Significant high copper grades unlocked at Oak Dam

An exploration program undertaken by BHP at its Oak Dam…

An exploration program undertaken by BHP at its Oak Dam copper deposit has identified high-grades of copper deep beneath the Olympic Dam ore body, with some grades equalling more than two per cent.

The Oak Dam deposit is located 65km south-east of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, one of the world’s most significant deposits of copper, gold, and uranium.

Once its acquisition of OZ Minerals was finalised last May, BHP established an integrated copper province in SA’s far north by combining the Prominent Hill and Carrapateena mines with the Olympic Dam mine, smelter and refinery, and Oak Dam deposit.

“BHP has created an integrated copper province that we hope will bring the scale required to economically and sustainably produce and process more copper here in SA and deliver it to global customers,” BHP asset president copper South Australia Anna Wiley said.

“Our South Australian operations are performing well and we’ve had further exploration success.

“The Oak Dam exploration project is progressing with 12 rigs currently on site, 150 kilometres of drilling completed, a core processing facility on-site and 150-person accommodation camp nearly complete.

“We’re also exploring in an area below the known Olympic Dam deposit, known as Olympic Dam Deeps.”

Alongside further exploration, BHP is also assessing options for a new two-stage smelter at Olympic Dam that would potentially double its capacity from 0.5 million tonnes (Mt) to 1–1.7Mt and lift its copper production to about 500,000 tonnes per annum.

The South Australian Government, which approved the Oak Dam exploration program last year, welcomed the Oak Dam discovery.

“Copper is a key component in our State Prosperity Plan,” SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said.

“BHP hope to more than double the size of their smelter – which means more jobs, opportunity and greater prosperity for our state.

“There are enormous amounts of copper in our state’s north, but to extract and refine it, we need something in short supply – water.

“That’s exactly (the SA) Government is partnering with industry to progress plans for the Northern Water project, which has the potential to deliver an additional five billion dollars in economic activity to our state each year.”

BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry took to the stage at the BMO Global Metals, Mining and Critical Minerals Conference yesterday, where he revealed that the potential two-stage smelter at Oak Dam is expected to reach a final investment decision sometime between the 2025–26 and 2026–27 financial years.

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