Olympic Dam expansion could be world super mine with huge copper, gold and uranium production.
Among prospective new mine developments in South Australia, a plan to make Olympic Dam the world’s largest single mining project, with major copper, gold and uranium production, stands out.
Posted: Monday , 30 Apr 2007
Statistics released today show the expansion of BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine will be on a magnitude greater than any big new iron ore mine in Western Australia's Pilbara region and perhaps the biggest costing mine in the world.
If protracted and costly studies by BHP provide the green light for developing a huge open cut over this big underground mine - where the sterile cover is at least 300 metres deep - then the projected cost of the expansion will be $A7 billion ($US5.18 M) and the pit would measure 3.6 kilometres by 3.65 km by 1 km deep. Commercial ore has been determined to depths of 2.5 km.
In a presentation to Paydirt's South Australian Resources & Energy Investment Conference in Adelaide, Paul Heithersay, executive director of Primary Industry & Resources South Australia (PIRSA), said the expansion would make Olympic Dam the biggest single mining project in the world. The expansion would also put this remote South Australian mine in the big league of Australian gold production. As well as lifting from 10 million tonnes per annum to 40 mtpa the mine would produce annually 500,000 ounces of gold, as well as 500,000t of copper and 15,000t of yellowcake.
The big gold lift (from a current 80,000 oz pa) indicates what market observers have been saying for some time that BHP now has some sweeter spots for development, at least for gold.
Heithersay said that full production at the fourfold increased rate was set for 2014 and this would see the population of the town of Roxby Downs increase from 4,000 to between 7-9,000.
He said the open pit mine would haul 350 Mtpa, while a new airport would accommodate Boeing 737 jets and have night flying capacity. There would also be a new coastal desalination plant and a pipeline of 320 km.
Other major South Australian developments detailed by Heithersay were:
•· OneSteel Ltd's Project Magnet to utilise magnetite ore to extend the life of its Middleback Range operations near Whyalla to extend the life of its iron ore mines would see capital works completed mid year, so as to extend the life from 2020 to at least 2027. Over the next 10 years OneSteel will sell over 30 Mt of haematite ore, 3.2 Mt of iron pellets and about 1 Mt of steel slab.
•· Oxiana Ltd's Prominent Hill copper-gold mine is in the production phase for an open cut mine with an initial life of 10 years, based on a resource of 102 Mt @ 1.45% copper, 0.51 g/t gold and 3.25 g/t silver. Annual production for the first four years would be 8 Mtpa for 104,000t copper, 115,000 oz gold and 400,000 oz silver.
•· Australian Zircon's Mindarie mineral sands project in the SA sector of the Murray Basin is scheduled to start in June with the first shipment out in September. The projected life is 14 years with treatment to produce 150,000 tpa of heavy mineral concentrates containing 30,000t of zircon, 6,000t rutile, 4,000t leucoxene and 60,000t ilmenite.
•· The Angas zinc project near Adelaide for Terramin Australia is in the construction phase and production will ramp up to 65,000t of Zn and 16,000t of silver-lead.
•· SXR Uranium One's Honeymoon uranium project has been approved and will be producing 12 months after financial commitment. Based on the current resource of 1.2 Mt at 0.24% it will produce 880,000 lb of yellowcake. The projected mine life is 6-7 years.