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BHP targeting plant restart at Olympic Dam copper mine in October

BHP Billiton Group is targeting to restart a plant at its Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia in October following repairs, Reuters reported.

In August, the company reported an outage at the Olympic Dam acid plant following the failure of several boiler tubes. Underground mining operations, meanwhile, continued as normal at the site.

At the time, BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie said Olympic Dam was the only part of the business which was not delivering "an acceptable return on capital".

Mike Henry, BHP's president of operations for minerals Australia, said the company has identified "a very credible route to growing the asset," noting that it will seek a board approval for "bite-sized chunks of capital [expenditure] with healthy returns."

Meanwhile, commenting on the company's Samarco iron ore joint venture in Brazil, Henry said the company is not on the "cusp" of the restart, with several steps needed to be taken first.

The Samarco Mineração SA joint venture with Vale SA has been suspended since the 2015 tailings dam collapse that led to 19 fatalities.

Earlier in the month, the companies reached a final deal with prosecutors in the Minas Gerais state to compensate the families of the people killed in the disaster. However, the mining giant is still working to resolve other legal actions.

Mine operator Samarco Mineração said recently that it expected to secure all the required licenses to resume operations in 2019, but a BHP spokesman said in August that a restart was unlikely in 2019 even after receiving all the required licenses.

In addition, Henry said the company has never ruled out dissolving its dual structure and it will continue to look at it as a possibility, but BHP has yet to be convinced the move would be cost effective. Several shareholders have been pushing for a simpler structure.

"One thing we would take away from the Unilever decision is making sure we're soliciting views from the full group of shareholders," Henry said. Unilever Group recently withdrew a proposal to scrap its dual-headed structure and relocate its headquarters to Rotterdam, Netherlands, after facing opposition from its U.K.-based shareholders that opposed the move.