The Mongolian Parliament has supported a plan to resolve the long-running dispute with Rio Tinto regarding the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.
In 2013, the mining company suspended its development schedule to dig a $5.4bn underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi, due todisputes with the government over cost overruns for the existing open pit mine.
Mining ministry spokesman Galsan Bodibilguun told Reuters that Mongolia Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg submitted a proposal to parliament, which noted that the government would work to ‘resolve underground investment issues’ and boost development by year-end.
Mongolia’s economy has witnessed a decline in coal prices and export figures, and is said to be suffering from uncertainty over the government’s policies on mining. Due to this, Saikhanbileg intends to boost foreign investment in mining in the region.
Oyu Tolgoi copper mine is 34%-owned by the Mongolian Government, while the rest is held by Rio Tinto’s Turquoise Hill Resources division.
Bodibilguun also said that the government is seeking a buyer for its stake and will accept royalties in return.
According to Mining Weekly, Rio Tinto is not interested in increasing its own share, so the government is seeking a third party buyer.
The combined open pit and underground mine project Oyu Tolgoi is located in Khanbogd, in the south Gobi Desert, about 235km east of the Ömnögovi province capital Dalanzadgad.
Discovered in 2001, the site is being developed as a joint venture between Turquoise Hill Resources and the Government of Mongolia.
Image: Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in South Gobi. Photo: courtesy of Brücke-Osteuropa.