* Says full-scale construction to begin in 2nd quarter
* Expects first copper-gold production in 2013
* Shares rise 2.4 percent to C$17.73 on the TSX (Adds details, CEO’s comment, share price move. In U.S. dollars, unless noted)
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - Ivanhoe Mines (IVN.TO) has finalized an investment agreement with its partners to develop the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in Mongolia, and full-scale construction is set to begin in the second quarter, the company said on Wednesday.
In October, Mongolia wrapped up a long awaited deal to develop Oyu Tolgoi — one of the world’s largest untapped copper-gold deposits — when it signed an agreement with Ivanhoe and its partner, Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L).
Ivanhoe said the Mongolian government has now confirmed that procedural and administrative conditions in the investment agreement have been satisfied. [ID:nSP495396]
The Mongolian government will become a junior partner in the development of the $5 billion project. The government, through Erdenes MGL LLC, a state-owned resources company, will acquire a 34 percent stake in an Ivanhoe Mines subsidiary, Oyu Tolgoi LLC, which holds the Oyu Tolgoi mining licenses.
Ivanhoe Mines will own the remaining 66 percent interest in Oyu Tolgoi LLC and will build the project with the financial and technical support of global mining giant Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto currently owns 22.4 percent of Ivanhoe Mines and holds options to increase that stake to 46.6 percent over the next 19 months.
Ivanhoe said a joint Ivanhoe Mines-Rio Tinto committee has approved an initial $758 million to launch full-scale construction of the Oyu Tolgoi complex in the second quarter.
“The site-wide construction that is about to begin will see the open-pit mine in operation in 2012 and the beginning of commercial production of copper and gold in 2013,” said Ivanhoe Chief Executive John Macken in a statement.
The build-out phase of the project will include the construction of a fully paved 105-kilometer (66-mile) highway linking the Oyu Tolgoi site with the Mongolia-China border. It will also include construction of a regional airport that can accommodate Boeing 737-sized aircraft.
Ivanhoe has invested about $1 billion in the exploration and development of Oyu Tolgoi since acquiring the exploration licenses in 2000.
The Canadian-listed miner estimates that an additional $4 billion will be required from the project’s partners to build and commission the mining complex.
Shares of Ivanhoe rose 2.4 percent to C$17.73 in early trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by John Wallace and Peter Galloway)