Tag Archives: Mongolia

Turquoise Hill and Rio Tinto sign Oyu Tolgoi UG funding HoA, agree to end arbitration

Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto have entered into a binding Heads of Agreement (HoA) to provide an updated funding plan for the completion of the Oyu Tolgoi underground copper-gold project in Mongolia.

The funding plan is designed to address the estimated remaining funding requirement of around $2.3 billion and replaces the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that Rio and Turquoise Hill previously entered into on September 9, 2020.

Under the HoA, subject to securing approval by Oyu Tolgoi LLC, the project joint venture, and any required support from the Government of Mongolia, Turquoise Hill and Rio Tinto will:

  • Pursue re-profiling of existing project debt to better align with the revised mine plan, project timing and cash flows to reduce the currently projected funding requirements of OT by up to $1.4 billion; and
  • Seek to raise up to $500 million in senior supplemental debt (SSD) under the existing project financing arrangements from selected international financial institutions.

In addition, Rio Tinto has committed to address any potential shortfalls from the re-profiling and additional SSD of up to $750 million by providing a senior co-lending facility on the same terms as Oyu Tolgoi’s project financing, while Turquoise Hill has committed to complete an equity offering of up to $500 million.

An updated feasibility study on the underground expansion at Oyu Tolgoi from June 2020 included a delay of 21 to 29 months for first sustainable production compared with the original 2016 feasibility study guidance and an increase of $1.3-$1.8 billion from the original $5.3 billion development capital. The process also saw 1.22 Mt of copper, 850,000 oz of gold and 7.01 Moz of silver removed from the Hugo Dummett North reserve base compared with the December 31, 2019 calculation, with some 80,000 t of copper, 70,000 oz of gold and 550,000 oz of silver added to the Hugo Dummett North Extension reserve base.

Since this announcement, Rio, Turquoise Hill and the Government of Mongolia have been trying to agree on a new funding pact for the sustainable development of the underground operation, which, in combination with open-pit mining, could produce around 500,000 t/y of copper at full capacity.

Steve Thibeault, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Turquoise Hill, said: “We are pleased to have reached a constructive and equitable agreement with Rio Tinto to fund the Oyu Tolgoi underground development. With a binding funding agreement now in place that sets out a process along a known timeline, we will be able to move ahead as expeditiously as possible with the development of the underground project at Oyu Tolgoi.

“We remain committed to continue delivering a benefit to all stakeholders, including Mongolia and its citizens, and to delivering significant long-term value for Turquoise Hill as this project progresses.”

Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive Bold Baatar, added: “This agreement and alignment with Turquoise Hill represents a major milestone in the continued development of Oyu Tolgoi, which is expected to become one of the world’s largest copper mines and a significant contributor to the Mongolian economy for years to come. Commencing the re-profiling whilst concurrently listening, engaging and resolving the concerns of the Government of Mongolia are critical steps to maintaining momentum on the timely delivery of the Oyu Tolgoi Underground project.”

Following the HoA, Turquoise Hill and Rio have agreed to obtain an order dismissing the current arbitration on a “without prejudice basis” and without costs, including an order vacating the interim measures order, the companies said.

Techking custom-made tyres hit the ground at Rio Tinto WA operations

Equipped with Techking custom-made tyres 23.5R25 ETD2S, XCMG XC958 front-end loaders have arrived at Rio Tinto’s operations in Western Australia to begin transporting ore to cargo ships.

To gather user feedback on these tyres, Techking Australia branch business employee, Steve Coles, made a recent site visit.

The tyre model is specially designed for XCMG XC9 series high-end loaders to undertake ore transportation tasks. By adopting proprietary formula and chevron patterns, these custom-made tyres dramatically improve performance in cut resistance and overall sidewall strength, achieving a longer life cycle under special working conditions.

Allen Zhuo, an XCMG Field Service Engineer, told Coles that the Techking tyres and XCMG loaders had been put into use at Rio Tinto’s operations and were, at present, working well.

The delivery of customised tyres for XCMG loaders marks the second time Techking has rendered tailored tyre services to two international giants.

“This is another milestone made towards Techking’s goal of becoming a leading global tyre solution supplier for large mining machinery,” the China-based company said.

While Coles was visiting Rio Tinto, a test report with satisfactory results was received regarding the 27.00R49 SUPER ROCK tyres. These tyres were customised for Komatsu 785 rigid dump trucks working at a Rio Tinto copper mine in Mongolia.

“It is shown from the tracking data in March that the 27.00R49 SUPER ROCK tyres have reached an average service life of 4,201 hours to date and could go beyond Rio Tinto’s expectation by reaching an estimated service life of 10,406 hours,” the Techking field service engineers’ report read.

Vuzix Smart Glasses keep Rio global teams connected at Oyu Tolgoi Underground

Rio Tinto has deployed Vuzix Smart Glasses at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia to continue progressing the development of the underground project in the face of travel restrictions tied to COVID-19.

Vuzik, a supplier of smart glasses and augmented reality technology and products, says the company is using its smart glasses to enable technical experts from all over the world to work with local teams on the underground project.

Rio, in its 2020 Annual Report, said it had been increasing its use of drones and mine pit cameras, and introduced video headsets (including smart glasses) to conduct visual inspections of tailings facilities and equipment while complying with travel restrictions and physical distance requirements.

“Vuzix Smart Glasses usage continues to expand across an ever-widening array of industry verticals,” Paul Travers, Vuzix President and Chief Executive Officer, said. “Companies like Rio Tinto, which is a global leader in its field, continue to provide validation of the value and effectiveness of our products in real world situations.”

XCMG’s DL560 wheel bulldozer heads to Mongolia mining sector

XCMG says it has delivered a DL560 wheel bulldozer – its largest wheeled dozer – to a mining customer in Mongolia. The delivery, XCMG says, marks full access for the Mongolia mining industry to the company’s entire product line of large-tonnage loaders and wheel bulldozers.

The DL560 wheel bulldozer is XCMG’s latest generation product developed with a firm structure, strong power and high level of stability and safety. This model is designed to be the first-choice product for ports and large mines, which can help tackle mining challenges brought by complicated complex geological structures.

Wang Min, Chairman of XCMG, said: “We are privileged to provide the very best of XCMG’s innovation and quality for our partners in Mongolia, and we hope such cooperation can help Mongolia, the second largest landlocked country in the world, to further discover its mineral resources.

“Our products, such as the DL560 wheel bulldozer, have been widely used in the country. XCMG has the highest market share in Mongolia among all Chinese brands and is now becoming the first choice for the local Mongolian construction machinery industry.”

Functions of the DL560 wheel bulldozer worth highlighting include XCMG’s new FOPS and ROPS pressurised cab featuring a large space, which offers low noise driving experience with excellent sealing performance. A sound and light warning device incorporated by an advanced electronic monitoring system, as well as a full-hydraulic maintenance-free wet drive axle, enables fast response and safe driving, the company said.

In the meantime, XCMG says it is also taking “green action” by introducing a load-sensing variable hydraulic system to the DL560 model. This can reduce fuel consumption by 7% and prolong the lives of parts, according to the company. Double-pump confluence technology can also improve working efficiency and reduce energy loss.

To ensure the sustainable usage of XCMG’s products in Mongolia, XCMG has also established a large-scale spare part resource reserve and a local spare parts centre in the country, offering comprehensive aftersales support with ultimate service.

Oyu Tolgoi hits the Copper Mark

Turquoise Hill Resources says the operator of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia has been awarded the Copper Mark, the copper industry’s new independently assessed responsible production program.

The Copper Mark is the first and only program for responsible production in the copper industry. Originally developed by the International Copper Association with inputs from a broad range of stakeholders including customers, NGOs and producers, the Copper Mark is now an independent entity with a multi-stakeholder council.

In August, Rio Tinto’s Kennecott site in the US became the first producer to be awarded the Copper Mark.

Oyu Tolgoi LLC met over 30 criteria for responsible environmental, social and governance (ESG) operating practices to hit the copper mark, Turquoise Hill said.

“At Turquoise Hill, we are fully committed to responsible production and transparency at Oyu Tolgoi,” Ulf Quellmann, Chief Executive Officer of Turquoise Hill Resources, the 66% owner of Oyu Tolgoi, said. “We congratulate Oyu Tulgoi on this prestigious award, which demonstrates our dedication to protecting the environment and safeguarding the health, safety and welfare of all workers and the local community. We are proud to be part of an operation that is leading the industry in ESG standards and contributing to the sustainable, long-term socio-economic development of Mongolia.”

Since 2010, Oyu Tolgoi has been developing a health, safety and environmental management system in compliance with IOS 14001 Environmental and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety management standards. In 2013, Oyu Tolgoi was independently audited and received certification on these standards, Turquoise Hill said. As part of this program, Oyu Tolgoi has made a series of commitments about the way it operates, how it contributes to Mongolia’s society and economy, and how it manages environmental impacts, supporting the long-term development of Mongolia and sustainable supply chains.

Oyu Tolgoi loses some of its underground reserves following updated feasibility study

An updated feasibility study on the development of the underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia, has confirmed that the huge copper-gold project will be delivering sustainable production later than initially planned and this output will come with a higher capital expenditure bill.

Majority owned by Rio Tinto through its 66% stake in Turquoise Hill Resources, Oyu Tolgoi is currently being mined as an open-pit operation (producing 146,346 t of copper and 241,840 oz of gold in 2019), yet previous studies have indicated a combined open-pit and underground operation could up the tally to around 500,000 t/y of copper.

Back in July 2019, Rio Tinto included an update on the underground project saying first output was expected to be achieved between May 2022 and June 2023, a delay of 16 to 30 months compared with the original feasibility study guidance in 2016, while preliminary estimates for development capital spend was $6.5-$7.2 billion, $1.2-$1.9 billion up on the $5.3 billion previously disclosed.

The updated feasibility study issued this week from Oyu Tolgoi LLC (owned 66% by Turquoise Hill and 34% by the Mongolian government), which is in the process of being submitting to the Government of Mongolia in accordance with Mongolian regulations and standards that require mining companies to submit updated feasibility studies every five years, includes a delay of 21 to 29 months for first sustainable production compared to the original feasibility study guidance in 2016 and an increase of $1.3-$1.8 billion from the original $5.3 billion development capital.

This process has also seen 1.22 Mt of copper, 850,000 oz of gold and 7.01 Moz of silver removed from the Hugo Dummett North reserve base compared with the December 31, 2019 calculation, with some 80,000 t of copper, 70,000 oz of gold and 550,000 oz of silver added to the Hugo Dummett North Extension reserve base.

It also includes a new mine design for Panel 0 of the Hugo Dummett North underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi, as well as confirming that the caving method of mining remains valid.

Detailed study, design, engineering and optimisation work is ongoing to support the definitive estimate of Panel 0 for the development of this orebody, which remains due in the second half of 2020, Rio said.

These estimates are subject to any additional scheduling delays or increases in capital costs arising from the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it added.

Back in July 2019, Rio said enhanced geotechnical and geological information obtained from drilling and mapping at depth suggested there may be some stability risks associated with the original mine design. This updated design was the result of a review of this information.

The updated design retains two in-situ rock pillars on either side of Panel 0 for geotechnical stability, whereas the original mine design had these pillars within the mining area. “The updated design is supported by extensive geotechnical modelling and industry leading technical assurance,” Rio said.

As a consequence of leaving the pillars in place, the material contained in the pillars has been reclassified from reserves to resources, Rio said, adding that part of the material contained in these pillars could be recoverable at a later stage following additional studies currently underway. This saw 2.43 Mt of copper, 570,000 oz of gold and 4.81 Moz of silver added to the July 3, 2020, Hugo Dummett North resource base.

Ore handling infrastructure will be relocated to the pillars, located immediately north and south of the current Panel 0 boundaries, Rio explained, with Panels 1 and 2 now be initiated as independent panels or mine blocks.

Optimisation of mine designs for Panels 1 and 2 is ongoing and it is anticipated that this next phase of study may result in further movements in classifications of reserves and resources, according to Rio.

Arnaud Soirat, Chief Executive of Copper & Diamonds, said: “This amended mine design is another positive step in the development of the underground mine which will unlock the most valuable part of Oyu Tolgoi. We remain focused on delivering the underground project safely and within the guidance ranges we have announced on both cost and schedule.”

Rio, Turquoise Hill and Mongolia government find power solution for Oyu Tolgoi

Rio Tinto, Turquoise Hill Resources and the Government of Mongolia have reached an agreement on the preferred domestic power solution for the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, in Mongolia, that, Rio says, paves the way for the government to fund and construct a state-owned power plant at Tavan Tolgoi.

The agreement, which is a revision of the Power Source Framework Agreement (PSFA) signed in 2018, states that the parties will work towards finalising a Power Purchase Agreement by the end of March 2021.

In addition, the amended PSFA sets a proposed timetable for development, with construction of the coal-fired power plant set to begin no later than July 1, 2021, and commissioning within four years thereafter.

Oyu Tolgoi is currently sourcing power from China’s Inner Mongolian Western Grid via overhead power lines, via a back-to-back power purchase agreement with National Power Transmission Grid JSC, the power importing entity, and the Inner Mongolian Power Company, according to Turquoise Hill.

Both the Government of Mongolia and Oyu Tolgoi have committed to extending the current arrangement to ensure continued stable power is supplied to the mine and underground project until the state-owned power plant is commissioned and is able to supply stable, reliable and continuous power, Rio said.

Back in February, Rio, which has a majority stake in Turquoise Hill, said it was continuing to progress options to secure domestically-sourced power for Oyu Tolgoi as part of an obligation to source power by June 30, 2023, under the 2009 Investment Agreement between Turquoise Hill (which owns 66% of Oyu Tolgoi), the Government of Mongolia and Rio, and the subsequent PSFA signed in 2018.

Arnaud Soirat, Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds Chief Executive, said: “This agreement provides a potential pathway to securing a domestic power supply for the Oyu Tolgoi mine and underground project for the benefit of all shareholders and the wider community. We look forward to working with the Government of Mongolia to progress the solution.”

Oyu Tolgoi produced 146,346 t of copper and 241,840 oz of gold in 2019, with mill throughput running at 40.78 Mt for the year.

Rio, Turquoise Hill put forward coal power plant option for Oyu Tolgoi

Rio Tinto says it is continuing to progress options to secure domestically sourced power for its majority-owned Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia.

The mining major’s domestic search for energy is part of an obligation to source power by June 30, 2023 under the 2009 Investment Agreement between Turquoise Hill Resources (which owns 66% of Oyu Tolgoi), the Government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto, and the subsequent Power Sector Framework Agreement signed in 2018.

In compliance with these agreements, Oyu Tolgoi LLC has submitted to the Government of Mongolia a feasibility study for the Tavan Tolgoi Power Plant (TTPP) project, which involves building a 300 MW coal power plant. This plant, to be located in Tsogttsetsii soum of Umnugovi province, comes with a total project cost estimate of up to $924 million, pending consideration of certain amounts yet to be finalised, Turquoise Hill said. Rio says this amount is already included in the group capital expenditure guidance of $7 billion in 2020 and $6.5 billion each in 2021 and 2022.

In parallel with the TTPP project, and in consultation with the Government of Mongolia, Rio Tinto is also progressing alternative options to source domestic power, including a renewable power component, Rio said.

Oyu Tolgoi is currently sourcing power from China’s Inner Mongolian Western Grid via overhead power lines, via a back-to-back power purchase agreement with National Power Transmission Grid JSC, the power importing entity, and the Inner Mongolian Power Company, according to Turquoise Hill.

Rio Tinto Copper & Diamonds Chief Executive, Arnaud Soirat, said: “Rio Tinto, Turquoise Hill and the Government of Mongolia are all committed to securing a reliable and long-term domestic power source for the Oyu Tolgoi mine and are working together to achieve this.”

Barloworld makes plans to establish Eurasia equipment unit

Barloworld says its Mongolia subsidiary has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of Wagner Asia Equipment and 49% of SGMS LLC to help establish a new Eurasia-focused equipment unit.

The Caterpillar dealer has agreed to pay $216.8 million as part of the transaction, which will see the remainder of SGMS continue to be held by Battur Battulga, a Mongolian citizen actively involved in managing SGMS, which, Barloworld says, supplies equipment, parts and services to a key customer.

Through Wagner International LLC and its subsidiaries, the Wagner family have been doing business in Mongolia for over 22 years and are a long-standing Caterpillar dealer in selected states in the US.

Wagner Asia Equipment is engaged in the business of selling and distributing construction equipment, mining equipment, power systems, and related goods and services in Mongolia, primarily under the Caterpillar brand, according to Barloworld. It recently presented four 55 t CAT773 E dump trucks to Ulz Group, a Mongolia-based company focused on mining, exploration and construction (ceremony pictured).

Barloworld, in a SENS release, said it had consistently stated its desire to allocate capital to opportunities that complement its competencies as part of its medium-term strategy.

“The group balance sheet is strong and this opportunity, adjacent to the current Russian operation, presents an attractive growth prospect within the Equipment division,” it said. “The Wagner Asia Equipment business will be combined with the current Barloworld Russian business unit into a newly formed Equipment Eurasia unit.”

The proposed transaction is subject to the following outstanding conditions:

  • The conclusion of various agreements with Caterpillar Inc (or an associated entity) in respect of the Caterpillar dealership in Mongolia;
  • The carve-out, exclusion or transfer of non-core assets, liabilities, agreements, customers and debtors held by Wagner Asia Equipment prior to completion of the proposed transaction;
  • Obtaining the consent and associated waiver of Battur Battulga to the proposed transaction and the entry into of a new shareholders’ agreement;
  • Obtaining the consent(s) and/or waiver(s) from certain third parties in respect of certain rights arising from the change of control contemplated by the proposed transaction; and
  • Gaining the necessary board approvals of the seller, the purchaser and Barloworld.

The proposed transaction is expected to complete on or about April 1, 2020, with a long stop date of October 1, 2020, Barloworld says.

Major Drilling helping narrow down Oyu Tolgoi orebody

Major Drilling says it is nearing the completion of a cave tracking system installation at the Turquoise Hill Resources and Mongolia government-owned Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, in Mongolia.

In early 2000, Major Drilling established a drilling campaign in the middle of the Gobi Desert, with operational supplies needing to ramp up to support 20 rigs that were transported to the site.

This drilling work has since evolved into the tracking system that has proven successful in the block cave operation.

These trackers are lowered through a specially-drilled borehole into the Oyu Tolgoi orebody below. Block cave magnetic beacons are embedded into the orebody and spun to create a magnetic field.

“Magnetisation has been found to be the most effective way to track the fragmentation as an orebody caves in allowing loaders to mine the ore from draw points deep underground,” Major Drilling said.

Major Drilling’s teams strategically place magnetic beacons throughout the mine to create a 3D map and to track the position of the orebody cave-in flow. The cables are attached to the duct rodder, which is lowered from a winch system. Once the trackers are placed, block caving techniques will undercut and fragment the deepest points of the geology, according to the company. The orebody is then collected and taken away for processing.

“Block caving is a low-cost mining method used for the development of massive ore deposits,” Major Drilling says. “Mine planners often use an experienced specialised drilling company to precondition the block cave mining area through hydrofracking. Tracking the flow of the fragmented, caved ore is a critical part of accessing targeted orebodies.”

Mine planners use the information from the magnetic tracking devices placed by the Major Drilling team to understand the direction of intended failure the stone is moving.

Shaun Hogan, Major Drilling’s Project Manager at Oyu Tolgoi, said: “We are nearing the completion of the cave tracking system installation at Oyu Tolgoi. Over the past two years, we have worked very closely with our client and various stakeholders; this partnership has achieved a successful deep tracking network.”

In addition to block cave tracking, Major Drilling also performs seismic monitoring to help predict rock mass instabilities. Seismic monitoring is another specialised drilling service that makes large-scale block cave work safer and more productive.

Major Drilling was awarded the Rio Tinto Growth & Innovation Group Award for the successful seismic drilling program at Oyu Tolgoi in 2017.