REVEALED: Bauxite mine to bring 200-plus jobs to region
AFTER almost a decade of planning the stars are finally aligning for one of Bundaberg's closest mine.
Australian Bauxite Limited (ABx) has reached a deal with the Port of Bundaberg and international buyers.
The news will boost the long-term economy and create more than 200 jobs not only in Bundaberg but the Wide Bay region, with 55 initial positions set to multiply by four once fully operational.
In 2017, ABx CEO Ian Levy told the NewsMail the company was seeking a buyer of the raw material that makes aluminium, and the project was in the early evaluation stage.
Now a Memorandum of Understanding between ABx and Bundaberg Port is getting under way.
Bauxite is red iron stone, rich in alumina, which produces a red dust. It is the world's main source of aluminium.
The mine is north-west of Gayndah, 115km from the Bundaberg Port.
Mr Levy yesterday said the modest-scale project had experienced a few hiccups at the start but was ready to take off and the first shipment was likely next year.
"When we first started in 2012 we had to see if we could get the bauxite on a ship and it was no, no, no," he said.
"The project seemed impossible, then two years later it was extremely unlikely."
But everything started to fall into place, Mr Levy said.
The Binjour mine will have 55 employees initially and rising to more than 200 once in full swing. Mr Levy said the aim was to employ locals.
He said the Ring Road, a bypass around Bundaberg, made a significant difference to the industry.
"There are some remarkable things happening at the port," Mr Levy said.
"We found a solution to our issue by stockpiling away from everything else so the red dust doesn't make products like Knauf's gyprock pink."
Two years ago Mr Levy faced two more issues - securing a customer and transportation woes.
Now, with new technology in trucks he said that was much less of a problem.
Although rail would be a dream, Mr Levy said the cost was too great and he had figures of about $300 million just to link Bundaberg to the port by rail.
The North Burnett mine is ABx's largest and highest-grade bauxite project with 28 million tonnes of high grade trihydrate gibbsite bauxite at Binjour and Toondoon.
The project needed long-term sales contracts with reliable customers to underpin its economic viability, Mr Levy said in 2017.
A delegation from Tianshan Aluminium Co Ltd reviewed the Binjour project and held meetings with government and port authorities in August.
An MoU was finalised for the delivery of bauxite from ABx's bauxite mines in Australia and from Rawmin's bauxite mines in India to Tianshan's new low-temperature refinery in southern China, which is nearing completion.
Mr Levy is hoping this mine will outperform his other mine in Tasmania.
"The most important thing was to find a customer and now we have," Mr Levy said.
"They asked for 10 million tonnes a year. We have been able to guarantee a million tonnes a year.
"But you never say never."
The mine will operate seasonally with rehabilitation occurring 24-7 to ensure sustainability for the future.
Mr Levy praised the Regional Deal announced by the Federal Government this week and said investing in the port now would see long-term benefits for Bundaberg.
"Bundaberg could have the greatest agriculture value going from the port," he said.
"There is potential to feed 40-50 million people from Bundaberg and right now it's only at five million.
"Bundaberg definitely has all of the ingredients to be a showstopper."