Manufacturing News

Desalination to unlock copper, green hydrogen and steel riches

Manufacturing News

The South Australian government and the private sector have funded studies, planning and negotiations to lead to a final investment decision on the Northern Water project servicing BHP’s copper mines and refineries and the burgeoning green hydrogen and steel industries.

If progressed, Northern Water would see construction of a 260 megalitre a day desalination plant on the Eyre Peninsula, and a 600-kilometre pipeline to transport desalinated water to the Far North.

A comprehensive business case has found the project has the potential to generate more than $5 billion in annual economic benefit and 4,000 ongoing jobs by facilitating development of industries including copper, hydrogen and green iron, along with defence, pastoral, and community uses.

Premier Peter Malinauskas joined representatives from BHP, Origin Energy, Amp Energy and Fortescue Energy who have agreed to co-fund the next stage of investigations, ahead of a Final Investment Decision on the project in the first half of 2026.

The studies are estimated to cost between $200 and $230 million.

The State Government and BHP have also agreed that BHP would cover the state’s costs to a maximum value of up to $100 million if the company withdraws from Northern Water before FID, or elects not to proceed with a water offtake agreement.

The amount would depend on the timing of any withdrawal and the amount of money spent up until that point.

Investigations will include:

  • Evaluation of the overall environmental, social and economic impact of the project via an Environmental Impact Statement
  • And formal tender process and development of agreed contract terms with a preferred contractor to design, build, operate and maintain the plant and pipeline.

BHP Asset President, Copper South Australia Anna Wiley said the Northern Water Supply Project was strategic infrastructure with the potential to benefit multiple sectors and businesses.

Wiley said: “Global demand for copper is growing fast, and the opportunity for South Australia is significant.

“BHP has created an integrated copper province that we hope will bring the scale required to economically and sustainably produce and process more copper here in SA and deliver it to global customers.”

Fortescue Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson said the company would work with the government as it commences the next phase of work.


Share this Story
Manufacturing News

Stay Informed

Go to Top