Turquoise Hill tax break revives Oyu Tolgoi expansion

Shares in Turquoise Hill Resources (TSE:TRQ) showed little reaction on Tuesday after confirmation from Mongolian authorities that the amount of tax claimed in a dispute over the Rio Tinto-subsidiary's Oyu Tolgoi mine will be cut substantially.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mongolia's vice-minister of mining, Oyun Erdenebulgan, confirmed to reporters that the National Tax Dispute Settlement Council will reduce the tax claim on the $5.6 billion mine to about $30 million from around $130 million.

Resolution of the dispute paves the way for a resumption of work on the underground expansion of Oyu Tolgoi, where 80% of the resources are located. Turquoise Hill halted construction in November and in June suspended work on a feasibility study for the underground phase over the tax issue.

The massive copper-gold-silver mine is 66% owned by Turquoise Hill with the government of the Asian nation holding the rest.

Shareholders who have marked down the share price nearly 20% over the past year jumped back in last week after unconfirmed reports about the tax break.

By early afternoon on Tuesday Turquoise Hill was trading down just over 1% at $4.36, after speculators took some profits. The counter is up 22% over the last five trading days. The company a $8.7 billion market value on the TSX.

The underground expansion faces another crucial deadline at the end of this month. Financing arrangements with the Mongolian government including a World Bank-led $4.5 billion debt package – the largest in the history of mining – have been placed on ice.

Funding commitments needed to build the underground mine are set to expire Sept. 30.

For 2014, Oyu Tolgoi is targeting production of 150,000 to 175,000 tonnes of copper in concentrates and 700,000 to 750,000 ounces of gold in concentrates.