BHP put Olympic Dam expansion back in the spotlight

BHP Billiton has sought an extension from the SA Government so it can invest more time to plan its Olympic Dam mine expansion.

BHP Billiton has sought an extension from the SA Government so it can invest more time to plan its Olympic Dam mine expansion.

In a letter given to South Australian Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Tom Koutsantonis, the company is requesting an extension to October 10, 2016, The Herald Sun reported.

Koutsantonis said he believed the extension request meant BHP was serious about staying in SA.

"Obviously what the request means is that BHP are serious about staying in South Australia developing that asset and that mine.

"What they are debating is how they will do that, what it will cost to do that."

The move comes after BHP last month cancelled its $US20 billion expansion plans, blaming weak commodity prices and rising costs.

In announcing the cutback BHP said it was looking at a different plan "involving new technologies" to make the project cheaper.

"Olympic Dam is a resource of enormous potential and we will continue to work on technological and design alternatives that have the potential to substantially improve the economics of the expansion, while also completing some early stage site works," a statement read at the time.

Koutsantonis said the Government would take BHP's request seriously.

"I won't make any comment about whether we will accept that request or not other to say I'll be carefully considering it," he said.

BHP had told him they expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars advancing the project which would involve extracting the minerals by leaching them out of crushed ore.

Koutsantonis said much of the new work would involve university researchers rather than BHP employees directly.

"BHP are committed to getting this new technology right, it means millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on research here in South Australia," he added.

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