Pre-Christmas Tiwai Pt talks planned

JAMES WEIR
Last updated 12:03 07/12/2012

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Meridian Energy is resuming talks with Rio Tinto before Christmas about the power company's contract to supply to the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter in Southland.

The Tiwai smelter uses about 15 per cent of New Zealand's power, from Meridian's giant Manapouri station.

Earlier this year Rio Tinto said the large 40-year old smelter could close if it could not secure cheaper power prices from Meridian. The smelter employs about 600 people.

State owned Meridian has a binding contract with the smelter company NZAS, signed in 2007 and covers the 18 years from January 1, 2013.

Earlier this year, Rio Tinto ask Meridian to look at the contract and decide if it was prepared to change it “in a number of ways”.

At Meridian energy's annual meeting in Wellington today, Meridian chief executive Mark Binns said they had told Rio Tinto of the areas they were prepared to make amendments in a number of ways and those areas they were not.

“We have been contacted by Rio Tinto and some further discussions will occur before Christmas,” Binns said.

But he said the content of the talks remained “confidential” and he would not detail which areas were up for discussion and which were not.

The Meridian board had to look at the matter on the basis of what was important to the company under the SOE Act and the Companies Act.

“Undoubtedly there will be more on that later in the year, or early in the new year, as matters develop,” Binns said.

Meridian was “starting from the position where we would like Rio Tinto to stay” Binns said.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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