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Government's $5 billion CopperString project in doubt after hitting approvals hurdle

Business

The State Government’s $5 billion CopperString project has hit a big hurdle with confirmation that it has been forced to review its existing approvals.

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The project is a key plank of the State Government’s so-called SuperGrid and its energy and jobs plan. Copperstring’s key role was to deliver electricity to Mt Isa but it also is fundamental to several mining and renewable energy projects in the north west of the state.

While the project’s proponent, the Government-owned Powerlink, said it was currently on track to break ground on the project, the industry is less than certain with suggestions that any new approvals could lead to significant delays.
Any delays were also likely to extend the time mining projects in and around Mt Isa have to deal with high energy prices.

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni has been touring the project this week talking up its benefits and job creation in the north

“CopperString will unleash the power of north Queensland, connecting Australia’s largest renewable energy zone on the east coast to the grid, unlocking $500 billion worth of critical minerals and creating new jobs and economic growth for the region,” de Brenni said.

Powerlink said it was committed and on track to break ground on CopperString mid this year and to complete the project for full delivery in 2029.

Powerlink earned project approvals late last year from the Queensland Coordinator General and conditional federal environmental approvals for the entire corridor.

“Following the upgrade of the eastern portion of the project from Townsville to Hughenden to 500kV in March last year, and more detailed ground-based surveys for matters including cultural heritage and construction access across the entire project, there has been a requirement to review existing approvals,” Powerlink said.

“Powerlink continues to work with all relevant State and Federal bodies to ensure we are appropriately managing project impacts on community, cultural heritage and environment, while maintaining our construction schedule.”

There is a projected 6000 megawatts of potential renewable energy projects in the North Queensland Renewable Energy Zone which are to connect into the Queensland SuperGrid via CopperString. The Government has previously said this would bring together all the elements of Queensland’s energy system to deliver 70 per cent renewable energy by 2032 and 80 per cent by 2035.

Earlier this week, QEM signed a deal with Enel Green Power for the of its Julia Creek renewables project which is adjacent to its planned vanadium mine project in the north west of the state. The initial payment was $3 million.

That renewables project needs CopperString to allow it to send electricity to the east coast grid. It would also provide QEM with energy for its mining project.

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