BHP Billiton has announced an investment of A$350 ($277m) to enhance and modernize the smelter operations at its Olympic Dam copper mine in South Australia.

For the 2017 financial year, the mining giant reported that its copper production at the Olympic Dam was down to 166kt, representing a decrease of 18% owing to power outage throughout the state between September and October last year.

The production was also low due to an unplanned maintenance at the refinery in the period between December 2016 and January 2017.

BHP Billiton will undertake a major smelter maintenance campaign which will be done in a phased manner between August and November this year.

The mining company plans to rebuild important elements of the smelter flash furnace. It also plans to demolish old furnaces and construct a new electric slag furnace.

Also part of the smelter maintenance campaign will be the removal and replacement of a five-story high electro static precipitator at the mining facility.

According to BHP Billiton, the copper mine will also utilize the planned downtime to carry out further maintenance of its refinery assets.

The maintenance campaign at Olympic Dam will see 1,300 contractors during the peak phase of construction with plenty of tasks like dismantling, rebuilding along with upgrade of its integral components to be carried out.

Olympic Dam asset president Jacqui McGill said: “Work is underway on site with teams preparing to dismantle old infrastructure and starting to take delivery of more than 350 material loads to support the project.

“The rolling shutdown across the surface operations starts in August with the maintenance campaign running for more than 100 days in total.

For BHP, the smelter maintenance campaign is the largest planned shutdown in the state and is expected to help in stability and growth at Olympic Dam in the future.

Image: Olympic Dam is a multi-mineral ore body containing uranium oxide, copper, gold and silver. Photo: courtesy of BHP.