Samso Insight: the history of the Olympic dam


Samso Insight Episode 98: The Discovery of the Olympic Dam is the next story of Exploration Discovery. The story is about the search for copper and is one of the longest searches for a commodity.

In 1957, Western Mining Corporation Limited (WMC) launched a search for copper which set off a sequence of events that led to the discovery of the largest known mineral deposit in 1976. It took the company another two years before understand the magnitude of their Discovery.

Olympic Dam was the third discovery by WMC in 10 years. The significance of the discovery is that it would take another twenty years before the next major deposit, Prominent Hill, was discovered. Carrapateena, which is the next major discovery in this region, was only discovered in 2005 on the western edge of Lake Torrens and only 70 km southeast of the Olympic Dam.

WMC was established in 1933 and was taken over by BHP in 2002. In 2009, Olympic Dam had a resource of 9.1 BT of resource and it was 4.4 times larger than the initial resource announced by WMC. He was worth $863 billion. In 2017 it was reported that there was 120MT of Cu eq (equivalent) and it would take 500 years to deplete the resource at that time.

The history of the Olympic Dam has been documented in the book “The History of the Olympic Dam” by David Upton. I was able to find David and arranged to meet him to get his perspective on the discovery and to talk about his book on this episode of Samso Insights.

I hope this episode brings out the essence of WMC Group’s hard work and perseverance in searching for and discovering a once-in-a-lifetime deposit like Olympic Dam. I’m a big fan of mineral exploration. I think the low-hanging fruit of mineral discovery goes back a few decades.

The giants to find are all undercover or in misunderstood or overlooked areas such as Tropicana, Nova-Bollinger, Winu, Havieron, Julimar, and Fosterville, to name a few.

Visit David Upton’s website:


00:00 Start

00:20 Presentation

01:36 How it started.

09:21 The journey in search of copper.

12:55 p.m. Communicate with shareholders.

15:57 Work culture in Western Mining.

19:35 The search for Mineral Systems.

24:05 Discussion on new technologies and ideas.

27:42 The need for data interpretation.

30:14 The complexity of the Olympic jump-off.

32:52 Political problems of uranium.

35:06 What drives exploration?

37:37 Drilling.

39:07 What is David Upton doing these days?

41:04 The vast amount of information available.

42:46 Why read The Olympic Story?

45:51 Summary of the history of the Olympic barrage.

49:35 conclusion


About David Upton

Researcher and writer with extensive knowledge of resource and energy industries. Geology graduate and author of the well-known mining and exploration story, The Olympic Dam Story. Publisher of, Australia’s only source for pre-competitive geoscience information and analysis for mineral exploration.

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