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QRC proposes special economic zone for north-west

The north-west could become a special economic zone if a bold proposal by the Queensland Resources Council gets off the ground.

The QRC’s chief executive Michael Roche co-chaired the first meeting of the North-West Minerals Province Taskforce in Mount Isa this week, and urged the group to be daring with their ideas to ensure a stronger future for the region’s resources sector.

The taskforce comprises representatives from state and local government, industry and the Indigenous community and met in the presence of the Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham and the Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter MP.

“It is vital that at this time that we are innovative and come up with new ways to support the sector during the downturn and set it up to take advantage of the upturn,” Mr Roche said.

“In that spirit, I have proposed that the taskforce consider a special economic zone for the north-west region, supported by both state and federal government.

“The zone could include government incentives for investment such as accelerated investment allowances and examine possible relief in other areas, such as payroll tax, royalties and stamp duty.”

The taskforce is working to identify the short-term challenges and long-term opportunities for the sector and make recommendations to the minister.

Mr Roche said while the region was in a unique situation with challenges such as distance and infrastructure, the north-west still held enormous untapped potential and opportunity.

“QRC proposed this taskforce initiative to the government last year as we believed it was important to get our political leaders to focus on working with the resources sector in the north-west province at a time when it, like all regions, is facing significant challenges in the downturn,” Mr Roche said.

“Existing operations in the north-west are under pressure and it’s a long time since a major new project went ahead here.

“But there are positive signs with the North-East Gas Interconnector from the Northern Territory to Mount Isa announced last year, along with the life extension to Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines copper operations.”

The north-west minerals province is one of the world’s richest mineral producing regions, centred on Mount Isa and Cloncurry. It extends from the Northern Territory border up to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The province contains around 11 per cent of the world’s known lead and zinc reserves, 5 per cent of the world’s silver resources and 1.5 per cent of the world’s copper reserves, as well as major phosphate and uranium deposits.

The taskforce has been asked to deliver a report to the state government by the middle of the year.

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