THE Queensland Government is securing the longevity of Mount Isa as an industrial hub with a $15 million offer of support to re-brick Mount Isa Mines’ copper smelter.
Acting Premier and treasurer Curtis Pitt announced the funding in front of the Glencore owned copper smelter at Mount Isa Mines on Tuesday.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham, State Member Rob Katter, and Glencore’s chief operating officer for Australian copper assets, Mike Westerman, also spoke at the announcement.
The acting premier said the joint-funding proposal was a direct and significant way of underpinning the North West Region’s economy to keep local workers on the tools.
“The offer of a $15 million grant is about working with a crucial copper and zinc business in Mount Isa which employs more than 4,000 people and indirectly supports thousands of jobs in the local economy,” Mr Pitt said.
“It will also provide significant stimulus to the local economy.
“This support is designed to incentivise Mount Isa Mines’ further investments in the North West region.
“This grant would be contingent on Mount Isa Mines’ commitment to maintain third party access to the smelter and will be paid for through the $170 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund I unveiled in the Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Review released last week.
“The Jobs and Regional Growth Fund is part of $400 million worth of initiatives announced last week that includes the Regional Growth Fund to step up job-creation projects, especially in regional Queensland.
“Since the Palaszczuk Government took office unemployment Queensland’s unemployment rate has been cut from 6.6 per cent down to 5.9 per cent, but I am acutely aware that some of the regions – like the Outback where unemployment is currently at 12.4 per cent – are doing it tougher than other areas of the State.
“The Palaszczuk Government is squarely focused on job creation and assisting traditional industries adapt to changing market conditions.
“So we will continue to have discussions with Glencore MIM in the New Year on what other government assistance may be beneficial to help secure projects for the North West region.”
The State Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter, said news of $15 million towards the re-brick project at Glencore was a much-needed boost for families before Christmas.
“Through my discussions with Government on how to stimulate the region, keeping Mount Isa Mines alive and strong has always been front and centre,” he said.
“Mount Isa Mines is the foundation for many other businesses in the region - outlined by being named in 2009, to have made the most significant contribution to the State’s economy since 1859.”
Mr Katter said the announcement was part of a long-term strategy for the longevity of the entire region.
“This is the result of many months of high level discussions with the Government and Mike Westerman from MIM and I see it as the first step in a program to significantly add to the mine life, possibly until as long as 2060,” he said.
“It has been a high priority to see assistance for the mining industry - and at the very least ensures the copper smelter stays open until 2022 in Mount Isa.”
“The bottom line is that if we can keep Mount Isa Mines strong, we can keep businesses in the region going and ensure a long and prosperous future.”
“As the key driver for jobs and the economy, the mining sector needs Government assistance to give the mines a desperately needed boost.”
“This announcement will mean significantly prolonging the future of the mine – and importantly, keeping jobs and families in the city.”
“It also assists with keeping the copper refinery in Townsville open.”
Mr Katter said the benefits of the assistance for the mining industry would be wide-ranging.
“Particularly with Mount Isa Mines starting to smelt concentrate from other mines in the region it will have a positive flow-on effect,” he said.
“It’s also key to ensuring we can keep high volumes of product on the rail line.”
Mr Katter said enabling key industries was vital for the future of the region.
“The Mount Isa electorate generated $300 million in royalties in the 2015-16 financial year – we will see this continue with Government support to drive this important industry.”
“We’ve been crying out for the wealth created by the industry to be funnelled back into the region.”
Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham said it followed a range of meetings and discussions with local community and industry representatives.
Dr Lynham said MIM, through its smelter and concentrator, employed more than 400 people with almost the entire workforce based around Mount Isa.
“The North West Minerals Province, centred on Mount Isa, is one of the world’s richest mineral producing regions and has delivered significant economic benefits to Queensland for many decades,” he said.
“Our government established the North West Minerals Province Taskforce to work with the resource sector and communities to address resource industry challenges.
“We have released of 102 square kilometres of land for minerals exploration and allocated $500,000 to co-fund collaborative drilling initiatives to support exploration.
“I lobbied the Northern Territory Government to secure the Jemena’s Northern Gas Pipeline project to Queensland to bring a competitive gas supply into the region.
“This underlines our commitment to ensuring the north-west continues to thrive though the resources downturn and beyond.”
The rebricking of the smelter will extend its useful life by re-lining critical components including the anode and rotary holding furnaces.
A number of other local businesses will also benefit from the extension of the smelter’s operating life, including Incitec Pivot’s Phosphate Hill operation which relies partially on the sulphuric acid produced as a by-product from the smelter, he said.