Smelter a plum option
CHARTERS Towers has put its hand up for a lead smelter and refinery.
However, it seemed yesterday that any such developments in the historical gold mining town may be a long way off.
Charters Towers Mayor Brian Beveridge confirmed yesterday the city was investigating development of a lead smelter and refinery.
He said Townsville had made it clear it did not want a lead smelter at any price and Charters Towers, with cheap land, a potential supply of water from the Burdekin River and power from a coal-fired power station at Pentland, could offer the basics needed to support a smelter.
‘‘There’s a possibility of a refinery . . . (but) there are long lead times, they take a while,’’ Cr Beveridge said.
He said he had talked to miner Xstrata and ‘people like that’ to discuss the possibility.
The city was also putting its case through the Regional Economic Development Projects Group under the auspices of development body Townsville Enterprise.
He said the State Government’s State Development Department and Townsville Enterprise were supporting Charters Towers’ bid.
‘‘I’m depending on those people to shake the tree with the kind of people that want to build these kind of things,’’ Cr Beveridge said.
‘‘The rest of the world doesn’t want to make lead but we’ve got to have it for things like car batteries.
‘‘We are working through that (Townsville Enterprise) group (look- ing) for anybody that has that in mind. ‘‘We want to be the preferred site. ‘‘You need a community that supports workers for these things and we’ve got it.’’
The fact the council is investigating development of a lead smelter and refinery is mentioned in a report on potential trades for Townsville port.
The Townsville Port Access Road Economic Analysis, commissioned by the Main Roads Department, says road-based throughput at the port is expected to grow rapidly from the development of large minerals deposits in the Charters Towers/Chilligoe districts.
Gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead are being extracted and partially processed from mines in the districts and studies are under way to develop nickel resources.
Controversy has raged in Townsville for more than six years following revelations that in 1996 the State Government had given approval to Sun Metals owner Korea Zinc to produce up to 150,000 tonnes of lead a year at its Stuart site.
However, State politicians have since ruled out lead processing at Stuart.
Xstrata is planning a $150 million expansion of its zinc-lead concentrator at Mount Isa to boost production by 60 per cent to 8 million tonnes a year by the second half of 2008.
About 137,619 tonnes of lead ingots and 347,622 tonnes of lead concentrates, most of this from Mount Isa, were exported from Townsville port in 2005-06.