In mid-July RTZ-CRA withdrew its requests to the federal and Queensland governments for legislation to ensure security of title for the development and put the project on hold. The mining company stated that its decision was based on the view that the legislation could lead to the project being tied up in legal challenges for the foreseeable future. In addition, federal enabling legislation was likely to be blocked in the Senate. The project is now effectively mothballed, while CRA continues negotiations with Aboriginal leaders in an attempt to reach an agreement regarding the project's development. All engineering development at the site has been halted.
The former Labor leader and governor-general, Bill Hayden, has been appointed by the Queensland government to act as its lead negotiator in the matter. Effectively, he will be attempting to strike an agreement between CRA and Aboriginal groups. If no deal is agreed by mid-February 1997 (the negotiating period provided for by native title legislation), the matter will go before the National Native Title Tribunal for arbitration. The tribunal has six months to reach a decision, but the federal government has an overriding say on whether the project will be allowed to proceed.
--but Western Mining is set to expand Olympic Dam
In early July Western Mining Corporation announced that it was proceeding with an A$1.3bn expansion of its Olympic Dam copper, gold, silver and uranium mine and processing facilities. The expansion will lift copper output from its current level of around 85,000 tons/year (t/y) to 200,000 t/y by 2001. Gold production will rise from 30,000 to 75,000 troy oz/year, silver from 400,000 to 950,000 troy oz and uranium from 1,000 to 3,700 t/y. The expansion will occur in two phases. The first is planned to take copper output to 150,000 t/y by 1999. Expansion beyond that level is subject to regulatory and environmental approval.