MELBOURNE, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto will set up a new office in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, separate from its Oyu Tolgoi mine division, to focus on exploration and building local ties.
The new office, which will expand to 80 staff this year, will support the company’s exploration programme and local services units, as well as focus on growing relationships, the miner said in a statement on Monday.
“Today we are demonstrating the deepening of our commitment to Mongolia through the establishment of a new country office under new Mongolian leadership,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said.
“Mongolia is one of Rio Tinto’s most strategically important markets and we are here to stay.”
Rio Tinto operates the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, which is jointly owned by the government of Mongolia, with 34 percent, and Turquoise Hill Resources with 66 percent. Turquoise Hill is in turn 51 percent-owned by Rio Tinto.
The company had invested more than $7 billion in Mongolia since 2010, including salaries, supplier payments, investment in the community, and $1.5 billion in taxes, royalties and other payments to the government, Jacques said.
Earlier this month Oyu Tolgoi said it was evaluating a bill for about $155 million from Mongolia’s tax authority following an audit of payments made between 2013 and 2015.
Munkhtushig Dul has been appointed as Rio Tinto’s country director and will lead the new Rio Tinto office. He will work in coordination with the Oyu Tolgoi LLC team, led by managing director Armando Torres.
Dul has previously worked in senior roles within the Noble Group’s Mongolian operations, as well as the Mongolian Stock Exchange and the Executive Office of the National Security Council. (Reporting by Melanie Burton; editing by Richard Pullin)