Richmond Shire Council is showcasing plans for a $30 million inland port.
Mayor John Wharton said he would be seeking expressions of interest from mining companies and other parties before chasing funding to move the freight precinct project forward.
A key benefit of the Richmond Inland Port would be the ability for mines and agriculture businesses in North-West Queensland to use the site as a staging and stockpiling area, reducing disruptions during the flooding events that often cut the rail and highway to the west.
Richmond Shire Council aims to have the facility operational by December 2025.
Cr Wharton said the presentation at recent industry forums was a chance to share information and increase the profile of the project, proposed to be built 16km east of Richmond.
“Once again this year we’ve had the railway line and the highway closed for a period of time during the wet season,” he said.
“And it’s going to happen every time we get a normal wet. You’re never going to floodproof the Flinders Highway or the railway line between Townsville and Mount Isa.”
Cr Wharton said the council had started working on the project since flooding in 2019, when Phosphate Hill operator Incitec Pivot loaded trains out of Richmond.
There was no doubt the emerging vanadium industry had created more interest, but he said the council had always had a range of small miners in mind – those who could not afford the blow to cash flow that came when key transport routes were shut between the North-West Queensland Minerals Province and the coast.
“If they want to keep their product moving, they have to get it the other side of the flood. So we are looking at that and we can have a common-user facility there where everybody can have a shot,” Cr Wharton said.
As well as offering a way around the main transport troublespots, west of Richmond, the proposed inland port would provide cheaper storage facilities to stockpile product than available at Townsville port, he said.
The council is seeking $600,000 backing to complete a full feasibility study and reach a shovel-ready stage with the proposal.
Key elements of the $30 million project include a 2.7km rail siding – expected to cost about $14 million – as well as access roads, highway access, earthworks and services.
“We’ll build the road network, the power, the water, and it will open up as an industrial area where (users) can take a long-term lease …. and then if they want to they can put a stockpile pad, a hardstand pad, or if they want to build a shed they can,” Cr Wharton said.
In addition to mining interests, projects that could benefit include Green Day Energy operations – harvesting prickly acacia to convert it into a carbon-neutral biomass for export. It is also viewed as a potential site for Namoi Cotton’s planned North-West Queensland gin.