Project Iron Boomerang
by John Pratt
In a time of economic downturn when the private sector is reducing its work force, the national government should step up to the plate with infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy and create jobs for the unemployed. We should be building infrastructure to benefit Australia when the boom times return.
One such project is the Iron Boomerang – the vision more than thirty years ago of iron ore magnate Lang Hancock of an east-west railway line to transport Queensland coal to Western Australia’s Pilbara region, returning to Queensland with Pilbara iron ore:
To establish first stage iron and steel smelting parks
Steel smelting would be established both in the Pilbara and in the Bowen Basin. Australia would then be exporting steel rather than iron ore and coal. Other industries which depend on steel and energy could also be developed in these new industrial regions. Steel could also be smelted midway in the Northern Territory.
One man with the money and the vision to bring the project to life is Shane Condon:
A HUGE project spanning a continent, three states, and at least five other countries will send Mackay's Boom Two into overdrive with 8000 new jobs for the region.
Project Iron Boomerang (PIB) will be a 3300km railway line from near the Pilbara, in Western Australia, to the Abbot Point region, north of Mackay, transporting iron ore and coal back and forth.
Korea, Taiwan, China, India and Japan are also interested in the project, which would offer cheaper steel to the industrial powerhouses.
Instead of Western Australia exporting raw iron ore and Queensland's Bowen Basin exporting raw coking coal, the line would shuttle both each way, allowing processed steel slabs to be exported from both sides of the continent.
The steel would weigh about one-third of the used raw materials, dropping the price of shipping.
With the proper government approvals, PIB will be operational by 2014 and fully completed by 2016.
Shane Condon, who founded the East West Line Parks company, which is behind the project, said six blast furnaces at each end of the line would process raw materials.
"It's one of the world's biggest projects," Mr Condon said.
"The plan is very solid and sound.
"We're just where we want to be 19 of the world's biggest steel companies have signed on to the project."
Mr Condon said it would cost $12.4billion to build the railway, for rolling stock (locomotives and wagons) and the land for the industrial parks at each end.
The total cost of the project, including infrastructure at each end, would be more than $49billion.
This would make it one of the biggest commercial projects in the world.
"There'll be 8000 jobs in the region, permanently," he said.
Instead of wasting billions of dollars on stimulus packages the government should be investing in infrastructure projects that will create the jobs of the future. We should always be adding value to our resources. Australia needs to be more than a quarry. By producing steel in Australia we can make sure the world’s best environmental practice is applied. Who knows – if carbon capture and storage becomes a reality we may even be able to dramatically reduce the inevitable GHG emissions. It is high time to move the industrial heart of Australia to the north.