The Queensland Government has awarded Agripower Australia’s rail project ‘prescribed Special Project Status’. At the announcement, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Agripower’s fertiliser rail project could create 490 jobs during construction and 470 ongoing operational jobs.
The project involves a 45km conveyor and the re-opening of the 220km Greenvale to Yabulu rail line, enabling better access and export from what is believed to be the world’s largest resource of biogenic amorphous silica. Agripower’s recently commissioned processing facility near Charters Towers with production capacity of 240,000 tonne of fertiliser per year has been designed for easy expansion up to 500,000 tonnes per annum. Premier Palaszczuk said she was pleased to see Agripower planning for the future by looking to develop the rail line, the processing facility near Yabulu and port facilities, all up a $663M investment into Queensland.
“Each year, Agripower expects to produce one million tonnes of fertiliser from the new facility, to be exported to the world – and Agripower believes its 2-billion tonne deposit could create a mine life of 200 years. This can mean local jobs for local skilled workers for generations to come,” said the Premier.
State Development Minister Cameron Dick said prescribed project status enabled Queensland’s independent Coordinator-General to assist the proponent to progress the project efficiently by ensuring timely approvals across all agencies.
The new rail line is proposed as a multi-user rail operation making it available for use for new and existing industries within the region, reducing reliance on road transport. Mr Prentice said Agripower has already received interest from five or six parties ‘actively talking to us about wanting to use it’.
The next phase of the expansion project will involve identifying a suitable site for the plant. The detailed engineering and design phase commenced in 2019, including pursuing the relevant project approvals. Completion of this next phase is anticipated by September 2021.
For construction to commence in 2022, the approvals processes need to start now, with the multi-user rail line and overland conveyer system expected to take 24 months and create 330 new jobs.
The new Yabulu processing facility will take around 18 months to construct and create 160 new jobs. Product will be processed in a new facility before being exported as Agrisilica® from the Port of Townsville to international customers.
Agripower Director Peter Prentice said many consultants would be coming on board for tasks including environmental, design, drilling for geotechnical studies, plant studies, and port loading facilities.
“Many will come from the Townsville area, although some special expertise will be drawn from elsewhere. Further contracts such as supply of materials for the project construction are expected to go out early 2022 when specifications are finalised”, he said.
“We have spent two years on the rail 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 assessing the existing bridges – engineering work, geotechnical work. The existing bridges and tunnels are in good condition, with only one of the three tunnels requiring rehabilitation work.”
“We have been greatly encouraged by the Queensland Government’s support for this project. It’s another feather in Queensland’s cap as we take a world class Australian asset and turn it into a product set to be an agri-industry game-changer. The science behind our product Agrisilica® is the most exciting change to fertiliser management in 90 years” said Mr Prentice.