Australia’s biggest underground mine halts production

A massive blackout in South Australia forced the world’s largest miner BHP Billiton to suspend production at its Olympic Dam copper mine.

The power outage was the product of strong winds and heavy rain caused by what has been called “the most extreme weather system” that has hit the area in decades.

Given this situation, BHP decided it was best to stop activities at the country’s biggest underground mine. The main goal at the moment is to divert power back-up and maintain essential operations at the site.

The Melbourne-based multinational didn’t give any information as to when operations will be resumed, or if the company is going to seek legal protection from supply obligations under a declaration of force majeure.

Olympic Dam produced 203,000 metric tons of copper in FY 2016, or ~13% of company-wide output. Forecasts see an increase to around 230,000 tonnes in five years, with potential for up to 450,000 tonnes per year by around 2025.

According to Reuters, the power outage also halted operations at Oz Minerals' Prominent Hill mine, which plans to produce up to 125,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate in 2016.

For the next couple of weeks, Nyrstar NV’s 185,000-tonnes-per-year Port Pirie lead smelter will also be out of action, the Zurich-based firm told the press.