Olympic Dam gains 'major development status' from SA

SA Mines and Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said BHP proposes to increase the use of water from the Great Artesian Basin to up to 50 megalitres a day under the proposal.

He said there would be a thorough environmental assessment of BHP’s proposed development, including its request for an increased take from the Great Artesian Basin.

The Olympic Dam Brownfield Expansion, known as BFX, would expand surface infrastructure including the smelter, mill and refinery, while also unlocking higher volumes of higher-grade copper ore from the southern area of the mine. The $US2.1 billion ($2.75 billion) plan involves almost doubling copper production by 2023.

On Thursday, Ms Tyler said the company was continuing to do work on a “targeted underground development in the Southern Mine Area, strategic investment surface processing facilities, new technology and supporting infrastructure”.

BHP expects to make a decision on whether to give the green light to a $2.7b expansion of Olympic Dam in late 2020. Aaron Bunch

The company is looking at different options as it “works towards seeking board approval for a capital project in mid-to-late 2020”.

BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie told shareholders at the BHP annual meeting in Adelaide in November that the company had no plan to sell the Olympic Dam copper mine despite its ongoing underperformance.

Mr Mackenzie said the silver lining of that underperformance was that BHP had an opportunity to improve the asset, with the BHP board expected to consider an expansion on the mine in 2020.

“Olympic Dam is an opportunity for us to move the needle,” he said. “Olympic Dam is core,” he said at the time.

Before mid-2012, a proposed $30 billion mega-expansion of the Olympic Dam mine was being hailed as a potential engine room of the entire South Australian economy, but that was shelved by the company when commodity prices tumbled.

Olympic Dam is 560 kilometres north of Adelaide and has been a problematic asset for BHP over the years since it came into the stable with the takeover of WMC.

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