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NEWBIGGIN-by-the-Sea resident Bill Harris expressed his concerns regarding the future of Rio Tinto’s Lynemouth site (News Post Leader, August 2).

Before I respond to each of Mr Harris’ points, I will comment on how Rio Tinto will manage the closure of the plant and the impact this will have on the local community.

The plant will be closed and decommissioned and the site remediated according to stringent standards of health, safety and environmental stewardship.

In parallel to this, Rio Tinto will deploy a Regional Economic Development programme which will have two main priorities, namely the attraction of new investment and jobs to Lynemouth and measures to ensure we leave behind us a legacy which will benefit the community for years.

We will work with all interested parties to identify and attract new investment to Lynemouth so it is vitally important we prepare the site for future alternative uses.

That means we have to promote Lynemouth as a world-class option for investors, whether they are locally, nationally or internationally-based.

That in turn requires a rigorous decommissioning and remediation plan and that is exactly what we are committed to delivering.

On the matter of the ash lagoons, these are an integral part of the power station and as such, their ownership will transfer with the sale of the plant, a process we hope to conclude later this year.

Responsibility for the safe management and restoration of the lagoons will also transfer to the new owner so residents should be assured this very tightly regulated area of the site will remain in safe hands.

Mr Harris also refers to mine waste on the beach.

We understand this was deposited there by Ellington Colliery up until its closure, but not by or as a result of what was then the Alcan power station.

Indeed in recent times, we have sponsored and participated in beach clean-up activities on this stretch of coastline which carries the designation ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’.

Mr Harris also asks about the wind turbines. These are located on Rio Tinto land but they are owned and operated by Scottish Power Renewables.

There will be no further development of the wind farm unless it is to attract investment and jobs to Lynemouth or leaves other long-term community benefits.

Furthermore, any extension of the wind farm would have to go through the usual planning process including community liaison.

The closure of the smelter was very regrettable and we will continue to do whatever we reasonably can to mitigate the impact on those directly affected, not least our past and present workforce and the local community.

Rio Tinto is deeply committed to the economic development of south east Northumberland and we will not neglect the role we can play in attracting new jobs to the community and in securing a better future for the people who live here.

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to Mr Harris’ questions and I would urge anyone with similar concerns to contact us via our website (www.rtalynemouth.co.uk) or on Twitter (@rta_lynemouth) or by attending our next public meeting which we will hold later this year.

JOHN McCABE

Regional Economic Development Director

Rio Tinto