BHP Billiton to extend storage capacity at Olympic Dam in South Australia

12 January 2015 (Last Updated January 12th, 2015 18:30)

BHP Billiton is seeking to increase the tailings storage capacity at its Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine located in South Australia.

BHP Billiton is seeking to increase the tailings storage capacity at its Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine located in South Australia.

The company has submitted a document to the federal government applying for permission for the expansion and requesting to increase the existing design height of its radioactive storage pond from 30m to 40m above ground level.

At existing production rates, the facility was expected to reach its design capacity in December 2017.

By increasing the storage facility capacity, BHP said it can avoid the construction of a new facility that would involve huge capital costs and expects this approach to extend the life of the facility by five years.

"By increasing the storage facility capacity, BHP said it can avoid the construction of a new facility."

In the document, BHP said as cited by Sydney Morning Herald: "By raising the embankment height of the existing [tailings storage] to 40m, it will not increase current seepage rates experienced.

"No additional environmental impact will occur."

In November, BHP aimed to increase ore production at its Olympic Dam to 11 million tonnes annually and announced an investment of about $200m on its de-bottlenecking operations.

In a bid to access higher grade ore, BHP is in the process of expanding the underground footprint of the Olympic Dam project into the southern mining area.

BHP's latest request to expand the capacity follows the company's group-wide, cost-cutting programme amid the reduction of prices in its major commodities, including copper.