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Gov. of South Australia and companies fund further studies for Northern Water desalination project

  • Gov. of South Australia and companies fund further studies for Northern Water desalination project

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The Government of South Australia has announced an agreement with the private sector to co-fund further studies to assess the feasibility of the Northen Water project, which would entail the construction of a 260 megalitre a day desalination plant on the Eyre Peninsula, along with a 600 km pipeline.

The next phase of investigations, at a cost of approximately $200-$230 million Australian dollars (about $130-$150 million US dollars), will inform a Final Investment Decision on the project, expected in the first half of 2026. Private sector companies contributing to these costs include BHP, Origin Energy, Amp energy and Fortescue Energy. In addition, BHP and the State Government have agreed that BHP would cover up to $100 million of the state’s costs should it withdraw from the project. The investigations will include:

  • Evaluation of the overall environmental, social and economic impact of the project via an Environmental Impact Statement.
  • Formal tender process and development of agreed contract terms with a preferred contractor to design, build, operate and maintain the plant and pipeline.
  • Progression of required project approvals including Native Title, development approval and other land access agreements for the plant and pipeline.
  • Ongoing engagement with stakeholders and the community to ensure risks and opportunities are properly understood and addressed.
  • Other activities required to provide Government and project partners with clear understanding of the risks and opportunities associated with the project.

Northern Water aims to provide a sustainable source of water to reduce reliance on groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin, the country’s largest groundwater basin. According to the project’s business case it can generate more than $5 billion in economic benefits and 4,000 jobs by contributing to industrial development in areas such as copper, hydrogen, green iron, as well as defence, pastoral and community uses.

“We have all the ingredients the world economy needs as it takes the necessary steps to decarbonise – copper, magnetite, a burgeoning hydrogen industry, the world’s best coincident wind and solar resource, and already world-leading renewable energy penetration”, said Premier Peter Malinauskas, adding that “the missing ingredient is water”.

The premier told ABC that the project would not be built, owned and operated by SA Water, meaning it would not have any impact on peoples' SA Water bills. "Instead, it would be a state government piece of infrastructure underwritten by the commercial offtake agreements we would enter into with potential users such as BHP", Mr Malinauskas said.

“The Northern Water Supply project is strategic infrastructure with the potential to benefit multiple sector and businesses”, said Anna Wiley, BHP’s Asset President Copper South Australia, in a company statement, adding that as the global demand for copper is growing fast, the multi-user water project offers significant opportunities for South Australia.

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