If BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) will pursue its Olympic Dam expansion plan, the venture would produce sufficient uranium to fuel one-third of the global demand for use in nuclear power plants, according to South Australia Mineral and Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis.
Shortly after a month that it announced it is cancelling the $30-billion expansion of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine mega project, global mining giant BHP Billiton has asked the state government of South Australia to extend the deadline coverage of the indenture agreement the two parties signed in October 2011.
The boost would be a jump from the 4,520 tonnes of uranium produced in 2011, which are just 8 per cent of the global supply and enough to fuel only six one-gigawatt nuclear reactors. There are 386 operating nuclear plants throughout the world, although many countries are veering away from nuclear power after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster on March 11, 2011.
"This expansion will not only result in the world's largest uranium mine, but the world's largest open pit mine, the fourth largest copper mine and the fourth largest goldmine," Skynews quoted Mr Koutsantonis' Wednesday address at the Australia China Resources Symposium in Adelaide.
SA gave BHP until the end of 2011 to decide if it will push ahead with the Olympic Dam expansion or renegotiate state government approvals.
Ahead of the BHP board decision, the mining giant placed a claim on a large section of the Outback in a bid to find larger resources deposits. The claim covers 300-kilometres of SA land from the north of Lake Torrens south toward Hawker and Port Augusta.
BHP made the claim and another $24 million worth of exploration rights purchased from junior miners covering 2,658 square kilometres of land. With the new claim, BHP seeks to explore 22,806 square kilometres more, which is roughly equivalent to one-third of Tasmania's land area.
SA Chamber of Mines and Energy Chief Executive Jason Kuchel said the new claim is an indicator of BHP's long-term commitment and its confidence in the likelihood of more significant resources discoveries in the state.
Outside SA, BHP also filed applications with the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia to begin an environmental review for its plans to further boost the miner's iron ore production in Pilbara to 350 million metric tonnes annually by 2020.
BHP initially planned to spend $80 billion on the Olympic Dam expansion, but the company's board placed a hold on the plans in view of the decline in commodity prices and the threat of another global financial crisis due to the eurozone debt crisis, plus lesser demand from China for metals and minerals.
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