Economic diversification for sustainable future

Article image - Economic diversification for sustainable future The solar farm at Karratha Airport provides 30 percent of itís own operational power supply.

Innovative economic diversification projects are underway in northern Western Australia (WA).

While the Pilbara is a region of global economic significance and a leading exporter of oil, natural gas and minerals, in recent years the City of Karratha has worked hard to attract investment to diversify the local economy to reduce reliance on the resource sector’s upswings and downturns.

Mayor, Peter Long, said the emergence of cutting-edge industries was exciting. 

“The City of Karratha has been transformed from a mining town to a modern regional city.

“Although oil, natural gas and iron ore will last for many decades yet, it is vital to diversify into more sustainable industries to ensure our long-term viability.”

New industries include the largest hazardous waste recycling and processing facility in the southern hemisphere and only one of its kind in Australia. 

Contract Resources opened a $20 million mercury processing facility in Karratha’s industrial estate in July. 

The state-of-the-art facility processes mercury-contaminated by-products from the oil and gas industry into high value re-use products. 

Previously, these waste products were processed in Switzerland.

Other pioneering projects in the pipeline include the Pilbara Rock Oyster Research and Development Project, which aims to develop a commercial oyster industry for domestic and international markets. 

Renewable energy and horticulture are also bright prospects on the horizon, after a feasibility study recently identified suitable sites for commercial-scale solar and wind farms, and found that northern WA has one of the best solar resources in the world. 

A separate study into the commercial viability of intensive agriculture found 20ha of greenhouses could produce 13 million kilograms of tomatoes per year. 

This yield is nearly 2000 percent of the Pilbara’s demand for tomatoes so there is significant export potential.