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A pledge of $30 million for Big Rocks Weir outside Charters Towers and $10 million to support the DriveIT project in Townsville are among the economic kick-starters in a North Queensland recovery plan outlined this week.

A multi-million-dollar State Government support package to secure more than 1000 resource and manufacturing jobs by ensuring the continuation of Glencore's Mount Isa copper smelter and Townsville copper refinery was the headline announcement. 

It was one element in the Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan unveiled by the Palaszczuk government to support the region’s economic recovery and to create local jobs.

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said the plan also included more upgrades to Riverway Drive and support for DriveIT.

“It’s great to see there is more than $19 million for further safety and capacity improvements on Riverway Drive,” Mr Harper said.

“And subject to further feasibility work, a $10 million boost will support the regionally-owned motor sport facility DriveIT delivering a range of programs and activities including driving courses, Emergency Services training, product testing and events.”

Katter’s Australian Party State leader Robbie Katter said today’s commitment on Big Rocks Weir would bring the project to realisation.

He said it followed the securing of $54 million ($24 million for investigations into Hells Gate Dam, the rest for construction of Big Rocks) by Federal Member for Kennedy Bob katter.

“A total of $60 million will be for construction. This is game-changing for the Charters Towers economy and for the future of irrigated cropping along the Burdekin River in North Queensland,” he said.

The Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan also lists previously announced items such as $14.8 million backing for the CopperString 2.0 project and $16 million to investigate the potential raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam wall.

Townsville Regional Recovery Action Plan initiatives include:
- Financial support for Mount Isa Mines’ ongoing copper processing operations
- $30 million for Big Rocks Weir –to help secure water and support local agriculture, subject to a successful detailed business case.
- $19 million for more Riverway Drive upgrades
- $10 million boost to support DriveIT – subject to further feasibility work
- $2 million to support the development of an Australian first maritime autonomous system testing facility in Townsville to help position the region as a leader in the field.
- $195 million to construct stage 2 of the Haughton pipeline supporting over 500 jobs.
- $230 million in partnership with the Australian Government for stage 5 of the Townsville Ring Road underway
- $14.8 million to fast track support for the Copperstring 2.0 high voltage transmission line to drive investment in the North West Minerals Province.
- $16 million into investigating the potential raising and improvement of the Burdekin Falls Dam to boost the Townsville region’s water supply.
- $950 million in payroll tax relief, supporting 25,300 jobs in the Townsville region.
- $42.4 million in COVID-19 Jobs Support Loans supporting around 3470 jobs at 283 Townsville region businesses
- $8.1 million in adaptation grants to 907 small businesses. 

State unveils recovery plan for Townsville region
Glencore will continue to run its copper smelter in Mount Isa and refinery in Townsville beyond 2022 after reaching an agreement with the State Government.

The company announced this week that it would receive a one-off incentive from the State Government and also planned to invest more than $500 million for the continued operation of the plants.

The incentive, offered under the Queensland Government’s North Queensland recovery plan, would partially mitigate the negative costs of running the assets – which faced high fixed costs and struggled to compete internationally, the company said.

“We recognise these metallurgical assets are an important part of North Queensland economy and part of a broader supply chain which supports thousands of jobs,” the company said in a statement on the decision.

It said the agreement secured ongoing employment for about 570 direct smelter and refinery workers and a further 1000 indirect jobs.

The State Government has not revealed the exact amount of the multi-million dollar support.

But it said the support package would allow for the four-yearly re-bricking and maintenance work at the smelter, due in September next year.

The Mount Isa copper smelter is integral to fertiliser manufacturer Incitec Pivot’s regional operations. A sulphur by-product is refined and transported via rail to the Phosphate Hill plant as a feedstock in its manufacturing process. 

Incitec Pivot managing director and chief executive officer Jeanne Johns said the Queensland Government’s support was a vote of confidence for the region. 

“The government’s investment will support north Queensland’s industrial capability and provide certainty for businesses and jobs in the region,” Ms Johns said. 

“Incitec Pivot’s operations across North Queensland support around 520 regional jobs.

“Today’s funding commitment underpins fertiliser supply and manufacturing at our Mount Isa and Phosphate Hill facilities, ensuring we can continue to provide jobs to support the agricultural sector.”

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the funding lifeline for the Glencore copper assets was part of the State Government’s $8 billion plan to protect the health, jobs and businesses of Queenslanders.

“Queensland needs to maintain minerals processing capability in the North West to keep supply chains open for future critical mineral developments and the jobs they will create,” he said.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt has officially opened the Mackay, Isaac, Whitsunday METS SME Export Hub.

Part of Resource Industry Network, the hub was established last year as a result of funding from the Australian Government’s SME Export Hub Initiative, the Queensland Government, and the Local Buying Foundation.

It is tasked with identifying, establishing, and driving opportunities in the export space for businesses in the MIW region, according to Export Hub manager Dean Kirkwood.

Mr Kirkwood said the role of the Export Hub was to market the MIW region’s METS sector to the world, and support the region’s METS businesses to grow and diversify through export.

“The Export Hub will promote our world-class METS businesses and the proven innovative best practice technologies that they generate. Supporting these METS businesses is another role of the Export Hub. By providing the tools to become export ready, we aim to bring the world to our doorstep.

“While today is our official opening, many activities have already commenced including Export Ready courses, undertaking capability mapping and supply chain analysis, analysing international markets in an effort to produce a Regional Export Marketing Strategy, and identifying gaps that businesses need to fill within these markets.”


PIC:  METS SME Export Hub manager Dean Kirkwood, Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt, Resource Industry Network Director Tim Magoffin, and Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert at the official opening.
Hammer Metals is running an eye over the gold exploration potential within its Mount Isa project areas as prices remain strong.

The company has focused primarily on exploring for large scale Iron Oxide Copper Gold (IOCG) systems in the region and says there is potential for significant gold mineralisation within its tenure.

“The gold exploration review highlights the latent opportunity that exists within Hammer’s Mount Isa portfolio,” managing director Daniel Thomas said.

“With much of the region’s historic exploration focusing on base metal deposits, we have an opportunity to review these areas through a different lens and add quality exploration targets to the portfolio.

“The tenure that we have near the former Tick Hill mine has not been systematically explored and presents a unique opportunity for Hammer to continue progressing our efforts in advancing grass roots exploration concepts within the Mount Isa region.”

Hammer’s portfolio already includes JORC resources totalling some 237,000 oz of gold.

It has historically recorded several significant gold intercepts and rock chip samples within its Mount Isa projects including at prospects such as Elaine, Kalman, Kalman West, Kings-Charlotte, Lake View and El Questro.

It has commenced several low-cost exploration activities with the aim of producing high quality, drill ready targets.

This includes a gold soil sampling program to commence immediately in Hammer’s tenure surrounding the historic high-grade Tick Hill mine.

Koppany shows broad zones of REE mineralisation

Hammer today also reported results from its State Government Collaborative Exploration Initiative-funded 507m diamond drilling program at the Koppany prospect south-east of the historic Mary Kathleen mine.

The drilling intersected broad zones of visible rare earth element mineralisation (Allanite) and multiple zones of stringer and semi-massive sulphide mineralisation.

“The REE diamond drilling programme at Koppany conducted with the support of the Queensland Government’s critical minerals CEI confirmed the presence of broad zones of REE mineralisation as well as
an adjacent zone of copper mineralisation,” Mr Thomas said.

“These results are currently being compiled and reviewed to determine the next steps at this interesting prospect.”

Senex Energy has announced a deal to supply up to 2.5 petajoules (PJ) of natural gas to the Northern Oil Refinery near Gladstone.

It follows hot on the heels of news that the major Queensland gas player plans to lift natural gas production from its Atlas project in the Surat Basin by 50 per cent – with Senex expecting to create more than 100 jobs through that development.

Senex says the new gas sales agreement will help Northern Oil Refinery grow its business and support 32 jobs directly and hundreds of jobs indirectly across Queensland.

The Yarwun facility – owned by Southern Oil Refining – will use Atlas natural gas in its oil refining and advanced biofuels production plants.

Under the initial two-and-a-half-year agreement, Senex will supply Northern Oil Refinery with 0.3 PJ of gas a year.

There is a mechanism to extend the supply of gas for a further five years at 0.35 PJ a year, taking the total contract quantity to 2.5 PJ.

“Senex is pleased to be supporting 30 jobs directly and hundreds of jobs indirectly by providing natural gas to our new customer, Northern Oil Refinery and their Gladstone oil recycling plant,” managing director and chief executive officer Ian Davies said.

“This gas sales agreement adds to our existing portfolio of domestic customers with a Queensland presence including CSR, Orora, Visy Glass and
CleanCo Queensland, reinforcing Senex’s importance as a supplier of natural gas to the east coast market.

“Senex is committed to investing for the long-term to unlock both development-ready and exploration opportunities and working with our customers to deliver affordable and sustainable gas supply to the domestic

“It is also critical that customers commit to suppliers, just as Northern Oil Refinery has done, so as to support ongoing investment in upstream gas development.”

The announcement follows the award of new Atlas gas acreage to Senex as part of the Queensland Government’s domestic gas acreage tender process.

Comet Ridge, State Gas and Denison Gas also won tenders to explore areas close to their existing infrastructure to get more gas to market quickly.

Pelican Resources has swooped in to snap up exploration company XXXX Gold, which holds a tidy portfolio of copper and gold projects in North and Central Queensland.

It comes just a week after settlement on XXXX Gold’s acquisition of the Triumph gold project, 50km south of Gladstone, from Metal Bank for a potential $6.4 million plus 1 per cent royalties.

The XXXX Gold assets also include the Investigator copper project just 12km south of the Mount Gordon (Capricorn Copper) mine in North West Queensland and the Hodgkinson gold-copper project 100km north-east of Cairns.

“The acquisition of XXXX Gold represents an exciting advanced exploration opportunity with particularly exciting exploration upside potential,” Pelican executive director Anthony Torresan said.

“The work done to date has outlined a significant mineralised system at Triumph, where shallow near-surface exploration has the potential to delineate shallow high-grade JORC Resources.

“We are please to have secured the XXX Gold management team, who possess extensive mining and exploration experience and have been instrumental in the success of numerous ASX-listed companies including Silver Lake Resources, Black Cat Syndicate and Spectrum Metals.”

The XXXX Gold acquisition is targeted for completion in November and will include the issue of 88 million Pelican Shares, 40 million options over Pelican Shares and up to 100 million Pelican Shares based on achievement of JORC Resource milestones.

The deal is subject to shareholder approval.