BHP Billiton secures extension to expand Olympic Dam

Copper-Uranium mine

Mining major BHP Billiton has secured a four-year extension to expand the Olympic Dam project.

The South Australian government had earlier demanded BHP proceed with its plans to extend the mine by next month or be forced to restart the approval process.

The miner will now have until October 2016 to start work on the mine expansion, which was shelved due to a weak market.

Despite this latest development, BHP Billiton CEO Marius Kloppers said on Tuesday that the company could not guarantee the project would proceed.

"When you are trying to develop a mining project you face uncertainties around exchange-rate costs, prices of various commodities - the uranium market and so on."

"There are a number of things that go into this; we have got to see where the copper market develops, where the uranium market develops, where capital costs develop and then obviously the exchange rate impacts operating costs," Kloppers told the Australian.

In August BHP reported a fall in profits for FY2012 ended 30 June 2012, a first in three years.

Attributable profit was down 35% as demand for commodities - particularly coal, copper, nickel and aluminium - slowed in China, the biggest buyer of Australian exports, and around the rest of the world.

Image: While investments in the Olympic Dam continue, BHP Billiton cannot guarantee an expansion of the project. Photo: BHP Billiton.