Deal struck to speed up removal of aluminium dross from Mataura paper mill

The Government has announced a resolution to speed up the removal from Mataura of ouvea premix, an aluminum dross by-product stored in an old paper mill site next to the river.

Environment Minister David Parker said he hopes the resolution gives Mataura residents greater peace of mind as they will no longer need to worry about the risk from the material. It gives off hazardous ammonia gas if it gets wet. By removing the material from beside the river, the primary risk is eliminated.

“This resolution will protect the wellbeing of Southland's people and its waterways,” David Parker said. 

The agreement is the outcome of negotiations between the parties, overseen by Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook, following legal action brought by the Environmental Defence Society to determine ownership and responsibility for removing the ouvea premix.  

The Minister for the Environment joined the proceedings to facilitate a solution for removing the material from Mataura.

The Ministry for the Environment (Mfe) will share equally with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) the additional costs of accelerating the removal of the material from the Mataura site. Mfe and NZAS will contribute up to an estimated $500,000 each for these additional costs.

“It’s disappointing more public money needs to be spent on the remediation, but it reflects the history of the dross and the need to move it quickly for the benefit of our environment and Mataura residents,” David Parker said.

“After months of negotiating and exploring of options by all parties, I would like to acknowledge New Zealand Aluminium Smelters for agreeing to the material being sent to its Tiwai Point site where it will be stored in containers.

“I would also like to thank Inalco, which is processing the material, for their cooperation in reaching this agreement.”

Staff will be diverted from Inalco’s Tiwai Point operations to increase capacity and another loading site at Mataura will allow more trucks to be used.

The accelerated removal process is underway and is expected to be completed within a few months.

David Parker stressed this is a separate agreement to resolve the current situation and is not related to any agreement on the smelter's future or environmental remediation.