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Govt declares Olympic Dam expansion a major project

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UPDATED | A major expansion of BHP’s Olympic Dam mine has been granted major project status.

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In an announcement foreshadowed exclusively by InDaily today, BHP’s expansion plans for the mine have been granted major development status.

The declaration appeared in the Government Gazette this afternoon, detailing plans to increase output of copper from 200,000 tonnes a year to 350,000 and boost the level of gold, silver and uranium production. The use of water from the Great Artesian Basin would be increased to up to 50 megalitres a day.

Minister for Energy and Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the $3 billion proposal would increase annual production by 75 per cent.

“Declaring BHP’s proposed expansion of Olympic Dam a major development is a key milestone in this important project,” he said.

“Olympic Dam is already the State’s largest mining operation, providing jobs, investment and royalties for South Australia.

“BHP’s proposal could potentially create up to 1800 construction jobs with an additional 600 ongoing positions in operational roles.”

Olympic Dam asset president Laura Tyler said BHP was aiming to achieve “stable operations and sustainable growth at Olympic Dam through a staged and capital-efficient approach over the long term”.

“Olympic Dam is a world-class resource with the potential to deliver value to BHP and South Australia for many decades to come, especially given our positive outlook for global copper demand,” she said.

“We are pleased the South Australian Government has declared Olympic Dam’s growth plans a major development, recognising our significance to the state.

“Our team continues to refine the scope for targeted underground development in the Southern Mine Area, strategic investment surface processing facilities, new technology and supporting infrastructure.”

The $2.1 billion Brownfields Expansion (BFX) project is among BHP’s growth plans for the mine, which taps the world’s fourth-largest known copper deposit.

BFX would increase the pace of development of the Southern Mine Area and upgrade surface processing facilities and infrastructure.

The aim of the project is to increase output and to achieve economies of scale that would place Olympic Dam among the world’s most efficient copper mines.

The declaration fires the starting gun on a series of assessments of the environmental, social and economic impact of the proposed expansion and public consultation, which could eventually lead to state and federal planning approval.

But the project itself may still be years away.

BFX is still in study phase and BHP plans to present the project to the board for potential approval late next year.

Major development status provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental and planning approvals required under state and federal legislation.

It triggers a five-stage assessment process, requiring a proponent to prepare a report on the environmental, social and economic impact of the project, and likely run a community consultation.

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