BHP Billiton operators of the Olympic Dam gold, copper and uranium mine in the mid north of the state has handed the South Australian government it’s 15,000 page supplementary environmental impact statement.

The South Australian, Northern Territory and federal governments will now deliberate over the project with a decision expected in the second half of 2011.

Acting Premier Paul Holloway said, “The supplementary EIS is BHP Billiton’s response to government and public comments that were made during the 14-week consultation period after the draft EIS was published in May 2009.

Mr Holloway says, “the major development assessment process for the proposed Olympic Dam is very complex, involving collaboration of the Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory Governments.

“The next step in the process will be an “adequacy test” which ensures that there is sufficient information in the draft document for all governments to formally assess the EIS.

“The EIS was the largest document of its kind produced in South Australia, describing the project and the potential environmental, social, cultural and economic issues that might arise during its construction, operation and rehabilitation,” Mr Holloway says.

“Almost 4200 public submissions were received by the end of the 14-week public consultation period in August last year including a whole-of-government submission by the South Australian Government”.

“What is proposed at Olympic Dam is the world’s largest mine and it is not surprising that there has been a huge amount of public interest in the EIS”.

BHP Billiton has now spent more than a year putting together a comprehensive response to all the issues raised during the lengthy consultation process.

“The Government’s submission alone was a thorough examination of the EIS and the potential issues the project creates for not only Olympic Dam but also the surrounding region, the nearby town of Roxby Downs, the Upper Spencer Gulf and other areas of the State.

This will be the largest project with the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment ever undertaken in South Australia’s history.

Mark Parnell of the SA Greens believes that eight weeks is an unreasonable wait for the public to see the EIS documents particularly for those citizens who took the time to lodge submissions and those who have genuine concerns that exist around the Olympic Dam project.

“In making a decision on this project, account will be taken of all expert advice and relevant information, as well as all public submissions. BHP Billiton will be required to demonstrate that it can meet all statutory environmental requirements,” Mr Holloway says.

“The Australian Government must indicate to BHP Billiton whether there is sufficient information for it to assess the project as required under the national environment law.

“The South Australian Government will also carefully examine the supplementary EIS and provide its views about the adequacy of the document to the Commonwealth.

“Although lodged today, the draft supplementary EIS won’t immediately be available to the public. Only once the supplementary EIS is confirmed to be sufficient to allow a thorough environmental assessment will BHP Billiton be required to publish the document so that the statutory assessment can begin.”

Mr Holloway says the assessment and decision-making process under the Development Act will be overseen by the Olympic Dam Taskforce and coordinated by the Department of Planning & Local Government.  “This assessment process will involve virtually all government agencies with key inputs from the Environment Protection Authority and Primary Industries and Resources S.A.,” said Mr. Holloway.

“While it is not a statutory requirement of the major development assessment process that public submissions be sought on the supplementary EIS, if there are any significant changes proposed to the project these may be re-advertised for community comment. For the project to proceed, approvals will be required from the Commonwealth, South Australian and Northern Territory governments”.

“Each of the three governments can either approve or reject the proposal or provide an approval with conditions attached. Some matters can also be reserved for a later decision,” Mr Holloway says. “It is anticipated that all Governments will be in a position to make their decisions around mid 2011.”

After that, the expansion project will depend on successfully completing all required feasibility studies and on board approval of the final investment case.

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