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Dec. 15, 2015, 3:30 a.m. EST

Rio Tinto lines up $4B to expand copper mine

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By Rhiannon Hoyle

SYDNEY-- Rio Tinto Ltd. and its partners have lined up a combined $4.4 billion from more than 15 lenders to fund the expansion of a Mongolian copper mine.

An enormous minerals trove that could eventually represent up to a third of landlocked Mongolia's economy, Oyu Tolgoi has been beset by delays and complicated negotiations between those involved in the venture. Rio-controlled Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., a Canadian-listed miner, owns 66% of the Oyu Tolgoi project. The Mongolian government owns the rest.

Turquoise Hill said the owners have signed a $4.4 billion project finance package with 15 commercial banks and several other credit agencies, including the U.S. Export-Import Bank, for the underground development, which could cost as much as $6 billion to build. Rio Tinto has estimated that up to 80% of the value of the deposit--located in the southern Gobi Desert, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the border with China--is tied to the proposed underground operations.

Write to Rhiannon Hoyle at rhiannon.hoyle@wsj.com

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