The QLD Government has listed Glencore as the ‘preferred proponent’ for the Aurukun bauxite project in Cape York.
The project has a storied history of development.
The government put out an international tender back in 2011 after one of the initial developers, Chinese miner Chalco, pulled out of discussions.
The government then approved, and rejected, a proposal by Glencore and Australian Indigenous Resources due to what the state said was too long lead times for benefits being delivered to the local communities.
In announcing the companies shortlisted to detail proposals for the venture last year, deputy premier Jeff Seeney said the development of the bauxite resource was essential to the creation of a vibrant economic future for the Aurukun community and its native titleholders.
It was hoped the mine would turn Aurukun into a mining boom town and spread benefits and returns from the project to the native titleholders– the Wik and Wik Way people represented by the Ngan Aak-Kunch Aboriginal Corporation (NAK) – and the Aurukun Shire Council.
However it was confirmed in May that the proposals by Glencore and the Indigenous-backed Australian Indigenous Resources had been rejected.
“After carefully considering the proposals, the Government is not satisfied that either bid – from the Australian Indigenous Resources Pty Ltd (AIR) or Glencore International AG – could deliver what the Government had hoped for in a timely manner ,” Seeney said.
“We have decided to bring this process to a close and revisit this development opportunity at a later date, rather than take a chance that the objectives might one day be satisfied by one of the proponents.”
The was not the first time this had happened.
The Beattie government stripped French aluminium company Pechiney of the lease in 2003 because it was not being developed quickly enough.
It was then given to Chalco and Rio Tinto which spent a reported $100 million on work of a previous lease but cancelled the $3 billion deal in 2011, saying the Bligh government's condition of building a refinery was unworkable.
Now Glencore has stepped back in to the frame after the new government announcement.
Speaking on the granting of ‘preferred proponent’ for the project, Glencore’s head of aluminium Andrew Caplan said “we are grateful to the QLD Government for the opportunity to progress discussion on the Aurukun project; we are excited by this opportunity and recognise the importance of this project to the development of the Cape York regional economy, its communities, and traditional owners”.
“We look forward to engaging with the community and traditional owners to discuss the opportunities and potential benefits that could be generated by the Aurukun project.”
As the now preferred proponent, Glencore will work with the State Government to finalise a development agreement, and consult with the local indigenous Wik and Wik Way people to formalise an Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the next phase of the project.
A formalised development agreement and Indigenous agreement will allow a mineral development licence to be granted for the project, which is required for the mining to carry out a feasibility study of the resource.
The bauxite lode near the Watson River at Aurukun, north of Cairns, is expected to be worth more than $25 billion in untapped resources.
Image: Aurukun Wetland Charters