A $12.5 million funding has been committed for the Royalties in Regions program by the State Government to establish two pilot projects growing irrigated crops in the Pilbara hinterland.
According to the media release issued by the Government of Western Australia, the trial of irrigation systems in the north-west of WA will use the surplus mine water to grow food and biofuel.
Ken Baston, Minister for Agriculture and Food, and Brendon Grylls, Minister for Regional Development, announced The Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative (PHADI) last Tuesday.
The Ministers revealed that under the Initiative, sorghum will be grown at Woodie Woodie on Warrawagine Station in east Pilbara. Sorghum can then be used for biofuel in the mining industry, as well as cattle fodder.
The Woodie Woodie mines discharge up to 60 gigaliters of groundwater a year. The mines are located 120km east of Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia.
The initially planned 150 ha of farm operation are expected to expand to several thousand hectares with assistance from the private sector.
“This is about teaming agriculture with mining to grow fodder for the pastoral industry and biofuel for the resource sector. The knowledge uncovered through these pilot projects will be vital to Western Australia being able to develop systems for world-leading irrigated agriculture,” said Minister Baston.
According to Mr. Grylls the Woodie Woodie trial will measure the potential of sorghum fodder production as a means of protection from drought and expanding the beef herds in Pilbara.
“The Pilbara economy is overwhelmingly reliant on the mining industry at present. Industrial diversification through irrigated agriculture is crucial in securing economic sustainability for the region’s growing population,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, in collaboration with the Pilbara Development Commission and Department of Regional Development, will run PHADI.
Mr. Baston further added that the surplus of water that is discharged from mines is a resource that has great potential for further development of irrigated agriculture in draught-prone areas.