PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The resources sector has welcomed a half-billion-dollar commitment by the Queensland government to boost mineral freight exports on the Mount Isa line.
The government on Sunday announced a A$128-million initiative to lower freight charges and to build a new container terminal at the Port of Townsville. This is in addition to an already beefed up, previously-announced, five-year line maintenance budget of A$380-million to support north Queensland’s resource industry.
The announcement comes ahead of the state Budget, with Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad saying the investment would promote mining and exploration in the state’s north-west.
“Our state’s economy is stronger when we have a reliable supply of minerals for export,” Trad said.
“This investment underlines our commitment to backing regional communities and regional jobs. We can improve reliability with better transport infrastructure and that’s what this plan will do.”
Queensland’s North West mineral province contains about 75% of the state’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits, while the Port of Townsville is Australia’s largest exporter of zinc, copper, lead and fertiliser.
“A number of mines are trucking minerals from the north-west to the port, and the trains that are carrying minerals in shipping containers have to be unloaded at Stuart and then trucked 12 km to the port,” Trad said.
“Building a new common user rail freight terminal at the port will make the Mount Isa line more attractive for exporters and take trucks off the Flinders Highway and Townsville’s roads.”
The state government will contribute A$30-million towards the freight terminal’s construction, with the Port of Townsville providing the remaining A$18-million.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey noted that the government would also provide A$80-million over four years to reduce rail access charges on the Mount Isa line, to drive the shift from road to rail.
“The Mount Isa line is critical for north Queensland’s economy, and making it more efficient and cost competitive is vital to support and grow resources exports in the region,” Bailey said.
Bailey noted that the major repairs Queensland Rail carried out on more than 200 sites across 300 km of track, following the monsoonal weather event earlier this year, have resulted in cutting almost an hour off the travel time between Mount Isa and Townsville, significantly improving efficiency and increasing capacity.
Furthermore, the government is investing A$380-million over five years to maintain and improve the line, making the freight journey faster and more reliable.
Bailey said the government’s investment would give greater certainty to companies that relied on the Mount Isa line and would generate regional jobs, including construction jobs for the new Townsville Port Rail Freight Terminal.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the investment, labelling it a new driver in investment, exports and jobs.
QRC CEO Ian Macfarlane said that the investment was a commitment of confidence in the resources sector, particularly copper, zinc and lead.
“The potential for the north-west is enormous. Already resources – mining and mineral processing – contributes A$1.7-billion, or more than a third, of the region’s economy and supports almost 10 000 full-time equivalent jobs or almost three-quarters of the region’s workforce,” Macfarlane said.
“By reinvesting in the rail line, the government can work with industry to create more wealth, more exports and more jobs for Queenslanders. It will create opportunities in the north-west through to Townsville and the port, as well as to supplying businesses across the state.
“We are keen to work with the government on the staging of the upgrade to secure the return on this investment for all Queenslanders as soon as possible.”