Saturday, June 15, 2024

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HomeIssue 24Thinking big, anyone?

Thinking big, anyone?

Before & after.


When it comes to thinking big on the subject of nation building the Project Iron Boomerang (PIB) takes a lot of beating.

It’s the brainchild of a group including Roger Steele, a minister in the Everingham government, whose nickname curiously is Stainless.

The project is all about steel, namely 44 million tonnes per year, a good slice of the world’s 1600 million tpy, half of which is currently produced by China.

This the idea: Queensland has the coal and WA has the iron one. Why not have a rail line on which coal travels west and iron ore east and have five steel mills at each end.

The pitch provided by PIB puts the capital expenditure at $55 billion and the jobs number at 75,000.

Central Australia’s slice of the action would be providing maintenance and administration jobs for the railway which would cross through the NT near TiTree, not far to the north of Alice.

Turning Oz from a quarry to a manufacturing hub makes a lot of sense especially given that 40% of the ore currently shipped overseas is dirt.

Pie in the sky? PIB says it has 20 “outstanding key partners” including TATA, KPMG, Credit Suisse, ANZ, Hyudai Steel and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal.

Says Mr Steele: “What a difference this would make to our NT budget, two to three billion dollars to our treasury and nearly 2000 new NT jobs, plus Aboriginal involvement, education and training.

“We need support to get the Feds interested.”


  1. As I understand it, Australian steel has always been good quality. It was manufactured with the correct quantities of the elements that made it right for any given job. I have seen paragraphs where Australian Steel is a specification. As different to imported steels using Australian iron ore.
    Whilst labour costs is Australia are quite high, compared to I guess China, the finished proven product is almost certainly worth the “extra” cost in the long run. Manufacturing in Australia was allowed to be decimated by the various governments. It costs thousands of jobs and the associated costs with that.
    There is no reason why we couldn’t export steel rather than iron ore. There is no reason why we couldn’t export aluminium instead of bauxite.
    Time to look at the true “costs” and pursue the sustainability that seems to be a current buzz word. Cheap should never be confused with value. There are a lot of us that want cheap and value and that is an unrealistic expectation.
    The COVID-19 saga has highlighted our vulnerability to certain countries, through our own (supported by our Government) greed and short sightedness.
    Time to take stock and see what is truly sustainable and start manufacturing in Australia and keeps jobs here.

  2. China gets endless ships of iron ore from Australia. We buy steel back – crazy and expensive.

  3. Capital expenditure (CAPEX) at $55 billion and the jobs number at 75,000.
    The jobs number would be in the construction stage only.
    The CAPEX is huge.
    Much more realistic is the mining project up the road at Mt Peake with processing in Darwin.
    CAPEX is about $800m.
    1000 jobs in the construction phase and ongoing work for more than 300.
    Training and jobs for Aboriginal people as part of the land use agreement worked out with the CLC.
    Just about all the development work and approvals are complete.

  4. So the wheel goes around again. It was a big talking point 50(?) years ago with Lang Hancock in WA and Joh in Queensland.
    Prior to the Alice Darwin rail happening, a presentation in Tennant by Tim Fisher talked in detail about the east west and north south rail lines being essential to the growth of the north, a very interesting concept.
    Unfortunately, the majority of the Federal pollies live on the eastern seaboard and have no idea of anything much past their front door.
    They also seem to have little desire to learn or support much past their electoral boundary where any funds expended give little help to getting them re elected. Fortunately through hard work and a lot of luck the north south line has eventuated, perhaps one day in the far distant future an east west line may come about.

  5. @ 2 Ralph Folds: Ralph, we had a very productive steel mill in Whyalla for one.
    I think you may find Mt Peake CAPEX ($800m) is a pre production forecast only.

  6. To justify the huge investment (which would be funded how?) we would have to make huge amounts of steel.
    Markets for this steel? North Asian countries are our biggest markets for iron ore to feed their steel mills.
    Would they be willing to let their steel industries be replaced by ours?
    And why railroads? Transport of huge quantities of low value commodities over these distances cheaper by sea in bulk-carriers.
    A great armchair geographer’s scenario, even less realistic than the Bradfield scheme, IMHO.


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