Response Plan Following 2025 Closure of Copper Mining

Transitioning Mount Isa's Economy

Published: 5th January 2024

As part of Council’s “Transitioning Mount Isa’s Economy: Response to Glencore Copper Mining Closure” strategy, Council will contract the services of consultants in six specialised strategic areas in order to develop an overall response plan.

The plan will outline a path forward to safeguard the city’s economic future, following Glencore’s announcement in October 2023 that it would cease its Mount Isa copper-mining operations and copper concentrator by late 2025. The refinery and smelters will remain in operation.

The strategic areas covered in Council’s document are tourism, energy, resources, critical infrastructure, agriculture, and small and medium business, representing the various pillars of Mount Isa’s economy.

For each area, each consultant will first carry out economic and environmental scans and ideas generation, to strategise the overall transition of Mount Isa’s economy, in partnership with the Mount Isa Copper Mine Closure Taskforce. This phase will span January to May 2024.

The second phase, from June 2024 to July 2025, will involve the execution of the Phase 1 identified pathways and projects, to help realise investment in each of the six strategic areas.

The consultants are Mott MacDonald Pty Ltd (energy); DeltaPearl Partners Pty Ltd (resources); KPMG (critical infrastructure); Scyne Advisory Pty Ltd (agriculture); and Bonwick Consulting Pty Ltd (small and medium business). The tourism contract, for TRC Tourism Pty Ltd, will be awarded subject to Council being awarded State Government funding.

Council will also apply for funding to help cover the costs of the consultation contracts. If funding is not successful, Council has budgeted for the contracts’ costs.

Some of the early actionable projects identified in the strategy include accelerating the CopperString high-voltage powerline project; the proposed Transport and Logistics Centre (to establish a base for transport operations in the region); a common-user facility for critical minerals (adapting Glencore’s large concentration facility to one that can also process vanadium, cobalt, and low-volume copper); and a renewable-energy industrial estate.

Council is now part of a working group that includes Glencore and Local and State government representatives and aims to ensure the closures’ impact on the city is kept to a minimum, including ensuring local miners are given priority for jobs in Mount Isa following the 2025 closures.

Mayor Danielle Slade said the Mount Isa and Region Futures Advisory Committee (MIRFAC) working group has commenced its activities, holding two meetings in December 2023.

“It is of utmost importance that Mount Isa actively participates in shaping its future. Recognising the need for specialised expertise, Council is determined to gather the most proficient minds to contribute to the strategic planning process. This collaboration will greatly benefit the goals and objectives of MIRFAC,” Cr Slade said.

“It is essential to acknowledge the significant role education and training will play in advancing our community.

“Although we will endeavour to secure State and Federal funding, it is imperative that we engage consultants experienced in assisting communities who have faced similar circumstances, such as those affected by the closure of the car industry.

“Mount Isa possesses tremendous potential, but it is crucial, at this point, to prioritise securing employment opportunities for all copper mine workers and their families who choose to stay in Mount Isa.”

Deputy Mayor and Council’s Economic Development portfolio holder, Phil Barwick, said Council has moved quickly in response to the impending closure of the Mount Isa Mines copper mining operations.

“Mount Isa’s sustainability is obviously important in the short term, and it is also timely to be very proactive in not only addressing the potential loss of significant numbers of jobs, but to plan meticulously how the city will manage the implications of the 2030 Net Zero emissions targets that will affect us all in the way business and industry is conducted in the North West,” Cr Barwick said.

“Mount Isa is going on the front foot by Council developing these plans with very experienced professionals that we have now engaged through these contracts, and we look forward to their suite of recommendations during the first half of 2024.

“What it will mean for Council is that there is a lot of hard work ahead to come out of this, however I am very optimistic that our structured planning now will also encourage growth for the city and the broader region in the medium term.”

Council held a Special Meeting on December 22, 2023, where it agreed to award the consultation contracts.