Super pit back on the Mount Isa agenda

MOTHER LODE: The idea of a super pit at Mount Isa Mines has been around since 2014 but never considered a viable proposition. Photo: Derek Barry
MOTHER LODE: The idea of a super pit at Mount Isa Mines has been around since 2014 but never considered a viable proposition. Photo: Derek Barry

The LNP has made an election commitment to revisit the proposal of a super pit at Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines.

LNP Shadow Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said an LNP government would invest $5 million in the resource sector in Mount Isa to undertake a feasibility study for a multi-mineral super pit.

“To grow the resources sector we need to build more infrastructure, drive more investment and deliver more jobs,” Mr Cripps said.

“This study is about planning for the future and creating jobs for the Mount Isa community.”

The super pit idea was abandoned in 2014 due to cost and safety concerns but Mr Cripps said it would increase regional Queensland’s resource capability, drive more investment and deliver more jobs in the local community.

“An LNP Government will also undertake a further expansion of the North West Minerals Province to ensure the resources sector continues to prosper in regional Queensland,” he said.

He said investing in the resources sector was a part of the LNP’s plan to Build a Better Queensland by creating much-needed regional jobs.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk has failed the sector by hitting them with red tape, reduced spending and failed to even develop a resources policy,” he said.

A proposal for a $400 million super pit at Black Rock has been floating around for a few years though Glencore has never publicly said it was viable.

The North West Queensland Strategic Development Study of May 2014 produced for MITEZ and regional stakeholders did discuss the case study of an open pit project at Mount Isa Mines.

It said MIM had completed a pre-feasibility study of a large zinc-lead-copper open pit with the potential to extend the life of the current operation to 2060.

However the study found the project was not financially viable and illustrated the difficulties in developing large resource bases in the North West.

The study said Glencore had identified four major issues with the idea.

Issue 1 was the complexity of the ore body which would require new technology to extract the metal.

Issue 2 was the visual amenity which would require expensive lateral spreading and transportation of tailings.

Issue 3 was contemporary air quality standards which could restrict operations when emissions may impact the local community.

Issue 4 was the high cost of supplying a workforce in a remote region due to relocating, accommodating and renumerating personnel.

When then-LNP premier Campbell Newman launched the Strategic Development Study in June 2014 he said he wanted to consult with the community about legislation that prevented profitability of the pit.

“If the community want a debate about the future of the economic base, I'd welcome that,'' Mr Newman said.

“If it means the mine can continue to 2060 then we'd be happy to work on amended conditions that will protect the town from environmental impacts, but would mean the mine could continue for another 45 years.''