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Mataura residents nervous about toxic by-product storage with Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter closing

Residents in Mataura are nervous about what will happen to a toxic by-product stored in their town as Bluff's Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter indicated its intention to close next year.

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The smelter's owner was meant to remove the dross over a six year period. Source: 1 NEWS

Rio Tinto, the smelter’s owner, had a deal with the Government to remove ouvea premix - dross - in the town's paper mill over a six year period. When wet, the premix releases ammonia gas.

Sort Out The Dross spokesperson Cherie Chapman said the announcement the smelter was closing “created a great amount of anxiety”.

“What is going to happen to our dross? That's the question the community in Mataura is asking,” she said. 

But, there are assurances the issue would be resolved. 

Rio Tinto said it remained committed to safely removing the premix and said the substance would continue to be moved and processed at the Tiwai Point site.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks also wanted to reassure residents the deal with Rio Tinto was a done one.

“The deal is signed and sealed and watertight,” Mr Hicks said.

But Ms Chapman said action needed to be taken faster. Floods in February last year came close to the dross. 

“They claim that they are going to stick to what they are saying and that they will get it removed, but the timeframe is far too long. 

“It needs to be shorter, get on with it.”

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A further 1600 jobs are threatened at the only aluminium processor in NZ, which is located on Tiwai Peninsula, a short distance from Bluff and Invercargill. Source: 1 NEWS

The premix, a class six hazardous substance and a by-product of the aluminium smelter, was purchased by aluminium recycling company Taha Asia Pacific. But, the company went into liquidation four years ago.