CLIVE Palmer has announced plans to refine more than $7 billion in cobalt that lies discarded in the tailings dam at the Yabulu Nickel Refinery in Townsville.
CLIVE Palmer has announced plans to refine more than $7 billion in cobalt that lies discarded in the tailings dam at the Yabulu Nickel Refinery in Townsville. JONO SEARLE

Palmer reveals cobalt windfall

MORE than seven billion dollars worth of cobalt in the tailings dam at Yabulu has been revealed as a key factor driving the push by Clive Palmer's QNI Resources to re-open its Townsville nickel refinery.

Mr Palmer said that for more than 40 years, QNI and others had mined nickel ore at Greenvale that was high in cobalt.

It was then deposited in the Yabula tailings dam without the cobalt being extracted because at the time the commodity was not highly valued.

Mr Palmer said a full survey had now confirmed there was more than 69,000 tonnes of contained metal in the tailings at a time when cobalt prices had increased substantially to around $112,000 a tonne.

"The inventory owned by QNI and located on their freehold property at Townsville is a major asset of the QNI group, worth billions of dollars,'' Mr Palmer said.

He has revealed QNI has installed a cobalt refinery at Yabulu that would process the material on site for the first seven years of operations.

"My family has a strong commitment to the people of North Queensland and that commitment was not diminished by the lies the politicians told and the crash in nickel prices in 2015," Mr Palmer said.

"Despite the attacks, I never forgot the need to plan for the future and that is why during the last three years I invested millions of dollars each year to ensure the refinery was in care and maintenance so it could reopen and continue to provide opportunities for future generations.

"The team at the refinery by their hard work and diligence have now confirmed the six billion dollars of cobalt we now have in inventory on site."

He was also considering further capital investment to double the production capacity at the Yabulu refinery. 

Mr Palmer said more than a billion dollars had been invested in Line 2 by BHP and an additional investment of $200 million could see production increase to 75,000 tonnes a year.

"This is good news for Townsville. A full technical study has been completed to take the necessary steps to commence production,'' Mr Palmer said.

"So many industries have closed in North Queensland in recent times and overseas investors have just taken their money and abandoned North Queensland. It time to work together for a stronger and better North Queensland.''

Mr Palmer on Wednesday announced QNI Resources' plans to re-open the Yabulu Nickel Refinery saying other QNI group companies had nearly $500million of cash reserves in Queensland banks.

It was believed QNI was seeking state government support to reactivate licences which would enable the refinery to be returned to operating capacity within a few months.

A government spokesman said Mr Palmer was yet to formally notify the Queensland Government of his plans.

"Any proposal would be given appropriate and proper scrutiny," he said.

"Given Mr Palmer's track record, we will believe it when we see it."

Member for Mundingburra Coralee O'Rourke has told Townsville media that many people in Townsville were still upset with Clive Palmer.

She said she was not holding her breath the refinery would re-open.

A significant increase in the price of nickel and a significant court judgment against CITIC, his Chinese partner in Western Australian mining interests, that has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars back into his bank accounts was behind the drive to re-open the refinery.

"What is needed is a positive approach from Government to assist the refinery reopening in the shortest possible time," he said.

"The refinery operations over 40 years provided 3000 jobs for North Queensland and was North Queensland's largest employer.

"It is time for all sides to forget about politics and to support the Queensland company that owns the refinery and is debt free to open and operate for the benefit of Townsville and the nation."