The South Australian Government has passed the Roxby Downs Amendment Bill, which provides greater certainty for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion.
Dean Dalla Valle, BHP’s uranium chief, welcomed the move, labelling it a major milestone for the miner.
"The passage of this Bill provides the company with greater certainty for what would be a significant investment and demonstrates South Australia’s support for the project.
"It also allows us to activate pre-commitment funding, previously approved by the Board, for the purchase of long lead items such as trucks, infrastructure development and early site works for the first phase of the expansion project."
The company still needs to complete further studies on the Olympic Dam project next year for the initial stages of its expansion.
"I would like to express my thanks to both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition for their bi-partisan support for this Bill and all members of the South Australian Parliament for their contribution to the debate. I would also like to thank the people and teams who have worked very hard over several years to achieve approvals and the outcome today," Dalla Valle said.
However, it was not supported by all members of the government.
Greens member Mark Parnell stated that the passing of this bill is a bad deal for South Australia, after voting against it.
"This is a dark day for our State’s democracy. The Government has locked in for the next 70 years the right of the world’s richest resource company to over-ride all relevant State laws," Parnell said.
The Greens had put forth a package of amendments for the bill which was not included.
Parnell went on to slam the government, saying that "the hours of debate in Parliament has shown that in the rush to get this deal signed before ex-Premier Rann departed, the State Government has given too much away for too little in return.
"The environmental costs are going to be much higher, and the economic return will be much lower than the SA public rightly expect.
"Parliament has exposed the yawning gap between the Government’s hyperbolic spin over the Roxby riches and the dark reality of this terrible deal."
He also accused BHP of designing its tailings dams to deliberately leak and of an obscure ‘aspirational’ target for local jobs and procurement.
Dalla Valle dismissed these claims stating "we are confident that the project will generate significant new employment opportunities for South Australia in terms of direct employment, construction jobs, and additional flow-on employment across the state for many years to come."
The Olympic Dam Project will create one of the world’s largest open pit mines with the potential to increase copper production from around 180,000 tonnes per annum to 750,000 tonnes per annum and beyond.
It received environmental approvals in October this year, following assessment of its draft and supplementary Environmental Impact Statements.