UPDATE 1-BHP Olympic Dam copper mine output shut after power outage

* BHP shuts Olympic Dam mine after power outage

* Needs to preserve back up power

* Too early to determine need for force majeure (Adds BHP comment, details)

By James Regan

SYDNEY, Sept 29 BHP Billiton said a massive blackout in South Australia has forced it to suspend production at its Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine to divert back-up power to maintain essential operations at the remote site.

A BHP spokesman did not say when operations would resume at the mine, which produced 203,000 tonnes of copper in fiscal 2016, or about 13 percent of company-wide output.

Severe storms and thousands of lightning strikes knocked out power to the entire state of South Australia on Wednesday.

“Following the loss of power in South Australia, Olympic Dam was able to safely shut down,” the spokesman said.

“Back-up generators are currently providing power to critical infrastructure and will allow a restart of operations when power is restored,” the spokesman said.

It was too early to determine if BHP would seek legal protection from supply obligations under a declaration of force majeure, according to the spokesman.

Olympic Dam is a labyrinth of tunnels sprawling across 18,000 hectares of arid plains. Workers must be shuttled for 15-minutes in vehicles down a ramp to reach the depths of the mine. Roxby Village, one of two BHP camps in the area, houses workers in motel-style rooms.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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