December 1, 2016 / 7:15 AM / 8 months ago

BHP Australia copper mine hit by another power outage

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SYDNEY, Dec 1 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton said on Thursday that its Olympic Dam copper mine was without power for four hours due to a blackout in the state of South Australia.

That marks the second time in two months that Australia's second-biggest copper mine has been brought to a standstill over power issues.

BHP said that operations were resuming following the restoration of power in the wake of the overnight outage that was blamed on the failure of an interconnector, a structure used to let energy flow between networks.

"Olympic Dam's latest outage shows Australia's investability and jobs are placed in peril by the failure of policy to both reduce emissions and secure affordable, dispatchable and uninterrupted power," BHP Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie said in a statement following the outage.

A BHP spokeswoman declined to comment on any impact on production from the latest blackout.

The previous blackout left the mine without power for two weeks, costing BHP an average of 567 tonnes in lost copper production a day, based on last year's output of 203,000 tonnes. That would be worth around $3 million a day at current metals prices.

About 200,000 people were without power overnight after the state was separated from the Victorian network, according to the state's energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis.

Some lost power for 15 minutes, others for up to an hour, But most properties had power restored by early on Thursday, he said.

BHP in October warned that more blackouts were possible, with power shortages most likely on hot, cloudy days when there's not much wind blowing.

Growth in wind power, which now drives more than a third of the state's electricity supply, has led to the closure of coal-fired power stations and some gas-fired capacity, which has raised blackout risks and caused price spikes.

"The challenge to reduce emissions and grow the economy cannot fall to renewables alone," Mackenzie said. (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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