Our Founding: from an ancient mine to the world’s #1 copper producer
Led by Scottish entrepreneur Hugh Matheson, a British-European investor group buys the Rio Tinto mines in Spain in 1873, constructed new processing facilities and introduced new techniques that, from 1877-91, allow the new Rio Tinto Company to transform an operation that had once supplied the ancient Greeks and Romans into the world’s number one copper producer. Rio Tinto has a wide range of mining projects situated globally, currently Rio Tinto Mongolia is developing the Oyu Tolgoi mine.
Oyu Tolgoi, in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, is one of the largest known copper and gold deposits in the world. It is also one of the most modern, safe and sustainable operations in the world.
The Oyu Tolgoi underground development consolidates our position as a leading global producer of copper, a material essential for decarbonisation and electrification. When the underground is fully operational, it will be the world’s fourth largest copper mine.
Open pit mining began at Oyu Tolgoi in 2011 and the copper concentrator, the largest industrial complex ever built in Mongolia, began processing mined ore into copper concentrate in 2013. Current infrastructure at Oyu Tolgoi will allow the mine to operate for decades to come.
In January 2022, the Oyu Tolgoi Board approved the beginning of underground operations. This step unlocks the most valuable part of the mine, with sustainable underground production expected in the first half of 2023.
Oyu Tolgoi is jointly owned by the government of Mongolia, which has 34% ownership, and Turquoise Hill Resources, which owns 66%. Rio Tinto owns 50.8% of Turquoise Hill Resources and manages the operation on behalf of the owners.