Rio Tinto is working with the Mongolian government to ensure Oyu Tolgoi is operating in accordance with the restrictions authorities have put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Since January the movement of goods and people within Mongolia have been restricted within and across its border and this has further escalated recently as the first case of COVID-19 has occurred in the country.

Work on the underground mine continues; however, progress is being slowed as a result of these measures. There is restricted access for teams from Rio Tinto, Oyu Tolgoi and construction partners to oversee development and provide specialist technical services. The availability of specialist service providers at the site is essential to safely continue work on technical activities such as the headframe commissioning of Shafts 3 and 4.

“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,” Arnaud Soirat, Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds chief executive, said. “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.”

The full impact of the slowdown on the underground mine is unknown at this time. The mine design for the underground project currently remains on track to be completed in the first half of this year, with a definitive estimate to be provided in the second half of 2020.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the open pit of the Oyu Tolgoi mine continues to operate and deliver shipments of copper concentrate.

*Article published in the April-June 2020 issue of The Asia Miner