Uranium mining NOT the great solution for South Australia’s economy

The Olympic Dam silver bullet is forever tarnished

 “From the BHP side BFX is dead and buried… I suggest a new name: “OD-PERHAPS” for short.”

It’s time to stop looking to one mine in the state’s Far North for the answer to our economic problems

BHP, and our politicians, should be wary of rolling out the “expansion” tag to a state weary of spin around Olympic Dam, writes Business Editor Cameron England.

Cameron England, Business Editor, The Advertiser, October 20, 2020 ,

South Australians can take today’s announcement from BHP that its expansion plans have been shelved again as a signal that it’s time to step off the Olympic Dam silver bullet train once and for all…………

hanging our hopes on a big bang – or even a small bang – expansion of the project as a pivotal turning point for the state’s economy is a fool’s game.

The initial $30 billion open pit expansion – which was shelved in 2012 – would genuinely have been a game-changer for the state.

It included plans for an open pit bigger than the Adelaide CBD, new ports, and a surge in annual royalties for the State Government. But it was not to be.

The BFX expansion – which was shelved today – was a more modest $3.7 billion proposal, and while the spending would have been a boon to the state, it alone would have not moved the dial in a significant way for the state’s economy.

A broadbased approach, based around SA being a great place to do business – which the government is actually pursuing – stands a better chance of being the tide which lifts all boats.

Unfortunately the idea of an Olympic Dam expansion seems to be enough to make state ministers lose their equilibrium.

Back in 2011, former Infrastructure Minster Pat Conlon, with the caveat that it wasn’t his decision to make, declared the project a “goer” and said “I can tell you, having been regularly updated by my colleague Kevin Foley, Olympic Dam is a goer, it will get a sign-off.

“I’m very, very confident we’ll start up soon.’’

It didn’t of course.

And now current Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan says, similar to the results from Pantene, it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen…..

From the BHP side BFX is dead and buried, although they are committed to an incremental $500 million smelter maintenance plan and do want to gradually increase production.

But what most people would understand is an “expansion plan” is off the cards for now.

BHP needs to learn to manage expectations around this project, in a state which does have a tendency to hope for silver bullet solutions.

They’re between a rock and a hard place with their obligation to keep investors up to date, and not get people too excited with projects that invariably have billion dollar price tags attached.

I suggest a new name: the Olympic Dam Project Evaluation, Risk, Holistic Analysis and Potential Scheme – or “OD-PERHAPS” for short.


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