleanup should be their problem. Truck it back to Bluff, dump it on their doorstep, and bill them for the transport.

(Meanwhile, this does not bode well for Rio Tinto accepting its cleanup responsibilities if they decide to close the smelter, and it suggests that we need to impose significant environmental bonds for cleanup costs before allowing such developments in future).