May 17, 2020

BHP Billiton Plans to Build Pilot Processing Plant at its Olympic Dam

BHP Billiton
Olympic Dam
heap leach technology
2 min
Olympic Dam mine in South Australia's Far North
Mining company BHP Billiton is planning to build a pilot processing plant at its Olympic Dam mine in South Australias Far North.The company, which has a...

Mining company BHP Billiton is planning to build a pilot processing plant at its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia’s Far North.

The company, which has already applied to the Federal and State Governments for approval on the expansion, is set to run a three-year trial for a potentially cheaper way of processing copper and uranium.

BHP plans to utilize heap leach technology to extract copper and uranium from ore mined underground. The company believes using the technology at the beginning of ore processing rather than in a late stage (as it does now) could cut costs significantly at Olympic Dam.

“The heap leach trial is intended as a demonstration and proof of concept,” BHP said in a statement. The company added a successful trial “will not necessarily lead to a full scale project”.

According to SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, BHP is a long way away before a full investment can be made to upgrade mine production.

"It's something that was envisaged in the initial indenture but look, we're not going to overplay this. This is just another step forward.”

If the project is approved, the pilot plant construction would commence late next-year with the processing trial running for two-and-a-half years.

“Olympic Dam is a world class ore body. One day it will be expanded — the question is when, not if,” says SA Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel.

“It’s good to see BHP Billiton moving ahead one step at a time, hopefully towards an expansion.”

A decision from the Federal Government is set for August 22 if federal assessment is needed.

“If it does need approval, it will be subjected to a thorough environmental assessment that will include another opportunity for public comment,” a spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

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May 13, 2021

BHP, Rio Tinto & Vale launch Charge On Innovation Challenge

Rio Tinto
Charge On Innovation Challenge
3 min
BHP, Rio Tinto & Vale launch 'Charge On' Innovation Challenge - a competition for tech innovators to reduce truck emissions via electrification

Mining giants BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto have launched the 'Charge On' Innovation Challenge to solve one of the biggest challenges the industry faces today - decarbonising mining operations.

'Charge On' Innovation Challenge

In partnership with Austmine, Australia's leading mining equipment, technology and services industry association, founding patrons BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto have launched the competition to encourage technology innovators to develop new concepts for large-scale haul truck electrification systems. The main goal is cutting emissions from surface mining operations.

“The mining industry needs to be at the forefront of tackling the climate challenge. The Charge On Innovation Challenge is a great example of the current collaborative work being done by the mining industry and mobile equipment manufacturers to decarbonise mining fleets,” the trio said in a media statement.

“In addition to providing a zero-carbon energy source, the conversion of mobile mining equipment to battery-electric can potentially unlock value, as electric motors have fewer moving parts when compared to standard equipment.”

A number of non-traditional mining sector vendors are actively developing technologies that can assist in mine electrification. By submitting a Challenge to the market, the Patrons of Charge On expect to:

  • Demonstrate there is an emerging market for charging solutions in mining
  • Accelerate commercialization of solutions
  • Indicate to suppliers, the mining industry seeks interoperable solutions
  • Maintain multiple actors and competition in the supply chain
  • Integrate innovations from other sectors into the mining sector

"We expect some solutions identified in the Challenge could provide propulsion to existing diesel-electric trucks. This may present a pathway to early implementation for dynamic charging solutions," the trio said.

Charge On

Paris Agreement

Found patrons BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto are pledging their commitment to fighting climate change:

"The mining industry has an important role to reduce emissions and do our part to achieve the Paris Agreement goals to limit the impacts of climate change."

The Charge On Innovation Challenge asks vendors to present interoperable solutions that can safely deliver electricity to large battery-electric off-road haul trucks in a way that maintains or improves current productivity levels. Specifically, mechanisms capable of delivering in the order of 400kWh of electricity to each truck within a haul cycle (ie load, travel, dump, return, queue). The delivered electricity is to charge a battery, and if applicable directly propel the truck.

Austmine CEO Christine Gibbs Stewart commented: “We expect the Challenge will attract companies from a broad range of sectors including mining, automotive, aerospace, agriculture, and defence to deliver selected charging concepts to create a standard product that can interface with all trucks."

More information about the challenge will be released on May 18.


The competition echoes growing efforts being made across the industry to tackle emmissions and promote electrification. In march this year, the Electric Mine Consortium was launched. It's founding members include Gold Fields, Dassualt Systemes and Sandvik who pledged their commitment to decarbonising mining operations.

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