PAPUA New Guinea will soon be exporting fresh water from the Highlands via a 1,500km pipeline to Queensland, Australia, under an ambitious new plan approved by the O’Neill Government.
The National Executive Council (NEC) has approved K20 million for a feasibility study into the project, which will give the PNG Government a 25 per cent stake, with options for further equity participation. NEC has also endorsed the incorporation of a company, Mt Giluwe Water Limited, to oversee the operation of the project in PNG.
The company will be a subsidiary of the State-owned Kumul Consolidated Holdings (formerly Independent Public Business Corporation).
Cabinet’s blessing formalises more than 16 years of data compilation, with the initial project designed by Australian company, Snowy Mountain Engineering Company (SMEC), and other industry experts.
A full cost and benefit analysis will be determined at the completion of the feasibility study.
The project is to be based on a gravity-feed system that will power itself by sourcing water from 5500 feet in altitude from Mt Giluwe in Imbonggu district, Southern Highlands, down to the headwaters of Murray-Darling Basin in Central Queensland.
According to the NEC submission, a project of this magnitude would surpass PNG’s export and foreign exchange earnings by billions of kina over its 150 years’ life.
The project proponent, Might & Power Australia Limited (MPA), also proposes to build six to 10 hydro power stations along the PNG side of the pipeline, with each generating 100 megawatts of electricity.
The pre-feasibility studies conducted by MPA cost more than A$20 million.
The NEC submission said PNG was abundantly blessed with trillions of mega litres of fresh water, which would:
- Meet Australia’s insatiable demand for fresh water;
- Create the food bowl that Australians have been talking about, as well as assisting in environmental solutions for the Murray-Darling Basin region;
- 9Supply fresh water to Australia, which is a drying continent, saving thousands of hectares of land in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia; and,
- Further strengthen the bilateral government and people-to-people relations PNG and Australia have enjoyed since pre and post-independence years.
MPA’s preliminary estimates have it that one mega litre of PNG water would cost about A$300 to A$400. This is compared to A$800 to A$1200 a mega litre by Waterfind, the agency that brokers water in the Murray Darling Basin.
The pipeline will come down from the Highlands into the Gulf of Papua and will be submerged 30 metres under the sea and come out in Cape York, North Queensland.
MPA is considering the same alignment for the abandoned PNG-Queensland gas pipeline for the water export project. This is an advantage for this project because most of the clearance of the pipeline rout has been done for the gas pipeline.
There are no environmental concerns about cross-contamination of water from the source in Mt Giluwe (14,500 ft) to have on Murray-Darling water system.
The original water source is uninhabited.
It is proposed that the Australian government be the wholesaler of the PNG water, MPA own the hardware and operations (pipeline and hydro stations) and PNG Government supply the water.
“There is enormous opportunity for both Australia and Papua New Guinea to further the so-called umbilical cord effect and bilateral relations between the two countries long after the current mineral, oil and gas opportunities are exhausted,” the NEC submission said.The National / ONE PNG