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Investigation into optimising the movement of freight in Queensland

Queensland’s ability to freight critical minerals on the Mount Isa rail line will be investigated to optimise delivery to support North Queensland’s regional communities and the critical minerals sector.

The Minister for Transport and Main Roads has announced the investigation will explore how to improve rail freight volumes on the Mount Isa rail line through targeted consultation.

In addition to maximising the use of the Mount Isa rail line, the state government has also committed $2 million in the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program 2024-25 to 2027-28 to re-examine the feasibility of the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor project.

A previous business case, completed in 2017 for the 8.3 km rail freight corridor connecting the North Coast Line directly to the Port of Townsville will be refreshed to examine the economic feasibility of the project based on current freight demand.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Bart Mellish said Queensland has an enormous opportunity to export important critical minerals to the world.

“The Mount Isa rail line freight corridor is key to supporting Queensland’s critical minerals sector access export markets,” he said.

” We will work with industry stakeholders to inform the possible approaches to support industry in increasing freight transport on the Mount Isa rail Line while supporting North Queensland regional communities.

“Moving freight from road to rail offers additional flow on benefits in terms of road safety, road infrastructure management and reducing carbon emissions from reduced heavy vehicle usage.”

There is an opportunity for Queensland to capitalise on the global demand for critical minerals and fully unlock the estimated $500 billion of critical minerals in the North West Minerals Province.

Freight transportation is an important and key consideration in realising the growth of Queensland’s critical minerals sector and associated benefits, such as battery technology in support of decarbonisation efforts.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads will commence stakeholder engagement this month to help inform possible approaches to optimising the movement of freight on the Mount Isa rail line.

The department will seek feedback from industry stakeholders about the barriers to entry, and challenges and limitations to using rail for small and medium sized critical mineral producers.

Townsville Enterprise CEO, Claudia Brumme-Smith said the Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor (TEARC) has long been identified as the critical piece of infrastructure needed to improve rail access into the Port of Townsville and support a more efficient rail infrastructure layout within the Port precinct, relieving a known bottleneck.

“TEARC will not only support the growth of industries like mining and critical minerals but will also strengthen the region’s economic resilience by streamlining logistics and ensuring cost competitive access to global markets.”

“TEARC will remove significant rail freight movements out of the Townsville CBD, providing further opportunities to enhance Townsville’s livability appeal.”

“We thank the Queensland Government’s commitment to revisit the TEARC business case.”

Working with industry to investigate opportunities to optimise freight transport on the Mount Isa rail line may also support North Queensland regional communities by helping to reduce freight transport related costs while providing long-term commercial certainty for industry when determining transport solutions.

The North West Minerals Province is one of the world’s richest mineral producing areas containing copper, lead and zinc as well as major silver and phosphate deposits and strong rare earth potential.

The consultation outcomes will help government to consider the best incentivisation approach for the Mount Isa rail line to encourage freight modal shift from road to rail, and support growth in rail freight volumes.

Modal shift from road to rail also offers some potential additional flow on benefits in terms of road safety, road infrastructure management and reducing carbon emissions from reduced heavy vehicle usage.

The Mount Isa rail line spans more than 1,000 kilometres, and plays an important role in supporting regional communities, regional jobs and mineral freight exports in North Queensland.