Investigations into a dam on the upper Cloncurry River are moving to the next stage, with detailed functional design and costings and social, economic and environmental impact assessments.
This work is part of a feasibility study supported by federal funding from the federal government - National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone tasked consulting firm Jacob, to undertake the study.
MITEZ president David Glasson said the first stage of the study was completed.
“It has identified Cave Hill as the most suitable site for a dam which can support irrigated agriculture development in the Cloncurry region” Mr Glasson said.
“The Jacobs team went through an exhaustive process of assessing options and different dam sites and geotechnical investigations at Cave Hill have indicated that the subsurface conditions may be appropriate for the foundations of a variety of dam types.”
Cloncurry Mayor Greg Campbell said one of the main drivers for a dam was to provide sufficient, affordable water to develop an irrigated agriculture precinct.
“This is additional water for industry and water security for our communities, essential if we are to further develop the north”, Cr Campbell said.
Jacobs Project Manager Angus MacDonald said their assessment of the demand showed an irrigated agricultural sector around Cloncurry was viable if the financial and economic aspects and the supply chain stacked up.
“If so, down the track it could be relatively easy for the trading market to make some water allocations available for mining developments,” Mr MacDonald said.
Mr Glasson said one initial recommendation was a demonstration farm at Cloncurry to give potential irrigators more confidence in the suitability of different crops and to develop the skills needed for graziers to become irrigation farmers.
Cr Campbell said Council was advancing the re-zoning of a 500-hectare block of land north of Cloncurry, where they hoped to trial a suite of food and fibre crops as well as biofuel crops.
“If the next phase of this study and a number of other assessments lead to a future decision to build a dam, we will already know a whole lot more about irrigation cropping and will have the skills developed locally to build a new agricultural sector complete with supply and processing industries,” he said.
“Ultimately, this is about building social wellbeing and economic sustainability in the region.”
The report summarising the initial investigations will be available for download from the MITEZ website. The development of a detailed business case assessing the economic viability of the Cave Hill Dam will be completed in early 2019.