South Australian Government downsized Olympic Dam mine expansion to 300,000 t copper production per year

Proposed capacity was slashed by 50,000 tonnes / year

The South Australian Government in its recent decision has revised the scope of the Olympic Dam Resource Development Strategy down from a maximum production rate of 350,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of copper (Cu) and associated products to 300,000 tpa Cu and associated products.

The Olympic Dam mine, located approximately 560 kilometres (km) north west of Adelaide in South Australia, commenced operations in 1988 after approval of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed in 1982 for mining and production of up to 150,000 tonnes per annum of copper (tpa Cu) and associated products (uranium oxide, gold and silver). In 1995, an Environment Review process dealt with several variations to the original 1982
approvals.

In 1997, an additional EIS was completed for a phased expansion of the underground mining and surface processing facilities for mining and production of up to 350,000 tpa Cu and associated products. This expansion was proposed to be completed in two phases, a first phase increasing mining and production up to approximately 200,000 tpa Cu and associated products, and a second phase increasing mining and production up to approximately 350,000 tpa Cu and associated products.

The first phase considered in the 1997 EIS (operations up to approximately 200,000 tpa Cu and associated products) has been substantially implemented and is referred to as Business as Usual (BAU). The second phase considered in the 1997 EIS, production of up to 350,000 tpa Cu and associated products, was subject to potential additional assessment requirements, and has not commenced.

The current operation consists of an underground mine, milling, mineral processing plant, copper smelter and refinery, and associated infrastructure producing final copper, uranium oxide, gold and silver products. The nearby township of Roxby Downs, the Olympic Dam Village (ODV) and the Olympic Dam airport service the current operation.

BHP Billiton Olympic Dam Corporation Pty Ltd (ODC) has proposed to implement the Olympic Dam Resource Development Strategy (OD–RDS), which seeks to increase production at the Olympic Dam mine and mineral processing facility from BAU operations to up to 350,000 tpa Cu and associated products (by way of staged production increases). In addition ODC is proposing to seek approval for all new development that it will undertake as part of its BAU operations after the date of decision.

On May 22, 2020, the State Government released the assessment guidelines for BHP’s proposal for a staged increase in copper production at Olympic Dam from 200,000 to up to 350,000 tonnes per annum.

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