The plan addresses the remaining funding requirement of approximately $2.3 billion for the Oyu Tolgoi Underground Project in Mongolia. (Photo: Oyu Tolgoi)

Rio Tinto has entered into a binding heads of agreement with Turquoise Hill Resources (TRQ) for an updated funding plan for the completion of the Oyu Tolgoi Underground Project in Mongolia. The plan addresses the remaining funding requirement of approximately $2.3 billion, building on and replacing the arrangements established in the Memorandum of Understanding that Rio Tinto and TRQ entered into on September 9, 2020.

Rio Tinto and TRQ will pursue re-profiling of principal debt repayments up to $1.4 billion with lenders under the existing project finance arrangements to better align with the revised mine plan, project timing and cash flows. They will also try to raise up to $500 million in senior supplemental debt (SSD) under the existing project financing arrangements from selected international financial institutions. Rio Tinto has committed to address any shortfalls from the re-profiling and additional SSD of up to $750 million by providing a senior co-lending facility on the same terms as OT’s project financing; and TRQ has committed to complete a rights offering or placement of common shares for up to $500 million to satisfy any remaining funding shortfall within six months of the co-lending facility becoming available.

“This agreement and alignment with TRQ represent a major milestone in the continued development of Oyu Tolgoi, which is expected to become one of the world’s largest copper mines and a significant contributor to the Mongolian economy for years to come,” Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive Bold Baatar said. “Commencing the reprofiling whilst concurrently listening, engaging and resolving the concerns of the Government of Mongolia are critical steps to maintaining momentum on the timely delivery of the Oyu Tolgoi Underground Project.”

Steve Thibeault, interim chief executive officer of Turquoise Hill, said, “With a binding funding agreement now in place that sets out a process along a known timeline, we will be able to move ahead as expeditiously as possible with the development of the underground project at Oyu Tolgoi. We remain committed to continue delivering a benefit to all stakeholders, including Mongolia and its citizens, and to delivering significant long-term value for TRQ as this project progresses.”

Rio Tinto and TRQ have agreed to jointly obtain an order dismissing the current arbitration on a without prejudice basis, including an order vacating the interim measures order.

In January, Rio Tinto has unveiled a pathway for the ongoing development of the underground project at Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia, one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world. The company estimated that Oyu Tolgoi underground will achieve sustainable production for panel zero by October 2022 with development capital of $6.75 billion.