Any momentum Weipa had last year to normalise the community appears to have evaporated as new Rio Tinto GM Michelle Elvy dismissed the matter last week.
Speaking at Rio Tinto Weipa’s first community forum of 2021, Ms Elvy deflected the only question regarding normalisation.
Instead of providing a genuine update, the general manager of bauxite gave a general line about how the matter involved three parties and that Rio Tinto was just one of those.
Interestingly, Weipa Town Authority chairman Michael Rowland was not offered the microphone to give his perspective on the matter.
Rio Tinto’s refusal to make a move on normalisation would be disappointing for Mr Rowland, who stood for election on the proviso that progress would be made in the space.
Last year, it appeared the state government, Rio Tinto and Weipa Town Authority were making real progress on the matter.
That appears to have been stalled by Rio Tinto.
The forum itself proved to be a flop, with just a handful of local residents making an appearance at the Kumrumja Centre.
Ms Elvy gave an update on Rio Tinto Weipa’s performance, which got off to a rocky start in 2021 due to adverse weather.
She said the price of aluminium was increasing globally, but the price of bauxite had not followed.
“There is an over supply of bauxite at the moment,” she said while pointing to a slide showing which countries were selling most.
“Australian bauxite is good but not great. What works in our favour is if we promise a quality we deliver a quality and if you order it you get it.
“If you order it from Guinea you might not get it.”
The new GM said she had three main focuses for 2021 – safe and stable production; making Weipa and Gove a better place to work and increasing capability of the staff; and improving the culture of the business.
She praised Rio Tinto’s COVID response both this year and last, and said she was looking forward to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the WCCCA agreement in June.
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 26 April 2021.