Bauxite mine set to go ahead in QLD’s far north

The development of a bauxite mine in Queensland’s Cape York is set to go ahead with five firms short-listed to detail proposals for the venture.

The bauxite lode near the Watson River at Aurukun, north of Cairns, is expected to worth more than $25 billion in untapped resources.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney announced that Chalco, Rio Tinto, Cape Aluminia and Glencore International were all vying to develop the mine, ABC reported.

A smaller player, venture company Australian Indigenous resources, is also in the running meaning local Indigenous people have a chance to own a stake in the mine.

"A much smaller bid, but a bid that we think is very important because it provides an opportunity for local Indigenous people to own a stake in the operation," Seeney said of the company.

"We are excited about the prospect of providing an opportunity for local Indigenous people to have an ownership stake in the operation of whatever mine is able to be developed there."

If Australian Indigenous Resources is successful in its bid the company would likely work alongside a multi-national firm Seeney said.

Aurukun Mayor Dereck Walpo said the mine will be the first major development in the area and will transform the community.

"We're going to have a better economy, autonomy, better developments, better education, better health," he told AAP.

"All in all we won't be depending on welfare anymore.

"Everyone's going to have a job – I feel so excited about it."

Couriermail reports that Rio Tinto is the frontrunner in the pitch, having the advantage of existing port access and water resources in the area.

Rival bidders would have to negotiate access to the Rio-owned facilities.

However Seeney said the government was keen to ensure a "level playing field" over port and water resource access.

"We can't change the geography as far as access to a port in the South of Embley, but we do believe there are large untapped volumes of water."

Chalco spent a reported $100 million on work of a previous lease over the Aurukun but cancelled the $3 billion deal in 2011, saying the previous Labor government's condition of building a refinery as unworkable.

“The [Anna] Bligh government’s failed strategy of demanding the establishment of a refinery made development of the resource uneconomic. We want to ensure the economic benefits of this resource flow back into the Aurukun community. We will see these benefits through mining jobs and improvements to infrastructure and further benefits through businesses that could be established in Aurukun to service the mine,” Seeney said.

“Our key objectives are to maximise the benefits and returns from the mine to the native titleholders and the Aurukun community and to maximise the financial returns to Queensland.”

A decision about the mine lease will be made in the next six months.


To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.