More power to Mount Isa

AN ambitious $800 million to $900 million project to plug Mount Isa's mining hub into the national electricity grid could double the lifespan of some of the country's biggest mines, and fuel growth in the north-west minerals province, Premier Anna Bligh announced.

AN ambitious $800 million to $900 million project to plug Mount Isa’s mining hub into the national electricity grid could double the lifespan of some of the country’s biggest mines, and fuel growth in the north-west minerals province, Premier Anna Bligh announced.

Bligh announced that IsaLink Pty Ltd – an Australian-based company that is majority owned by the Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Group – proposes a 1100km high-voltage power line, running from central Queensland to the Ernest Henry mine north of Cloncurry.

Bligh also announced that the project has been declared ‘significant’ by the Coordinator-General, Colin Jensen. The State significance declaration means the all-of-government assessment is streamlined by being brought together under the control of the Coordinator-General.

IsaLink Pty Ltd, will now conduct detailed investigations as part of a robust environmental impact statement (EIS) before any final alignment is identified.

The EIS looks at the social, economic and environmental impacts of a project, and is a requirement for projects declared ‘significant’.

“The EIS is also the key document on which public comment is sought in the lead-up to approval decisions on a project,” she said.

The Premier said that the State is committed to the supply of competitively-priced energy into north-west Queensland so that the region can fulfill its minerals export potential.

“The booming north-west minerals province is fast becoming the economic engine-room of the state, and the country.

“A new high-voltage electricity transmission line could see Mount Isa’s mines hooked up to the national electricity market for the first time, giving access to competitively-priced energy.

“This could slash the energy prices for some remote mines, currently using diesel power, by as much as 50 percent.

“Potentially, this could double the operating life of some of the country’s biggest, most economically important mines at the same time.

“As electricity costs can account for up to 40% of mine operating costs, slashing the power bills would see uneconomic, harder-to-mine mineral resources become profitable, allowing Queensland to reap the massive economic rewards.

“Queensland has a greater number of high energy users, mainly customers in the resources sector, than any other state.

“Collectively, they consume 31% of the total energy of the state, with most of these in regional Queensland.

“Since investigating the potential for future growth as part of the Northern Economic Triangle initiative, we know that demand for energy is especially strong in north-west Queensland,” she said.

Member for Mount Isa Betty Kiernan said the announcement was a big step towards ensuring Queensland’s north-west remained one of Australia’s economic powerhouses for decades to come.

“The major demand centres in north and north-western Queensland have the potential for substantial new investment in minerals processing activities,” Kiernan said.

“But they require bulk quantities of competitively-priced energy to do that.

“This is an important issue for the north-west. Over the past year and a half I have made securing competitively-priced energy for the region one of my top priorities.

“Today’s announcement is the first step towards meeting that challenge head-on.”

Member for Fitzroy Jim Pearce said that again central Queensland was playing a vital role in fuelling the State’s development.

“Linking the power grid from near Stanwell to Mt Isa has the potential – if it goes ahead – to offer jobs in construction and ensure more diversity for the State’s continued development.”

Bligh said if approved, the IsaLink proposal would see:

  • the construction of a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line from the national grid in Central Queensland to the minerals province
  • a new AC/DC converter station at the connecting point with the national grid an AC/DC converter station built near the Ernest Henry mine north of Cloncurry
  • the upgrade of the existing power line between the Ernest Henry mine and Mount Isa

Bligh said that subject to commercial viability, the line could be extended in the future to provide power to the McArthur River mine, Darwin and other customers in the Northern Territory.

“The Coordinator-General is preparing draft Terms of Reference for the EIS and these will be released for public comment shortly. It is anticipated the environmental assessment would be submitted for formal public comment, and government review by the end of 2008.”

The public can review information on the proposal that is set out in the Initial Advice Statement (IAS) prepared by IsaLink Pty.

The document is available for download at: www.infrastructure.qld.gov.au/eis

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