The deposit was discovered by Western Mining Corporation in 1975 and started production in 1987. It now belongs to BHP Billiton, which acquired WMC Resources in 2005. The mine currently operates by an underground mining method called sublevel open stoping, using modern and highly productive mining equipment. The March 2005 mine production rate is an annualised 9.1 million tonnes making it one of Australia's larger mines. 2005 metal production is thought to be in excess of 220,000 tonnes of copper, 4500 tonnes of uranium oxide, plus gold and silver. The copper and uranium oxide are exported through Port Adelaide. Most of the mine workers live in the nearby towns of Roxby Downs and Andamooka. Regular flights to Olympic Dam Airport service Olympic Dam.
The Olympic Dam mine uses 35 million litres of Great Artesian Basin water each day, making it the largest industrial user of underground water in the southern hemisphere.
Further development is planned to take the mine production rate to some 40 million tonnes per year and 450,000 tonnes copper metal and 14,000 tonnes per year of uranium oxide. The Olympic Dam expansion will move into the feasibility stage during 2008, and is scheduled for completion by late 2013.
As of 2007, BHP Billiton has attracted some public attention for delaying the release of its environmental impact statement for the Olympic Dam expansion, and for the company's response to inconsistencies in the scope and configuration of the proposed expansion.