The Queensland Government has unveiled a A$500 million ($342 million) plan to boost mineral freight exports on the Mount Isa Line.
Freight charges will be discounted, and a new container terminal built at the Port of Townsville to support an already improved five-year line maintenance budget to support north Queensland’s resource industry, the government said.
Announcing the plan at the Port of Townsville this week, Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Jackie Trad, said 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, according to Trad, 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.”
Sarah Dixon, General Manager of Aurizon’s Bulk East business, which trains transport minerals, industrial products and livestock for customers on the Townsville to Mount Isa rail corridor, welcomed the investment in the rail line.
“Aurizon welcomes these initiatives to improve the cost and performance of rail infrastructure which is critical to the economic success of the north west minerals province,” she said.
The Palaszczuk Government, led by Annastacia Palaszczuk, will contribute A$30 million towards the freight terminal’s construction, with the Port of Townsville providing the remaining A$18 million.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, said the Palaszczuk 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, adding that close to 75% of the freight on the Mount Isa Line was made up of wagons carrying minerals, fertiliser and acid.
“Commercial operators pay access charges to Queensland Rail to use the Mount Isa line and industry has called on the Palaszczuk Government to make rail freight more competitive. We’ve listened and will provide Queensland Rail with A$20 million each year starting, from 1 July this year, to reduce rail access charges and will work with industry on implementation arrangements,” he said.
He added: “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.
“The Palaszczuk Government is investing A$380 million over five years to maintain and improve the line, making the freight journey faster and more reliable.”