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Infrastructure Australia has released the 2019 Infrastructure Priority Listpresenting a $58 billion project pipeline to guide investment.

New Queensland entries on the list include M1 Pacific Motorway capacity (Eight Mile Plains to Tugun), Broadbeach–Burleigh Heads public transport connectivity, Centenary Motorway capacity and Warrego Highway east corridor improvements.

“The 2019 Infrastructure Priority List is the largest, most comprehensive and most diverse list of investments identified by Infrastructure Australia to meet the challenges of the future,” Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said.

“With a record 121 nationally significant proposals and a $58 billion project pipeline, the Priority List will guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment.”

The list has been developed using data from the Australian Infrastructure Audit and submissions from state and territory governments, industry and the community, including more than 100 submissions in the last year.
“With the release of the 2019 Priority List, and our Infrastructure Decision-making Principles last year, Infrastructure Australia is urging decision-makers to commit to solving any emerging or growing problem by embarking on a feasibility study to identify potential options, rather than a pre-defined project that may not be the most effective solution,” Ms Alroe said.

“Communities rightly expect decisions on public infrastructure projects to be robust, transparent and accountable, and that projects are only committed to once planning and assessment has been done. Infrastructure Australia’s work in developing and maintaining the Priority List supports this.”

Regional Queensland projects lusted as priority initiatives include Mount Isa–Townsville rail corridor upgrading, Port of Gladstone land and sea access upgrading and the Lower Fitzroy River water infrastructure development.

The February 2019 Infrastructure Priority List is available at www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au.

Infrastructure Australia releases project hit list

Queensland Rail says it still can’t estimate how long the rail line connecting North-West Queensland’s mining operations with the Port of Townsville will be cut.

Chief executive officer Nick Easy said the Mount Isa Line between Cloncurry and Hughenden, and many surrounding communities and roads, continues to be impacted by extensive flood waters.

“Recovering the Mount Isa Line for our freight partners and reconnecting this important supply chain is a key priority for us,” he said.

“We know how important the Mount Isa Line is to the local economy and for the export market. There is certainly a lot of work to do, but at this stage we anticipate rectification of the line ahead of the 6 – 12 months being reported.

“Unfortunately, it is too early for us to be providing more definitive advice regarding repair timeframes for the Mount Isa Line, given flood waters surrounding the site and on roads connecting to the site are yet to recede.”

The North Coast Line north of Townsville was fully re-opened yesterday.

Incitec Pivot’s Phosphate Hill operation is among those affected by the Mount Isa Line cut, and a spokesman yesterday said the company would provide an update on the expected impact “when it receives a reliable estimate of the duration of the rail outage.”

However, in a statement to market earlier this week it estimated that the rail closure would cost about $10 million a week from February 9.

A Glencore spokeswoman said operations continued across the company’s North Queensland copper and zinc business in Townsville, Mount Isa and Cloncurry.

“We are currently monitoring the transport network situation and QR, as rail operator, is best placed to comment on the status of the rail service,” she said.

Mr Easy said the Flinders Highway remained closed in several sections, including a critical section from Julia Creek to Nelia – which was inundated by up to 1.5m of water as of Wednesday.

Large sections of track between Richmond and Julia Creek remain underwater.

Crews had started removing debris off the track at Richmond and ballast trains and crews were positioned at Cloncurry and Hughenden, he said.

Mr Easy said 5000 sleepers had been delivered to Hughenden, which would be followed by a further 5000 sleepers arriving in Cloncurry by the end of the week in preparation for track repairs.

Queensland Rail is continuing to work with Pacific National, Glencore, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, and independent environmental specialists on an environmental action plan for a site at Nelia where a stowed train laden with zinc concentrate, lead concentrate and copper anodes was derailed in floodwater.

“I’d like to provide assurance that recovering the line between Townsville and Mount Isa is an absolute priority for our business,” Mr Easy said. 

“As soon as local conditions improve, we gain physical access to the site, and we can determine an accurate timeframe for the recovery of the line, this information will be shared with our communities, stakeholders and freight partners immediately."

No end in sight for North West’s rail cut

Queensland Rail says it still can’t estimate how long the rail line connecting North-West Queensland’s mining operations with the Port of Townsville will be cut.

Chief executive officer Nick Easy said the Mount Isa Line between Cloncurry and Hughenden, and many surrounding communities and roads, continues to be impacted by extensive flood waters.

“Recovering the Mount Isa Line for our freight partners and reconnecting this important supply chain is a key priority for us,” he said.

“We know how important the Mount Isa Line is to the local economy and for the export market. There is certainly a lot of work to do, but at this stage we anticipate rectification of the line ahead of the 6 – 12 months being reported.

“Unfortunately, it is too early for us to be providing more definitive advice regarding repair timeframes for the Mount Isa Line, given flood waters surrounding the site and on roads connecting to the site are yet to recede.”

Incitec Pivot’s Phosphate Hill operation is among those affected by the cut, and a spokesman today said the company would provide an update on the expected impact “when it receives a reliable estimate of the duration of the rail outage.”

However, in a statement to market earlier this week it estimated that the rail closure would cost about $10 million a week from February 9.

It started a progressive shutdown of plants at Phosphate Hill on the weekend, saying it was aiming to run each plant as long as possible given storage and input constraints.

A Glencore spokeswoman, responding to iQ questions on the impact of the rail closure, said operations continued across the company’s North Queensland copper and zinc business in Townsville, Mount Isa and Cloncurry.

“We are currently monitoring the transport network situation and QR, as rail operator, is best placed to comment on the status of the rail service,” she said

Mr Easy said the Flinders Highway remained closed in several sections, including a critical section from Julia Creek to Nelia - which was inundated by up to 1.5m of water as of Wednesday.

Large sections of track between Richmond and Julia Creek remain underwater.

“Once flood waters recede, we will need to wait for ground conditions to improve in order to allow for the mobilisation of people, plant and equipment to site,” Mr Easy said.

“However, our people are activated and ready to commence work as soon as they safely can and are continuing to regularly monitor local conditions.”

Crews had started removing debris off the track at Richmond and ballast trains and crews were positioned at Cloncurry and Hughenden, he said.

Mr Easy said 5000 sleepers had been delivered to Hughenden, which would be followed by a further 5000 sleepers arriving in Cloncurry by the end of the week in preparation for track repairs.

 

Queensland Rail is continuing to work with Pacific National, Glencore, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, and independent environmental specialists on an environmental action plan for a site at Nelia where a stowed train laden with zinc concentrate, lead concentrate and copper anodes was derailed in floodwater.

“I’d like to provide assurance that recovering the line between Townsville and Mount Isa is an absolute priority for our business,” Mr Easy said.

“As soon as local conditions improve, we gain physical access to the site, and we can determine an accurate timeframe for the recovery of the line, this information will be shared with our communities, stakeholders and freight partners immediately.

“We were pleased to reopen the North Coast Line south of Townsville on Saturday 9 February after crews worked around the clock in just three days to repair 16km of track and repack 1500 tonnes of ballast. This re-established an important freight connection between Brisbane and Townsville.

“Following further recovery work north of Townsville, we are also pleased to confirm the North Coast Line has opened in its entirety today.”

 

Australian Mines has delivered good news on two fronts for its $1.4 billion Sconi project near Greenvale in North Queensland this week.

Updated estimates for the cobalt-nickel-scandium project have increased the mineral resources tonnes by 63.2 per cent for the project’s Greenvale deposit and 94.6 per cent for Lucknow.

The Greenvale nickel deposit’s in-situ material now stands at 24.40 million tonnes and the adjacent Lucknow deposit’s material now stands at 14.62 million tonnes. (More details HERE)

Consultant group CSA Global prepared the re-estimation of the Sconi mineral resource, with Australian Mines saying the expanded resources should support a longer mine life and better returns for the project.

Earlier this week Australian Mines released findings from a market study, undertaken by commodity research specialist CRU International which showed Sconi should be one of the most competitive cobalt-producing nickel projects in the world.

The study forecast that the 2025 value-adjusted business costs of the Sconi project would place it in the 1st quartile compared to similar existing and proposed operations globally.

It backed up the need for new suppliers in the market, showing that demand for cobalt sulphate was expected to exceed 362,000 tonnes of contained cobalt by 2035, representing almost a 15-fold volume increase from 2018.

The market study estimated a nickel sulphate supply gap of 1.3 million tonnes of contained nickel metal in 2035. (More details HERE)

Australian Mines managing director Benjamin Bell said Sconi was on track for first production in 2021.

The State Government last month declared Sconi as a prescribed project, helping streamline approvals and fast-track the development.

More good news for $1.4b Sconi project


Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett today welcomed news US company Mercurius will be proceeding with a pilot plant biorefinery in the Central Queensland city.

Mercurius has commenced detailed design of the pilot biorefinery and will begin construction in months after securing State Government funds.

The pilot plant will be the trial site for jet fuel and diesel production from agricultural and forestry waste.

“We have met with Mercurius many times, encouraging them to expand their energy portfolio to our region,” Cr Burnett said.

The Mercurius pilot biorefinery will be co-located on the Northern Oil Refinery at Yarwun.

It is expected to employ about 30 people during its three-month operational period.

Mercurius then plans to build a larger demonstration plant, which would scale up production of biofuels and bio-chemicals.

State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick said Mercurius’ world-leading biotechnology would bring Queensland a step closer to achieving a $1 billion biofutures industry by 2026.


Green light for Gladstone biofuels project
The State Government has opened a Small Business Recovery Centre in the Townsville CBD to help support those affected by the region’s extensive flooding.

Employment and Small Business Minister Shannon Fentiman said the new centre offered a one-stop-shop where local small business operators could access advice and services from a range of organisations ready and willing to lend a hand.

By partnering with the local small business support network and through promoting a ‘Go Local’ approach, the centre would enable small businesses to take stock, get the support needed and get back to business, she said.

The centre is located at 143 Walker St (corner Stanley and Walker streets), Townsville and is open every day from 9am to 5pm. (Call 0459 873 781 to make an appointment, or just drop in.

Small business owners impacted by flooding can also call the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) on 1800 623 946 or visit www.business.qld.gov.au.for assistance and information on the concessional loans available.


Online register of contractors

Meanwhile more than 400 contractors have joined an online register of qualified contractors ready to help rebuild homes in North Queensland.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the North Queensland Flood Register – available on the Queensland Building and Construction Commission website – had established a growing list building contractors, asbestos removalists, gas and petroleum contractors, and electricians who are ready to assist.

He said some 50 per cent of registrations to date had indicated they were from the North Queensland region.

“Importantly, every contractor on the Register has been vetted to ensure they hold appropriate licenses for the job,” he said.

“I understand that people are wanting to get their homes repaired as soon as possible and I am doing everything I can to stamp out unlicensed operators who could put your home at risk.”

The repairs could be in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and that money should stay in the North Queensland economy, he said.

“My message to home and business owners is use this register to easily find local, qualified and licensed contractors to carry out their repair work,” he said.

“We also have to make it clear to the insurance industry that we expect them to choose locals off this list first.”

You can link to the North Queensland Flood Register at www.qbcc.qld.gov.au.

PHOTO: Flooding in Townsville last week - Budd Photography

Help for small business after flooding
Five agencies are working together to monitor and recover an inundated derailed train holding mineral products in North-West Queensland (pictured).

Meanwhile Queensland Rail says the Mount Isa Line remains closed between Cloncurry and Hughenden, and the North Coast Line remains closed between Townsville to Ingham.

It comes amid what Agforce chief executive officer Michael Guerin described as a disaster of unprecedented proportion for cattle producers in North-West Queensland and the rural communities who rely on them.

“The latest reports confirm our earliest fears: this is a massive humanitarian crisis that has devastated an area twice the size of Victoria and is steadily expanding southwards,” he said.

“Although we won’t know the full extent of the livestock losses and infrastructure damage until the water fully recedes, it is certain that the industry will take decades to recover.”

It came after the region experienced three years of rainfall inside a week, with a catastrophic impact on farmers and their livestock, on communities and towns, on infrastructure, and on the natural environment and wildlife, Agforce said.

Queensland Rail chief executive officer Nick Easy said Queensland Rail was continuing to work with Pacific National, Glencore, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and the Department of Environment and Science, in response to the Pacific National freight train stranded in unprecedented flood waters at Nelia near Julia Creek.

“The train, comprised of one locomotive and 80 wagons containing zinc concentrate, lead concentrate and copper anodes, was found inundated by flood waters by an aerial inspection of the line on Thursday 7 February,” he said.

“The train had been stowed at the site since 31 January, as a precaution, due to heavy rainfall on the Mount Isa Line preventing its full journey from Mount Isa to Townsville. Nelia is a high point in the area and had previously provided safe stowing for trains in flood events.

“The site, near Julia Creek, remains significantly impacted by flood waters meaning it is not possible to access the site except via aerial inspections.”

Pacific National and Queensland Rail have appointed independent environmental specialists to help guide preliminary assessments of the site and inform next steps.

“Once site access is available, the recovery of the Pacific National train will commence which will include a detailed inspection of the train and wagons, implementing any feasible containment measures, removal of product in wagons, righting the wagons and removing the train from site,” Mr Easy said.

“This work will involve the use of machinery, including cranes, and cannot be undertaken until flood waters recede and ground conditions allow.

“An environmental action plan will also be implemented which will include sampling and remediation works where required.”

See aerial footage of the derailment site here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tzcaey1cl8pk7hf/Derailment%20Nelia%20V1.mp4?dl=0

Rail remains cut amid ‘unprecedented’ disaster for North West