TURQUOISE Hill Resources continues to make good progress with underground development at the Oyu Tolgoi Copper-Gold Project in southern Mongolia. By the end of 2016, the underground project workforce had grown to more than 2000 people with continued growth expected to peak in 2018.
Major underground development programs under way include underground lateral development, sinking of Shafts 2 and 5, support infrastructure and the convey-to-surface system.
Prior to suspending underground construction in August 2013, underground lateral development at Hugo North Lift 1 had advanced approximately 16km off Shaft 1 with a total of 65km of lateral development expected to be complete by the first draw bell in mid-2020. At the end of 2016, underground lateral development was ahead of schedule with 1.6 equivalent kilometres completed. A further increase in capability is expected in the second half of 2017 due to the installation of a new 3500 tonne per day crusher, which will replace the existing crusher.
In 2016, progress was made on the sinking of Shafts 2 and 5 with final depth for both shafts expected to be reached in 2017. During 2016, Shaft 2 was connected to the underground workings enabling a second independent means of egress, increased materials delivery capacity and additional ventilation.
Shaft 2 activity in 2017 is focused on the fit-out of the 1202 metre level connections to the underground workings before sinking to the final depth of 1284 metres. When completed, Shaft 5 will be dedicated to ventilation thereby increasing the capacity for underground activities.
Infrastructure needed to support underground development progressed during 2016 in areas such as material handling, including crushing and conveying, ventilation and water handling equipment, power distribution and maintenance and storage facilities.
During 2016, the bulk excavation component of the convey-to-surface system was completed, followed by the commencement of decline tunnel work in January 2017. This system is the eventual route of the full 95,000 tonne per day underground ore delivery system to the concentrator, however it is not a critical path item for first draw bell. Expected completion of the system is 2022, which will facilitate the ramp-up to full production by 2027.
The operating open pit is expected to produce 130,000-160,000 tonnes of copper and 100,000-140,000 ounces of gold in 2017.