Rio Tinto

Driverless technology is here and being deployed

Remind me again why we are looking at rails to solve transport problems?

In Australia Rio Tinto has deployed 69 driverless trucks across several mine sites.

The first two mines in the world to start moving all of their iron ore using fully remote-controlled trucks have just gone online in Western Australia’s Pilbara.

Mining giant Rio Tinto is running pits at its Yandicoogina and Nammuldi mine sites, with workers controlling the driverless trucks largely from an operations centre in Perth, 1,200 kilometres away.

Josh Bennett manages the mining operations at Yandicoogina mine north west of Newman and is closely involved with running 22 driverless trucks on the site.

Mr Bennett said the two pits are the largest of their kind in the world.

“To the naked eye it looks like conventional mining methods. I guess the key change for us is the work that employees and our team members are doing now,” he said.

“What we have done is map out our entire mine and put that into a system and the system then works out how to manoeuvre the trucks through the mine.”    Read more »

Government refusing to put more corporate welfare into Tiwai

I hope they decide to stay”, said Key this morning.

Looks like National’s favourite pollster has told them the public have lost their appetite for corporate handouts.  Too many stuff-ups by Steve has come home to roost.

A decision to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open appears increasingly likely.

Meridian Energy and MightyRiverPower shares gained 3 percent on Friday ahead of a scheduled announcement today on the future of the Bluff industrial plant that uses about 13 percent of all the electricity generated in New Zealand.

Meridian is presumed to be a winner from whatever is announced because it could expect to sell 572 Megawatts of electricity it currently provides to Tiwai Point at a price better than the discounted level it renegotiated in 2013.     Read more »

Finally a minister who gets that driverless cars and not trains is our future

Simon Bridges appears to get it.

That our future lies in enabling technologies not restrictive technologies.

Trains are constrained by tracks and are not at all versatile, whereas driverless vehicles are enabling in many, many ways.

The prospect of cars travelling New Zealand highways with no one behind the wheel is moving closer says new Transport Minister Simon Bridges. Officials are reviewing legislation allowing for the testing of umanned autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Mr Bridges has pledged to work with environmental interests while also pursuing the Government’s road building programme.

Mr Bridges said he was committed to “a balanced approach” and ongoing investment roads were important even from a green perspective, “over time as we move to electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles”.

Mr Bridges said the Government was not doing a great deal to accommodate autonomous vehicle technology, “but I don’t think there’s any doubt that if you look at what’s going on internationally, maybe not in the next couple of years, but over time we will see driverless vehicles and that will have implications, like for example less congestion because vehicles can travel closer together”.

Read more »

Hooton on Labour’s version of crony capitalism

Corporate shill Matthew Hooton calls out David Cunliffe for his own version of crony capitalism.

The most disappointing aspect of John Key’s government is its tendency toward crony capitalism and corporate welfare.

Most passionately debated were the tax breaks and employment law changes for the movie industry after lobbying from Sir Peter Jackson andWarner Bros.

The SkyCity deal involved the government foregoing future revenues from casino relicensing to get a Convention Centre at no immediate cost.

The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, with annual revenues of over $1 billion, was given a one-off handout of $30 million, an amount which cannot materially improve its viability.

The government tried to keep prices for broadband and landlines artificially high to subsidise Chorus.

These are the best-known examples but seldom does a week go by without Steven Joyce announcing a new handout to some chosen sector or firm.

I don’t subscribe to subsidies, but politicians love the pork.

In his first party conference speech as leader, Mr Cunliffe launched a fearsome assault on National for “tilt[ing] the playing field even further” towards its “mates.”

“[National]’s Hall of Shame,” Mr Cunliffe boomed, “involves those shabby deals with Warner Brothers, Sky City, Rio Tinto and Chorus.”

Quite accurately, Mr Cunliffe reported businesspeople telling him they wanted no part of it. “They want a level playing field that’s fair and transparent, not one set of rules for National’s mates and another for everyone else,” he said.

It was a superb issue for Labour because it unifies everyone from the anti-business far left to the New Zealand Initiative, the resurrected Business Roundtable.

Now Labour has gone and blown it.  Read more »

Cunliffe invests with big American firm, not Kiwi companies

At the same time that David Cunliffe is busily explaining his donation laundering scheme to an incredulous media, perhaps he’d like to explain why he doesn’t back Kiwi companies for his Kiwisaver account.

Cunliffe’s Kiwisaver is with Mercer Kiwisaver. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercer USA which is listed on the NYSE through its parent company Marsh and McLennan.

I wonder if the “optics” of Cunners using a big US firm to invest his taxpayer funded Kiwisaver subsidies (taking profits back to America etc) is damaging, especially when he could be using a NZ based Kiwisaver like Gareth Morgan, Milford, or Fisher Funds.

Maybe the man from Boston Consulting just can’t bear to not use his big American buddies…

It would be funny if Mercer Kiwisaver had investments in Skycity as well.

Oh wait while I just laugh.

2.75% of the Kiwisaver fund is SkyCity – number 7 in size.

Mercer Read more »

Is Rio Tinto NZ’s biggest corporate bludger?

Rio Tinto has turned into a massive corporate bludger.

They have stiffed taxpayers $30 million and Bill English and John Key let them.

Meridian Energy has resolved its negotiations with Rio Tinto subsidiary New Zealand Aluminium Smelters locking in the Tiwai smelter until at least January 2017 – with the help of a $30 million subsidy from the New Zealand government.

The deal, which has been a year in the making, will help clear the way for Meridian’s $5 billion float on the stock exchange – expected to go ahead before the end of the year.

Resolution of the negotiations has been viewed as essential for the Government to get a good sales price for Meridian because the smelter is a key customer of Meridian.

It also makes up around 13 per cent of New Zealand electricity demand and closure of the plant would have impacted power prices across the board.

Things are pretty bad for the government when David Farrar gives them a ticking off.

But bloody annoyed they screwed $30 million from the taxpayers as a subsidy. I think the Government shouldn’t have given them a cent. If the smelter closes, so be it. It is not the job of taxpayers to subsidise unprofitable industries.

If only David was as consistent with other corporate bludgers.

Tiwai Point & Manapouri – A brief political history

With all the fuss over Rio Tinto and their strong-arm tactics it is perhaps interesting to look over the history of Tiwai Point and the political football it has become and always was. Linked with the smelter has always been Manapouri and together they have an interesting political history and Labour is all over it.

They sold out a National Park to a foreign company – and gave away 99 year exclusive water rights.  It’s also clear that the smelter bosses have always tried to change the rules and drive a harder bargain.

The current wrangle is definitely nothing new. Look what a trip through Wikipedia finds:

1956 –  Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited (later known as Comalco) formally approached the New Zealand government about acquiring a large amount of electricity for aluminium smelting.  Read more »

Key calls Rio Tinto’s bluff

Well so much for the shonkey, donkey & lackey of foreign interests rolling over for Rio Tinto to keep asset sales on track as predicted by Clayton Cosgrove.

John Key has called their bluff.

Prime Minister John Key has called Anglo-American mining giant Rio Tinto’s bluff, saying the government will offer no more than the short-term subsidy offered last week to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open.

Key told the TV3 and Newstalk ZB networks that Rio, which owns just on 80 percent of the 41 year-old smelter, had rejected the short term subsidy over Easter weekend, saying it needed a long term deal and was returning to talks with its supplier, Meridian Energy.

“We have put our best foot forward, put our only card on the table,” Key told TV3’s Firstline. “We have no interest in a long term subsidy. If it can’t stand on its own two feet, it shouldn’t be there.”  Read more »

Oops…there’s a hole in my budget

Wayne Swan faces a great big problem of his own making…a ginormous hole in his budget:

Revelations today that not a single cent of mining tax was paid in the first three months of this financial year indicate the $1.1 billion surplus forecast on Monday may be gone already.

The mid-year budget update estimated that due to falling commodity prices, primarily a result of declining demand from China, the revenue from the minerals resource rent tax would be downgraded from $13.4 billion to $9.1 billion over its first four years of operation.

This financial year, the MRRT revenue was downgraded from $3 billion to $2 billion. Now that appears ambitious at best.

You might not think that is a big problem but it is…because just like here the government has booked and allocated spending based on that revenue. Working for Families was implemented by Labour when they were claiming that budget surplus’ were structural. When National came in the Global Financial Crisis wiped out those surplus’ but the spending remained.

The mining tax is pegged to profits and commodity prices and if the latter is down, so is the former.

Regardless of this formula, claiming vindication today will be people such as Andrew ”Twiggy” Forrest, who claimed from the outset that the big miners — BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata — swindled the government when they renegotiated the mining tax after Kevin Rudd was ousted by being able to deduct the market value of their operations from their mining tax liability.

The crisis of the tax making little or no money will be exacerbated by several factors.

First, the government has already spent the budgeted proceeds on cash handouts for low and middle-income families, tax breaks for small business and increased superannuation contributions. It was to fund a company tax cut but the government junked that promise at the May budget because the Coalition and the Greens would not pass the legislation for a company tax cut.

Second, the government is still committed to refunding all future state royalty increases because the renegotiated MRRT had a massive loophole promising to refund the miners for all current and future royalty increases imposed by the states.

Unless the government makes good its threat to punish the states, which continue to increase royalties by withholding other forms of revenue, it faces further budget pressure.

Third, the government is bound to come under pressure from the Greens and independents to go back to Parliament and toughen up the legislation. At the very least, the Greens are stepping up claims this morning to close the royalties loophole.

Labor is already hated in the state after taking a bath in every state election. by punishing them further as a result of the budget hole Swan risk consigning Labor to the scrap heap in an electoral bloodbath.

Gillard is under pressure on many fronts by sticking up for dodgy ministers and former unionists, but now having a massive hole int eh budget to contend with things are looking dicey.

Three Little Letters

Shearer and Labour have been complaining a lot today about job losses at Tiwai Point.

I have a three letter reponse ETS.

The owners of the Tiwai Pt Aluminium smelter say the Government’s emissions trading scheme puts the smelter on the path to closure, which would cost thousands of jobs and more than $1 billion a year in exports.

Rio Tinto Alcan (which includes the former Comalco) told MPs hearing submissions on the emissions trading bill yesterday that in its present form it meant New Zealand would not remain a cost-competitive place to manufacture aluminium.

The smelter could not pass on the extra cost of its carbon emissions to its customers, Rio Tinto’s Asia/Pacific president Xiaoling Liu said.

Nor would it be competitive, until there was a global price on carbon emissions reflected in aluminium prices.

Labour’s planned ETS would have shut Tiwai Point years ago.