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Owner: Rio Tinto
Delivery Date: 2021.03
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Oyu Tolgoi, in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, is one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world. It is also one of the most modern, safe and sustainable operations in the world. When the underground is complete, it will be the world’s fourth largest copper mine.
Open pit mining began at Oyu Tolgoi in 2011 and the copper concentrator, the largest industrial complex ever built in Mongolia, began processing mined ore into copper concentrate in 2013. Current infrastructure at Oyu Tolgoi will allow the mine to operate for decades to come.
Oyu Tolgoi is jointly owned by the government of Mongolia, which has 34% ownership, and Turquoise Hill Resources, which owns 66%. Rio Tinto owns 50.8% of Turquoise Hill Resources and manages the operation on behalf of the owners.
Innovation at Oyu Tolgoi
Most of the value lies deep underground and to reach the ore body we are building a world-class underground mine. It will include a state of the art control room to oversee the operation that will have approximately 200 kilometres of tunnels.
We will use leading underground mining technology known as block caving to mine the ore body. Block caving is technically complex, but it is also one of the safest and most cost-effective methods of mining ore from deep below the ground as it uses the force of gravity.
Put simply, a void is created under the ore body, which then collapses gradually under its own weight. The ore passes through ‘funnels’ in the rock, known as draw points. A series of lateral tunnels over several levels are used to extract the ore and to haul it for crushing before it is transported to the surface via shaft or conveyor belt.
We have continued to make progress on a number of key elements in the construction of the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine, despite COVID-19 controls and ongoing domestic and international travel restrictions.
On 16 December 2020, we confirmed the definitive estimate of cost and schedule for Panel 0 with sustainable production expected to commence in October 2022 and development capital of $6.75 billion. These estimates include the known impacts of COVID-19.
At Oyu Tolgoi, we are using technology to build a connected mine and keep our people safe. We are installing a wireless network to connect our people and equipment underground with the teams on the surface. All team members have a Personal Location Indicator, which allows us to track their whereabouts, providing critical information during an emergency. Similar sensors allow us to track the location and performance of all equipment and we have real time monitoring of atmospheric conditions. The team in Mongolia are supported by the Rio Tinto Underground Mining Centre, which connects our caving experts in the Brisbane hub with our operations team at Oyu Tolgoi. These groups work together to improve safety and productivity performance by using the vast amount of data being collected.
Global demand for copper is set to grow, driven by urbanisation, industrialisation and increasing requirements for renewable energy: copper plays a key role in electrification and power production. For example, a wind turbine capable of generating a megawatt of power – enough to supply several hundred homes – needs more than three tonnes of copper.
Given its significance to the global copper industry and the likely multi-generational nature of the business, Oyu Tolgoi is being developed with a distinctly long-term view. Guided by Oyu Tolgoi's vision, 'From natural wealth to enduring value, knowledge and skill', the partners and stakeholders involved in the project are focused on delivering a safe and globally competitive copper business that contributes to and facilitates the prosperity of Mongolia.
At peak production, Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 480,000 tonnes of copper per year on average, from 2028 to 2036, from the open pit and underground. By 2030 is expected to be the fourth largest copper mine in the world.