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BHP May Spend $5 Billion on First Phase of Olympic Dam, RBS Says

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mineral producer, may spend $5 billion on the first phase of the expansion of its Olympic Dam mine in Australia, RBS Morgans Ltd. cited the company as saying.

“BHP estimates capital expenditure for the first module to be in the order of $5 billion as opposed to tens of billions of dollars for the original project,” analysts led by Lyndon Fagan said in a report after visiting BHP’s copper assets in South America. Construction may start in a few years, Fagan said, without specifying a time frame.

The expansion will convert the underground mine into an open pit and may cost $16 billion in total, Citigroup Inc. said in February. BHP may make a financial investment decision on the expansion in 18 months, Chief Executive Officer Marius Kloppers said on Aug. 25.

Expanding the mine would take 11 years and increase copper output almost fourfold to 750,000 metric tons a year, boost gold production eightfold and uranium by almost fivefold, according to Melbourne-based BHP.

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