BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam Cleared to Operate

By : Subscribe to Esther's | November 29, 2011 1:20 PM IST

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It's now all systems go for BHP Billiton Ltd. after the South Australian Parliament Tuesday passed controversial legislation that would expand its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project aiming to be the world's largest open-cut operation.

The Olympic Dam Project has the potential to raise copper production from around 180,000 tonnes per annum to 750,000 and beyond.

The bill in contention was an indenture agreement between the SA Government and BHP Billiton Ltd. which fixes the latter's royalties for the first 45 years at 5 per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively, for uranium and for other minerals.

It was approved after more than 30 hours of debate in both upper and lower houses of Parliament, passing by 19 votes to two, with only Greens MPs voting against it.

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BHP Billiton Ltd. had earlier warned if the bill did not pass before Christmas, the project will face delays by several years, risking initial investment.

The indenture arrangement bill, a prerequisite to start the expansion plans of its $30 billion Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project.

The legislation will return to the lower house on Thursday for final approval.

The board of BHP Billiton Ltd. is expected to start the project early next year.

"We need to complete further studies on the project before seeking board approval next year for the first stage of our expansion. If approved, the Olympic Dam Project will be an economic driver for South Australia over the next 40 years," Dean Dalla Valle, BHP Billiton Uranium President, said.

Located north of Adelaide, the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project is the world's fourth-largest copper and gold deposit and the largest known uranium deposit. It expected to yield copper and uranium oxide production by more than quadruple to about 750,000 tonnes and about 19,000 tonnes, respectively, every year. 

Thousands of jobs are seen to be generated once works begin - at least 6,000 new jobs during construction, a further 4,000 full-time positions at the open-pit mine and an estimated 15,000 new indirect jobs, according to data by Adelaide Now News. This could include about 6,500 jobs in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Roxby Downs.

The Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project is expected to contribute to Australia's coffers an estimated $63 billion annually over the next 40 years.

Read more:

SA Resources Minister Annoyed by Greens' Tactics on Olympic Dam Bill

Parliament Starts Debate on BHP Olympic Dam Indenture Bill

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