Anglo-Australian mining major Rio Tinto has halted underground expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia as the funding for the project needs approval from Mongolian Parliament.
The Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper project, also known as Turquoise Hill, is located in the south Gobi region of Mongolia, around 80km north of the Chinese-Mongolian border and 550km south of the capital Ulaanbaatar.
The mine is jointly owned by Rio Tinto's subsidiary Turquoise Hill, which holds a 66% stake, and the Mongolian Government, which owns the remaining interest.
"The Mongolian Parliament is currently in summer recess and the parliamentary approval process may take some time to work through," Rio Tinto said.
The proposed expansion would increase the annual production to 425,000t of copper and 460,000oz of gold.
This delay is the latest stumbling block for the project; the government and the firm were previously at odds over the huge funding requirement to expand the mine.
Rio Tinto said that in view of the current uncertainty, including continued discussions with the government on a range of other issues, all funding and work on the underground development will be delayed until the matters are resolved and a new timetable has been agreed.
Earlier this month, Rio Tinto commenced copper shipping operations from Oyu Tolgoi.
Meanwhile, the company intends to focus on other aspects such as safety, efficient and cost-effective management, and the ramp-up of the open pit mine and sustained export of Oyu Tolgoi concentrate.
Image: Oyu Tolgoi mine is jointly owned by Rio Tinto and the Mongolian Government. Photo: Courtesy of Rio Tinto Company.