PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Mining major BHP has spent some A$250-million over the last four years to expand underground operations at its Olympic Dam copper project, in South Australia.
The miner previously abandoned plans to expand its openpit operations at Olympic Dam, opting rather for an underground development pathway that could see copper production increase to 450 000 t/y from 2025.
BHP’s Olympic Dam general mine manager, Troy Wilson, on Tuesday noted that over the last four years, the company had made one of the most significant investments in South Australia’s copper industry, with BHP investing in the horizontal and vertical development of the Southern Mine Area (SMA), as well as on surface infrastructure.
He pointed out that while the expansion of the SMA was seen as an extension of the existing operations, in reality the scale of development and investment in infrastructure and essential services was equivalent to five new standalone underground mines.
“After nearly 12 months of development preparation, Olympic Dam looks forward to celebrating the first production ore from the SMA very soon,” Wilson said.
“We’re being very selective in how we mine, which allows us to better target higher copper grade areas. This means we will increase the tonnes we mine over the coming years, while importantly increasing the percentage copper in every tonne of dirt we move.”
Wilson said that the Olympic Dam operation would need to “significantly and safely” expand its underground operations in order for the South Australian government to achieve its copper ambitions of tripling copper production to one-million tonnes a year within the next two decades.
“The world is watching South Australia to support future growth; and given our relatively stable legislative environment, and the focus of the state government on supporting the resources sector and promoting the copper strategy, we all have reason to envisage a positive future for the state’s copper industry.”