Timeline of the Olympic Dam Project
at Roxby Downs

  • January 20 - Three workers were in the underground mine when explosives detonated. Although not injured, it represents a major breach in blasting safety procedures.
  • 1999
  • December 23 - Part of the solvent extraction plant goes up in flames - this is where the copper and uranium is extracted. Allegedly, the fire was contained outside the uranium section with no contact with radioactive materials, although the detail is unclear. The fire could be seen as far as 25 km away at nearby Andamooka.
  • December - Two workers seriously injured in a sulphuric acid spill.
  • October 12 - Radioactive scrap metal detected at WMC's scrap metal merchant in Adelaide. Load returned to Roxby. (1)
  • March 31 - Copper smelter explodes late at night, causing extensive damage. No workers injured.
  • March 26 - Court case brought against Hugh Morgan (chief of WMC) and federal ministers Alexander Downer and Robert Hill, alleging genocide against the Arabunna people by the Roxby mine.
  • March 26 - Official opening of the expansion, specially by Prime Minister John Howard.
  • 1998
  • March 6 - Man is crushed to death in the underground mine at Roxby.
  • 1997
  • December 11 - A further Amendment to the Roxby Indenture is passed through the SA parliament giving WMC responsibility for Aboriginal Heritage over 1.5 million hectares, well beyond the mine lease.
  • December 3 - Senator Robert Hill, Federal Environment Minister, approves expansion to 200,000 tpa of copper and 4,000 tpa of uranium, but advises more environmental studies will be required for the full proposed expansion.
  • November 30 - Union strike over the leak and spillage of sulphuric acid. 70 employees walked off the job after 23 workers had been overcome by fumes in the smelter area.
  • November 6 - Supplement to the EIS released by WMC (their comments and responses to public comments on the Draft Expansion EIS).
  • October 2 - ROXSTOP finishes with immense success.
  • September 22 - ROXSTOP Desert Action and Music Festival begins at Roxby Downs, being the first major protest at the mine for over a decade. It includes protests at the minesite, blockading the highway of the delivery of equipment for the expansion, a public meeting on worker's health, a music festival in the Mound Springs area, tours and witnessing of the damage to the Mound Springs by the two Borefields, and people having a ball doing it!
  • May 12 - Draft Expansion Project EIS released for public comment.
  • (Early) EIS for the proposed expansion of mining at Olympic Dam/Roxby Downs is announced.
  • 1996
  • December - Amendments to the Indenture are made giving legal rights to WMC for extraction of up to 42 Ml/d of fossil Great Artesian Basin water every day for the next 40 years. This allows an increase in production to 350,000 tpa of copper and 7,000 tpa of uranium. This amendment was made without public scutiny and commits SA to at least another 100 years of uranium mining at Roxby.
  • November - Borefield B, with one operational bore, is commissioned and bought into production.
  • September - Work begins on the construction of Borefield B, deeper into the Great Artesian Basin in order to supply up to 42 million litres per day (Ml/d).
  • July - WMC Board commits to the major expansion of Roxby Downs, with "detailed design" to 200,000 tonnes per year copper level, and "conceptual design" to 350,000 tonnes per year of copper.
  • April 24 - The SA Government Inquiry into the Olympic Dam Tailings Leakage is released, with damning indictments of WMC and yet still endorses their environmental management.
  • January - John Faulkener, Federal Environment Minister, confirms the approval for expansion to 150,000 tpa and a special water licence is granted to WMC by the SA government.
  • WMC announce plans for expansion to 350,000 tpa of copper and 7,000 tpa of uranium.
  • 1995
  • WMC announces expansion to 150,000 tpa of copper and the development of Borefield B. Mines and Energy SA (MESA) modelling projections of the 50 year drawdown and Great Artesian Basin recovery rates are not made public.
  • Roxby Downs completes second minor expansion to a production capacity of copper and uranium of about 85,000 and 1,600 tonnes per year, respectively.
  • 1994
  • February 14 - WMC reveals that up to 5 million cubic metres of liquid has leaked from its tailings retention system at Roxby Downs. According to WMC the leak had been happening for at least two years but only became fully understood in January 1994.
  • 1993
  • September - Memo from the Department of Mines and Energy (MESA) warns of a "potential problem" with water seepage and uranium tailings at the site.
  • May - WMC and the Department's of Mines and Energy and the Environment acknowledge that the tailings dam has been leaking.
  • Minister for Mineral Resources approves increase in drawdown from 2 to 4 metres at the boundary of Borefield A. Approval restricted to 4 metres to protect Mound Springs.
  • British Petroleum (BP) withdraw from the Olympic Dam Joint Venture and sell their share to WMC.
  • 1992
  • Worker dies at Roxby as the explosives he was setting underground prematurely detonate.
  • Roxby Downs completes minor expansion to a production capacity of copper and uranium of about 66,000 and 1,200 tonnes per year, respectively.
  • 1990
  • Anti-uranium demonstrators block the path 3 shipments of Roxby output at Port Adelaide, a total of 24 ore-carrying trucks. The ore was sold to Sweden, Britain and the USA.
  • 1988
  • Mine commences with a production capacity of copper and uranium of about 45,000 and 900 tonnes per year, respectively.
  • 1986
  • Construction and operation of Borefield A commences.
  • 1984
  • Pilot plant begins operation at Roxby.
  • Blockades continue to September.
  • 1983
  • Aug. 10 - The Commonwealth government approves the EIS and Roxby copper-uranium project.
  • June 28 - The South Australian government approves the EIS and Roxby copper-uranium project.
  • April - The Supplementary EIS for Roxby copper-uranium project is released by WMC/BP.
  • (Early) Blockades start at the minesite.
  • 1982
  • October - Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is released.
  • June - The Indenture Agreement (ie - the fundamental legal document underpinning the development of the operations at Olympic Dam and their associated infrastructure) is signed between the SA government and the joint venturers (WMC and BP). The Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratifcation) Act 1982 gives the Joint Venturers and the SA Government :
    • the right to withhold information from the public unless both parties agree to release it;
    • it underlines the State's obligation to facilitate WMC with access to Great Artesian Basin water (Borefield A) free of charge;
    • and overrides a range of existing Aboriginal heritage and environmental legislation.
  • 1979
  • (Late) Work begins on site as a joint venture between Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and British Petroleum (BP).
  • July 27 - Announcement of a formal Joint Venture between BP (49%) and WMC (51%) to develop Roxby. The BP ownership was divided between BP Australia Ltd (36.5%) and BP Petroleum Development Ltd (12.5%), the Australian and UK companies of the BP Group.
  • 1976
  • Tenth borehole at Roxby intersects 170 metres of 2.1% copper mineralisation and 0.058% U3O8, with the massive potential of the find now becoming apparent.
  • 1975
  • July - First borehole in the Roxby area intersects 38 metres of 1.05% copper mineralisation, showing a new style of orebody.

  • Compiled from "The Report of the Public Enquiry into Uranium",
    November 1997, The Nuclear Information Centre and miscellaneous sources.
    (1) - WMC Ltd Environment Progress Report 1999 - Business Unit Reports and Site Data.
    Page last updated - March 31, 2000.
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