The Port of Townsville
The Port of Townsville

Emerging sector that’s failing to deliver

THE new-age resources precinct touted as the next big thing for the Queensland economy has suffered a dramatic fall in fortunes over the past six years.

Despite 12 years of talk about how Queensland minerals would power technologies such as iPhones and electric vehicles, key exports from the North West Minerals Province have plummeted by as much as 70 per cent.

The freefall of exports from the world's richest base metals region has been exposed in data produced by the Port of Townsville.

While some of the decline was caused by the collapse of mining magnate turned politician Clive Palmer's nickel refinery, miners and refineries in the region are struggling under some of the highest power prices in the world.

Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel was partially responsible for the drop.
Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel was partially responsible for the drop.

"It's one thing to get excited about commodities, electric vehicles etc," one key industry insider said.

"It's another to deliver economic prosperity on the back of that … opportunity."

The figures show movements through the port fell from 12.9 million tonnes in 2011/12 to 6.7 million tonnes in 2017-18.

From 2013-14 mineral concentrates fell from 5.3 million tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes while refined mineral products dropped from 382,096 tonnes to 166,219 tonnes.

The decline comes despite a significant decline in the Australian dollar over the same period, however wholesale power prices have more than doubled.

The State Government produced a blueprint to facilitate the region's riches in 2017 which broadly echoed a strategy developed by the Beattie administration in 2007.

The Mount Isa region is not connected to the national grid and relies on high-priced gas power stations.


The Port of Townsville
The Port of Townsville


The Government is considering a $1 billion private sector proposal to build a transmission line from Townsville.

A spokesman for Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said commodity prices had effected some imports but the Government had opened up 44,000sq km for exploration - the largest ever.

"This exploration will translate to long-germ gain," he said.

"There also will be no shortage of demand for the northwest's minerals as the world continues its shift towards renewable energy."

However Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the Government liked to talk about resources other than coal, but was failing to deliver.

"Queensland is missing out on the battery boom to support renewable energy and electric cars because (Premier and Trade Minister) Annastacia Palaszczuk isn't backing our minerals sector," she said.



Port of Townsville throughput 2013-14 v 2017-18 (tonnes)

Refined Mineral Products 382,096 to 166,219

Mineral Concentrates 5,357,941 to 1,726,615

Cement 501,229 to 354,170

Fertiliser 785,064 to 884,815

Sugar 784,400 to 1,060,098

Petroleum Products 1,087,606 to 920,511


Total throughput by year

11-12 12,884,913

12-13 12,095,147

13-14 10,258327

14-15 10,490,331

15-16 9,229,567

16-17 6,908,859

17-18 6,757,148