Rio Tinto contemplating an exit from NT

According to The Australian Financial Review, Rio Tinto’s (ASX: RIO) decision to shut down its Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory is proving to be tougher than expected.

Amid weak aluminium prices, the company is determining the feasibility of the project in the near future. The problems faced by the refineries’ operator, Pacific Aluminium, include short supply of energy, uncertainty surrounding the aluminium price and the integration of Rio’s entire aluminium assets after a failed separation.

Since purchasing Canadian aluminium producer Alcan in 2007, the company’s aluminium assets have resulted in massive write-downs for the company. Prices of the commodity however don’t seem to be improving anytime soon.


NT Chief Minister Adam Giles scrapped plans introduced by his predecessor to supply the facility with 300 petajoules of gas because it was too risky for the NT economy. Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says he plans to keep the facility open for another 20 years by increasing the volume of gas available to 400 petajoules. However the government understands the decision rests solely with Rio.

Rio must now carefully consider the costs of closing and restarting the smelter against a decision to keep it running. The added uncertainty surrounding the aluminium price and government support doesn’t help the situation and the 1,400 who work at the facility are growing increasingly frustrated by the company’s inability to make a decision. As the largest employer in the Northern Territory, the local economy needs the $300 million the facility injects into the region.

Foolish takeaway

In recent years, BHP (ASX: BHP), Fortescue (ASX: FMG), Newcrest (ASX: NCM) and Rio have been struggling with poor commodity prices and a rise in operating costs. This has resulted in a lot of projects being sold or delayed. With an aluminium price around US$1,800 per tonne and without a guarantee of reliable energy supply, it will be unlikely the project will remain feasible in the near future.

Don’t let your portfolio get shutdown by poor stock purchases. Discover The Motley Fool’s favourite income stock for 2013-2014 in our brand-new, FREE research report, including a full investment analysis! Simply click here for your FREE copy of “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2013-2014.”

More reading

Motley Fool contributor Owen Raskiewicz does not have a financial interest in any of the mentioned companies.

Two New Stock Picks Every Month!

Not to alarm you, but you’re about to miss a very important event! Chief Investment Advisor Scott Phillips and his team at Motley Fool Share Advisor are about to reveal their latest official stock recommendation. The premium “buy alert” will be unveiled to members and you can be among the first to act on the tip.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by – this is your chance to get in early!

Simply enter your email now to find out how you can get instant access.

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.