Big changes for Karumba if port plan approved

Posted on 5/07/2013  
Big changes for Karumba if port plan approved

Tourists who flock to the Sunset Tavern at Karumba Point to watch the invariably brilliant sunsets over the Gulf of Carpentaria would no doubt be dismayed to hear about plans for a $1.5 billion rail line and minerals export port.

Plans were revealed late last year, proposing a 450km rail line from Mt Isa to a new port at Karumba, with a 40km-long jetty on the west side of the Norman River mouth. Last week, the project raised its head again with the proponent saying construction could start in 2016.

The Cairns Post reported that Carpentaria Rail is in discussions with Chinese investors to fund the project. Carpentaria Rail is an alliance of Aboriginal native title owners and MIEPCO Pty Ltd, which is building a renewable energy and mineral project near Mt Isa. Carpentaria Rail's David Fletcher told the Cairns Post a port at Karumba and a new rail line from the mine location was more economically viable than railing minerals to Townsville and exporting them via the Great Barrier Reef.

When I visited Karumba last month, I was lucky to find a spot for our caravan, given the numbers of recreational fishermen who flock to Karumba in the "dry" season and stay for months at a time. Karumba, located at the mouth of the Norman River, is the centre of the Gulf's prawning and barramundi industries. It is also an environmentally-sensitive area on the edge of 9,000ha of nationally-listed wetlands which are a haven for crocodiles and myriad bird species.

Karumba is already the export port for the Century Zinc mine near Gregory. Lead-zinc ore is piped underground from the mine in a slurry form and then de-watered and barged out to ships 40kms offshore. The Century mine is set to close in 2016, so the town is looking for business, although a 2009 proposal to persuade mining identity Joe Gutnick to export super phosphate from Karumba came to nothing, with the latter opting to rail phosphate rock to Townsville.

Locals say the port proposal has not advanced past the information outlined by MIEPCO last year and there has been limited community consultation. I rang Carpentaria Shire Council deputy mayor Alan Gurney's office for a comment and was told he'd "gone fishing" until Friday – which says much about the Gulf lifestyle.

« Back