A Rio Tinto mineral processing facility in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, June 23, 2012MARK RALSTON
The underground work of a gigantic mine in Mongolia belonging to the Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto began after several years of dispute over the project, announced the news agency of the Asian country.
The gold and copper mine of Oyu Tolgoi, located in the middle of the Gobi desert, was to represent an important financial windfall for Mongolia and weigh more than 30% of its gross domestic product (GDP), had affirmed the promoters of the project. signed in 2009.
But the site, which was originally due to go live in 2013, has been the subject of widespread controversy over its funding, profit sharing and environmental impact.
The mining giant Rio Tinto has also suffered from a rise in nationalist sentiment among the Mongolian population, worried about the rise of foreign firms.
After a long standoff, Rio Tinto and Mongolia finally reached an agreement in 2015 paving the way for mining and new underground work.
After years of delay, operations officially started on Tuesday, the Montsame news agency reported.
The event was marked by a ceremony attended by Rio Tinto boss Jakob Stausholm and Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene.
“The start of the exploitation of the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine demonstrates to the whole world that Mongolia can collaborate with investors in a sustainable way and become a reliable partner”, underlined the Prime Minister, quoted by Montsame.
The site is already developed in the open, but Rio Tinto assures that 80% of its mineral wealth resides in its underground reserves, which it intends to exploit on a large scale to make it one of the largest copper mines on the planet. .
The Anglo-Australian group, via Turquoise Hill, owns 66% of the company Oyu Tolgoi managing the mine, 34% remaining in the hands of the Mongolian government.
The Oyu Tolgoi (“Turquoise Hill”) mine is located less than 150 kilometers from the Chinese border.