Fuel for a revolution sparks global interest

THE shift to electrification and away from fossil fuels is sparking global interest in north-west Queensland where many of metals needed for the revolution are found.

Resources Minister and Townsville MP Scott Stewart told state parliament Thursday his department was gaining traction from a series of international engagements it was holding to promote the opportunities.

It comes as the proponents of the $1.7bn Copperstring transmission line, which will link the province with the electricity grid, say they are "amazed" at the number of global utility businesses wanting to invest.

Mr Stewart said his department had hosted Movement of the Enterprises of France, an employer group with more than 750,000 member companies.

"Thirty firms attended with direct interest in the minerals supply chain, from upstream extraction to downstream processing and manufacturing," Mr Stewart said.

"This is just the first step in a much broader program of engagement with similar events planned for Germany, Belgium, Holland and the United Kingdom."

A new market is opening in the ­supply of minerals and products needed for energy transition.

"The demand for resources like copper, rare earth elements, cobalt, nickel and more that Queensland has in abundance is growing throughout the world," Mr Stewart said.

"These metals are needed for energy transition, including the electrification of transport and industry."

Mr Stewart said the government had invested about $50m in exploration and industry support, including a boost in New Economy Minerals Initiative grants to help explorers discover new economy minerals.

The government is also backing the Copperstring project.

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

The Copperstring proponents, supported by Dutch fund manager DIF Capital Partners, are undertaking environmental studies and expecting to announce a preferred construction partner in the next couple of weeks.

Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore owns the copper and lead-zinc-silver operations at Mount Isa, while a host of players, including Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Red Metal, Copper Mountain, Aeon Metals, Chinova Resources, Teck Australia and Newcrest hold large exploration tenements in the region.

CuString director Joseph O'Brien said the global trend toward electrification was an enormous opportunity for the Townsville to Mount Isa region.

He said it was why state and federal governments were so supportive of CopperString and its clean industrial ecosystem development strategy.

"I have been amazed by the number of global utility businesses, including major European companies, contacting CopperString wanting to invest in infrastructure that is linked to minerals production and clean energy," Mr O'Brien said.

"It is a great vote of confidence in north and north-west Queensland."

A final investment decision to proceed with Copperstring is planned for the third quarter of this year with ­completion expected in 2024.

Originally published as Fuel for a revolution sparks global interest