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Metro Mining has started mining operations at its Bauxite Hills project, 95km north of Weipa.

The company said the operation would have an output of around 2Mtpa, ramping up to a steady-state 6Mtpa over the first four years.

Metro managing director and chief executive officer Simon Finnis said the Bauxite Hills mine would be a globally significant bauxite mining operation and would feed the ever-growing seaborne bauxite market.

“The Bauxite Hills mine will become the largest independent mine within the internationally acclaimed Weipa bauxite region,” Mr Finnis said.

“Mine construction was largely completed in just five months between July last year and the onset of the region's wet season in December.

"Commencement of mining operations is a credit to the entire Metro team. Site management, mining, marine and construction contract personnel have delivered the project in a very short time-frame and are to be congratulated.”

He said the onset of Cyclone Nora in late March had required the evacuation of most personnel from site. However Metro was successful in containing the delays to mining operations to only one week.

The first 60,000-tonne shipment from the mine has been purchased by the Xinfa Group, one of the largest integrated aluminium companies in China.

The Bauxite Hills mine has an estimated ore reserve of 92.2Mt and a total resource of 144.8Mt with an estimated 17-year mine life. Government approvals are in place to mine up to 10Mtpa.

Metro said up to 200 people were expected to be employed, with a significant indigenous workforce target.
Acciona Energy has been selected to transform 1250ha of state-owned land at Aldoga, Gladstone into a solar energy project.

The $500 million project is set to support up to 240 construction jobs and 10 ongoing jobs, and the company has committed to policies giving preference to local sub-contractors and manufacturers.

State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick said the signing of the Agreement for Lease signalled the start of a project that would generate renewable energy and boost the local economy.

“Acciona Energy will develop, finance, construct and operate a $500 million solar farm through a 30-year lease with the Queensland Government and they are committed to Buy Queensland and Gladstone Buy Local procurement strategies,” he said.

“At maximum capacity, up to 265MW (AC), it will deliver the equivalent amount of energy needed to supply up to 122,000 households, which is around five times the number of households in Gladstone.”

Acciona Energy would also establish a community benefits fund of $50,000 to $120,000 per year to be provided to local clubs, associations and community groups in the region, Mr Dick said.

“Combined with the renewable energy that will be generated, and the lease payments that will be made to the State, this project represents a major boost to the local community – economically, environmentally and socially.”

Mr Dick said 16 companies had submitted an Expression of Interest to Economic Development Queensland to transform the land at Aldoga into a renewable energy project.

“An extremely competitive shortlist of five major renewable energy companies saw Acciona Energy selected to now undertake a detailed feasibility study and to obtain development approvals,” he said.

“This could take around 12 months, meaning construction may begin in the second half of next year, and electricity generation in the second half of 2020.”

Five large-scale solar projects have commenced operations in Queensland in the past 18 months, bringing the total operational capacity of renewable energy in the state to more than 780MW.

Another 23 large-scale projects, totalling 2200MW, are financially committed or under construction.

Image:State Development Minister Cameron Dick with Acciona managing director Brett Wickham and Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher on the land where the project will be built.

Straws and other single-use plastics will be removed from Cairns Regional Council operations after a series of resolutions today.

“Cairns is the principal gateway to one of the world’s most iconic natural assets: The Great Barrier Reef,” Mayor Bob Manning said.

“In 2018, we continue to see plastics impacting our land and sea environment, including our unique wildlife and corals. As a Reef Guardian Council this deeply concerns us.”

The move comes on the back of a campaign by 10-year-old Cairns girl Molly Steer, who recently received the 2018 Cairns Young Woman of the Year award.

“Molly has gained great traction with her ‘Straw No More’ campaign,” Cr Manning said. “She has brought this very serious issue to our attention through the eyes of a young resident who sees herself as a future custodian of our environment."

Cr Manning commended both Molly – who addressed today’s Planning and Environment Committee meeting – and Nicole Nash from The Last Straw on the Great Barrier Reef for the excellent results already achieved via their campaigns.

As well as taking steps to remove plastic straws and other single-use plastics from council operations, the council will encourage others to follow suit.

“We’ll be writing to our lessees, market stallholders and event partners to encourage them to reduce their use of single-use plastics and we’ll be looking at how we can assist this,” Cr Manning said.

“Ultimately, we want to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastics that are ending up in landfill or – worse still – in our waterways.”

Cairns council joins straw war
A $70 million rebuild is planned for Mission Beach’s Castaways Resort and Spa, with the construction phase expected to generate almost 400 jobs.

The overhaul will lift the number of rooms from 48 to up to 226, in 126 units.

Owners say ‘The New Castaways’ will include a regional conference facility, five pools (two existing and three additional), expanded multi-level dining and underground parking for 160 cars. 

Resort owner James Neville-Smith said the project would provide Mission Beach and the Cassowary Coast region with the economic stimulus that the region had long deserved. 

“Over the past 12 years we have steadfastly maintained our commitment to the Castaways business and the broader region. We have invested heavily in the existing asset, maintained a regional marketing presence far in excess of the scale of the business and maintained our long-held vision for the wider Mission Beach region,” he said.

“This vision is based on an overarching desire to see a thriving tourism industry that ensures the character of Mission Beach and its beautiful natural assets are preserved.

“The past decade has been a struggle for the tourism-reliant businesses of Mission Beach, and surrounding areas of Tully, Cardwell and Innisfail. Now is the time for the next evolution of this iconic tourism asset that has been the life blood of Mission Beach for the past 40 years.”

Castaways at Mission Beach has been operating for more than 30 years and underwent a $6 million upgrade under Neville Smith Group ownership in 2010.

In 2015, the group purchased the adjacent property known as Mackays to bolster their room inventory.

The hotel is expected to employ 120 fulltime and causal staff once the planned $70 million upgrade is complete. 

Mr Neville-Smith said construction could begin as early as mid-2019 and would take approximately two years.

Reform of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements is among the hot topics to be raised in Cairns next week at an Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia conference.

The IPWEAQ NQ Branch Conference theme is ‘Together Towards Tomorrow’ and it will feature more than 20 technical papers presented over two days.

The local committee chose their theme to reflect the role of partnerships in public works along with the need to plan and build for the future, according to NQ Branch president Bruce Gardiner (pictured).

Mr Gardiner said organisers were hoping to attract about 100 delegates to the event, to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Cairns, April 18-20.
In addition to the presentations and networking functions, Mr Gardiner said the event would include 25 trade exhibitors showcasing their products and services.

Mr Gardiner said the keynote presentation from Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) chief executive officer Brendan Moon would be of particular interest to councils throughout the region following recent widespread flooding.

It will cover federal changes to the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements scheme following a spending audit.

“There’s another interesting presentation by a JCU academic Dr Sylvia Tavares on a project she’s undertaking looking at the thermal comfort of cities. So, if you have lots of hardstand areas like roads and footpath and roofs, the cities actually heat up more than if you have greater greenspace,” he said.

Other topics include vehicle automation, an update on the $380 million Mount Emerald Wind Farm project under construction on the Atherton Tableland and various discussions regarding asset management.

The NQ Branch of IPWEAQ covers an area incorporating 30 local councils, from Mackay north to the Torres Strait.

Committee numbers have been boosted this year from four to eight after a call for volunteers attracted extra interest.

“This year we have eight members of our branch committee – so we have new faces and new energy on the committee,” Mr Gardiner said.

“This is the first conference we’re running, but we’re looking at what other activities we can run for people working in public infrastructure in the north.

“There may be opportunities for more information sharing about working and technology sharing. You don’t have to have a two-day conference, you can do it in other ways these days.”

Given their wide geographic spread, even branch committee meetings were mostly held via phone hook-up, he said.

For more information on the IPWEAQ NQ Branch Conference or to register visit

Key public works forum in Cairns

Malachite Resources has reported positive results from drilling hoped to extend its Lorena gold mine operations near Cloncurry.

The project achieved its first gold pour last month, with gold production expected on a regular basis.

Known resources are expected to support an 18-month operation, producing 30,000-35,000 ozs of recovered gold.

The company said today that recent reverse circulation drilling of 17 holes at the Lorena gold project had intersected some significant results which warranted further exploration to potentially increase the resources at depth.

Assays have been received for the first 10 holes.

In a statement to the market, Malachite Resources said a review of the pit design at Lorena would now be undertaken
concentrating on the south-east corner of the open cut to possibly extract further mineralisation.

It said drilling targeting the resource below the current pit has resulted in a gold intersection about 15m to 20m underneath the bottom of the current open-cut design.

Malachite has a 55 per cent joint venture interest in the Lorena gold project following the commissioning of the processing plant and will have a 70 per cent joint venture interest in any resource extensions at depth.

The company also believes that there are considerable regional opportunities which it will be able to pursue to enhance the commercial return from the project.