The Palaszczuk Government says its investment in moving freight off the road is working as it starts works on a new $6 million upgrade of the Mount Isa Rail line.
Speaking in Mount Isa on Wednesday Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said $20 million had been accessed from the government's $80 million, four-year incentive scheme, encouraging freight operators and the resource industry to use the rail line to Townsville.
"Queensland's North West Mineral Province contains about 75 per cent of the state's base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits," Mr Bailey said.
"Since we introduced the scheme, more than four billion gross tonne kilometres of eligible freight has moved along line to the Port of Townsville. This is an increase of more than one million in tonnage from the year prior to the scheme being introduced."
Meanwhile the $6 million upgrade will take place along 320km of the line, starting west of Hughenden and ending near Cloncurry, bolstering flood resilience on the route and supporting 30 jobs as the region bounces back from COVID-19.
The works include bridge abutment and scour repairs in nearby drains and creeks, stonework including gabion flood protection to embankments, and further drainage and cleaning works as required.
About 10 workers from each of three regional Queensland businesses - Morton's Earthmoving, Townsville Earthmoving and Schwartz Excavations - will be involved in the project.
Mr Bailey said two thirds of the workers will stay in Julia Creek, while the rest will be accommodated in Richmond, and all the materials for the project will be sourced locally.
Work is expected to take place along the line until October, and follows major repairs last year to the line, which saw a 400-strong Queensland Rail taskforce rebuild the line following unprecedented monsoonal weather.
Glencore's Queensland Metals chief operating officer Matt O'Neill said their North Queensland operations had a long history of moving product and commodities by rail,from the North West to their Townsville Copper Refinery and on to port.
"The distance to transport products in North Queensland is significant and transportation makes up a large portion of the cost of delivery to our customers, both in the domestic and export markets," Mr O'Neill said.
"We are pleased to see this scheme encouraging a shift towards rail as a real alternative to road transport along the Mount Isa rail corridor."
Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said the incentive scheme would help exports.
"QRC's own recovery strategy pointed to the Mount Isa rail line as a key economic corridor for regional jobs and contributor to the billions of dollars in royalty taxes paid to Government from our resource exports," Mr Macfarlane said.
MMG Dugald River also welcomed the investment.
"We remain open to exploring opportunities for optimising our supply chain, and commitments like this from the Queensland Government will be of benefit to us and our local communities," an MMG spokesperson said.
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