Salt project mixed blessing

THE commissioning of the Onslow Solar Salt Project is placing added pressure on the local community and its infrastructure.

The Ministry of Planning has addressed concerns in the Onslow Structure Plan released last week that makes provision for the population to grow five-fold.

The solar salt project is expected to be a significant boost to the Onslow economy. The project requires the construction of about 35 homes in the town.

Onslow Solar Salt Pty Ltd, part of the international Akzo Nobel group, has constructed an $80 million facility that will produce 2.5 million tonnes a year.

The proposal was first raised in the 1960s, when Gulf Holding P/L submitted a proposal to the Environmental Protection Authority.

Today, the project involves the pumping of seawater from Beadon Creek into a system of condenser ponds.

It takes about a month before the thickness of the salt crystals warrants harvesting.

Harvested salt is trucked to a wash plant and placed on an 800 tonne capacity stockpile.

The salt is stored for three to four months to allow drying before being taken by overland conveyor to the waiting vessel 1.3 kilometres offshore.

Construction of the crystalliser and concentrator ponds started in 1997 and construction of the plant, jetty and infrastructure began in 1998.

Besides the salt plant there is the potential for a petrochemical plant, a magnesium plant and a sodium cyanide, ammonia urea and a gas to liquids plant.

If the projects all proceed, Onslow’s population could grow from 600 to 3,000.

An additional construction workforce of 2,000 would need to be accommodated in the town or in a camp close to town.

The plan provides for an additional 60 hectares of residential land.

An industrial estate of 475 hectares will be set aside for heavy industry.

The petrochemical plant will require the most land with 150 hectares available for this purpose.

About 25 hectares will be set aside for light industry – effectively doubling the size of the existing light industry area.

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