Measures put in place by Mongolian authorities to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak have restricted operations at Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, causing a slowdown in production.

The Mongolian government has restricted the movement of goods and people within the country, as well as having tightened controls on its borders since January. The country confirmed its first Covid-19 patient last week. Since then, all public transportation in the country has been closed and flights from several destinations worldwide have been suspended.

Rio Tinto says that it is working with the Mongolian government to ensure that operations at its Oyu Tolgoi project comply with the restrictions in place, but that progress is slowing down as a result. The company says the full effect of the slowdown is unknown, but the mine design for the underground project remains on track to be completed in the first half of this year.

There is restricted access to the project for teams from Rio Tinto and its construction partners, who are overseeing development and providing specialist technical services that are essential to continued operations at the mine. The open-pit mine at Oyu Tolgoi continues to operate as normal.

Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive Arnaud Soirat said: “Our focus is on ensuring the safety and health of all of our people at Oyu Tolgoi and we support the decisive action taken by the government to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“It has inevitably resulted in a restriction on the movement of goods and people in the country and this is slowing down construction activity at the underground project. It is too early to determine the impact of this and the team is doing all they can to minimise the disruption in a challenging environment. We will continue to work with our suppliers, customers and the government.”