Milestone for dam plans

MILESTONE: BHP's $3 billion Olympic Dam expansion proposal has been granted major development status. Credit: Fairfax Media.
MILESTONE: BHP's $3 billion Olympic Dam expansion proposal has been granted major development status. Credit: Fairfax Media.

Plans to expand Olympic Dam have been given a boost with the $3 billion proposal granted major development status by the state government.

A $3 billion proposal by BHP would see the annual copper production at the mine increase from 200,000 tonnes to up to 350,000 tonnes.

The proposal would create as much as 1800 jobs during construction and an additional 600 ongoing positions in operational roles.

Major development status is reserved for projects of 'state economic, social or environmental significance'. 

Securing the status is a key milestone for BHP, who propose to increase the use of water from the Great Artesian Basin to up to 50 megalitres a day.

Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said BHP's plans would be subject to a 'thorough environmental assessment'.

"This proposal will be subject to a rigorous scientific assessment to ensure maximum draw down limits are scientifically determined and sustainable, and that other waters users are not adversely impacted," he said.

“There will also be extensive public consultation on the proposed expansion to make sure that communities have their say and there is transparency of the assessment of the project.”

Planning Minister Stephan Knoll said the assessment of the proposed development will be based on an 'evaluation of potential environmental, social and economic impacts and how they may be managed'.

"The major development process provides a detailed framework for assessment informed by the community, state government and the federal government," he said.

BHP will refer the proposal to the Commonwealth government to ensure that it is considered under the framework of the Commonwealth’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.