Its hard to see how Rio Tinto’s one month delay in announcing its intentions about the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is a good sign for (a) the jobs of the workers affected or (b) for the New Zealand taxpayer. Either Rio Tinto is angling for another power price handout from the Key government, or is seeking more time to clinch the sale of the enterprise. Supposedly, the high grade aluminium produced at Tiwai Point makes it less subject to world prices and to competition from China – this making a sale unlikely. But that argument can cut both ways. Since Rio Tinto has been trying to sell some of its other, less attractive smelters as a package, Tiwai Point could still be the sweetener necessary to clinch the wider deal.
While we’re all still in the dark about Rio Tinto’s ultimate intentions, the corporate welfare involved so far has been breath-taking. Read the rest of this entry »