Mitsubishi Materials and Mitsui are set to diversify their procurement sources by acquiring 5,000t of copper concentrates from Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.
Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, which is located in Mongolia's southern Gobi region, is operated by mining company Rio Tinto.
Mitsubishi Materials raw materials department general manager Tatsuya Inoue told Reuters: "We purchase more than 60% of copper concentrates from Chile and Peru and we want to lower the degree of dependence on South America."
Annually, Mitsubishi procures around 1mt of copper concentrates, of which 60%-70% is obtained from Chile and Peru.
Transported by rail in Mongolia and Russia to Vladivostok port and then by sea to a Japanese port, the first shipment from Oyu Tolgoi arrived at Naoshima Smelter and Refinery of Mitsubishi Materials in early December.
Inoue added: "We have not made any decisions on contract, but we intend to talk with the producer about a long-term contract early next year."
Oyu Tolgoi, a combined open pit and underground mining project, is being developed as a joint-venture (JV) between Turquoise Hill Resources (66% ownership) and the Mongolia Government (34%).
Oyu Tolgoi's deposits contain an estimated 2,700,000t of copper and 1.7 million ounces of gold.
Production at the mine, which has an anticipated lifespan of 50 years, began in 2013 and is scheduled to reach full capacity in 2021.
Image: Oyu Tolgoi mine in south Gobi. Photo: courtesy of Brücke-Osteuropa.