High electricity prices are robbing North West Queensland of new investment despite its enormous mineral wealth, the proponent of the $1.5 billion CopperString transmission project warns.
CopperString 2.0 founder and executive chairman John O’Brien was commenting in the lead-up to next week’s Queensland Cabinet visit to Mount Isa.
He said industrial electricity prices in the North West Minerals Province were two to three times higher than similar businesses paid on the east coast grid.
“We’ve done a lot of work understanding what it takes to bring on new mining investment into the region and the feedback we’ve received is that new mines would be operating right now if the cost of electricity was materially reduced,” Mr O’Brien said.
Time for big reforms
“The Premier bringing Cabinet to Mount Isa is another reminder of how significant the North West is to Queensland, and an excellent initiative that acknowledges the exciting potential this region holds to benefit the State’s economy; now is the time to make big reforms like connection to the national grid.”
CopperString 2.0 is advancing a project to build a 1100km, 275-kilovolt electricity transmission network connecting the North West Minerals Province to the National Electricity Market (NEM) near Townsville.
Mr O’Brien said the State Government played a very important role in providing the regulatory approvals necessary to facilitate CopperString’s development.
He said building common-use infrastructure to connect the North West the east coast grid would help solve the power pricing problems.
“The North West can be as important to Queensland as the Bowen Basin,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It was infrastructure that drove the huge expansion of coal mining in the Bowen Basin and it will be infrastructure that will drive the expansion of minerals mining and processing across the North West and Townsville.
“Currently the North West is treated totally differently to the Bowen Basin, both from an energy regulation and infrastructure point of view, and it is holding us back.”
The Queensland Government gave CopperString 2.0 coordinated project status in April and terms of reference for the Environmental Impact Statement were released in September.
CopperString 2.0 says construction is anticipated to start in late 2020 to early 2021 once all approvals and commercial agreements have been put in place.