Olympic Dam desalination EIS released by BHP Billiton

The desalination plant in South Australia to feed BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mining development moved a step closer when the company released the final supplementary environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the project on 13 May 2011.

BHP Billiton submitted the SEIS for review by the Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory Governments in early December 2010. The Governments then performed a series of adequacy checks on the SEIS before granting BHP Billiton permission to publicly release the document.

Government permission to release the SEIS is a significant step towards establishing South Australia’s Olympic Dam as one of the world’s premier mining operations. The proposed expansion of Olympic Dam still remains subject to final government approvals as well as approval by the BHP Billiton Board.

The SEIS addresses the environmental, social, cultural and economic issues raised in more than 4,000 public submissions on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was released to the public in May 2009. However, the release has brought protests from environmentalists who say that the proposed desalination plant could spell the end of the giant cuttlefish populations in the area near Whyalla