The Tableland Mill is located about 25 km west of Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. There are currently 85 growers supplying sugarcane to the mill and the cane is harvested from about 8,500 hectares of land. All cane is delivered to the mill by an efficient road transport system.
The Tableland Mill commenced construction in 1997, the first sugar mill to be constructed in Queensland for 75 years. The mill is the newest and most technologically advanced sugar mill in Australia. It commenced operations on the 29 June 1998, and was constructed using state of the art technology and automation with heavy consideration given to environmental considerations.
Developers, Bundaberg Sugar Ltd, commissioned its engineering arm Bundaberg Foundry and Engineers Ltd to construct the mill. It was later purchased by ASX listed company, MSF Sugar Limited.
Since 2012, Tableland Mill has been owned by Thai based Mitr Phol Group, one of the world's five largest sugar milling companies.
The mill is located approximately 25 kilometres west of Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. At present there are 85 growers supplying sugarcane to the mill and the cane is harvested from approximately 8,500 hectares of land. All cane is delivered to the mill by an efficient road transport system.
How it happened
Australia's sugar industry began an exciting new chapter on 29 June, 1998, when the Tableland Mill officially commenced its first crushing season. It followed years of research, feasibility studies and lobbying. The Atherton Tableland offers excellent conditions for growing and processing cane including flat topography, solid rainfall averaging some 800mm per annum, availability of low cost irrigation and fertile soil.
Local growers were first consulted about supporting the sugarcane industry in 1994 and were very receptive to the concept of developing a new innovative sugar mill on the Atherton Tableland.
The decline in tobacco manufacturing in the early 1990s had already seen many tobacco farmers turn land over to smaller more intensive crops or exit agricultural crops altogether, which paved the way for a sugarcane industry.
In May 1995, the $40 million project was approved and a 392 ha property was acquired at Arriga, west of Mareeba, to host the new mill. A small team of engineers and technologists from Bundaberg Sugar Ltd mills was established to design the mill.
Following a review of sugar technologies and trials in other mills, it was decided to design the mill to process syrup with final processing into raw sugar to take place at the company's other coastal mills.
In late 1995, an environmental impact statement was undertaken and successfully completed in early 1996. The mill was constructed in 1997 and commenced crushing operations in 1998.
Automation was a focus during construction, making the Tableland Mill more cost efficient and productive. The State Government provided a $46.7 million infrastructure program covering irrigation, water storage, upgrading local and state roads, improving rail links and constructing siding and mill loading facilities. The support of local councils, the community and the government was integral to the mill’s success.
The Tableland Mill was designed with expansion in mind and in 2013 a $42 million expansion program was delivered, boosting capacity and adding an annual $15 million to the local economy.
2017 heralded a new and exciting chapter for the mill, with construction starting on a $75 million green energy power plant – the cornerstone of MSF Sugar’s bold vision to step-change from a raw sugar company to a diversified sugarcane business.
The plant, once fully commissioned in mid-2018, will be fully integrated with the mill, and will be powered using a 100 pc cane fibre product called bagasse. Trials are underway to assess blue agave, which is able to be grown on arid farm land, close to the mill, as another source of fibre to power the plant.
Mill History Timeline
1997 Construction commenced on Tableland Mill, the first sugar mill to be constructed in Queensland in 75 years
1998 Tableland Mill commenced crushing on 29 June
2000 500,000 tonne throughput milestone reached
2003 Highest throughput crush with 766,282 tonnes of cane crushed (included 161,538 tonnes Mossman cane)
2010 Joint venture with MSF Sugar Limited and Bundaberg Sugar Ltd
2011 MSF Sugar Limited acquires 100 pc of Tableland Mill
2012 Mitr Phol Sugar Corp Limited acquires MSF Sugar Limited
2013 $42 Million Tableland Expansion Project completed
2017 Construction of $75 million Green Energy Power Plant begins