BHP Billiton puts Olympic Dam plan on backburner – by Neil Hume (Financial Times – November 28, 2017)

BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, has placed on the backburner plans to increase output from its giant Olympic Dam copper mine in Australia to 450,000 tonnes a year, opting for a less ambitious expansion project.

Ahead of a trip to the mine, the Anglo-Australian group told investors that its preferred development option was a $2.1bn plan that will see output rise from an estimated 150,000 tonnes this year to 330,000 tonnes by 2023.

BHP has talked for years about the potential of Olympic, the world’s third-largest copper deposit, which also boasts significant reserves of uranium and gold. As recently as 2015, the company was talking about the potential to increase production to 450,000 tonnes a year by 2025 by introducing a new heap leaching, or extraction, technology.

That idea has now been put on hold in favour of a Brownfield Expansion (BFX) that would see BHP expand its processing capacity to handle high-grade ore from the southern area of the mine.

The BHP’s board will be asked to approve the project in mid 2020, around the time analysts expect a large deficit to emerge in the copper market.

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