A dredger arrived in the Port of Karumba over the weekend and commenced its first cut of the Channel.
A spokesperson for New Century Resources, which is paying for the dredging said the program would last for around two months and allow for the operation of their transhipment vessel, the MV Wunma on all tides.
“It’s very pleasing that this dredging will also re-establish the Port as a facility for live cattle export, which has been significantly reduced in Karumba since the previous owners of the Century Mine ceased operations,” the spokesperson said.
The Karumba Port was shut down to large scale cattle exports in 2015 following MMG’s closure of Century Mine which had been footing the majority of the dredging costs for the port during its operation forcing live cattle exporters around Karumba to send their cattle long distances to embark from the ports of Darwin and Townsville.
Member for Traeger Robbie Katter welcomed the news of resumption of dredging but said the Queensland Government should future-proof the port’s viability.
“Karumba Port is operated by Ports North but Century Mine footed the bill for dredging while it was operating, ensuring it remained open to larger volume live exporters,’’ Mr Katter said.
“Cattle exporters were able to export their livestock directly to international markets which contributed to the profits of the port and supported the local cattle industry. “However, when Century Mine ceased their operations, Ports North said there was no money in the bank to pay for continued dredging, leaving graziers and cattle exporters high and dry.”
Mr Katter said Ports North received $2 million a year for 10 years while Century Mine was operating.
“Unfortunately no one had the foresight to plan ahead to quarantine the profits during the good times as a buffer against the inevitable shutdown of the mine,” he said.
“With New Century coming online and once again commencing dredging, there is a great opportunity to lock in the long term future of the port.
“If action is taken now to put aside the profits the port will make over the next half a dozen years graziers and exporters can invest in their businesses with confidence and contribute to a growing economy and the creation of jobs in the region.”
Mr Katter said locals wanted to see the port fully operational again to fishing and cattle exports.
“They also wanted to see a management model introduced that would contribute to the ongoing operation of the port beyond the life of the mine,” he said.
Chairman of the Gulf Savannah Development Ernie Camp said securing the future of the Karumba Port was a priority for the region.
“A long term strategy is something we would all like to see,’’ he said.
“Our businesses and communities would all benefit from a more active and profitable port.’’
South East Asian Livestock Service chairman John Kaus said he would like to see a sustainable business model built around the Karumba Port and cooperation from Ports North.
“The port plays a vital role in supporting the region in terms of investment and employment,” Mr Kaus said.
“We know the New Century mine won’t last forever – so we would like to work with Ports North and the Labor Government to ensure this valuable piece of infrastructure isn’t just shut down in six or seven years.
“It has the potential to become a real centre piece of investment and economic growth for the Far North region.’’