BHP is on the verge of producing first ore from the Southern Mine Area (SMA) at the massive Olympic Dam operation in South Australia.
Speaking at a conference in Adelaide, BHP’s Olympic Dam general manager Troy Wilson said the company had spent $250 million in the past four years to develop the new mine area at Olympic Dam.
Wilson believes the investment – on horizontal development, vertical development and enabling surface infrastructure – represents the future of the mine.
“For those who might not be aware, the Southern Mine Area – or SMA – is what we often refer to as the body of the guitar, given the shape of the orebody,” Wilson said.
“It was also the location of the proposed open pit. Incredibly, since 1988 only the northern area of Olympic Dam has been mined – or the neck of the guitar – which means a massive 70 per cent of the resource footprint is still available to be mined.
“And that’s where our work has been focused – unlocking that value. But we’re doing it vastly differently to earlier proposals.”
Wilson said BHP was being very selective in how it mined Olympic Dam, which allows it to better target higher copper grade areas.
“This means we will increase the tonnes we mine over the coming years, while importantly increasing the percentage copper in every tonne of dirt we move,” he said.
BHP launched work on the underground expansion during the 2015 financial year, before accelerating development 12 months ago with a workforce of 180 people.
“After nearly 12 months of development preparation, Olympic Dam looks forward to celebrating the first production ore from the SMA very soon,” Wilson said.
“This is class-leading result in terms of material moved and time to market – and we are incredibly proud of the team – some of whom are here today.”
Olympic Dam, about 560km north of Adelaide, is one of the world’s largest and most diverse ore bodies, including deposits of copper, gold, uranium and silver.