INTRODUCTION: Thank you to Townsville Enterprise for hosting today’s lunch. Over the years, you’ve heard plenty of people talk about developing Northern Australia. There was a lot of talk about the NAIF but very little to show for it. But what I am about to tell you represents the biggest investment in this region. Ever. And the greatest opportunity since John Campbell Miles’ mineral discoveries at Mount Isa. Those discoveries Copper, Lead, Zinc, have forged the wealth of this State through the past century, making possible the emergence of technologies like electricity and the telephone.
But, waiting for us right now, lies the mineral riches and resources that will carry us into a new century:
- Cobalt, high purity alumina and graphite for electric vehicle batteries
The rare earths the world demands for clean energy and new technology. But this time, Queenslanders will not just mine these resources. They will use them to manufacture. The batteries. The solar panels. The factories. The jobs. The training.
The future itself will be built and remain in North Queensland. North Queensland the economic powerhouse of Northern Australia. At your seats you have our local North Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. And for the next few minutes I am going to explain exactly how we will make this happen together. NORTH QUEENSLAND: It is a very exciting day for Townsville and North Queensland. We are here today at the epicentre of Queensland’s renewable manufacturing future. On Townsville’s doorstep sits the largest renewable energy zone in Australia with potential capacity of more than 25 gigawatts of wind and solar energy. And on the other side of that vast renewable energy zone sits the North West Minerals Province.
With world class deposits of the critical minerals the world needs for the clean energy industrial revolution. I don’t just want to see critical minerals mined in Queensland with renewable energy. I want to see those minerals processed in North Queensland. That means batteries and renewable technologies made right here. This means more good, secure jobs. Opportunity is nothing without a plan and our government has a clear plan to make this happen. In Queensland we create our own history and our success by building and investing in our regions. By moving first – out ahead of the world. Just as we did when we opened up the Bowen Basin. It takes government investment to make it happen. Today we are announcing the largest economic development project ever in Northern Australia. COPPERSTRING: Today I am announcing that our government will deliver CopperString to provide affordable, renewable energy to open up the North West Minerals Province.
The 1,100 kilometre $5 billion expanded CopperString project will be 100 per cent government owned. And today we announce a $500 million down payment from our coal royalties fund going directly into this project today. CopperString will be the largest expansion to the power grid in the nation. It will connect to the nation’s largest renewable energy zone and the world class North West Minerals Province. Powerlink will lead work on the project with the support of the CopperString team who founded this project. We are moving quickly. Early works will start on CopperString this year and construction will commence next year. 800 direct jobs will be supported during six years of construction and another 50 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. The expanded project will include a higher capacity 500-kilovolt line from Townsville to Hughenden to connect into the largest renewable energy resource in the nation. This power transmission line is the largest built since the interconnector. Those resources at Hughenden will include the proposed 10 gigawatt North Queensland Super Hub and the 3 gigawatt Mount James Wind Farm. From Hughenden a 330-kilovolt line will deliver affordable renewable energy to the North West Minerals Province with 220 kilovolts from Cloncurry to Mount Isa. CopperString is the most significant investment in economic infrastructure in North Queensland since the railways. Connecting the North West Minerals Province with the national electricity market. By providing access to reliable, affordable and renewable power, CopperString opens up Queensland for the next resources boom in critical minerals. With estimated benefits of an additional $133 billion in mining production and thousands of jobs in North and North West Queensland. A resources boom that will mine critical minerals and will process those minerals with renewable energy. CopperString opens up an entire new supply chain from Mount Isa through to Townsville to manufacture renewable technologies with renewable energy. To make flow batteries from minerals mined and processed in North Queensland. To process materials needed in lithium batteries in North Queensland. To make renewables in North Queensland. Bob Galyen who helped establish the largest battery manufacturer in the world was in Brisbane just last week advising our battery companies. When asked what the single most important factor for investment in battery factories is his answer was clear, energy. And also crucial is access to raw materials. Queensland has the copper, cobalt, vanadium, zinc, bauxite and rare earths needed for the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan and to support our trading partners. It’s estimated that there are over $500 billion dollars of known critical minerals in the North West Minerals Province.
GLOBAL CONTEXT Copper and critical minerals are the oil of the 21st century.
The International Energy Agency estimates that the value of clean energy investment will exceed oil by 2030. This investment is starting right now. The United States are investing A$520 billion in clean manufacturing under the Inflation Reduction Act. And the European Union have just announced the start of an EU Green Industrial Plan to match support for clean energy manufacturing. We are in the midst of a global clean energy arms race. CRITICAL MINERALS PROCESSING: A race that is driving unprecedented demand for critical minerals that are mined sustainably and processed with renewable energy. That’s why in addition to delivering CopperString we are building the nation’s first $75 million critical minerals demonstration plant in Townsville.
VANADIUM: The starting focus of this facility will be on processing vanadium. Five years ago when I talked about vanadium I received some puzzled looks. Very few people had heard of vanadium outside the steel industry. Now vanadium flow battery factories are under development in the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria. Global vanadium demand is forecast to rise by over 100 per cent by 2030. As the cost of lithium rises from demand for electric vehicles vanadium is becoming a preferred alternative for large grid batteries. North West Queensland has known world class deposits of vanadium with the potential to both supply the nation and our strategic trade partners.
That’s why our government is backing the industry to invest. Today I can advise that Vecco will build a $26 million vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility right here in Townsville. The first vanadium battery electrolyte facility in the nation with production commencing later this year. The facility will employ 21 people and produce enough electrolyte for 175 megawatt hours growing to 350 megawatt hours of storage annually. When Vecco’s Julia Creek vanadium mine is operational this processing facility will use Queensland vanadium. And there’s more. It was announced earlier today that Queensland vanadium company QEM will partner with Sun Metals to produce vanadium electrolyte in Townsville, sourced from industrial waste. These projects are the next steps towards making vanadium batteries in Townsville. When it comes to flow batteries the opportunities extend beyond vanadium. IRON FLOW BATTERIES: Work is already underway between ESI and Cleveland Bay Chemical Company in Townsville to deliver battery materials from locally sourced critical minerals. With the potential for battery materials from Townsville to go into Queensland made iron flow batteries. ESI are currently developing a battery manufacturing facility in Maryborough and are considering a second facility here in Townsville from the demand out of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. And there’s more. LANSDOWN ECO-INDUSTRIAL PRECINCT: Today I can confirm that our government will declare the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct as a prescribed project to fast-track approvals. I want to recognise the vision of Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill to make Lansdown a reality working incredibly closely with the Deputy Premier. A great partnership formed for this project. The Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct has the potential to support 5,000 jobs during construction and an estimated 1,600 direct ongoing jobs. Already six companies have signed on to be part of the precinct including to progress renewable hydrogen and advanced battery manufacturing. One of those companies is Queensland Pacific Metals. Today I am further announcing that Queensland Pacific Metals have received Significant Investment Project status for their Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub at Lansdown. That will support their project to supply cobalt and nickel battery materials to General Motors for electric vehicles. And it follows the announcement yesterday that Export Development Canada have increased debt financing for this project to $400 million. That’s a lot of investment announcements in just one week. HIGH PURITY ALUMINA AND RARE EARTHS: The Townsville critical minerals demonstration plant will support the extraction of other resources as well including high purity alumina needed in electric vehicle batteries. Queensland has the potential to become a major global supplier of high purity alumina with growing demand for both batteries and LEDs. We all have sapphire glass made from high purity alumina covering our phone cameras. And the Townsville critical minerals plant will help develop other rare earths needed in advanced electronics.
HYDROGEN: The opportunities don’t stop there. The supply of renewable energy into Townsville will power renewable hydrogen production and broader renewables manufacturing. That includes Edify Energy’s project to build a one gigawatt green hydrogen production plant with support from the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator. Sun Metals are also developing a hydrogen electrolyser at the SunHQ Hydrogen Hub to power hydrogen trucks.
RENEWABLES MANUFACTURING: And it’s not just batteries and hydrogen. There is further future potential to use high purity quartz and silicon from North Queensland to support solar manufacturing.
The Australian Silicon Action Plan has identified North Queensland as a potential location for silicon production for use in making solar and semiconductors. CopperString is a key enabler for all these new jobs from making vanadium batteries, to processing minerals for lithium batteries, to making renewable hydrogen through to manufacturing renewable technologies. LOCAL SKILLS LOCAL JOBS: These new jobs mean we need to train our young people to seize on these incredible opportunities for this region. We are committed to local skills for local jobs. That’s why just yesterday we started construction on a major expansion of two new facilities at the Bohle TAFE campus: – A new $12.5 million Renewable Energy Training Facility; and – A $4.7 million Advanced Manufacturing Skills Lab And I was proud to not only hold our Regional Cabinet meeting out there yesterday but to also turn the sod on these new facilities. Facilities that will offer over 20 new skill sets, certificates, and diploma qualifications in emerging renewable industries. The skills that will be needed as North Queensland emerges as a clean energy powerhouse. CONCLUSION: Friends, the race is now on to secure clean energy supply chains. In North Queensland we have the sun and wind energy above the ground combined with the enormous critical minerals below the ground to be a renewable energy superpower. And most importantly we have our people – Queenslanders – and our regions.