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14 June 2024

Geotechnical drilling has produced promising results for the Miles Government’s proposed pumped hydro storage project at Pioneer-Burdekin.

Following drilling by local Mackay-based company Twin Hills Engineering, investigations by WSP and SMEC have found very strong, coarse competent granite rock, ideal for dam construction, tunnels and potentially multiple underground multi-turbine powerhouses.

The proposed hydro power station will store surplus renewable energy to power Queensland when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

The station plans to pump water up the Great Dividing Range when power is plentiful and cheap, before letting gravity generate immense power in the evening peak when energy is scarcer and prices higher – helping to drive down prices for households.

The proposed project will deliver the biggest water battery of its kind in the world.

Investigations drilled to 850m, yielding 3,800m of geotechnical cores, mostly extracted by local drillers, Twin Hills Engineering.

To date, 33 boreholes have been completed along with 20 test pits.

These tests have revealed two main types of rock at the site, while comparatively, Snowy Hydro has over 20.

Results will help refine the project design to lower costs and improve delivery timeframes, with more data leading to more detailed design specification and lower risk.

International experience of mega projects highlight that the best examples of project-definition work can reduce both project timelines and costs by roughly 20 percent.

Quotes attributable to Minister Mick de Brenni:

“The results of the Miles Government’s investment in detailed geotechnical engineering have delivered the best possible scenario for Queensland’s most important energy project.

“The quality of these core samples upholds the many years of preliminary assessments the Government has done across multiple locations, and is another win for Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan.

“I have said all along that this project will be delivered on time, and this is just further proof the characteristics of Queensland’s landscape mean this project will be fundamentally different to that of Snowy 2.0.

“Queensland Hydro advises me that due to the quality of these core samples, it opens up a broader range of options for the project’s design, and may also lead to an improved project schedule.

“The new Miles Government knows the future is in renewables, and this key project will mean Queensland will meet its newly legislated renewable energy targets – the targets that the LNP refused to enshrine into law.”

Quotes from Qld Hydro CEO, Kieran Cusack:

"The purpose of conducting a range of initial investigations, including geotechnical investigations, is to ensure we have a deep understanding of the proposed Pioneer-Burdekin project site so we can consider all the options and present the most informed business case possible.

“These are important projects for Queensland’s future, so it is incumbent upon Queensland Hydro to be methodical in our approach.

“Our geotechnical investigations have shown very promising, high-strength, highly competent granite throughout the proposed project site. We are encouraged by the results of the geotechnical investigations conducted so far. Our investigations are continuing.

“Conducting methodical investigations now to obtain this critical geotechnical data will ensure our initial plans are more robust, which allows for more accurate estimating of costs and timelines for construction if the project is approved.

Quotes from Queensland Government Geologist, Tony Knight:

“The samples I inspected from the site at a meeting with Minister de Brenni and Queensland Hydro looked to be very strong, competent and solid rock.

“This is exactly the type of rock needed for these projects for strong foundations and stability.

“I look forward to seeing the full data from the investigations.”