ULAN BATOR, April 23 (Reuters) - Mongolia’s copper concentrate export volumes leapt 53 percent year-on-year in March, with rising output from the $6.5 billion Oyu Tolgoi project run by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto driving up sales, official data showed.
According to figures released on Wednesday by Mongolia’s National Statistical Office, copper concentrate accounted for 35 percent of the country’s total mineral export earnings in March, with sales totaling $349 million, a 67 percent rise compared with $209 million a year earlier.
Exports of Mongolian coal grew 8.4 percent over the period, but its value fell 1 percent because of a drop in coal prices, the report said.
Copper concentrate sales continue to climb with deliveries to Chinese smelters by the Oyu Tolgoi project, the biggest foreign investment in Mongolia, rising to match current production capacity.
“Concentrate sales continue to accelerate and are matching current production,” said Turquoise Hill Resources, the 66 percent stakeholder in the project. Turquoise Hill is majority owned by Rio Tinto.
Crude oil and gold exports also saw spikes in sales volumes, growing 68 percent and 110 percent, respectively.
Gold exports have grown as a result of legislation passed by Mongolia’s parliament to reduce royalties to a flat 2.5 percent from 5-10 percent.
Mongolia surrendered the tax income in the hopes of building up its gold reserves to bolster the local currency, the tugrik, and squash black market trade in the precious metal.
China was involved in 56 percent of Mongolia’s foreign trade over the month, with Russia accounting for 16 percent.
The total trade turnover in March fell 1.6 percent from the year before, reaching $1.98 billion. Trade with China grew 9 percent in March from the same period of 2013 while trade with Russia fell 2 percent. (Reporting by Terrence Edwards; Editing by David Stanway and Muralikumar Anantharaman)