BHP Billiton reports the capital cost estimate for its 86% share of the Worsley Alumina efficiency and growth project in Western Australia has increased to $3 billion, up from $1.9 billion when the project was announced in May 2008. First production from the project is now expected during the first quarter of 2012, against an initially planned start during the first half of 2011.

The efficiency and growth project will lift capacity of the Worsley refinery from 3.5 million mt/y of alumina to 4.6 million mt/y. The project includes development of the new Marradong mine, expansion of the refinery, and connection to a multi-fuel cogeneration unit.

Andrew Mackenzie, BHPB’s chief executive for non-ferrous, said the refinery expansion is being executed within the existing footprint of the facility, making it one of the most complex brownfield projects the company has undertaken. This complexity has resulted in slower construction progress than initially anticipated, while broader inflationary pressures and the strengthening of the Australian dollar have also contributed to the cost increase.

BHP Billiton’s partners at Worsley Alumina are Japan Alumina Associates (Australia), 10%, and Sojitz Alumina, 4%.