In Resources

South Australia Shadow Minister for Economic Development David Ridgway

Roxby Downs Pits BHP Against Govt

Victor P Taffa

The Weatherill Government is facing a showdown against the world’s largest mining company over the start date of the Olympic Dam expansion at Roxby Downs.

South Australia’s third most-senior minister, Upper House leader Gail Gago, told Parliament today she does not support granting BHP Billiton a delay to begin its multi-billion dollar expansion.

BHP Billiton chairman Jacques Nasser declared two weeks ago that because of global economic uncertainties like the Euro crisis, his company will be keeping in its corporate safe the $80 Billion it had planned to invest on new mining projects by 2015.

“It is all about appropriate allocation of capital. We should pause, take a deep breath and wait and see where the pieces fall around the world.” Mr. Nasser said.

“Obviously this deferral could delay the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine project.” Liberal frontbencher and economic development spokesman David Ridgway said.

But in a response that sent shudders around the mining world, South Australia has now indicated the Government might revoke BHP Billiton’s right to proceed.

Parliament passed the Olympic Dam Indenture Act last November, giving legislative approvals for Roxby Downs to become the biggest copper-uranium-gold mine on Earth.

But the legislation specifies that unless construction begins by the end of this year, the South Australian Government has the right to revoke its indenture agreement.

“Mines Minister Tom Koutsantonis has ruled out granting an extension to BHP.” Mr. Ridgway said.

“Mr. Koutsantonis has told BHP Billiton that nothing he’s seen inclines him to grant an extension.”

“Obviously the Liberal Party wants the Olympic Dam expansion to go ahead. We supported mining while failed former Premier Mike Rann was urging Australia to leave uranium in the ground.”

“I am therefore deeply concerned, and I fear that financial markets might be too, to see that Mr. Koutsantonis’s threat has been reinforced today.”

“Ms. Gago, who is also minister for regional development, told parliament this afternoon that she agrees with Mr. Koutsantonis’s deadline.”

“She said Mr Koutsantonis had considered ‘all relevant matters’ and if the Government was to tear up the indenture, it would be ‘in the best interests of this state’.

“I am appalled that she supports Mr. Koutsantonis.” Mr. Ridgway said.

“We need to encourage BHP Billiton to proceed with this expansion, which will be worth many billions of dollars a year to the Australian economy for 40 years.”

“The last thing BHP Billiton needs now is for some cowboy government to hold a gun to its head.”

“BHP Billiton says it’s all about the allocation of capital.”

“In Mr. Nasser’s words, BHP Billiton should pause, take a deep breath and see where pieces fall around the world.”

“The State Government should pause, take a breath, and see that South Australia doesn’t break into pieces because of events on the other side of the world.” Mr. Ridgway said.

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