Mongolia’s Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene on Tuesday (March 14) joined Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm 1.3 kilometres underground to celebrate the start of underground production at the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the Gobi Desert.
Since the agreement between the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto in January 2022 to move the underground project forward, 30 drawbells have been blasted and copper is now being produced from the underground mine.
Oyu Tolgoi is expected to become the world’s fourth-largest copper mine by 2030, operating in the first quartile of the copper equivalent cost curve. Ore is currently being processed from Panel Zero in Hugo North Lift 1 and production will ramp up over the coming years.
A partnership between Rio Tinto and Mongolia, the Oyu Tolgoi open pit and concentrator have been succesfully operating for over a decade. The total workforce of Oyu Tolgoi is currently around 20,000 people, of which 97% are Mongolian.
Oyu Tolgoi works with more than 500 national suppliers and has spent around US$15 billion in Mongolia since 2010, including US$4 billion in taxes, fees and other payments to the state budget.
Developing the underground mine is an investment of over US$7 billion, unlocking the most valuable part of the copper resource for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The mine is expected to produce around 500,000 tonnes of copper per year on average from 2028 to 2036 from the open pit and underground, enough to produce around 6 million electric vehicles annually, and an average of around 290,000 tonnes over the reserve life of around 30 years.
“The start of underground production at Oyu Tolgoi demonstrates our ability to work together with investors in a sustainable manner and become a trusted partner,” says Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene. “The next phase of the partnership will enable the continued successful delivery of Mongolia's 'New Recovery Policy' and Vision 2050 economic diversification strategy.”