A raft of contracts is set to be awarded by mid-April for Agripower Australia Limited’s $663 million Fertiliser Expansion Project.
Agripower director Peter Prentice said many consultants would be coming on board for tasks including environmental work, design, drilling for geotechnical studies, plant site selection, and calculating project requirements in areas including rail construction.
“At the end of the month we will start finalising negotiations with all the subcontractors, awarding contracts and they’ll start their work,” he said.
Many would come from the Townsville area, although some special expertise was being drawn from elsewhere, he said.
The Queensland Government last year granted prescribed project status for Agripower’s plans for a 1Mtpa processing plant near Townsville.
Agripower mines amorphous silica north-west of Greenvale and currently produces a granular fertiliser product at a plant near Charters Towers.
The expansion project would also involve an overland conveyor and the reopening of the 220km Greenvale to Yabulu rail corridor.
The company has been finalising the project timeline and Mr Prentice said it expected to have the engineering and design work finished in the first quarter of next year, with permitting and approvals in place by July next year.
Further contracts such as supply of materials for the project construction would not go out to tender until early 2021 when specifications were finalised, he said
Yabulu site not suitable for organic status
Agripower is yet to select a site for the 1Mtpa processing plant planned as part of the expansion project.
While the company was initially targeting a site in the Yabulu area at the end of the rail corridor, Mr Prentice said a potential restart of the Queensland Nickel operation or similar industry in that area would threaten the fertiliser’s organic registration status for organic agriculture due to the possibility of contamination.
“We have to be mindful of that, so we will start looking for locations in a few months’ time,” he said.
Mr Prentice estimated that Agripower had already spent $3-4 million on work associated with restoring the rail line for the expansion project.
“We have spent two years on it already. I’ve actually walked the whole rail line, the whole 221km,” Mr Prentice said.
“The line itself is pretty straight-forward. We had to do a fair bit of work on (assessing) the existing bridges – engineering work, geotechnical work.”
He said the existing bridges and tunnels were in good condition, with only one of the three tunnels requiring rehabilitation work.
The rebuilt rail infrastructure is proposed to be a multi-user line. Mr Prentice said Agripower had received interest from five or six parties ‘actively talking to us about wanting to use it’.