I would like to acknowledge: ……
Ladies and gentlemen – welcome to Karratha and the Pilbara!
Welcome to this ancient land, trod by Aboriginal peoples for tens of thousands of years – the land of the Ngarluma, the Yaburarra, the Yindjibarndi, the Martuthunira, the Kariyarra, the Banjima, the Guruma, the Martu, the Thalanyji – and many others. On behalf of us all, I offer my respects to these traditional owners and protectors of the land and to those who honour the eternal spirits of this country.
Here in the Pilbara is the earliest evidence of life on Earth in 3.5 billion-year-old rocks. Here in the Pilbara is a wealth of mineral deposits and petroleum resources formed during the 4.4 billion year geological history of Western Australia, making it the richest mineral province in the world.
Here is the magnificent Karijini National Park with its dramatic gorges plunging 100 m vertically from the surface, its beautiful pools and waterfalls. Here is the oasis of Millstream National Park and right on our doorstep in Karratha, are the ancient engravings of Murujuga National Park – on a song-line, which joins this far-western point of the continent with Uluru in the nation’s centre.
Welcome also to the incredible Kimberley – one of the remotest and untouched parts of the planet. Like the Pilbara, the Kimberley also features a range of mineral resources, but it is the amazing environment that stuns visitors. From the Bungle Bungles to Tunnel Creek, the Mitchell River National Park to the Horizontal Falls – the Kimberley has scenery like you have never seen before. Not only is the Kimberly remote and pristine, but its wet season is profound, the flooding Fitzroy River has so much water flowing down it that they measure it in Sydney Harbours drained per day.
But with all this wealth and environmental abundance, the north of WA suffers from that curse of northern Australia – the tyranny of distance. The federal electorate of Durack, which covers the Pilbara and Kimberley – and much more - is 1.6 million square kilometres in area and stretches from the far north of the State – beyond Wyndham, south to Quairading ("kwera ding") at the latitude of Perth – over 2200 km. This enormous area has only 177,000 people to its name, the Pilbara region about 60,000 and the Kimberley some 40,000.
Yet the Pilbara alone last year exported $90 billion of commodities – 38% of the entire nation’s commodity exports: those 60,000 people lift much more than their weight of numbers would indicate – some $1.5 million each!
We have enormous industries producing this incredible export value – Rio Tinto, BHP, FMG and others produce more iron ore than any other country in the world – by a factor of more than 2! Woodside, the NW Shelf partners, Chevron, Santos and others export LNG from 11 trains – not to mention crude oil, condensate, LPG and domestic gas.
The Pilbara exports major quantities of lithium, ammonia, salt, copper, ammonium nitrate and manganese. We are the cornucopia – Aladdin’s Cave of mineral wealth, which the nation now depends on. In fact, each $US10 increase in the iron ore price lifts Commonwealth revenue by $3 to $4 billion over a full year!
But in spite of all this immense mining infrastructure, northern WA, like the rest of northern Australia, has just a few dominant industries and very limited diversity. For some mining towns, this is a major problem because when the mine is exhausted it is unlikely the community serving it will last – that is unless that community has diversified its economy beyond mining.
Our council in Karratha therefore determined to do all it could to develop a more diverse and sustainable economy – one less beholden to international commodity prices. We came up with the slogan: Australia’s Most Liveable Regional City and made a plan to do everything possible to make that happen.
For a start, this involved providing the facilities people would expect in any major city across the nation – and this beautiful theatre is the latest example of what we have done to provide first class infrastructure. We have also built a brilliant Airport terminal – it is the second busiest in WA - an amazing sport and business centre – the Leisureplex (free for all DNA patrons!), a new main street and many other facilities.
However, we also needed to diversify away from resources extraction and the tyranny of unstable world commodity prices. We needed renewable, clean, sustainable, – 21st century industries that would provide employment in the north for generations to come. Here are some of the things that have happened:
• There was no suitable facility in Australia to process mercury-contaminated waste so these products in the past were exported half-way across the world to Switzerland. Now Aussie company Contract Resources has built a Mercury Extraction Plant here so all mercury-contaminated materials from across Australia will have to come to Karratha for extraction of mercury and other processing.
• Woodside is developing its Burrup Hub, a trucked LNG facility to enable use of LNG to power mine sites and remote communities. LNG has 40% less CO2 emissions than diesel, and zero toxic emissions. If the whole Pilbara used LNG we would save the financial and environmental costs of burning the current 3 billion litres of diesel in the Pilbara every year. Mr Sean Bruyns, Woodside Operations manager will speak on this fantastic initiative tomorrow.
• Oysters grow naturally along our coast so it is likely commercial production could occur. The Murujuga Oyster project is currently trialling the growing of native oysters commercially in the Dampier Archipelago. It is being financially supported by Maxima, the City of Karratha and the State of WA. We are very pleased to have John Hutton, Managing Director of Maxima Opportunity, the major funder of this project and owner of the leases in the Dampier Archipelago, here today. John will speak in detail about this project this afternoon.
• The Sahara Forest Project is a controlled environment agriculture project in which closed greenhouses with raised CO2 and moisture levels are used to grow vegetables hydroponically. The proponent has constructed two of these elsewhere in the world and has completed a feasibility study for Karratha which shows a good return on investment for 20 ha of greenhouses here.
• EcoMag is an Australian company, which has developed a process to extract magnesium compounds from seawater for export world-wide. A pilot trial last year was successful and the company now intends to build a plant here in Karratha. Jody Cellar (& Shaun Triner?) from Ecomag is here today and will speak more about the project this afternoon.
• Algae company WRS has leases on the supra-tidal mudflats north of Karratha where it intends to establish a beta-carotene project, which would involve up to 300 ha of ponds and a processing factory.
The issue of transport and accessibility is more profound in the north of Western Australia than anywhere in the country. Overseas cargo comes to the Pilbara and Kimberley via Perth – 3000 km or more out of its way. Similarly, with airfares – everyone in regional WA has to fly via Perth to get anywhere else and it is usually cheaper to fly to Melbourne from here – via Perth, of course - than it is to Perth itself!
• So, we have been driving establishment of both an international air link to Singapore, and an inter-regional flight network to join the north-west towns. We are pleased to have Michael McConachy, Managing Director of winning tenderer Aviair to speak on the inter-regional flight network this afternoon.
• The Pilbara is a world leader in industrial automation with Rio running fully autonomous trains and haul trucks from its NASA-like control room in Perth. FMG and BHP are not far behind: each are using digitalisation to revolutionise the industry, slashing costs and making jobs cheaper. Aussie company Project 412 is establishing an autonomous vehicle research facility here in Karratha. Managing Director of Project 412, Paul Lucey is speaking tomorrow on this fantastic project.
• As a first stage in slashing the cost of freight to the region, our city along with the State Government, funded a study into Direct Freight into Karratha. The feasibility study showed a 50% reduction in freight costs and a 70% reduction in schedule time could be achieved. Pilbara Ports representatives, Roger Johnston, CEO and Charles Kretzmann General Manager Engineering and Infrastructure are here to speak about future Port transport developments.
With our outstanding solar resource, vast open land areas and existing gas export facilities, Council wishes to see Karratha as a renewable energy hub, specialising in the production of clean power and hydrogen, which many see as the necessary fuel of the future. The City has surveyed its lands to determine which areas are most suitable for photovoltaic electricity production and is establishing a sustainable industry precinct we have called the Eco-hub, where we will produce renewable electricity to power a range of sustainable, zero-carbon industries – and hopefully the production of hydrogen.
Some of the renewable energy projects now in various stages of development include:
• Yara’s Renewable Ammonia project, which will produce renewable hydrogen from PV electricity to make renewable ammonia for export. Yara’s intent is to eventually produce all its ammonia using renewable hydrogen. Yara have staff here who will explain this project further tomorrow.
• The massive Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the north Pilbara which will generate 15GW or more of renewable electricity by wind and PV panels to be transmitted by DC cable to Karratha for production of hydrogen compounds for export. We are very pleased to have the AREH Project Manager, Andrew Dickson here to give us an update on this project tomorrow.
• FMG are pursuing a range of photovoltaic/renewable hydrogen projects and the intent is to construct renewable hydrogen refuelling stations in Karratha, Port Hedland and elsewhere across the Pilbara to allow long-term assessment and development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Woodside is also actively investigating international and domestic hydrogen opportunities and that Woodside’s long experience producing and exporting LNG, underpinned by strong customer relationships, positions it well for future complementary opportunities in large-scale hydrogen export for industrial use.
I would like to thank Matt Macleod, Manager of Advanced technology Vehicles for bringing the amazing Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle to Karratha. As you will have seen outside, this is a beautiful car – and some of you may have the chance for a drive later!
I would also like to thank Brendan Hammond, Chair of the Pilbara Development Commission with us who will speak on our country’s low complexity and poor economic resilience tomorrow.
In the next two days, you will hear many other ideas and current experiences with aquaculture projects, supply-chain developments, indigenous owner business propositions, tertiary education opportunities, new tourism developments, new agriculture opportunities, micro-grids, the latest research into agriculture and the environment – we have a very full program.
There is much to do and much to see – so, welcome again everybody: I hope you have an excellent conference and find the time to do a couple of tours – perhaps even to helicopter over the archipelago – or drive a hydrogen car!
I will leave you with one of our tourism initiatives - Karratha is Calling …..
Thankyou, best wishes and don’t hesitate to grab me if you have any queries whatsoever.