A NEW container terminal is to be built at Townsville and rail costs on the Mount Isa Line are to be discounted as the Queensland government seeks to boost mineral freight exports.

The state government announced what it says is a $500m investment to help the mineral export sector.

Speaking at the Port of Townsville, Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad said the investment would promote mining and exploration.

“Our state’s economy is stronger when we have a reliable supply of minerals for export. This investment underlines our commitment to backing regional communities and regional jobs,” Ms Trad told the gathering.

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“We can improve reliability with better transport infrastructure and that’s what this plan will do.”

Ms Trad said Queensland’s north-west mineral province contained about 75% of the state’s base metal and minerals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and phosphate deposits.

“The Port of Townsville is Australia’s largest exporter of zinc, copper, lead and fertiliser,” she said.

“A number of mines are trucking minerals from the north-west to the port, and the trains that are carrying minerals in shipping containers have to be unloaded at Stuart and then trucked 12km to the port.”

Ms Trad said building a new common user rail freight terminal at the port would make the Mount Isa Line more attractive for exporters and take trucks off the Flinders Highway as well as Townsville’s local roads.

The state government is to contribute $30m towards construction of the freight terminal, with the Port of Townsville providing the remaining $18m.

Transport minister Mark Bailey said the government would also provide $80m over four years to reduce rail access charges on the Mount Isa Line, helping drive a shift from road to rail.

“The Mount Isa Line is critical for North Queensland’s economy, and making it more efficient and cost competitive is vital to support and grow resources exports in the region,” Mr Bailey said.

Mr Bailey said almost 75% of the freight on the Mount Isa Line was made up of wagons carrying minerals, fertiliser and acid.

“Commercial operators pay access charges to Queensland Rail to use the Mount Isa line and industry has called on the Palaszczuk government to make rail freight more competitive.

“We’ve listened and will provide Queensland Rail with $20m each year starting, from 1 July this year, to reduce rail access charges and will work with industry on implementation arrangements.”

Mr Bailey said major repairs Queensland Rail performed on more than 200 sites across 300km of track after monsoonal weather earlier this year had resulted in cutting almost an hour off the travel time between Mount Isa and Townsville.

“The Palaszczuk Government is investing $380m over five years to maintain and improve the line, making the freight journey faster and more reliable,” he said.

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