Rio Tinto Chief sees a good future for Mongolia

Tom Albanese, Rio Tinto’s CEO
The Mongol Messenger Editorin –Chief Borkhondoin Indra interviewed Rio Tinto’s CEO Tom Albanese about his company’s plans for Oyu Tolgoi and expansion in Mongolia during this week’s visit to Mongolia .

- You’ve been CEO of Rio Tinto since May 2007–what do you see as the major change in Rio Tinto’s directions over the past three years, and in particular, as they relate to Rio Tinto’s presence in Mongolia?
-My first visit to Mongolia was in 2005 when I was the Global Head of Exploration and I recognized then that Mongolia would be very rich in minerals and also could be important part of Rio Tinto’s future. And I made several visits to Mongolia between 2005 and became Chief Executive in May 2007. While Chief Executive over the past three years we’ve had many matters to deal with around the globe with iron ore, BHP Billiton,with China, with the global financial crisis. And always in my mind and my heart I recognized that it was quite important to keep our attention and our focus on Mongolia and the opportunities that Mongolia has for its mining industry, its potential both in terms of its resources and its people. I bought my executive committee for the first time to Mongolia this week and it was not just to discuss the Oyu Tolgoi project, but for me it was to look into the future and look into Rio Tinto in Mongolia. I hope there will be many more discoveries we can also be involved with. I just want to say that we have a strong commitment to sustainable development, to health and safety, community development and environment and bio diversity. And I see this work that we’re doing in Ulaanbaatar to be part of our contribution to sustainable development.
- Will recent suggestions that Rio Tinto is planning a billiondollar acquisition of Sydney-based Riversdale Mining Ltd and its two African mines, re-focus Rio Tinto’s plan to fast track the development of Oyu Tolgoi to first production in 2013?
We never comment on press speculation about commercial transactions. But I would say that we are committed to focus Rio Tinto’s attention on development of Oyu Tolgoi. And I would like to see first production not only in 2013, but I hope we get our production by late 2012.
- What is the status of the arbitration process with Ivanhoe over the shareholders’ rights plan that conflicts with your company’s rights under the ‘2006 private placement agreement (#)’?
-The next question is about the arbitration process with Ivanhoe, again we don’t comment on legal matters, but I would say that it’s important but we and Ivanhoe work together for the proper development of Oyu Tolgoi as a first-class, world-class mine and again my visit this week is exactly what’s happening on the ground.
-Will your previous position as Director of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd (2006 to 2007) help Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe complete the arbitration process to keep both company’s happy?
I was only a Director of Ivanhoe Mines for a very short period of time before becoming Chief Executive of Rio Tinto. At that point my position was replaced by Bret Clayton who is with us here today and he was then, for that period the Chief Executive of our copper group. And I again I think when I became Chief Executive at Rio Tinto he continued to work towards advancing Rio Tinto’s interest in Oyu Tolgoi.
-You have just returned from Oyu Tolgoi?
-We were at Oyu Tolgoi site for two days. We spent the first day on safety orientation at the site and observing the very strong safety performance, which all Mongolians should be proud of. Our leaders from Australia were impressed by the safety performance in Mongolia–very positive. We also then talked about the project’s progress and then we split into several groups, some groups visiting the construction activities and going underground, and other groups including myself, visiting nearby communities, visiting a monastery, and understanding more about local community developments and challenges that a fast-developing project like Oyu Tolgoi faces. And I did have the opportunity to meet with the Aimag leader, so I heard about impacts of migration, water, power. By the way, I congratulated him on a very good growing season. The camels and livestock looked strong and I had an opportunity to ride a camel which I enjoyed very much.
And then yesterday, we stayed in the camp which for many of us, not me, but many of us, was the first time in Mongolia and the first time sleeping in a ger so it was very exciting for them.
And yesterday I had my regularly scheduled executive meetings about activities all over the world. We had that discussion at Ulaanbaatar, in the office there. So today we are here, we had a series of meetings with stakeholders, governments, and I was particularly proud to be presenting the scholarships that Rio Tinto gives
to a foundation, it was quite good ceremony.
-What issues were discussed during this meeting?
-My executive team talked about global issues around the world. On iron ore in Australia, we had a discussion about carbon, effects on climate change, we discussed our need for a global policy, strengthening our diversity, many actions that are part of business at Rio Tinto.
-When are you planning to come to Mongolia again?
-This is my third trip this year, and I’ll bring my family here for a holiday in July. I hope to return to Mongolia very soon.
source: The Mongol Messenger newspaper

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