The Olympic Dam Task Force (ODTF) is continuing to facilitate the proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, and to provide BHP Billiton with a single entry point to government.
Olympic Dam is the world’s largest uranium deposit, fourth largest copper deposit and fourth largest gold deposit, and the site of Australia’s largest underground mine.
BHP Billiton is proposing a staged development of an open pit mine, processing plant and associated infrastructure over 11+ years, with a resulting mine life over 100 years.
The Olympic Dam Task Force Steering Committee, comprising senior government and BHP Billiton representatives and chaired by Bruce Carter, is providing high-level oversight of progress on the project.
Several milestones were reached in late 2011, with the completion of the environmental assessment and release of the Development Authorisation and the Australian Government approval in October, and State Parliament passing legislation to amend the Olympic Dam and Stuart Shelf Indenture (the Indenture) in November. The legislation required that BHP Billiton commence the project by 15 December 2012 otherwise the amendments would lapse.
Consequently BHP Billiton released US$1.2 billion to fund works and procurement necessary to progress the project.
In August 2012 BHP Billiton announced the deferment of the project and its intention to consult with the Government on adopting an alternative, less capital-intensive design for the open pit expansion that would involve the use of technologies to substantially improve the economics of the project.
The Government subsequently granted an extension of the period in which BHP Billiton could trigger the amended Indenture, with that end-date now being October 2016.
Dr Paul Heithersay is Chief Executive of the Olympic Dam Task Force, and Deputy Chief Executive Resources and Energy, Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE).