In April 2018, EcoMag lodged an initial application for $12 million of grant funding under a newly established Regional Growth Fund, in conjunction with two other businesses—Rainstorm Dust Control Pty Limited (Rainstorm), and WRS Bioproducts Pty Limited (WRS).
If successful, the grant would also launch Stage I of the Karratha Eco Hub Innovation and Industry Precinct (EHIIP), which consists of EcoMag, Rainstorm and WRS cooperating and sharing resources. Rainstorm currently produces a magnesium-based dust control product from waste bitterns. WRS would establish a new manufacturing facility to produce algae and a range of other products including beta-carotene, omega–3 fatty acids and biofuels, also using waste bitterns.
The EHIIP concept is to attract complementary technology-based businesses able to use the bittern by‐product from nearby solar salt operations to produce valuable export products and help diversify the Pilbara region’s economy.
Recognising the region’s need to decrease its reliance on iron ore production and improve economic performance and resilience, the City of Karratha has provided in-principle support for the release of a further 131 hectares of land for development of the EHIIP at the site.
Stage II of the proposed EHIIP would include Sahara Forest Project (SFP) and Yara Pilbara Holdings Pty Ltd (Yara Pilbara). SFP is a Norwegian‐based company currently finalising a feasibility study to establish 20 hectares of seawater-cooled greenhouses to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, including a new 23 megawatt-peak solar photovoltaic facility and 90 megawatt-hour battery storage facility to service all parties at the site. Yara Pilbara owns and operates a liquid ammonia plant located on the nearby Burrup Peninsula, and has proposed establishing a renewable hydrogen pilot plant as part of the EHIIP.
The EHIIP concept also includes leveraging research collaborations undertaken by the individual businesses to create an Educational Centre of Excellence for the Pilbara region.
This is a natural match with EcoMag’s roots in university research, and its ongoing collaborations driving cutting edge research. It also ties in with the City of Karratha’s goal of establishing its first tertiary education presence in the city.
EcoMag’s proposed EHIIP has received extensive support from industry stakeholders, the Australian federal government, the Western Australia state government, the City of Karratha, and the University sector.