The South Australian Premier has warned BHP Billiton’s decision to cancel its $30 billion Olympic Dam mine expansion project may cause local businesses to go under, with the impact likely to be felt further afield as well.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherwill said the decision to put the project on hold was disappointing for regional towns like Roxby Downs, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla, which had started to experience the benefits in activity that the mine expansion was bringing.
“There is no doubt this is a major disappointment for South Australia and the nation, especially for those workers and businesses who had set themselves to work on the expansion project,” he said.
In an interview with ABC Radio today Weatherwill acknowledged there had been “a range of businesses” around the state which had been encouraged to get their systems up to speed to meet the needs of the mine.
“The last time this happened we had companies that went broke on the strength of this … they didn’t complain about it, they made business decisions but the truth is that they geared up for something that didn’t happen,” he said.
Weatherwill said he was concerned businesses would go under again as a result of the delay.
“That’s what I’m concerned about, that’s why we want to have discussions with BHP about what they’re going to do between now and when they do press the go button for this changed expansion project to make sure that they sustain the level of economic activity,” he said.
“That’s a reasonable thing for us to ask. BHP have said it’s a reasonable thing for us to ask and we’ll sit down and have discussions about that.”
Weatherwill said he was “not entirely sure” what job losses would be involved as a result of the cancellation and said there would be some opportunities for businesses from the site preparation works which would continue to go ahead.
“They need to spend substantial amounts of money on proving up this new smelting technology, that’s a very substantial investment … that will create opportunities.”