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 Province’s mining industry has been the primary driver for regional employment and economic growth. These activities also have important flow-on effects in the local economy, other regional areas and for the state economy, including through supply chain linkages to metal refining and port facilities in Townsville, and the employment of fly-in fly-out workers from Townsville, Cairns and South East Queensland. However, the Province has recently faced some economic challenges. In recent years, a number of older, larger operations have closed, and exploration activity and investment in mining projects have been impacted by lower commodity prices. With global commodity prices starting to improve, there is an opportunity for renewal in the region’s mining industries.
In response to these challenges, in November 2015 the Queensland Government announced a North West Minerals Province Taskforce to identify issues affecting the Province’s mining industry and to help plan a strategic way forward. The Taskforce identified opportunities to support the mining industry into the future, including:
• more efficient utilisation of enabling infrastructure
• improving exploration and mining approvals processes
• encouraging the processing of waste material
• driving greater exploration success
• attracting new investment capital.
While the Taskforce primarily focused on issues impacting the mining industry, there is an opportunity to look more broadly and build on other economic strengths and opportunities to facilitate more diversified drivers of economic growth. A holistic approach that leverages strong partnerships across local industries, communities and with key stakeholders, will be essential to build on the strength, prosperity and resilience of the Province over the long term.
A Strategic Blueprint for Queensland’s North West Minerals Province is a platform for the Queensland Government to facilitate a strong future for the region that builds on its economic strengths and supports strong communities. The strategic blueprint leverages existing initiatives and includes more than $39 million for new measures focused on three strategic priorities:
1. Facilitating continued resources sector development
2. Diversifying the regional economy and creating employment opportunities
3. Working with businesses and communities to deliver integrated and appropriate services.
Most importantly, the strategic blueprint aims to provide a strong foundation to galvanise integrated and ongoing partnerships with federal, state and local governments, business, industry and local communities, to support strong and prosperous regional communities in the Province.