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Historic Golden Mile Loopline Railway from Kalgoorlie to Boulder in WA Goldfields set to live again
A project that could eliminate costly freight bottlenecks for booming Goldfields mining operations could get the green light as early as next year.
Without a cost-effective loading and offloading facility, freight from the Goldfields is often trucked to Perth, only to be sent back east through Kalgoorlie by train.
The rail realignment would involve the creation of an intermodal transport hub, giving firms in the area a facility to load containers onto freight trains locally.
Murray Leahy from Kalgoorlie-based mining logistics company MLG said the hub would be a significant "de-bottlenecking of the logistics stream".
An expansion of the KCGM Super Pit is constrained by rail lines to the north.(ABC Goldfields
)Mr Leahy said the rail realignment and transport hub, which would be established on the western outskirts of the city, would give the industry access to new opportunities for cost-effective transport.
The realignment would also bypass the more expensive length of rail operated by Arc Infrastructure and give the hub direct access to the cheaper network heading east of Kalgoorlie.
Why now?Mr Leahy said booming resource markets such as gold, nickel and lithium meant the investment would come at an opportune time.
"The sheer volume of freight that is moving through the Goldfields by road and from Fremantle and Esperance is growing and will continue to grow and has reached that pivotal point when it supports an intermodal hub," he said.
A map of the proposed railway realignment.(Supplied: Australian Government
)The Member for O'Connor, Rick Wilson, said "we are starting to see the stars align" for the project.
Mr Wilson said the project coincided with rare earth metals firm Lynas's development of a processing facility in Kalgoorlie.
He also said Northern Star Resources, having taken over the KCGM Super Pit earlier this year, would be looking at long-term investment and the location of the current rail line inhibited expansions.
"The constraint that the current rail line applies to them is important to remove," Mr Wilson said.
A spokesperson for Northern Star Resources said the company welcomed the announcement.
"The proposal has potential to cut freight costs and therefore improve safety by reducing truck traffic, among other benefits," the spokesperson said.
Northern Star Resources took over the KCGM Super Pit earlier this year.(ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas
)Could it miss the boat (or train)?Mr Wilson said the project also came at a time when the federal government was looking to stimulate the economy through "nation-building infrastructure".
But he said he hoped the business case would be completed around the end of 2021, with the Commonwealth indicating it would splash less cash and focus on budget repair once the economy recovered.
"In the next 12 to 24 months this stimulus will start to wind down," he said.
Even if plans were not on the table by the end of the year, Mr Wilson said he believed it would still be considered.
"Good nation-building projects are always looked at by governments as investments for future growth."
Federal MP Rick Wilson and Mayor John Bowler are working to get the project off the ground.(ABC Goldfields: Sean Tarek Goodwin
)He said ballpark estimates placed the cost of the project at around $150 million but the efficiencies gained would give commercial interests confidence to invest in the area.
The idea of rerouting rail around Kalgoorlie has been discussed for almost 20 years, since a feasibility study came back negative in 2003.
The state Portlink study was also conducted in 2013 to assess rail alignment options through Kalgoorlie.
The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder has conducted "minor desktop studies", which Mayor John Bowler said had indicated the project was viable.
"We need a more definitive and a more detailed study, and this is what the $2 million from the feds and half a million from Perth will give us," Mr Bowler said.
Site taken over by stateThe hub would be located on Lot 350, which has been earmarked for an industrial zone on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie and has been a point of contention over the past year.
The 214-hectare Lot 350 area has been set aside for industrial development.(Supplied: City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder
)The lot was being developed by the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder but it has agreed to surrender management to the state government.
Mr Bowler said the government decided the project was too big for the city council.
"All these big industries need land ... whether the state owns it or we own it, I don't really care as mayor."
Mr Bowler said the council would work with the government to bring the project forward.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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