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Olympic Dam growth now sensible: SA govt

AAP logoAAP 22/11/2016

Mining giant BHP Billiton is engaged in a more sensible and realistic expansion of its Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia's north, state Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis says.

The company put a $30 billion program to rapidly grow the operations on hold in 2012, but has been steadily increasing production and is expected to hit half a million tonnes a year in about a decade.

"That's an excellent example of a company staging its operations in a sensible way that can pay for itself," Mr Koutsantonis said after touring the project on Tuesday.

"I think the initial plan that BHP proposed to South Australians as an expansion was always going to be very, very difficult.

"What they have come up with is a more sensible and realistic expansion plan."

BHP Billiton's initial expansion objectives would have created the world's largest open-cut mine.

But when it shelved the plan it said it was unviable in the prevailing economic climate.

The company said it also needed to develop new smelting and extraction to cut costs and offset lower commodity prices.

Mr Koutsantonis said Olympic Dam remained a world-class ore body and a world-class operation.

"We're talking about getting up to record highs levels of production, reinvesting in the plant, upgrading of equipment and aiming for (production of ) half a million tonnes 10 years from now," he said.

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