Amid the spate of train accidents in Australia involving shipment of minerals, BHP Billiton ( BHP ) assured on Thursday that the route it would take to move toxic products from its Olympic Dam expansion is safe.
It is the same route used by OZ Minerals that was derailed on Tuesday and spilled toxic copper concentrate into the Edith River. The freight train was derailed near Katherine, 320 kilometres southeast of Darwin.
BHP plans to use the same rail route to export its copper concentrate mined from its Olympic Dam expansion, considered one of its most important growth projects.
The giant Australian miner said the shipment could be managed safely. Based on the company's environmental impact statement approved by federal and state governments, BHP would use rail wagons with waterproof and airtight lids to transport the toxic materials to Darwin. To prevent pollution, BHP plans to use a closed circuit system upon the materials' arrival at Darwin.
BHP, which plans to dispatch a train daily from Olympic Dam to Darwin, will store the copper concentrate which includes traces of uranium, gold and silver at a new storage facility it will build at Darwin Port. The storage plant could accommodate up to 1.6 million tonnes of concentrate yearly until it is ready to be loaded onto vessels.
BHP is scheduled to start the expansion of the Olympic Dam project in January, including works on a proposed open-pit site and clearing of land for the construction of the workers' accommodation.
Besides OZ, a Rio Tinto train in the Northern Territory also derailed on Tuesday due to flooding caused by tropical cyclone Grant. The waters swept the train's carriages off bridge tracks and almost killed two crew members. NT officials have yet to confirm reports that the Rio trains had toxic chemicals that were washed away by flood waters during the rail accident.