TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
BHP has produced the first copper cathode from its heap leach research and development trials which could support a large increase in Olympic Dam’s annual output.
Speaking on 4 September at the Bureau Veritas pilot plant in Wingfield, Adelaide, BHP Olympic Dam asset president Jacqui McGill said heap leaching technology could revolutionise production at the mine.
“Integrated heap leach ore processing is a low-cost processing option being assessed for Olympic Dam to extract copper, uranium, gold and silver from our unique poly-metallic orebody, and support our future growth plans in the State,” Ms McGill said.
BHP said a series of larger scale experiments and testing on the heap leach process would be undertaken over the next three years.
The miner also announced another Olympic Dam milestone, with first ore being produced from its underground expansion into the Southern Mining Area (SMA) of the project.
“The move into the SMA forms the foundation of Olympic Dam’s long-term expansion plans, and successful tests of the heap leach copper extraction technology have the potential to support an increase in production to over 450,000 tonnes of copper a year,” Ms McGill said.
“We believe Olympic Dam can underpin jobs and economic development in South Australia for generations to come.
“An estimated $250m had been invested in the SMA expansion by the end of the 2017 financial year.
“A dedicated team of approximately 180 people have accelerated the development of the Southern Mine Area over the past 15 months, and confirmation today of first ore is a testament to their hard work and commitment.
“Seeing the first output from the heap leach trials and from the SMA supports moving toward unlocking Olympic Dam’s potential and building a foundation for long-term, sustainable growth in South Australia.”
BHP said its heap leaching technology meant Olympic Dam could potentially produce more than 450,000t of copper each year.