Matt Chambers | October 09, 2009
The Australian


“BHP Billiton’s giant Olympic Dam underground mine could be running at just 20 per cent capacity for up to six months, analysts say, after a loaded iron skip plummeted to the bottom of the 800m-deep main shaft.

The mining giant yesterday remained quiet about the incident, which happened on Tuesday night, pending parallel government and company investigations that are expected to take two weeks.

BHP has only said the incident was a breakdown of one of two haulage systems at the copper and gold mine caused by a mechanical failure.

According to industry sources, a falling skip caused substantial damage to the inside of the Clark shaft and to the gears and wheels that bring the ore to the surface. The loaded ore skip that fell had sent another skip on a linked cable hurtling up into the headframe at the top of the Clark shaft.

“One of the most serious incidents that can occur in a haulage shaft would be the ore skip free-falling down the shaft,” Goldman Sachs JBWere analyst Neil Goodwill said.

Mr Goodwill said it was possible the shaft could be shut for three to six months………….”

Olympic Dam – Update from BHP Billiton
Investigations have begun into the cause of a breakdown of one of the two haulage systems at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam underground copper/gold and uranium mine in South Australia.

The fully-automated Clark Shaft, which supplies ore from underground to the surface for processing, failed during operations on Tuesday night. There were no injuries.

The company is working with inspectors from SafeWork SA and has also assembled its own investigation team which is expected to begin arriving at Olympic Dam across the weekend.

In the meantime underground mining is continuing with ore being hoisted to the surface via the secondary Whenan Shaft.

Olympic Dam’s mine planning team is currently examining what impact the temporary closure of the Clark Shaft will have on mine production, planning schedules and budget.

This work is expected to be completed in the course of the next two weeks and will run in parallel with both the government and company investigations into the incident.

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