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Global aviation firm Boeing has selected Toowoomba as the preferred site for an uncrewed‑aircraft production facility, which will be their first ever outside North America.

Boeing Australia will establish the facility at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport precinct to produce and assemble the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, also known as the Loyal Wingman, subject to Defence orders.

Wagner Corporation expect the facility build will support around 300 construction jobs, with at least 70 high-skilled advanced manufacturing jobs to be created once the facility is operational.

The company says Boeing Australia will be the foundation tenant for a new Wellcamp Aerospace and Defence Precinct.

“With governments and the private sector in Australia and internationally making massive investment in aerospace, advanced manufacturing and defence capabilities, the timing is absolutely right for us to develop a precinct of this calibre so that investment can be made right here in Queensland at Wellcamp,” chairman John Wagner said.
The Loyal Wingman aircraft made its first flight in February 2021 and is the first military combat aircraft designed, developed and manufactured in Australia in half a century.

Boeing Defence Australia vice-president and managing director Scott Carpendale said the selection of Wellcamp Airport as Boeing’s preferred location for Loyal Wingman assembly was indicative of the company’s global focus and support for Australia’s sovereign defence capabilities, supply chain and export opportunities.

“We are confident in the future production outlook for this world-class, innovative aircraft,” Mr Carpendale said.

“We’re thinking long-term about this investment, which could assist Australia to gain future work share in other global defence and aerospace opportunities, in addition to the Loyal Wingman assembly.

“The Wellcamp Aerospace and Defence Precinct location is attractive due to its access to a flight line, clear flying days, commercial flight access from major cities and ability to support the rapid pace at which the Airpower Teaming System program is growing.”

Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick said Boeing’s decision reinforced the strength of Queensland’s almost 25-year relationship with the aviation company.

“This announcement follows our success with Australia’s first commercial drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry Airport last December, of which Boeing was a first user,” Mr Dick said.
“It’s the result of an arrangement our government entered into with Boeing Australia last year to support the establishment of the primary final assembly facility for the Boeing Loyal Wingman here in Queensland, subject to defence orders.

“It’s expected the project could generate up to $1 billion dollars for Queensland’s economy over 10 years, with more than just defence industries to benefit."

DP Energy Group is advancing environmental approvals for a 420MW wind farm project in the Calliope Range, about 75km west-south-west of Gladstone.

Construction of the Callide wind farm is expected to begin in 2023 or 2024, with full commercial operation early in 2026.

The project would comprise of the installation of around 70 wind turbines with a with a tip height of approximately 235m, according to documents submitted for Federal Environmental approvals.

The project site, 29km north north-east of Biloela, lies north of the Callide mine and is located on agricultural land with cattle grazing.

Apart from the turbines, the infrastructure required will include a 275kV Switchyard to connect into the existing Calvale or Callide to Stanwell 275kV overhead transmission lines and a site substation containing switchgear, transformers, energy storage and grid services equipment, offices, welfare facilities and workshop.

Its development will require hard standing areas for wind turbine construction, about 140km of wind farm site tracks, about 73km of underground 33kV cabling (linking wind turbines), 52km of overhead 33kV cabling (linking turbine clusters to site sub-station), eight meteorological masts of up to 160m high and access from the public highway.

The project’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act referral is now out for public comment.

It comes as Central Queensland’s Moah Creek renewable energy project also moves forward, with public information sessions held in the Rockhampton area last week.

RES and Energy Estate are behind the project, located 30km west of Rockhampton, which would combine 400MW of wind, 200MW of solar and a 300MW big battery.

It is part of the larger integrated Central Queensland Power project (CQP) that RES and Energy Estate are proposing to develop, with plans for wind, solar and battery storage projects with a capacity of more than 2GW.

Townsville City Council has formally approved the first development application over land within the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct, paving the way for an Edify Energy hydrogen plant.

Edify proposes to build and operate an up to 1 GW green hydrogen production plant as well as a behind-the-meter solar photovoltaic and battery storage facility at the precinct. 

Edify’s initial plans involve generating green hydrogen from a pilot scale facility of 10 megawatts and increasing capacity in stages to meet the needs of a growing domestic and export green hydrogen market.

Mayor Jenny Hill said the application had been independently assessed by council’s planning officers and approved with conditions relating to development staging, roadworks and traffic safety upgrades.

“Momentum continues to build behind the development of northern Australia’s first environmentally sustainable, advanced manufacturing, processing and technology estate right here in Townsville,” Cr Hill said.

“Edify’s application is a major vote of confidence in our city, our developing green hydrogen industry and our Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct.

“Edify’s desire to establish itself at the precinct supports Council’s ongoing efforts to work with both the State and Federal Government through the Townsville City Deal to get the precinct investment ‘turn-key’ ready as soon as possible.”

Edify Energy chief executive officer John Cole said the company looked forward to working with local businesses, contractors, and suppliers and other stakeholders.

“We’re very pleased to be a leading player in the establishment of Lansdown, a blueprint for new age environmentally sustainable industrial ecosystems,” Mr Cole said. 

“The eco-industrial precinct not only supports the use of natural mineral resources for advanced manufacturing and production, but also the use of renewable energy from the approved and co-located Majors Creek solar power station, utilising advanced grid friendly technology and storage to dispatch renewable energy when it is most needed.

“Electricity from renewable sources is an essential part of green hydrogen production and the decarbonising of advanced manufacturing in Australia.”

Cr Hill said the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct had the potential to significantly boost Townsville and North Queensland’s economy for decades.

Queensland Pacific Minerals and Imperium3 Townsville (iM3TSV) have also signed up to establish themselves at the precinct.

Queensland Pacific Minerals plans to produce battery-grade nickel and cobalt sulphate from nickel-cobalt ore while iM3TSV plans to develop an 18 GWh lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facility.

A geotechnical drilling program is underway to advance the $60 million Big Rocks Weir project 26km north of Charters Towers.

Proponent Charters Towers Regional Council hopes to have pre-construction activities complete by October this year.

Charters Towers Mayor Frank Beveridge said the start of the drilling was exciting news for the region.

“This past week we’ve had geotechnical drilling commence at the Big Rocks Weir site. The drilling is a necessary step in accessing the construction of the Big Rocks Weir and we’re excited that work is progressing,” he said.

“So far, a local earthmoving company has been engaged to provide access tracks to the site for the drill rigs and GHD engineers are supervising the drilling and collecting the rock core samples.
“We also have cultural heritage observers from Ngrragoonda Aboriginal Corporation on-site watching over the activities.”

Rock core samples will be provided to engineers to assess the suitability of the site’s foundations.

Following the geotechnical assessment, engineers will undertake a design review and confirmation, with pre-construction activities due to be complete by October 2022.

“Once the pre-construction activities are complete a decision will be made on proceeding with construction of the weir,” Cr Beveridge said.

He said construction of the weir was expected to create more than 170 jobs, with a further 110 after it was built.

Once built the project is expected to deliver an additional $35 million in agricultural revenue to the Charters Towers Region and more than $26 million in economic benefits to the State and Federal economies.

“It will boost water security, job security, and regional security for the Charters Towers Region,” Cr Beveridge said.

Students from throughout Queensland are in Mount Isa this week for the Oresome Minds Camp run by the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA), the education arm of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).

The students were meant to travel to the mining city earlier in the year, but a COVID-19 lockdown put paid to those plans.

The students have been working on projects with their Mount Isa Mines mentors virtually over the past 10 weeks, and will this week present them face-to-face and experience a taste of life as a resources professional. 

As well as discovering how science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) are used every day in the resources sector, the students are learning from their industry mentors about the different opportunities available to them.

“Our staff have been looking forward to demonstrating how teamwork, problem solving and communication are key skills needed for success in our sector,” Glencore Queensland Metals human resources group manager Clint Milner said.

“We hope that it will be a positive experience for the students and encourage them to consider careers in our sector, particularly engineering where we have a shortage of talent.”

QRC director skills and education Katrina-Lee Jones said it was important for students to be aware of the opportunities available in the sector with skills shortages, particularly in engineering and trades.

“It’s why we are currently running a social media campaign to encourage students to consider mining engineering,” she said.

Schools taking part are Spinifex State College, Good Shepherd Catholic College, Kelvin Grove State College, San Sisto College, Wavell State High School, Centenary State High School, and Nanango State High School. 

IMAGE: Aliesha Buckley taking a selfie with Mitch Thinee, Sam Howarth, and Calum Ingram during a 'getting to know you' photo scavenger hunt.

A shortage of skilled workers is the No.1 threat to the future viability of Queensland’s resources sector, according to a survey of mining bosses.

The latest State of the Sector report shows a combination of COVID-related border restrictions, less skilled migration and interstate competition for workers has created a perfect storm of labour shortages at a time of continued growth across the sector.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said mining leaders had become increasingly concerned over the past 12 months about attracting and retaining enough skilled employees to support industry growth.

The issue had jumped from No.12 on the list to No.1 in the latest CEO sentiment survey, he said.

“The number of jobs in our sector in Queensland has increased by more than two-thirds over the past five years to reach a record high of almost 85,000 earlier this year,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“This growth in resources jobs, which has surged since COVID, is around six times the relative growth experienced across the rest of Queensland’s workforce over the same five-year period.

“Looking forward, jobs growth over the next five years is likely to continue due to increasing global demand for traditional resources like coal, base metals and gas plus the growing demand for new economy minerals such as cobalt, graphite, vanadium and rare earths which are being used to build everything from microchips to electric vehicles.”

“This demand will create a growing and increasingly diverse pipeline of jobs for Queenslanders, with the National Skills Commission projecting employment in our sector will grow by a further 8 percent to 2025.”

According to the latest SEEK employment data, there are currently more than 1300 resources jobs on offer in Queensland, with more than 70 per cent paying upwards of $100,000 per year.