BHP considers expansion of Olympic Dam copper mine

BHP is mulling over a decision to expand its Olympic Dam in South Australia, in a move which would significantly lift annual production capacity at the largest copper mine in the Australian state.

The Brownfield Expansion (BFX) option will be considered by the Australian mining giant’s board in 2020, with the company indicating that it could be an example of a project with the potential to deliver sustainable returns to shareholders.

However, BHP executives briefing investors and analysts in Adelaide said the expansion would be ‘subject to strict capital allocation framework tests’.

“Current estimates put the Olympic Dam resource in excess of 120 million tonnes (Mt) of copper equivalent,” said Olympic Dam asset president Jacqui McGill at the presentation in Adelaide.

“At current production rates, it would take us around 500 years to deplete it, and while scale is important, what makes Olympic Dam so unique is the combination of grade and scale.

“If approved, the BFX option could lift production capacity to 330 kilo tonnes (Kt) per annum and move Olympic Dam into the first quartile of the cost curve.”