The countdown to starting up the world’s largest copper project has begun, with testing of the 35-million tonne capacity concentrator plant now under way at the 96%-complete Oyu Tolgoi complex.
After the recent switching on of a power supply at the site, Turquoise Hill Resources say the testing is expected to continue during the next month while the plant’s operations are scheduled to stabilize over the next 3-6 months.
Processed ore should be produced at the $6.2 billion operation by January, with exports beginning by June. Oyu Tolgoi’s open pit mine is already operational at 60 metres deep and is expected to reach a total depth of 550 metres. Almost five million tonnes of ore has already been extracted from the open pit mine in southern Mongolia which is forecast to have a life of 40 years.
The senior specialist of concentration at the complex, M Ganbold, says, “In the first six years we will extract as an open pit mine, with 91% of the extraction in the first three years coming from the open pit.
“In the first few years the copper concentration in extractions will be 0.56%. Next year’s plan is to produce 650,000 tonnes of concentrated ore, ramping up to reach 700,000 tonnes in the future.”
The underground mine of Oyu Tolgoi is expected to be operation in 2016, following which the output is set to increase dramatically. A feasibility study for this part of the operation will be completed next year.
Oyu Tolgoi signed a power purchase agreement with the Inner Mongolia power Corporation last month which prompted the seven week commissioning of ore-processing equipment.
Turquoise Hill says it continues to add to its significant workforce at the site, with more than 15,000 people now employed and undergoing training in preparation for start-up.