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Rio Tinto has officially turned soil at the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia, the crown jewel in 2022 takeover of Turquoise Hill

Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene joined Rio Tinto chief executive Jakub Stausholm on-site to celebrate the commencement of underground production.  

The mine has operated as an open pit and concentrator for the past decade, but after a $7 billion investment, miners finally have the firepower needed to access the most valuable underground copper resource. 

The expansion of Oyu Tolgoi raises production estimates to an average of 500,000 tonnes of copper per annum from 2028 to 2036, according to Rio Tinto. 

This puts Oyu Tolgoi on track to become the fourth largest copper mine in the world by 2030. 

Oyun-Erdene said he was proud to celebrate the major milestone with Rio Tinto as they 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,” he said. 

“Mongolia stands ready to work actively and mutually beneficially with global investors and partners.” 

Rio Tinto’s chief thanked the Mongolian Government for its commitment to the partnership.  

“We would like to thank the Government of Mongolia for their commitment as our partner in achieving this remarkable milestone,” Jakob Stausholm said. 

“We are starting underground … of an orebody 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.” 

Rio Tinto late last year completed its takeover of Turquoise Hill Resources, which – at the time – owned an interest in Oyu Tolgoi.  

The $4.84 billion takeover saw Rio consolidate 66 per cent ownership of the mine, with the remainder still held by the Mongolian Government.