March 16 (Reuters) - Work at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia has slowed because of government curbs to curtail the spread of a coronavirus, Rio Tinto Ltd said on Monday.
Since confirming its first infection last week, Mongolia has tightened stringent border and travel checks adopted since January to keep out the virus, which has now infected more than 156,000 people globally.
The curbs have “inevitably resulted in a restriction on the movement of goods and people...and this is slowing down construction activity at the underground project,” said Arnaud Soirat, Rio Tinto’s chief executive for copper and diamonds.
Rio said the impact of the slowdown was as yet unknown, but the open pit of the mine continues to operate and deliver shipments of copper concentrate to customers.
However, Rio added that the mine design remained on track for completion in the first half, with a definitive estimate for development to be provided in the second half.
In February, the miner said its shipments of copper concentrate to China had slowed as Mongolia clamped down to rein in the spread of the virus.
Turquoise Hill Resources, majority owned by the mining giant, has a stake of 66% in the multi-billion-dollar project and the Mongolian state owns 34%. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)