The trial for leaching copper and uranium at the BHP Billiton Olympic Dam heap site has been determined ‘not a controlled action’ under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act). 

“I welcome this decision, which will give the green light to BHP Billiton to develop and operate a heap leach demonstration plant at the Olympic Dam mine site,” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Senator for South Australia. 

“Trialling this technology is a critical step towards ultimately realising the economic and employment potential of the Olympic Dam expansion, which continues to be of significant importance to South Australians.

“BHP Billiton’s proposal will develop a heap leach demonstration plant of pilot-scale to undertake a proof of concept assessment of technology for the leaching of copper and uranium.

“The Department of the Environment has looked at the proposed trial to see whether it needed to be assessed under national environment law. It has decided that this proposal does not require further assessment, thereby avoiding regulatory delays.

“The heap leach trial will use approximately 36,000 tonnes of ore per annum which represents less that 0.4% of the annual production of the existing Olympic Dam operation.

“This project is located within 18 hectares of predominantly cleared land within the boundaries of the operational Olympic Dam uranium mine site,” said Senator Birmingham.

The decision includes agreement to a range of best practice measures to provide appropriate environmental protection, including construction specifications, monitoring requirements and site decommissioning provisions. 

“The Olympic Dam expansion has the potential to give a significant lift to the South Australian economy and this green light should be warmly welcomed by all who hope to see more jobs generated in the future,” said Senator Birmingham.

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