The Queensland Government has announced $3.6 million in funding for the Mackay Resources Centre of Excellence which will feature a simulated underground coal mine for training and research.

Queensland Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning, Cameron Dick, said the funding will deliver on the Premier’s election commitment to increase opportunities for apprentices and drive research and innovation in the region’s rebounding mining sector.

“The Mackay Resources Centre of Excellence will be a one-of-a-kind facility in Queensland that will tap into local expertise to provide training and education, biomedical research, product innovation and demonstration, as well as having tourism potential,” Mr Dick said.

Queensland Assistant Minister for State Development and Member for Mackay, Julieanne Gilbert, said the Mackay Resources Centre of Excellence would be a gamechanger for her community.

“Our government is focused on generating knowledge-based jobs of the future and creating communities that are prosperous and positioned for growth, and we know that starts with supporting Queenslanders living in regional communities like Mackay with training and building potential for job opportunities,” she said.

“We recognise there is a skills shortage in the industry, so basing the Centre of Excellence in Mackay, where it is most needed, is great news for people seeking safe, accelerated training so they are better equipped to find work in Queensland’s mining sector.”

The centre will be delivered by Mackay Regional Council in partnership with the Resource Industry Network, with operational involvement from tertiary education providers.

Mackay Mayor, Greg Williamson, said the resources sector was an important industry for the area, paying more than $1 billion in wages to more than 8600 full-time employees in the greater Mackay region, and that the new state-of-the-art facility would be a valuable development for the sector.

“In addition to the Centre of Excellence providing a ‘living lab” environment for industry training providers and private METS (mining equipment, technology and services) companies, it will be particularly beneficial in fostering collaboration between researchers and business and driving innovation and commercialisation,” Mr Williamson said.

The underground coal mine simulator will also be available for testing, demonstrating and filming new equipment and products operating in confined spaces, will enable new emergency response procedures to be practiced and refined, and will allow tourists to experience what it is like working in an underground coal mine.

The centre will support three new full-time jobs in management and scientific research roles, and once operational, staff will begin to map actual test mine sites, so that the simulator will be able to replicate physical conditions, and testing can be in real or close-to-real conditions, as opposed to laboratory-based conditions.

Mr Dick said the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning will continue to work with Mackay Regional Council, the Resource Industry Network and other stakeholders to finalise the location of the centre, with the goal of construction starting early 2019.

“Queensland is a world-leader in innovation for the resource industry and the capabilities of the new Mackay Resources Centre of Excellence will be widely showcased at resource sector conferences nationally and internationally, and will encourage increased export of advanced knowledge, skills expertise and technology,” he said.

“Aligned with the Palaszczuk Government’s Advance Queensland agenda, the facility will augment resource-related training and research and will be a catalyst for future innovation and investment in the region.”

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