WITH live export set to resume from the Karumba Port once dredging is complete in July, there are calls for a permanent solution to future proof the port.
It comes after New Century Rescouces made a $6.8 million commitment to dredge the channel to a depth of 3.2 metres before they recommence shipping operations through Karumba from October.
Dredging work started last week, and will continue for the mine’s estimated 6.5 year life.
The Karumba port channel was developed to facilitate Century Mine operations in 1999 and they funded annual maintenance dredging until suspending operations in late 2015.
The State Government stumped up $1.7 million for dredging in 2016, but there was no ongoing maintenance plan until now.
Live export operations have been suspended for almost a year, with the last boat leaving in July.
Traeger MP Robbie Katter said the Karumba Port was effectively shut down to large scale cattle exports in 2015 and urged the State Government to stump up to ensure that did not happen again.
He said live cattle exporters had suffered with graziers forced to send their cattle long distances to embark from the ports of Darwin and Townsville.
“Karumba Port is operated by Ports North but Century Mine footed the bill for dredging while it was operating, ensuring it remained open to larger volume live exporters,’’ Mr Katter said.
“Cattle exporters were able to export their livestock directly to international markets which contributed to the profits of the port and supported the local cattle industry.
“However, when Century Mine ceased their operations, Ports North said there was no money in the bank to pay for continued dredging, leaving graziers and cattle exporters high and dry.
“Ports North were receiving around $2 million a year for 10 years while Century Mine was operating.
“Unfortunately no one had the foresight to plan ahead to quarantine the profits during the good times as a buffer against the inevitable shutdown of the mine.
“With New Century coming online and once again commencing dredging, there is a great opportunity to lock in the long term future of the port.
“If action is taken now to put aside the profits the port will make over the next half a dozen years graziers and exporters can invest in their businesses with confidence and contribute to a growing economy and the creation of jobs in the region.”
Gulf Savannah Development chairman Ernie Camp said securing the future of the Karumba Port was a priority for the region.
“A long term strategy is something we would all like to see,’’ Mr Camp said.
“Our businesses and communities would all benefit from a more active and profitable port.’’
South East Asian Livestock Service chairman John Kaus said he would like to see a sustainable business model built around the Karumba Port and cooperation from Ports North.
“The port plays a vital role in supporting the region in terms of investment and employment,” Mr Kaus said.
“We know the New Century mine won’t last forever – so we would like to work with Ports North and the Labor Government to ensure this valuable piece of infrastructure isn’t just shut down in six or seven years.
“It has the potential to become a real centre piece of investment and economic growth for the Far North region.’’