Orica talks partnerships, mercury issues at AGM

Orica has addressed its business strategy and concerns about toxicity tests at its Port Botany site at the company’s AGM.

The Australian reports that managing director Ian Smith said capital spending, not having to make all of its own products and a greater use of partnerships would feature.

"We're quite open to the prospect that our input source may be internal or external," said Smith of the company’s manufacture of its explosives.

The chief cited the company’s Burrup plant, of which it owns 45 per cent, as a successful example of what could be done in future investments here and abroad.

"Burrup is showing us we don't have to own 100 per cent or even a controlling interest," he said.

"If we ever get into South America, for example, we may go in with a couple of different partners."

Sky News reports that Orica’s injectable chemicals and specialty bolts business was down, though the company was still likely to make its earnings guidance.

Sales in ground support products had been hurt by sluggish underground coal mining in the United States.

Also discussed were independent tests that found dangerous levels of mercury, arsenic and lead in a nature strip between Orica’s Port Botany plant and nearby houses.

Chairman Peter Duncan told Fairfax Media that a review of emissions by the Environment Protection Agency would be supported by the company.

I believe [Orica] can earn the confidence of the community and all our stakeholders,'' Duncan told Fairfax.

Orica was presented with a petition by Botany Bay resident Chantal Snell, which contained 8,500 signatures and demanded independent testing of mercury levels. Relief valves containing mercury had released the chemical when pressure levels had become excessively high, which Orica put down to legacy issues at the factory.

"These are unfortunately an inheritance. I think it is going to be quite a number of years before we can say that they are completely eliminated," said Duncan.

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