-Today, Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene joined Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm 1,300 meters below to mark the start of underground production at the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the Gobi Desert.

This was followed by a ceremony with Oyu Tolgoi employees and leaders, Government of Mongolia authorities, and local suppliers to recognize this significant step towards Oyu Tolgoi being one of the world’s major copper suppliers.

After the agreement between the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto in January 2022 to mend their relationship and advance the Oyu Tolgoi underground project, thirty draw bells have been blasted and the underground mine is currently producing copper. By 20301, Oyu Tolgoi is anticipated to be the fourth-largest copper mine in the world, operating in the first quartile of the copper equivalent cost curve. Now, the ore is being extracted from Panel Zero in Hugo North Lift 1, and output will increase over the next several years.

Rio Tinto and Mongolia have been running the Oyu Tolgoi open pit and concentrator successfully for more than a decade. Oyu Tolgoi now employs over 20,000 individuals, of whom 97% are Mongolian. Since 2010, Oyu Tolgoi has worked with over 500 national suppliers and spent around $15 billion in Mongolia, including $4 billion in taxes, fees, and other contributions to the state budget.

The underground mine’s development represents an investment of over $7 billion, which unlocks the most lucrative portion of the copper deposit for the benefit of all stakeholders. From 2028 to 2036, Oyu Tolgoi is anticipated to produce an average of approximately 500,000 tonnes of copper2 per year from the open pit and underground, enough to produce approximately 6 million electric vehicles annually, and an average of approximately 290,000 tonnes over the reserve life of approximately 30 years2.

Mongolian Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene stated, “I am happy to celebrate this big milestone with our partner Rio Tinto as we strive to become Mongolia one of the world’s leading copper producers. The beginning of underground production at Oyu Tolgoi illustrates our capacity to engage with investors in a sustainable way and to become a reliable partner. The continuation of the effective implementation of Mongolia’s “New Recovery Policy” and Vision 2050 economic diversification plan will be made possible by the next phase of the collaboration. Mongolia is eager to cooperate with global investors and partners for mutual benefit.”

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Jakob Stausholm stated, “We would like to thank the Government of Mongolia for their dedication as our partner in reaching this significant milestone. We are beginning underground production 1,300 meters below the desolate Gobi desert from an ore deposit that will be crucial for world copper output and Mongolia’s continued economic growth. Copper extracted from this really world-class, high-technology mine will contribute to the electrification required for a net-zero future and contribute to the expansion of Rio Tinto’s copper business.”

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