| ULAN BATOR, June 13
ULAN BATOR, June 13 Rio Tinto is
delaying an event to mark first exports from the $6.2 billion
Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, as it awaits final clearance from
the government, sources familiar with the situation said on
Reuters and traders had been invited to a ceremony on June
14 at the site in Mongolia's South Gobi Desert to witness the
first exports from the copper and gold mine to China, but were
informed late on Wednesday the trip was off.
Oyu Tolgoi LLC said nothing had changed from previous
statements that it was expecting first exports before the end of
June. Rio Tinto declined to comment.
Start-up of the mine, the biggest in the country, is being
closely watched by other companies and investors in Mongolia,
who have been rattled over the past year by new regulations and
concerns raised by the government over Oyu Tolgoi.
The opening of Oyu Tolgoi is vital for Mongolia as it is
expected to make up a third of the country's economy by 2020.
The mine is also a crucial source of growth for operator Rio
Tinto as it aims to ease its dependence on iron ore and cast off
small or unprofitable assets.
Rio plans to expand the mine underground, with a final
decision expected next year. The expansion hinges on finalizing
around $4 billion in project financing, also expected soon.
Rio Tinto's Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd owns 66
percent of the project, while the Mongolian government owns the
Mongolia's prime minister, Norov Altankhuyag, had planned to
attend the event at the mine, a government spokesman said
earlier in the week.
A spokesperson for President Taskhia Elbegdorj had said it
was unlikely he could attend because of activities related to
his re-election campaign.
Elbegdorj, who is seen as more supportive of foreign
investment than opposition candidates, is expected to win the
poll, scheduled for June 26.
"We're hopeful come the second half of the year people will
become a bit more positive on Mongolia," said Sam Spring, chief
executive of Kincora Copper, a copper explorer with a
project near Oyu Tolgoi.
"Hopefully, Oyu Tolgoi ramping up and the completion of the
project financing helps, as does the presidential election."