Olympic Dam underground mine could go ahead – 170km of tunnels over the next five years
BHP Billiton could spend hundreds of millions of dollars expanding its South Australian Olympic Dam underground mine in the next few years.
The project would involve expanding into the southern section of the existing copper, gold and uranium deposit – building 170km of tunnels over the next five years.
The plan, which will need BHP board approval, also will include upgrading the above-ground plant and is linked to the successful outcome of trials on a more cost-effective processing method.
The decision in 2012 by BHP to withdraw from the open pit expansion plan was a kick in the teeth for the South Australian community and the State as a whole.
Returning to SA in June to take over as BHP`s Olympic Dam asset president, Ms McGill has been given the task of trimming operational costs and managing the processing trials using heap leaching, where a particular solvent is run through crushed ore to extract the minerals. The heap leach trials are progressing well, but would take several years to complete.
BHP’s Olympic Dam had the reputation of being one of the more expensive global copper producers in the world and had to drastically reduce its cost to be competitive in the industry.
Current BHP plans to move into the southern mining area demonstrate that they are serious about unlocking the potential of this incredible ore body.
BHP said the SA population could count on them to support the local communities, but patience was needed to allow the company to perfect the systems, then it was all go.
Olympic Dam is the fifth biggest copper, third largest gold deposit and the biggest single uranium deposit in the world. In terms of mine-life longevity, BHP has stated the figure of some 200 years is not to be dismissed.
In 2014-15, BHP Billiton invested some $580 million with South Australian suppliers and contractors. The company paid $70 million in taxes and royalties, $8 million on Aboriginal enterprises, $1.6 million on community initiatives and heavily supported local universities as well as cultural initiates and health.
“BHP Billiton Olympic Dam underground mine expansion”