In a big picture speech to the AusIMM International Uranium Conference in Adelaide the South Australian State Premier made it clear what impact BHP Billiton's detailed study will have on transforming Olympic Dam from a big underground mine into an even larger open pit.

The quest to develop an open cut mine will involve the removal of between 300-400 metres of sterile cover over the ore system.

Rann said this development involves the biggest order of trucks in world history and will see Olympic Dam become the world's largest uranium mine (having 40% of global resources), the fourth largest copper miner and the sixth biggest gold mine.

That's all located within a single ore body, he said.

Mining has had a strong impact on the SA economy. Rann said: We have more people in full-time jobs than ever before, with our jobs growth outstripping the nation. Our unemployment rate is hovering around a 30-year low and we have record numbers of people in training and apprenticeships.

Two weeks ago, the SA Government handed down its seventh consecutive State Budget in surplus, and the level of private new capital investment has increased to $A5 billion ($US4.72 B) in the year to March 2008.

Rann said when his government came to office there were just four operating mines in SA. Now we have 10, with around 30 more in various stages of planning or development.

Spending on mining exploration in this State has increased 10-fold over the past five years. In the 12 months to March this year, total mineral expenditure in SA was $A344 M ($US325 M), a 48% hike on the same period a year earlier.

For the one time Cinderella State of Australian mining SA now accounts for 15.4% of national output.

He told delegates there were a number of other world class uranium projects either in production or development here in SA.

For example, last month in Dallas I met with Neal Blue, the head of General Atomics, which is the owner of Heathgate Resources (which operates the Beverley in situ recovery [ISR] mine).

Heathgate's affiliate Quasar and its joint venture partner, Australian company Alliance Resources (ASX: AGS), have just lodged an application for a mining lease to develop their exciting Four Mile resource.

Four Mile, close to Heathgate's existing Beverley deposit, is considered one of the most significant uranium discoveries made anywhere in the world in the last 25 years, and the biggest find since Olympic Dam. Indeed, the grade of uranium found at Four-Mile is 10-times higher than that at Olympic Dam.

The developers of Four Mile are aiming to break the record for the time taken between discovery of the resource - which occurred in 2005 - and having the mine operating, which is scheduled for early 2010.

Rann said that In April, China's SinoSteel signed a joint venture with SA's PepinNini Minerals to develop and manage the Crocker's Well and Mount Victoria uranium deposits.

Indeed, there are currently more than 80 exploration companies holding more than 160 licenses to explore for uranium with around 100 more awaiting approval.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the largest rise in exploration expenditure in Australia for specific mineral commodities came from uranium exploration. It rose by almost 40%, with SA accounting for the largest component of that increase.

Rann concluded by saying he was unashamedly pro mining.