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South Australia

Flag of South Australia

South Australia has large deposits of coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, silver, uranium, natural gas, condensate, crude oil and LPG. It has industrial minerals such as dolomite and gypsum.

The world's largest lead zinc smelter is at Port Pirie in the State's north-west that produces more than 200,000 tonnes of lead and 40,000 tonnes of zinc for joint venturers Pasminco Metals and BHAS. Some of the world's largest base metal and gold deposits are to be found in Western Mining Corporation's Olympic Dam operation, which is also one of the world's major uranium mines. This project, that will represent 33 per cent of WMC's assets, is being expanded to produce 200 000 tonnes (approval given for further expansion to 350 000 tonnes) of copper and 4 600 tonnes of uranium per year. (Copper production costs are anticipated at US$0.25 per pound [total of US$0.40 per pound]).

South Australia is the nation's largest onshore oil and gas producer, with production dominated by the Santos-operated Moomba field in the Cooper Basin in the State's north.

Moomba produces natural gas, ethane, condensate, crude oil and LPG. The ethane is moved by pipeline to Orica's petrochemical project at Botany, New South Wales.

Chemical industry

See also national chemical industry and trade performance.

A state by state comparison (five digit resolution available on request) .
Western Australia
South Australia
New South Wales

South Australia's chemical industry is confined largely to formulation activities for the local market. At Osborne, a 400 000 tpa sodium carbonate plant has been operating since 1940.



From the 1970's through to the early 1990s, the state attempted to develop a petrochemical industry based on ethane. Since 1996, the ethane is being supplied for use by Orica at Botany in New South Wales that had been using freighted naphtha and LPG feedstocks. The contract is for 10 years providing 315 000 tonnes of ethane (say 16 petajoules) per year, see below.

Given the South Australia locked out other states from accessing this feedstock for many years under a preservation act, this development may signal an end the state's three decade ambition for a petrochemical project. Projects actively promoted by the state have included;
chloralkali at Redcliffe in the 1970s;
until 1994, ethylene glycol and MTBE at Port Bonython; and
in 1994, a $1.5bn ethane cracker at Whyalla by Hoechst Australia.

AuIron Iron production (DRI)

Also see Direct Reduced Iron

A US$0.8 billion pig iron plant, called AuIron Iron Ltd plans to produce iron direct from non-coking (ie. cheap sub-bituminous) coal and iron ore lump or fines. It is being promoted by Meekatharra Minerals and Ausmelt (each 47.5 per cent), two Indonesian venturers including Krakatau Steel (5 per cent). The first stage will cost US$500m to produce 2.5 million tonnes of pig iron per year.

It is planned to be located in the north of the state near Cooper Pedy, using local raw materials comprising local iron ore, steaming coal (reserves of 15bn tonnes) and limestone to produce 2.5mtpa of pig iron.

In December 1997, it was announced that the federal government's Industry Research and Development Board will fund US$4.5bn for research that includes the US$7m demonstration plant.

The technology is the Austmelt (Melbourne-based company) top-submerged lance system with the coal used as a fuel and reductant.

In August 2001 AuIron Energy Ltd today announced A$5 million injection aimed at expanding its Whyalla demonstration plant to enhance coal drying and gas off-take handling capacities. This will lead to the introduction of AuIron's Phillipson coal following the completion of the Phase One expansion (coal drying enhancement)...anticipated to be prior to year end. 


See Samag Magnesium 

Olympic Dam expansion

The Olympic Dam site is 560 km north of Adelaide (the state capital) represents 25 per cent of Western Mining Corporation's (WMC) worldwide assets.

Expansion has lifted production of copper from 85 000 tonnes to 200 000 tonnes and uranium to 3500 tonnes. A second phase could lift production of copper to 350 000 tonnes and uranium to 4000 tonnes by year 2010.

A breakdown of current and future revenue to WMC is copper 75 per cent, uranium 20 per cent (worldwide 39 000 tonnes produced for a market of 76 000 tonnes) and precious metals 5 per cent.

SA Government

Gas status Also see national gas status.

Cooper Basin reserves (south west Queensland, north east South Australia) are piped to Moomba north east South Australia. At Moomba a separation plant produces sales gas for pipeline distribution to Adelaide and Sydney and a liquid stream for pipeline distribution to Port Bonython in South Australia. At Port Bonython the liquids are fractionated into propane, butane, condensate and crude oil for shipping to refineries and general distribution.

Ethane had been extracted and reinjected into the ground with reserves at 400 petajoules (8 million tonnes) that had been increasing at between 2 and 5 petajoules per year (between 40 and 100 thousand tonnes per year). ICI obtains 16 petajoules (310 000 tonnes) per year (including 4 petajoules from the South West Queensland Gas Project) over a 10 year contract basis. In other words, ICI is reducing the reserves by 13 petajoules per year (so that over 10 years the State's reserves will have been reduced by around one-third).

The owner Santos has reported the prices to be equivalent to the current price for natural gas supplied to Adelaide and Sydney adjusted for crude oil price movements (the price was estimated by one analyst at $3m per petajoule). The agreement provides a substantial cost saving for ICI representing some 15 years of negotiation by ICI hitherto vetoed by the South Australian Government with ambitions for a petrochemical industry in its state.

Moomba gas fire

In December 2003, a fire at Moomba promoted major production cut backs and cost increases around Australia. It also reduces the prospects for the Exxon Mobil sale of its 21 per cent interest in Moomba  valued at A$700m and Cooper Basin fields to the Gradav gas company.  

Casualties include Orica which reduced its ammonia/ammonium nitrate production at Koorangang Island plant at Newcastle increasing operating costs by A$1.5million per month after tax.  Orica Qenos polyethylene plant at Botany NSW which had been using ethane and now required to use LPG as its feedstock. 

Region Map


Click on the name of a region or another State for information.

Map of Australia showing described regions
Regions of South Australian on map
Other information about South Australia

Chemlink Pty Ltd ABN 71 007 034 022. Publications 1997. All contents Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Products and companies referred to are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders. URL:

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