Increased efficiency needed at Olympic Dam

Olympic Dam is looking for increased efficiencies according
to BHP Billiton Asset president Darryl Cuzzubbo, speaking in Adelaide at UniSA last Friday.

Speaking at the 40th Annual Essington Lewis Memorial
Lecture, Cuzzubbo said that with commodity prices having dropped up to 50 per
cent (in the case of uranium) from their 2011 highs, this had created a “very
tough situation” for the Olympic Dam business which runs high fixed-cost
infrastructure.

Cuzzubbo said in looking for ways to make Olympic Dam
stronger and more competitive it was crucial to use the current economic
climate to “establish strong partnerships with key suppliers where our futures
are intertwined… to improve effectiveness and reduce costs through creativity
and improved efficiency.”

Olympic Dam has managed to increase underlying profit by 10
per cent in FY2014, to US$13.4 billion, and has delivered more than US6.6
billion of sustainable productivity-led gains over the last two years.

Cuzzubo said a number of efficiencies had already been
implemented at the copper/gold/uranium mine, including improvements to meters advanced
per day per jumbo drill, which is advancing toward the benchmark set from the
FY2013 results.

The plant also has increased stability from the flash
furnace in the smelter thanks to a new Flash Furnace Heat Balance Model to
control accretions on the interior bricks, providing 5 per cent increase in
reliability and reduced maintenance costs, as well as better safety.

Cuzzobbo said the Olympic Dam mine will scale up output in line with increases to efficiency, but not before gains are made to capitalise
on performance.

“Once we are able to run our existing operation at full
capacity, we then – and only then – earn the right to grow,” he said.

“We continue to research all options for expansion and
initially focussed on a divergent process where all options were evaluated to
ensure that we left no stone unturned.

“This is not something that we can or should take lightly as
it will likely shape the path of Olympic Dam for the rest of this century.”

Image: HWT Image Library

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