NT salt mine will mean 350 jobs

CENTRAL Australia’s long extinct oceans will soon offer Alice Springs more than 350 jobs when construction of salt mining infrastructure begins in early 2017.

Miner Tellus became interested in the Chandler site, 120km south of Alice Springs, in 2012 after oil and gas exploration found some of the largest salt deposits in the world.

But the project’s biggest material boost came yesterday in a Beijing boardroom when Tellus managing director ­Duncan van der Merwe and his counterpart from the state-owned China Coal Technology and Engineering Group, Ji Yangrui, signed off on a $120 million deal for mining machinery.

The deal is expected to be the first of several in the coming days and weeks to shore up the future of $464 million project and see the first spade crack red earth near Titjikala in 2017.

Because of the drying qualities of salt, Tellus will also sell shaft space for storage of waste and minerals from the mining, heavy industry, government and oil and gas sectors.

Mr van der Merwe said deals with the land’s traditional owners meant the company would not store any nuclear or uranium waste or byproducts.

Construction of mining infrastructure and a 31km haulage road to connect it to a new railway siding will take about a year, but it will be three years until digging hits salt beds, about 800m underground.

Mr Van der Merwe said the first four-year phase will create 360 jobs.

The operational mining and storage phase will run at least 25 years, potentially hundreds of years more, and create 180 jobs.

The workers will be mostly “drive in-drive out’’ from Alice Springs and will sleep at a workers camp on site.

Mr Van der Merwe said storing waste and other materials in the mine created a net positive environmental effect.

Tellus has set an Aboriginal employment target of 10 per cent, which is below the levels government requires when tendering its own projects.

Mr van der Merwe said Tellus would establish a training program to skill local Aboriginal workers and aimed to exceed the 10 per cent target in time.

The mined salt will travel by rail to Darwin and be shipped from the port to mostly Asian countries.


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