Support for power plan
THE proponents of a $ 500 million transmission line to link the North West Minerals Province with the east coast electricity grid say the proposal is progressing and attracting the interest of potential investors and infrastructure developers.
The CopperString scheme has been adapted from an earlier proposal in 2008 that faltered when Ergon Energy and mining company Glencore opted to rely on the development of gas- fired power at Mount Isa.
Now that gas prices have doubled, driving up electricity costs to as much as double that of the east coast, and with separate plans for a clean energy hub, CopperString’s proponents are revisiting the project believing it is the answer to powering the mining sector.
CopperString founder John O’Brien said it had just lodged a submission to enter into funding negotiations with the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. It was also speaking with government and potential users.
“Current electricity prices in the NWMP are around $ 150 per megawatt hour while on the east coast the wholesale price for major energy users is about $ 70 per megawatt hour for a long- term contract, sometimes less,” Mr O’Brien said.
“We know that base metals mining and minerals processing – the lifeblood of so much of Townsville’s economy and exports via Townsville’s port – expands as energy prices decrease. As we continue to study the economics of CopperString and the potential reductions in power costs, we get more excited by the ability to significantly grow exports from Townsville, and therefore jobs for our region.”
Mr O’Brien said there were more than 15 significant mining projects under investigation in the region, all needing affordable power.
“Energy is perhaps the most important cost factor in attracting investment in mining and processing in the North West Minerals Province,” Mr O’Brien said.
CopperString could piggyback on plans by the State Government to boost transmission capacity between Townsville and Hughenden through development of a clean energy hub but that project appears to have faltered after a feasibility study by Powerlink. A Powerlink spokesman said it had presented the study to the Government but declined to comment on its finding.
“The timing and full scope of any transmission infrastructure to be delivered is subject to the Queensland Government’s final decisions on the hub,” the spokesman said.