Olympic Dam expansion – update

Since the expansion was shelved in 2012, BHP Billiton has announced its intention to investigate heap leach mining as an alternative, cheaper method of processing mined ore.

In July 2014 the company projected that pending government approvals, construction of a heap leach demonstration plant would begin in the second half of 2015, with a 36 month trial period beginning late 2016. In August 2014 the company received Federal approval for a heap leach demonstration plant. It is yet to receive state approval, and reports suggest that it is yet to be sought, with recent comments in the media by SA Premier Jay Weatherill suggesting that even the state government is unclear about the company’s intentions regarding this project.

It’s been reported that the company has been conducting laboratory trials at Wingfield, South Australia, and that they have been so successful that BHP may skip the demonstration plant stage and progress straight to a full scale facility.

BHP has until October 2016 to proceed with an expansion under the approvals given for the expansion it shelved in 2012. Even though heap leach processing was not considered under its original Environmental Impact Statement, the Federal government approved the trial without requiring any further environmental assessment.