Richmond steps up for acid plant

Richmond Shire Council has put its case for a sulphuric acid manufacturing plant east of the town in a dedicated ‘inland port’ alongside the Great Northern Railway.

The projected shortfall of acid and its place in the established and emerging mining industries is the talk of both the boardrooms and bar rooms in North Queensland.  

There are two sources of sulphuric acid manufacturing in Queensland.

They include the Mount Isa Acid plant owned by Incitec Pivot (IPL) and the Sun Metals plant in Townsville, whose largest customer is IPL.

Main image: Mount Isa acid plant owned by Incitec Pivot

Sulphuric acid is also used in heap leach operations.  

It has also been earmarked as central to the development of the vanadium mining industry emerging mid-way north of Richmond and west to the McKinlay Shire.

The shortfall in domestic production is forecast to be in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes.

Richmond Mayor John Wharton has put the offer build a new acid plant at a dedicated site 16km east of the town to Resources Minister Scott Stewart.

It aligned to the state’s priorities, Cr Wharton said.

“I met with Minister Stewart the other day in Brisbane at a local government function and told him about the inland port at Richmond that we’re pursuing,” he said. 

“It’d be an ideal spot for a sulphuric acid plant, particularly with the vanadium development going on around Richmond and Julia Creek. 

“Critical minerals out there are pretty important to the State Government (and) I’ve spoken to a number of mining companies about their need for sulphuric acid and it is important for them.” 

The council had earmarked 2400 acres for an inland port for a host of industry including a cotton gin, Cr Wharton said.

Its utility was proven in 2019 when IPL used it as a phosphate set-down area, pre-empting some of the biggest flooding the North-West region had seen, Cr Wharton said. 

This enabled the company to keep trading, he said.

“So we realised then that from Richmond to Townsville Port, there’s nothing going to stop you. It (the flooding) is always west of Richmond,” he said.

“It’s a great idea and we’ve got a lot of mining company support to develop the inland port. It’ll be a lot cheaper, I can tell you now, to store product out here and still get it to the boat, than it would be stored on the coast. 

“That’s an ideal spot for a sulphuric acid plant and I told our Minister (Scott) Stewart that. So we’ll see what comes out of it. And a couple of miners have already told him that too. I believe that they support the idea of a sulphuric acid plant at the Richmond (inland) port.”

The inland port site had access to power via the CopperString development, he said. A council-commissioned concept plan suggested the inland port would cost $30 million to develop. 

The cost to build a sulphuric acid plant had been put at $1 billion, Cr Wharton said.

The State Government commissioned the Queensland Acid Study at the World Mining Congress held in Brisbane last year. 

Questioned about it at the Mount Isa MPX conference last month, Mr Stewart said it was ‘on his desk’. It has not been released.

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