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In the wake of Clive Palmer's QNI, another nickel project rises in Townsville


A planned nickel refinery in Townsville employing more than 800 people in construction and 1700 in operation has been given a credibility boost by the State Government declaring it a prescribed project.

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The refinery, proposed by Queensland Pacific Metals, is being clothed in clean and green public relations and touted as providing metals for new-technology batteries.

The project would a significant boost to Townsville which lost Clive Palmer’s QNI nickel refinery when the company collapsed in 2016.

The last published figure for the development of the project was $550 million, but the plans have expanded substantially since then.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said approving the project as “prescribed’’ would allow the Queensland Coordinator-General to work with project proponent, Queensland Pacific Metals, to get approvals in a timely manner.

However, making it a prescribed project is more than a bureaucratic process. It allows the company to market the scheme with the Queensland Government’s name attached to it, even though there are no guarantees approvals would be granted.

QPM has been kicking goals this year for the refinery, known as the Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) project.

Among its achievements has been the decision by Korea’s LG Chemical Solutions and POSCO to take a $US15 million ($A20 million) stake in the company as part of an offtake agreement.

QPM claims it will process high grade nickel ore from New Caledonia to produce nickel sulphate, cobalt sulphate and high purity alumina with “almost zero waste’’.

While it has brought in major investors it is still waiting on debt funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, a notoriously slow process. It has so far reached NAIF’s due diligence stage.

Miles said the TECH project had the potential to provide a massive boost to Townsville and regional industry.

“The project will create around 800 construction jobs and its operational phase would create an estimated 1700 jobs, including 300 highly-skilled advanced manufacturing jobs at the facility and 1400 jobs in support industries,’’ he said.

QPM managing director Stephen Grocott said the project had progressed “in leaps and bounds” in the past 18 months.

“Construction of The TECH facility could begin in 2022 with production commencing late 2023,” Grocott said.

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