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SA's expansion of Olympic Dam « Previous | |Next »
March 31, 2008

SA is anxiously awaiting for the copper and uranium mining boom to happen so that it can join the high speed economies of WA and Queensland in Australia's two speed economy. SA is in a state of suspended longing as it stands on the verge of a boom, despite government concerns that BHP is backing away from value-adding processing in favour of exporting all expanded production as copper ore concentrate rather than smelting into metal, as it does currently. Such a move would reduce BHP Billiton's capital spending.

Digging up the rocks will be undertaken by BHP Billiton over the next decade. This expansion of Olympic Dam will require a desalination plant on the coast of the Upper Spencer Gulf to provide the extra 120Ml/day of additional water. The water will then be pumped 320 km north to Olympic Dam, which is 600km north of Adelaide.

That expansion will need to be powered by electricity. South Australia has been an importer of electricity for several years and its power distribution network was stretched to capacity to meed the demand during the heatwave. Yet BHP Billiton will need nearly half of South Australia's current electricity supply to power its copper and uranium mining at Olympic Dam. It will require 690 megawatts to run the operation with 60 megawatts needed to run the desalination plant. BHP Billiton currently uses 120 megawatts.

So where is that extra 570 megawatts of power going to come from?

The Rann Government, which routinely lectures the rest of the nation on climate change and the need to increasingly source energy from renewable energy has not imposed any mandatory requirements on BHP Billiton to source renewable energy.

The technology to source base-load renewable energy from "hot rocks" geothermal sources in the north of the state is not proven; whilst gas-fired power stations take three years to build if the option is to pipe gas from Queensland. Does that leave coal-fired power stations supplying the vast amount of base-load power Olympic Dam requires?

Does that mean SA becomes a greenhouse pariah as BHP Billiton turns to coal-fired power stations at a time when Ross Garnaut's report argues that power generators not be compensated in a carbon trading scheme?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:51 PM | | Comments (3)


BHP Billiton's current mine operation uses about 32 ML/day from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). This is within BHP Billiton’s licensed limits of 42 ML/day. That limit should be reduced as it is mining water. The extra water should come from the desalination plant.

In December, BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers said the Olympic Dam expansion project was envisaged as a staged and continuous expansion.

A first stage expansion would almost double copper production to 350,000 tonnes a year, before further expansion to 540,000 tonnes and 730,000 tonnes. At that level, uranium production would be increased from around 400 tonnes a year to 14,000 tonnes a year.

It's pretty big.BHP Billiton promotes Olympic Dam as rivalling Russia's Norilsk nickel deposit as the world's biggest single base metal discovery.
David Bradbury has make films that expose the chasm between the claims of SA ALP/BHP and reality with respect to issues such as safety, water, greenhouse gases.
I can't access the film clip on the site above and I lost my DVD of "Hard Rain", but I recommend that you check these out if you want an alternate viewpoint to that of Murdoch/Rann/BHP.