Investigations into the viability of a dam on the upper Cloncurry River are moving to the next stage, with detailed functional design and costings being undertaken as well as social, economic and environmental impact assessments.
This work is part of a feasibility study which is supported by funding from the Australian Government – National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, an initiative of the Northern Australia and Agricultural Competitiveness white papers. Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone Inc (MITEZ) administers the feasibility study and tasked leading consulting firm, Jacobs, to undertake the study.

“The first stage of the feasibility study has now been completed. It has identified Cave Hill as the most suitable site for a dam which can support irrigated agriculture development in the Cloncurry region” says David Glasson, president of MITEZ. “The Jacobs team went through an exhaustive process of assessing options for water reform and different dam sites.”

“Geotechnical investigations at Cave Hill have indicated that the subsurface conditions may be appropriate for the foundations of a variety of dam types” Mr Glasson said.

“It is great to see that Cave Hill could be suitable as a site for a dam” said Mayor of Cloncurry Shire Council, Cr Greg Campbell. “One of the main drivers for a major storage on the Cloncurry River is to provide sufficient, affordable water to develop an irrigated agriculture precinct, additional water for industry and water security for our communities, which is essential if we are to further develop the north”, the Mayor said.

Jacobs Project Manager, Angus MacDonald, said: “Our assessment of the demand for water
shows that there may be the opportunity to establish an irrigated agricultural sector around
Cloncurry – assuming that the financial and economic aspects of the dam and the supply
chain stack-up. If so, down the track it could be relatively easy for the trading market to make
some water allocations available for mining developments.”

Mr Glasson said “One recommendation of the initial investigation is that a demonstration
farm be established at Cloncurry to give potential irrigators more confidence in the suitability
of different crops and to develop the skills needed for graziers to become irrigation farmers”.

“Cloncurry Shire Council is advancing the re-zoning of a 500-hectare block of land north of
Cloncurry, where we hope to trial a suite of food and fibre crops as well as biofuel crops,”
says Mayor Campbell. “If the next phase of this study and a number of other assessments
lead to a future decision to build a dam, we will already know a whole lot more about
irrigation cropping and will have the skills developed locally to build a new agricultural
sector complete with supply and processing industries. Ultimately, this is about building
social wellbeing and economic sustainability in the region.”

The report summarising the initial investigations will be available for download from the
MITEZ website. The development of a detailed business case assessing the economic
viability of the Cave Hill Dam, is now underway and will be completed in early 2019.