Located approximately 570km NNW of Adelaide in South Australia, the Olympic Dam mine (OD) is the world’s fourth largest remaining copper and gold resource and the largest uranium resource. Discovered in 1975 and going into production in 1988, the operation consists of a fully vertically integrated underground mine, mineral processing plant, copper smelter and refinery, as well as associated infrastructure. BHP achieved production of 203,000 tonnes of copper cathode plus associated by-products in financial year 2016.
The immense size and high-grades of the Olympic Dam resource offer a range of growth pathways, making closure timing estimation and planning a challenge. Current estimates put the OD resource at approximately 79 million tonnes of copper. Major factors influencing the closure timing estimation, as a result of the large resource and grade tonnage profile, include the mining method that may be used and the downstream processing method, ultimately influencing such things as the total disturbance area and the extent of infrastructure to be demolished at the end of mine life. In addition, factors such as the mining and processing method and production rate have a direct impact on larger rehabilitation items such as the total number of tailings cells required.
Grant, D, Tyler, M and Hill, G, 2018. Olympic Dam mine closure planning process, in Proceedings Life-of-Mine 2018, pp 43–45 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).