BHP’s Olympic Dam copper mine in South Australia will soon get a green energy boost with a wind farm and big battery project. The wind farm, to be built in Goyder by French renewables producer Neoen, has also received a $99 million windfall from the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Once commissioned, the wind farm will generate ​203 megawatts of electricity for the Olympic Dam facility. A sizable chunk of the energy produced will be stored in Neoen’s big battery to be housed in Blyth, which can store 377 megawatt hours of energy or about half of Olympic Dam’s needs.

Construction of the wind farm will generate 400 new jobs for the region, with the battery project adding another 40. Understandably, Australia’s Climate Change and Energy minister, Chris Bowen, was keen to highlight the announcement.

“It’s great to see clean energy powering mining – bringing together key national industrial strengths in renewables and resources while creating jobs,” he said.

“The Federal Government is excited to support a project that involves three vital things for Australia’s future – wind power, batteries, and strategic materials.”

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The Olympic Dam facility is a global-scale copper supplier, one of the most critical minerals for clean energy manufacturing, and vital to wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels.

Winchester South Gets a Coal Shot

Whitehaven Coal has received Queensland Government approval for its latest coal mine in the Bowen Basin. With a federal go-ahead, the Winchester South mine will produce 17 million tonnes of mainly metallurgical coal yearly for overseas steelmaking markets, including China and India. 

The project will see a rail loop built and connected to the existing Bowen Basin coal network alongside the construction of a processing plant, sparking around 500 full-time jobs. However, new coal projects are under greater scrutiny than ever due to emissions targets, and how the federal government will view Whitehaven’s proposal remains to be seen.

If successful, Whitaven has pledged to invest $1 billion into Winchester South, which it claims will generate a further $5.7 billion for Queensland suppliers over a 30-year mine life. In addition, Whitehaven predicts paying around $700 million in QLD state royalties and adding $250 million to its wages bill.

The mine will also produce a smaller amount of secondary thermal coal for energy generation. The Coordinator-General, Kerry Smeltzer, has recommended that “the project proceed, subject to conditions and recommendations.”

“I expect that the commitments made by the proponent in the EIS (environmental impact statement) will be fully implemented,” he said. 

Australia’s Nickel Woes Continue: Avebury Shutdown

Avebury mine on Tasmania’s rugged west coast is now the latest in a string of recent nickel mine closures to hit Australia. Restarted just two years ago, Avebury has fallen victim to Nickel’s price drop as Indonesian miners ramp up their supply and leverage a significant market edge. 

Now back in a ‘care and maintenance’ phase, the mines’ closure is a blow for the region and its owners, Mallee Resources, who have been unsuccessful in finding a buyer. According to Avebury’s receiver, Scott Langdon, the “oversupply of low-quality Indonesian nickel made the higher-priced, good quality Australian nickel uncompetitive.”

“As many Australian miners have recently experienced, without a structural change in the market to value low-carbon, battery-grade nickel properly, local mine operations will continue to be disadvantaged compared to their competitors,” Mr Langdon said.

He added that it was disappointing that despite interest from market players, there was no path for a sale at the current time. 

“These external factors left us with no other choice than transitioning to a care and maintenance program for Avebury,” he said. 

“We thank the Avebury workforce for their hard work and support throughout the receivership.”


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