Greens tying up Olympic Dam with new parliamentary inquiry, $30 billion project faces delays

News reports from Australia say BHP Billiton may face delays in getting approvals for its $30 billion Olympic Dam expansion, as Greens and other minor parties holding the balance of power in the South Australian Parliament push for an inquiry into the project.

The legal agreement between BHP and the State Government will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Greens now want BHP Billiton officials to appear before a parliamentary committee to investigate the indenture legislation for the expansion. The project will create an open pit mine adjacent to the current Olympic Dam underground operation that would be the world's biggest – trucks will haul overburden 24/7 for five to six years just to reach the ore body.

Australian Mining reports Premier Mike Rann has earmarked Olympic Dam as one of his major legacies as premier and is keen to have the agreement quickly passed through parliament.

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.