BHP Billiton funds fibre for outback town

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BHP Billiton funds fibre for outback town
The existing Olympic Dam mine.

New accommodation to be built ahead of planned Olympic Dam expansion.

BHP Billiton has confirmed it will fund fibre internet connections to 300 new rooms to be built at Roxby Downs Village under $1.12 billion in pre-commitment works for its Olympic Dam mine expansion project.

The mining giant intends to turn Olympic Dam in South Australia into one of the world's largest open pit mines.

BHP's Board is expected to vote on whether to approve phase one of the expansion in the middle of this year.

In the interim, BHP has stumped up $US1.2 billion ($1.12 billion) in what it is calling "pre-commitment" funds for "the procurement of long lead items such as trucks and accommodation, infrastructure development and early site works".

A BHP Billiton spokeswoman told iTnews that some of the funds allocated to accommodation would be used for telecommunications projects earmarked in the environmental impact statements (EIS) for the project.

She said that 300 rooms are to be constructed at Roxby Downs Village, a permanent town that was purpose-built to service the mine.

"An extension of existing power [and] communications infrastructure will allow for fibre connections into these [new accommodation] facilities," the spokeswoman said.

"It is anticipated that fibre connections will be installed into new residential developments within Roxby Downs."

The Olympic Dam EIS stated that the existing Roxby Downs township is served by a mix of copper and fibre optic cables.

While new accommodation rooms will get fibre, plans are being considered to provide wi-fi- or WiMAX services in the town in future "as appropriate".

A separate "village" is to be built about 17km east of Roxby Downs to house the temporary construction workforce - numbering up to 10,000 people - should the expansion project be given final Board approval.

Hiltaba Village will sit between Roxby Downs and Andamooka - an old opal mining town about 600km north of Adelaide that has seen some renewal since Olympic Dam operations began.

According to the Olympic Dam EIS, Hiltaba Village is expected to be serviced by a "high capacity underground optical fibre connection .. for voice and broadband services".

"The fibre may also be used to deliver cable television services to the village," the EIS stated.

However, owing to the project's status, the Hiltaba cable is not financed under the pre-commitment capital announced to date, BHP Billiton's spokeswoman said.

BHP Billiton took control of Olympic Dam in South Australia when it bought WMC Resources in 2005. It produces mostly copper and uranium.

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