BHP have announced that the Olympic Dam project has moved into the feasibility study.
This comes as the miner plans to release the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and begin the formal assessment of the South Australian project.
The move also dismisses concerns that the development of the uranium mine may have been pushed back because of uncertainty in the market following the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, which has sparked radiation fears worldwide.
BHP uranium president Dean Dalla Valle said this progression into feasibility comes after the release of the draft EIS, which was handed over in December last year.
The miner plans to develop a new open pit copper mine as well as gold and uranium byproducts alongside its existing underground operation, while also increasing overall production from 180 000 tonnes of copper per annum to 750 000 tonnes over the next three decades.
"As part of the project the company will invest around A$20 million over the next 10 years in supporting indigenous communities and more than A$20 million in community investment as well as major environmental land management and water conservation programs across 21,000 km2 of arid lands," he said.
This progression comes after the mine saw production drop by 75% after an accident at its Clark shaft forced Olympic Dam into idle capacity.
The mine has also faced serious opposition from environmental groups, as it seeks to mine uranium.
The Greens have previously called on BHP to expand Olympic Dam without developing its uranium assets.
Olympic Dam has the capacity to become the world’s largest uranium mine, and could supply over a fifth of the global demand for uranium.