Prime minister Tony Abbott has reiterated the federal government’s support for the Olympic Dam mine expansion project.
BHP Billiton mothballed the scheme last year after metal prices slumped, but Mr Abbott said boosting mining engineering in the region would have significant benefits.
“I want to ensure that as far as is humanly possible everything that government does is directed towards making it easier, not harder, for this iconic project to go ahead,” he was quoted by Bloomberg as stating.
The site is known to have extremely large copper and uranium deposits, and Mr Abbott claimed it would be the “best thing that could happen” to the state’s economy.
The prime minister argued that the previous Labor government had discouraged development of the resources sector by introducing expensive taxes and delaying approvals.
He added: “The Olympic Dam expansion, should it take place, would set South Australia up for decades, absolutely decades.”
However, in September, BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said a “challenging” mining sector would mean the project must remain on hold.
“These are all adding impetus to us having to make big gains in productivity – not just within the new project but actually within the current operations to maintain competitiveness and viability,” he stated.
Despite this, Mr Abbott’s words are likely to give encouragement to the mining industry in South Australia.
The prime minister was keen to point out that it would fill the economic gaps left by manufacturing declines, particularly the loss of General Motors’ Holden unit.
The carmaker is halting production in South Australia and neighbouring Victoria in 2017 after 69 years, resulting in nearly 3,000 job losses.