The Prime Minister of Mongolia, Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene, joined Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm 1.3 km underground to celebrate the commencement of underground production from the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the Gobi Desert. This was followed by a ceremony with Oyu Tolgoi employees and leaders, Government of Mongolia representatives, Oyu Tolgoi Board members and local suppliers to mark this important milestone.
“I am proud to celebrate this major milestone with our partner Rio Tinto as we look toward Mongolia becoming one of the world’s key copper producers,” Oyun-Erdene said. “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.”
Since Rio Tinto reached an agreement with the Mongolian Government in January 2022, which reset the relationship and moved the Oyu Tolgoi 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 fourth-largest copper mine in the world 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.
“We would like to thank the Government of Mongolia for their commitment as our partner in achieving this remarkable milestone,” Stausholm said. “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.”
A partnership between Rio Tinto and Mongolia, the Oyu Tolgoi open pit and concentrator have been successfully operating for more than a decade. Oyu Tolgoi employs 20,000 people, of which 97% are Mongolian.
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 metric tons per year (mt/y) of copper on average from 2028 to 2036 from the open pit and underground, and an average of around 290,000 mt/y over the reserve life of around 30 years.