CARPENTARIA Shire Council would consider operating the Port of Karumba if a mining company committed at least a decade exporting from it.
Premier Campbell Newman supported the council’s proposal to operate it. Mayor Fred Pascoe said the council considered ownership of the port because current operators Ports North were too “East Coast centric”.
Although the Port’s new chair Brett Moller was “a decent bloke”, the revenue generated from the port which included significant payment fees from MMG’s Century Mine was being put into ports such as Cairns.
“Karumba is treated like a poor cousin,” the mayor said.
Premier Campbell Newman asked if the council would consider taking control after hearing the council’s concerns last year, Mr Pascoe said.
But the council recently decided it could not afford operations of the port considering MMG’s intention to close down Century Mine next year.
“It creates an uncertainty on getting revenue,” Mr Pascoe said.
“If another mine committed 10 to 15 years we would have grabbed it in a flash.”
The council hoped instead to have a representative on the Ports North Board, as they were “all east coast personnel.”
Mr Pascoe said he would like to “revisit the issue” if the port’s future security improved.
He said there was much potential in the port as it was the only one between Townsville and Darwin that could be accessed on a sealed road, and it could operate 365 days of the year.
“There’s a myth it [the port] closes down in the wet season, it’s not the case at all.”
Mr Pascoe said the port could benefit the local industry, especially for smaller mines that could not send ore on the Mount Isa to Townsville railway, as it was heavily used by Glencore and BHP Billiton. The Port of Karumba could avoid the Great Barrier Reef and travel directly to China and India, he said.
The port could also import products such as fertiliser and fuel.
A proposed railway line from Cloncurry to Karumba would be the “game changer” to spark further development of the port, Mr Pascoe said.
He said it would cost a lot of money but it would be feasible, especially considering how much it would develop the region.
“Whether it happens in my lifetime or not it’s going to happen,” the mayor said.
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