As part of the process in seeking approval from the Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory Governments for the proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine located in northern South Australia, BHP Billiton released a Draft Environmental Impact statement on 1 May, which has now closed.
Located 560 kms north of Adelaide, Olympic Dam is a multi-mineral ore body. It is the world's fourth largest remaining copper and gold deposit and the largest known uranium deposit.
The proposed expansion would be a progressive development, requiring construction activity over a period of 11 years. The project schedule ultimately will depend on the timing and nature of government approvals and the final investment decision of the BHP Billiton Board.
The 14 week public exhibition period for the Draft Environmental Impact statement saw around 4,000 public submissions made to the South Australian Government regarding the proposal. The Company has set the operational lifespan for the expansion at 40 years, although the size of the mineral resource suggests that mining could continue well beyond that time.
Given the size and complexity of the project, together with the need for approval from multiple State Governments, the process to final investment decision will likely be lengthy, and even then, dependant on the economic climate at the time.
The planned project infrastructure includes:
• A 280 megalitre per day coastal desalination plant at Point Lowly on the Upper Spencer Gulf.
• Either an additional 270km electricity transmission line from Port Augusta to Olympic Dam, or a gas pipeline from Moomba and a new gas-fired power station at Olympic Dam, or a hybrid solution that is a combination of the two.
• A 105km rail line to connect Olympic Dam to the national rail network.
• A new airport to replace the existing airport at site.
• Additional port facilities in South Australia at Outer Harbor and in the Northern Territory at the Port of Darwin to import supplies and export product.
• A new accommodation village for workers (named Hiltaba Village).
• Expansion of the Roxby Downs township, 14km south of the mine, where most of the operational workforce would continue to live.
If the expansion does proceed, this will represent South Australia’s largest resource project and a major generator of jobs.