The link would allow exporters of coal and other resources to access the Port of Darwin. While this route represents a significantly longer journey than the existing 1067mm-gauge line between Mount Isa and the port of Townsville in northeast Queensland, some exporters may favour it given congestion at north Queensland bulk terminals and Darwin's closer proximity to export destinations.


"Budget 2015 invests heavily in infrastructure for the territory's future and a new 600km rail project linking these two centres has the potential to provide enormous economic opportunities, particularly in the resources industry," NT's chief minister Mr Adam Giles says.

"Previous investigations indicated a number of mining companies in the Mount Isa area had an interest in shifting their exports of bulk materials through the Port of Darwin, instead of Townsville, if the cost of transport was right."

The study will take around two years to complete, and if the prospective results are considered positive, Giles says the Federal Government will be asked to contribute towards the development.

"This would be a long-term project with a price tag in excess of a billion dollars but its benefits would be exponential and I'm keen to explore whether it's economically viable," Giles says.