CopperString costs jump to $5 billion as Government takes over energy project

The State Government will take over the CopperString transmission project at a $5 billion cost as it seeks to unlock the vast potential wealth of north west minerals province and renewable energy in areas like Hughenden.

Mar 07, 2023, updated Mar 07, 2023
CopperString has the potential to open new industries and regions

CopperString has the potential to open new industries and regions

The deal was initially reported by InQueensland in January when the capital costs were estimated at about $2.4 billion. However, the State Government plans included an upgraded capacity of the line while supply chain issues had also been a factor in the increased costs.

Winners from the scheme include Glencore and its vast operations in Mt Isa and Townsville as well as companies like Windlab’s Kennedy Energy Park, near Hughenden, and Spain’s Iberdrola, which bought the massive Mt James windfarm project and its potential 200 wind turbines, north of Hughenden, for an estimated $2 billion.

Glencore welcomed the announcement and said it was “a very positive development for the entire north-west Queensland region.

“Glencore’s copper and zinc business is a large user of energy in north Queensland and access to affordable and reliable energy for our operations is a key priority,” the company said.

“We look forward to reviewing the detail around the Premier’s announcement and the detailed project proposal.”

QEM, which proposes a vanadium project near Julia Creek, said CopperString was a transformational project for the north and its delivery and upgrade was a historic commitment to developing renewable energy and critical minerals, like vanadium, in Queensland.

Managing director Gavin Loyden said that CopperString was likely to run through the western portion of the QEM Julia Creek vanadium and oil project.

Mt Isa energy users, who currently rely on expensive gas-fired generation, would also benefit.

The increased capacity of the CopperString line between Hughenden and Townsville was expected to allow the renewable projects to access the national electricity grid.

The decision follows about a decade of work by the O’Brien family, relatives of the Mt Isa Katter family.

Early works on the $5 billion project will start this year with construction planned to commence next year and the project was expected to be delivered by 2029. The Government has earmarked $500 million from the increased revenue from coal royalties to help fund the deal.

Solar Citizens deputy director Stephanie Gray said it had been campaigning for grid upgrades in north west Queensland for years because the region had some of the country’s best co-located solar and wind resources that could be turned into abundant, cheap electricity for Queenslanders.

“The CopperString 2.0 transmission line will unlock North Queensland’s world-class renewable resources and provide cheap electricity to emerging manufacturing industries in Townsville and existing heavy industry in Mount Isa.

“Today’s announcement is a big win for the North Queensland community as well as industry. Unlocking 6000 MW of new renewable capacity is the equivalent of doubling the existing large-scale solar and wind farms in Queensland.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said CopperString was the most significant investment in economic infrastructure in North Queensland in generations.

“Townsville will become a renewable manufacturing epicentre between the world and the largest renewable energy zone in the nation and the world class north west minerals province,” she said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said CopperString has the potential to be a big shot in the arm for the North West Minerals Province.

“CopperString can help power Queensland into the next growth phase of the resources sector, with the North West home to many of the rare earths and critical minerals the world needs for a decarbonised future,”  Macfarlane said.

“CopperString has been talked about for over a decade and we congratulate those behind the project, and those who’ve backed it, to get it to this stage.

“It is a significant investment in the future of North Queensland and the Palaszczuk Government should now be doing everything it can to attract the companies that will deliver the projects that create jobs and economic growth.”




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