Mining magnate and Fortescue Metals Group’s Chairman Andrew Forrest has unveiled an ambitious project to develop 5000 gigalitres of water from existing aquifers in Australia to increase production and improve efficiency in Australian agriculture.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the plan, which Mr Forrest said involved attracting Chinese investors, envisages tapping into underground aquifiers, including the Canning Basin in WA’s far north, to irrigate and drought-proof land for agricultural production.
Speaking at a major farming conference in Canberra via videolink, Mr Forrest said Australia could become drought-proof if it improved the use of its water resources.
“Let’s not set it up to fail by casting it as a complete project [because] it is not,” Mr Forrest said.
“But everything I know starts from a dream, and the dream I want to share with you is an Australia which does not fear lack of water in any part of its agricultural industry.”
He said he would use his family company Minderoo to get the project underway and added that he has already asked major universities to prepare scoping studies on the location of water resources and the feasibility of capture, extraction and transport of water.
“Minderoo’s plan is to harness the huge potential of northern and trans-Australian underground water resources to support increased agricultural production on a major scale,” he said.
“We will be targeting local areas around these water sources to promote intensive production of cereals, grains, fruits, vegetables and pasture for protein production.”
Forrest also revealed that he plans to attract long-term “passive” Chinese investment and discuss the project with interested parties in China over the next few weeks.
“My aim is to encourage strong long-term passive investment from the Chinese in these projects to help unlock their potential,” he said.
“I have asked the Chinese and Australian governments to take a long-term attitude to encourage the development of Australian agricultural food supplies through infrastructure.”