BHP seeks 75% copper growth project at Olympic Dam

Olympic Dam. Image: BHP.

BHP’s growth aspirations to significantly increase copper output at Olympic Dam have been recognised by the South Australian Government with major development status.

The miner hopes to expand Olympic Dam’s copper production by 75 per cent, from 200,000 tonnes per annum to 350,000 tonnes per annum.

BHP is progressing its growth studies for the expansion and will seek board approval for a capital project in mid-to-late 2020.

The South Australian declaration is, however, an important milestone for BHP as it considers an investment potentially as high as $3 billion for the project.

It is the first step in a state and federal process that includes assessment of potential social, economic and environmental impacts associated with an increase in mining and production at the site.

Olympic Dam asset president Laura Tyler said BHP was aiming to achieve stable operations and sustainable growth at the mine 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,” Tyler 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 proposed expansion of Olympic Dam would be the latest in a series of projects for BHP at the site in recent years.

BHP invested more than $600 million into the copper operations during the 2018 financial year, with focus on underground infrastructure and above ground processing operations.

In December 2018, BHP launched the operation of an underground ramp that has improved access to high-grade copper in the Southern Mine Area.

South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the latest $3 billion expansion proposal could potentially create up to 1800 construction jobs with an additional 600 ongoing positions in operational roles.

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

BHP produced 65,000 tonnes of copper at Olympic Dam in the December half year, a 20 per cent increase on the previous period when a smelter maintenance campaign took place.

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