The proponents of a transmission line project between Townsville and Mount Isa say it will drive $11 billion in growth in the mining sector.
The proponents of a transmission line project between Townsville and Mount Isa say it will drive $11 billion in growth in the mining sector.

$1b project is powering our mining future

SOME of the key players behind a $1 billion electricity transmission project met in Townsville for the first time yesterday, hopeful of delivering the low-cost energy needed to power the region's mining and industrial future.

Proponents CuString Pty Ltd convened a regional reference group headed by former Mount Isa mayor and energy minister Tony McGrady.

CuString is proposing CopperString 2.0, a second iteration of a proposal, first raised in 2008, to build a transmission line connecting the North West ­Minerals Province at Mount Isa to the national electricity grid near Townsville.

The project could help underpin renewable energy projects like Windlab's $2 billion Big Kennedy proposal at Hughenden.

CopperString founder John O'Brien said the project would connect the large industrial load at Mount Isa to the national electricity grid, deliver the transmission infrastructure to support base metals processing, boost the Mount Isa-based supply of gas-fired generation into the east coast grid and ­unlock the region's wind and solar resources.

Mr McGrady said the project was nation building.

"It's more than nation building, it's Queensland building and, in particular, North Queensland building," he said. "We are so excited about the project because we believe it answers a lot of questions which people are discussing in the electricity industry."

Mr O'Brien said modelling by ACIL Allen found the project could generate more than $11 billion in growth through mining and renewable energy development.

One player watching developments is Australian renewable company Windlab which is building a $160 million wind, solar and battery plant at Hughenden but recently shelved a larger $2 billion scheme for want of State Government support.

Windlab chief financial and operating officer Rob Fisher said yesterday Big Kennedy remained on its books but that other projects more favourably positioned to the grid had been given higher priority.

"We certainly see that if CopperString were to proceed, it would be very compatible to the bigger Kennedy project but there's a lot of detail to work through," Mr Fisher said.

Subject to approvals, construction could start on CopperString in 2020 with commissioning of a first stage to Cloncurry in 2022.