Copper to the World 2018: Undiscovered large deposits in South Australia?

In a recent Australian Mining article, Charles Moore, Director, Resource Information at Department of the Premier and Cabinet, stated that “miners will need to produce as much copper in the next 25 years as has been mined in humankind’s history”.

To discuss the role that Australia may play in the future of copper production, the Copper to the World Conference was held in Adelaide on 26 June 2018, with experts from the UK, Chile, and Australia sharing their views on the red metal. More than 300 delegates attended the conference.

The conference was opened by the Honourable Dan van Holst Pellekaan, South Australia’s Minister for Energy and Mining. The opening keynote presentation was by Vanessa Davidson, Director, Copper Strategy and Research, CRU. This was followed by 18 great presentations, providing insights into the local and international copper industry, including presentations by BHP’s General Manager, Marketing (Patricio Hidalgo), CEO of the International Copper Association (Australia) (John Fennell), and Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC) of South Australia (Dr Paul Heithersay).

Dr Heithersay presented a graph summarizing the typical style and distribution of copper deposits in the main copper-producing regions of the world. Of particular note, is that the size of deposits in most regions follow an exponential distribution. In South Australia however, this is not the case. The size of Olympic Dam is disproportionate to the size of the rest of the known deposits. Dr Heithersay postulates that there is a gap between the Olympic Dam Deposit and the next largest deposit, which contrasts with the pattern followed by copper deposits around the world, and which indicates that there is a likelihood that there are some large undiscovered deposits in South Australia.

Figure 1 Dr Paul Heithersay, Deputy Chief Executive DPC, South Australia

Figure 2 Distribution of size of copper deposits in the world

Australia is the third largest exporter and the 7th largest producer of copper in the world. The US Geological Survey rates Australia as holding the second largest economic resources of copper (13%) after Chile (28%), followed by Peru (11%), and USA and Mexico (6% each).

AMC has completed more than 100 copper projects in 20 countries across the world. Most recently we have completed studies for two of the major copper companies in South Australia, Olympic Dam and OZ Minerals, and continue to build relationships with these and other investors in copper.

Carrapateena is OZ Minerals’ newest project under development in South Australia. The twin declines are currently being developed and level development is about to commence. A CAPEX of just under A$1 billion will be required to establish the mine, which is expected to start producing next year. It will mine 4.25 Mtpa by sub-level caving to produce 65,000 t of copper and 67,000 oz of gold per annum over 20 years.

BHP is evaluating options to expand production at Olympic Dam. One option is a A$2.8 billion expansion that will increase copper production to 330,000 t per annum.

AMC had a booth at the conference and had the opportunity to catch up with many of our existing clients and new clients.

Figure 3 AMC’s booth at the Copper to the World Conference

Johann van Wijk

General Manager, Adelaide

Principal Geotechnical Engineer