Olympic Damn Mine Expansion Canned

Craig's picture
Craig started the topic in Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 at 7:31pm

If you didn't hear, the $30 billion Olympic Damn Mine expansion has been canned.

BHP cancels $30 billion Olympic Dam expansion near Roxby Downs in South Australian Outback

While this isn't great news for South Australia or the Australian economy (don't believe the hype about the Carbon and Mining Tax's being the cause - they'd be small dents in a $30 billion budget) it is great news regarding what the proposed Desalination plant at Point Lowly.

My Honours project back in 2008 consisted of modelling the effects of pumping brine from the Desal plant into the top of Spencer Gulf (which is already highly saline due to the lack of circulation with the open ocean) at rates that BHP detailed in their plans.

My study showed that the brine would exceed acceptable EPA levels during the dodge tide which is every 14 days, and also likely kill off the Giant Cuttlefish that breed only 2km's away from the proposed outlet and are sensitive to small changes in local salinity.

BHP didn't want to pay the extra few million to extend the pipe down into a more open and active (with waves), coastal region, hence chose Point Lowly as the ideal location.

Besides my findings above, Desal plants are highly inefficient taking 1L of sea water, with 43% being converted to fresh water and the rest, 57%, going back into the ocean at twice the salinity.

For me this is a win, although the impact on the economy is a bit of a downer.

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 at 8:09pm

Myself and another local surfer discussed how this might affect our area and I think at least 20 houses/ new locals(surfing or otherwise) won't be moving to our little town as a result of this decision.

Places like Marion Bay which has two new sub-divisions being developed have attracted the week on week off type of workers who don't wish to spend their time off sitting at traffic lights in the city and would rather be fishing/surfing etc. We both agreed that the surf may be a little less crowded on weekdays at least in the medium term.

But the desal angle that you have put Craig is a valid point! It's not good economically for the state but I guess that the uranium, iron ore, gold etc. isn't going anywhere and maybe a future generation will be able to mine it with a less environmentally damaging plan then the one proposed by BHP!

barley's picture
barley's picture
barley Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 at 11:10pm

What about on the other side of the gulf.The Pine point side..how might that effect that area?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 6:15am

Were you being intentionally humorous in your thread title Craig? :D

Seriously though, having read your paper this is a great thing for the gulf system.

yorkessurfer - I've been hearing similar stories right along the West Coast for the last few years - property prices going through the roof as people choose to spend their 'week off' surfing and fishing. I wonder if the property prices will fall as a result? Some of the land waaaay out west has been on the market for phenomenal amounts of money.

sidthefish's picture
sidthefish's picture
sidthefish Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 6:44am

Olympic Dam was always gunna be a stretch on power and water. the desal factor fully sucked and long live the cuttlefishes, they are awesome.

As for a dent in the SA economy, it's a blessing in disguise. The hot money would have simply priced the common people out of housing/property as it has in central & central coastal Qld, unless you are prepared to take on mega mortgages and be debt slaves forever. Like say Moranbah in the Bowen Basin, Qld, 800k for a house... if you could afford to live there, you wouldn't live there, if you get what I mean.

There is still lots of other resource activity happening in SA, particularly in the Cooper Basin. There is also another deposit of similar scale just due NW of OD under joint venture between Tasman Resources & RioT. Fuck it would be mental if that and OD went ahead.

No doubt they'll return in due course, but for now, a combination of 5 years over burden, some politiking and broader macro-economic reality, has made them step back and maybe refine the projects for the better.

OD has OD'd.

fitzroy-21's picture
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fitzroy-21 Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 6:52am

Some similar goings on here in QLD regarding BHP/BMA. Alot of projects have been put on "hold", some expansions scaled back and auditers are silently going about their buisiness.
Some of the mine site contractors are being cut in half with "budget cuts" and whispers of the odd mine closing its doors. Some of the ongoing industrial action has hurt them.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 7:18am

Barley, the flow of water through both gulfs is clockwise with "fresh" open ocean water entering the western sides, flowing north and then heading back down the eastern side of each gulf.

So any brine discharged on the western sides of the gulfs will be taken north and into a more saline environment, so no Pine Point would be another bad place to place a Desal plant.

The Port Stanvac plant is in a slightly more favourable position as the brine will move south and exit the gulf much quicker than if it was on the other side of the gulf, but ideally the discharge pipes should be placed at locations open to Southern Ocean swell activity as it will be dispersed almost instantaneously.

Ben, I'd like to take credit for the title, but that's a stuff up by me :p

Yes this expansion will come back at some time in the future, but hopefully with fresh ideas and technologies regarding how to source the extra fresh water needed for the mine.

dave_anning's picture
dave_anning's picture
dave_anning Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 9:29am

Craig, any chance I could get a link to or copy of your paper? Stu has my email.

The cynic in me says that this is actually an announcement designed to suggest to the global market that mining production can't expand as quickly as projected, to increase prices/profits in the light of falling commodity and share prices.

From the little I did read about OD, it is/was a tricky deposit to exploit, as the copper would be tainted by radioactivity.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 10:04am

Hi Dave, and anyone else interested, here is a link to my published paper..

Hindcasts of the fate of desalination brine in large inverse estuaries - Spencer Gulf and Gulf St. Vincent, South Australia

And also the longer winded Thesis..


yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 at 11:13am

Tony Abbott was on the 7: 30 ABC program last night spouting off how the carbon and mining taxes were responsible for the BHP decision to not further develop Olympic Dam. When asked if he had read the statement issued by BHP he quietly mumbled "no" before continuing on with his rubbish.

Maybe he was too busy riding his bike that afternoon to concentrate on such trivial details relating to the future of our country!

He really is poised to be Australia's answer to George. W. Bush!