1.3 km underground, namely in the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia's Gobi Desert, Rio Tinto has commenced the production of copper.
In an effort to become one of the world's leading copper suppliers, the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene, joined Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm 1.3 kilometres underground to celebrate the milestone. This was followed by a ceremony with Oyu Tolgoi employees and leaders, Government of Mongolia representatives, Oyu Tolgoi Board members and local suppliers.
Following the agreement reached between the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto in January 2022 to improve their relationship and progress with the Oyu Tolgoi underground project, 30 drawbells have been detonated, and copper is now being extracted from the underground mine. It is projected that by 2030, Oyu Tolgoi will rank as the world's fourth-largest copper mine, and its operational costs will be within the first quartile of the copper equivalent cost curve. The current production is sourced from Panel Zero in Hugo North Lift 1, and the output is set to increase gradually over the next few years.
For over a decade, Rio Tinto and Mongolia have been in a collaborative partnership, successfully operating the Oyu Tolgoi open pit and concentrator. Presently, the Oyu Tolgoi project has a workforce of approximately 20,000, of which 97% are Mongolian. Furthermore, the project collaborates with over 500 national suppliers and has invested roughly $15 billion in Mongolia since 2010, with $4 billion paid as taxes, fees, and other government revenues.
Developing the underground mine is an investment of over $7 billion, unlocking the most valuable part of the copper resource for the benefit of all stakeholders. Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce around 500,000 tonnes of copper2 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 years2.
Prime Minister of Mongolia Oyun-Erdene said, "I am proud to celebrate this major milestone with our partner Rio Tinto as we look towards Mongolia becoming one of the world’s key copper producers. 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. The next phase of the partnership will enable the continued successful delivery of Mongolia’s ‘New Recovery Policy’ and Vision 2050 economic diversification strategy. Mongolia stands ready to work actively and mutually beneficially with global investors and partners."
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said, "We would like to thank the Government of Mongolia for their commitment as our partner in achieving this remarkable milestone. We are starting underground production 1.3 kilometres beneath the remote Gobi desert from an ore body that will be critical for global copper production and Mongolia’s ongoing economic development. The copper produced in this truly world class, high technology mine will help deliver the electrification needed for a net zero future and grow Rio Tinto’s copper business."