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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rio Tinto’s purchase of Alcan

Press Release: Rio Tinto’s purchase of Alcan
Earthlife Africa Jhb
23rd of July 2007

Last week, the global mining company Rio Tinto, made a deal to purchase Alcan for US$38.1 billion. In purchasing Alcan, Rio Tinto inherits the moral and social responsibility of Alcan to fully disclose the details of proposed aluminium smelter at Coega.

In particular, Rio Tinto needs to address the following outstanding concerns:

* What is the price of electricity agreed upon by Alcan and Eskom?
* What are the conditions of supply of electricity?
* Will the price paid to Eskom cover the indirect costs of smelter? For example, the environmental group TWIG has calculated that the indirect costs of harm to the environment based on Eskom CO2 emissions to supply the smelter with electricity would be R6.4 billion.
* What measures will be put in place by Rio Tinto to account for the indirect costs of operating the smelter?
* Will Rio Tinto initiate a new Environmental Impact Assessment in order to meet the concerns of citizens within the Port Elizabeth area? The EIA for the smelter was for a one pot design, while the Alcan smelter is to be a two pot design.

The purchase of Alcan represents a new opportunity for Rio Tinto. As Tristen Taylor, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa JHB, states: “By becoming the new owner of Alcan, Rio Tinto has the opportunity to do what Alcan has refused to do; that is, come clean on all the details regarding energy supply to the smelter. Rio Tinto mining has the chance to prove to South Africa that it is the kind of corporation that believes in transparency, not secrecy, and is willing to enter into public debate as a good corporate citizen.”

Earthlife Africa JHB calls upon Rio Tinto to make a special effort to fully disclose all the details of the Alcan & Eskom deal, including the actual price of electricity. This information needs to come to the forefront of public debate so that all South Africans will be able to have an opportunity to meaningfully discuss the energy future of this country.

Earthlife Africa JHB further calls upon the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to begin a new EIA process for the proposed smelter in light of the changing specifications and ownership.

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