Olympic Dam desalination plan approved with conditions

BHP Billiton’s proposed 200,000-280,000 m³/d desalination plant in southern Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf will be covered by the 100-plus conditions imposed by national and state government approval of the Olympic Dam uranium mining project announced on 10 October 2011.

Australia’s environment minister Tony Burke said that, following a rigorous assessment, he had approved BHP Billiton’s proposed project to expand the Olympic Dam mine in the north of the state of South Australia under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act, with strict conditions during operation and well beyond the life of the mine.

BHP Billiton will be required to adhere to more than 100 stringent conditions including establishing an offset area of about 140,000 ha, biodiversity conservation and environment protection management programs, and a comprehensive compliance strategy.

“The conditions apply to all parts of the project, including the proposed desalination plant in the Upper Spencer Gulf, and will ensure that the gulf and its marine life -including the giant cuttlefish – are protected,” Mr Burke said.

BHP Billiton Uranium president Dean Dalla Valle said, “Today’s announcement is the
 culmination of one of the most comprehensive and rigorous environmental assessment 
processes undertaken in Australia and is another important milestone as we seek to develop this world-class ore-body. The first phase of the Olympic Dam project is currently in feasibility and its progression into 
execution remains dependant on these approvals, the completion of all required studies and on BHP Billiton Board approval.”

“We recognise the approval conditions and the requirement to meet all of them across the life of the project, including those for the construction and operation of the desalination plant at Point Lowly,” Dalla Valla continued. “We will undertake a range of monitoring measures, including real-time monitoring of salinity, to ensure we have no adverse impact on the marine environment of Spencer Gulf.”