Rio Tinto yesterday said it had started shipping copper concentrate from its US$6.2 billion Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, the culmination of a three-year project to build the huge operation’s first phase.
The mine, at one of the richest copper deposits in the world, is expected to yield 450,000 tonnes of the metal and 330,000 ounces of gold annually when fully operational.
It is vital to Mongolia and Rio has estimated it will account for more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP when it reaches full production in 2020.
“It has taken the vision and hard work of thousands of people to get to this point, where we are starting to convert the rich resources beneath the desert into real wealth and opportunity for all stakeholders, including the Mongolian people,” Rio’s copper chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said.
“Oyu Tolgoi starts production at a time when undeveloped quality copper assets are scarce and the outlook for copper continues to be strong,” he said.
“With continued development, Oyu Tolgoi will generate wealth for many decades to come,” he said.
In outlining the scale of the project, Rio, which holds a majority stake, said the open-pit mine will be deep enough to stack the Great Pyramid of Giza on top of itself four times, while one of the underground shafts is eight times deeper than the English Channel.
It also includes a copper concentrator that is the largest industrial plant ever built in Mongolia, containing enough steel to build three Eiffel Towers.