MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Comalco defends power subsidy, while citizens protest

Published by MAC on 2004-02-19


Comalco defends power subsidy, while citizens protest

The longest-enduring eco-political controversy in Aotearoa/New Zealand centres on the power price paid by Comalco, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto which operates the country's vast Tiwai Point aluminium smelter. Even before the plant was constructed in the early sixties, there were nation-wide protests at its intention to harness for power the pristine waters of sacred Lake Manipouri. And the vast subsidies secured by Rio Tinto, at tax payers expense, have never been properly divulged.

The debate over power prices erupted again last month with allegations that a government cost-benefit analysis shows Comalco continues to drain the country's economy and power supplies - a view not surprisingly disputed by the company.

Meanwhile Comalco has - for a third and record time - been cited as one of the "worst transnationals operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by a panel of leading citizens.

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