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Kevin Naughton
 
May 1, 2012

EVERYTHING that can be done, has been done, says the head of the state government’s Olympic Dam Taskforce as it waits for BHP Billiton to give the green light to the mine’s proposed expansion.

“Everything is lined up nicely for this decision,” Resources and Energy Department deputy CEO Paul Heithersay said yesterday.

A formal commitment to proceed from the BHP board would trigger billions of dollars in associated infrastructure projects. A board decision is expected mid-year.

Mr Heithersay addressed hundreds of miners, explorers and contractors gathered at the Hilton Hotel for the “2012 Paydirt” SA Resources and Energy Investment Conference.

“Everything the government can do is done; we have completed the EIS and Indenture processes,” he told delegates.

Heithersay said BHP Billiton was already spending “around $20 million a week on pre-commitment projects”, such as expansion of the road from Port Augusta, and engineering design work and earthworks.

Other projects included:

  • 270km of electricity transmission line;
  • 400km of gas pipeline and a gas-fired power station;
  • 105km of railway to be built from Pimba to Olympic Dam;
  • a sea landing facility south of Port Augusta for the unloading of heavy machinery;
  • an airport, complete with solar power and a 737 jet capability;
  • a 10,000 person camp as well as expansion of the Roxby Downs township; and
  • upgrades to Adelaide and Darwin harbours.

Earlier in the conference, Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis repeated his “elephant” analogy, used in a recent presentation overseas.

“South Australia is poised to take its place among the titans of mining – not just in Australia but in the world,” Koutsantonis told delegates.

“In Olympic Dam we have tracked down an elephant, we are still in the hunt for the rest of the herd.

“These are exciting times, but they are also challenging times for our State.

“We need to manage our transition into a global mining giant in a way that benefits all South Australians.”

The minister also announced the successful applicants for exploration subsidies under the Plan for Accelerating Exploration, a subsidy program that dates back to the SA Exploration initiative (SAEI) in the early 1990s.

“Twenty-six mineral and petroleum exploration companies spread across South Australia will share about $1.7 million funding from the State Government,” he said.

Under its newer name PACE, it is to be expanded into a series of other collaborations including energy and water, subject to government funding approval.

The importance of Olympic Dam to the economy had earlier been underlined by Oz Mineral’s managing director Terry Burgess when he told delegates a recent set of job ads for work at nearby Prominent Hill had attracted 3000 applicants.

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