Australia on Monday gave approval for BHP Billiton to expand its Olympic Dam mine but set more than 100 environmental conditions on the uranium, copper and gold project.
The $30 billion expansion of the existing Olympic Dam underground operation will create an adjacent open pit mine that would be the worlds biggest. An idea of the olympian effort required to construct the mine and the size of the undertaking is clear from the fact that trucks will haul overburden 24/7 for five to six years just to reach the ore body. The combined operations would mine 72 Mt ore per year and would produce 750,000 tonnes refined copper, 19,000 tonnes uranium oxide, 800,000 gold ounces and 2.9 Moz of silver per year.
Fin24 quotes Australia's Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke: "While I have considered the economic and jobs benefits of this project, my focus has been on protecting matters of national environmental significance. The strict conditions I've imposed will help ensure protection of the natural environment, including native species, groundwater and vegetation, for the long-term." Under the government's conditions, BHP Billiton will be required to establish an offset area of about 140 000 hectares – eight times the amount of land forecast to be cleared for the project.
MINING.com reported in September that BHP is looking for a robotics exec to dig world’s biggest open pit because it wants to “future-proof” the Olympic Dam project, including using driverless haulage trucks and has put out a recruitment ad for an executive to oversee the high-tech initiative. The system would mean operators can be in a control room on the site or even in the comfort of a city office hundreds of kilometres away.
MINING.com reported in August on BHP's record annual results after prices of copper, iron ore and coal reached all-time highs on demand from China. Profit at the world's biggest miner surged 86% for the 12 months $23.6 billion, a full $1.4 billion ahead of already rosy expectations, on the back of earnings from iron ore, its biggest division, which jumped 122% to $13.3 billion. The record profits also meant that the Anglo-Australian firm still had $60 billion left for expansion after Petrohawk deal.