Nhulunbuy more than 24 hours without power

Residents of Nhulunbuy have been left without power for more than 24 hours.


Rio Tinto subsidiary Pacific Aluminium generates the power for the region, but due to a problem with a boiler lost power shortly after 4pm CST on Sunday.

Labor Member for Nhulunbuy Lynne Walker said communications between the NT government, Rio Tinto and the community has been appalling.

Parents sent their children to school on Monday because they received no official advice, and Nhulunbuy High School had to send students back home, she said.

Rio Tinto has posted 10 updates on its community Facebook page since the outage informing the 4000-odd residents of the town of how power restoration is progressing.

It was expecting a progressive restoration between 4pm and 6pm CST, it said, beginning with the township area, including Ski Beach, Yirrkala and Birritjimi.

Rio Tinto’s alumina refinery operation will end next month and more than 1000 workers are expected to be affected.

“I understand that with the winding back of the Rio Tinto operation, critical expertise has been lost and they are clearly struggling to get the power back on,” Ms Walker said in a statement.

Operations at Gove airport had been disrupted, using a manual hand-written system to issue boarding passes to passengers on Sunday night and Monday morning.

“The local bakery was unable to bake last night and possibly again tonight and cafes and other businesses have had to close unless they have a generator,” Ms Walker said.

“I’m also concerned about the town’s water supply. Without power, water cannot be pumped from the bore and reserves in the tank on Mt Saunders must be closely monitored.”

She said residents and businesses would be calling for compensation for loss of refrigeration and freezers.

Minister for Essential Services Willem Westra van Holthe should offer the services of experts at PowerWater Corporation (PWC) to help get the generator back up and running, Ms Walker said.

But PWC is only the retail arm of Rio Tinto’s power generation and is not responsible for power generation.

The Minister’s office is directing all inquiries about the failure to Rio Tinto.