The transition to clean energy depends on copper, but a vast Mongolian mining project offers a glimpse of the metal’s troubled future.
Accompanied by tinny taped music and overall-clad workers, Rio Tinto Group executives and Mongolian officials gathered a kilometer beneath the freezing Gobi Desert earlier this year to open one of the world’s richest underground copper mines. It was a celebration four decades in the making.
Oyu Tolgoi, in southern Mongolia just north of the Chinese border, is key to Rio’s efforts to move beyond its dependence on iron ore and expand in copper, the metal that underpins the clean energy transition. It’s also a vast deposit whose corporate, political and technical vicissitudes offer a glimpse of the red metal’s troubled future.
As demand for copper surges, supply is increasingly likely to come from mines like this one on the arid steppe: expensive, technically complex, outside traditional copper jurisdictions and operating under the eye of governments jealously guarding their natural resources.
“There’s a huge crisis,” says Doug Kirwin, one of the earliest geologists to work at the deposit that became Oyu Tolgoi, or Turquoise Hill, named after the area’s rocks, stained by oxidized copper.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2023-05-02/copper-faces-troubled-future-as-renewable-energy-causes-demand-to-surge?utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_content=business&cmpid=socialflow-twitter-business&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social