Olympic to expand despite cuts

BHP Billiton’s planned expansion of its Olympic Dam project will still go ahead despite the announcement that 85 if its jobs have been slashed, South Australian Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway said.

“The South Australian Government remains confident in the future of the Olympic Dam expansion,” he said.

“That confidence is supported by BHP Billiton’s decision to locate its Uranium Australia operations in Adelaide, including the relocation of a number of staff to the new operating hub.”

BHP said that a further 50 jobs will be moved to Adelaide in order to create a support services operating hub.

The cuts are part of the 6,000 that BHP announced in January would be lost across its global operations, with roughly half of those in Australia.

Holloway said that the economic downturn and falling commodity prices are behind the job cuts.

“Unfortunately the significant fall in commodity prices in the past six months has forced BHP Billiton to cut back some of its work force at Olympic Dam and streamline its operations,” he said.

“The global economic downturn has forced many businesses, particularly resource companies, to make some difficult decisions.”

BHP Billiton spokesman Richard Yeeles said steep falls is copper prices in particular have meant the company has had to review it operations.

“In terms of Olympic Dam, copper price has fallen by more than 60%,” he said.

“With revenues falling like that the company has to look at its cost situation on an ongoing basis.”

Despite the losses, Holloway remains positive about Olympic Dam’s current employment operations and its future.

“Olympic Dam will continue to employ more than 3,000 people, larger than the workforce inherited by BHP Billiton following its takeover of WMC in mid-2005,” he said.

“The restructuring of existing operations will allow the Olympic Dam project to continue to operate efficiently as possible and focus on delivering its 2009 production targets at a time when other mines around Australia are being shut down or operations suspended indefinitely.”

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