Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Oyu Tolgoi Copper Mine Construction - Water and Wastewater Systems

In the arid, very remote Gobi Desert in Mongolia, Fluor provided program and construction management to Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. on their $6 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.

This mine represented the largest and perhaps most challenging engineering and construction project in Mongolia, and became one of the world's largest copper mines when it commenced operations in 2013. Fluor's scope of work included the water and wastewater systems to support the Oyu Tolgoi mine in the remote region of the Gobi Desert.

The water and wastewater systems for the Oyu Tolgoi mine were extensive and included:

  • Raw Water
  • Water Treatment
  • Water Storage and Pump Station
  • Fire Water
  • Potable Water
  • Domestic Water

Client's Challenge

Challenges facing the project team at Oyu Tolgoi included operating at 3,800 feet, extreme weather, and limited access to essential utilities and services. The Gobi Desert presented a brutally harsh environment, with temperatures ranging from -40 C to +45 C. The country is landlocked, with limited access via roads or rail.

The opportunity to positively impact an entire nation for decades to come made the project a rewarding one for all personnel working to build the mine.

The project was co-led by an integrated program management team composed of Fluor and Ivanhoe Mines personnel. The integrated team oversaw all engineering, procurement, and construction management services. Multiple Fluor offices supported the project, including those in Vancouver and Shanghai.

Fluor's Solution

Project infrastructure included upgrading a 104-kilometer road from the Chinese border to the site; building a 1,000-liters-per-second pipeline from a borefield; 80 kilometers from the site; setting up housing facilities for more than 10,000 workers; and establishing 80 square kilometers of site development that included an airstrip, roads, concrete batch plants, water and wastewater systems, associated electrical power distribution, and two mining shafts 1,800 meters each in depth.


Fluor provided the water and wastewater systems to support this expansive project.  The systems included:

Raw Water - Water demand for the Oyu Tolgoi facility was calculated to between 588 L/s to 785 L/s with an average yearly demand of 696 L/s to meet 100 Ktpd production capacity.  The primary source of raw water to meet these requirements is supplied from the Gunii Hooloi basin, which extends 35 kilometers to 70 kilometers north of the Oyu Tolgoi site. Bores were developed in two distinct areas of the Gunii Hooloi borefield, the southeast and the northeast areas.

Water Treatment - A permanent water treatment and bottling plant was constructed to treat raw water from the Gunii Hooloi borefield to drinking (potable) and domestic water standards.  The plant consists of two areas, the Water Storage and Pump Station and the Water Treatment and Bottling Plant.

Water Storage and Pump Station - The water storage tanks and pump station area contain two raw and fire water storage tanks, two domestic water tanks, the fire water pump station, and domestic water pumps station.

Fire Water - Fire water storage tanks and pump stations were established in the main functional areas of the site including:

  • Concentrator
  • Site entrance and construction camp
  • Site warehouse and truck shop
  • Underground mine

Potable Water - Potable water is intended for routine drinking and is provided in 20 L bottles. It meets Mongolian Standards and WHO guidelines for drinking water quality. Raw water from the raw water tanks is pumped to the plant and treated.  Treatment includes dosing, multi-media and granular activated carbon filtration, micro filtration, reverse osmosis treatment, ultraviolet sterilization and ozone disinfection prior to bottling and onward distribution.  The total output of the treatment facility is 8 m3/h.

Domestic Water - The domestic water plant supplies water used for washing, cleaning, flushing toilets, etc.  It is not intended for routine drinking, but it was treated to potable standards. Domestic water is produced at an average flow rate is 70 m3/h with a peak flow rate of 125-150 m3/h.  The water produced by this plant meets Mongolian standards and WHO guidelines for physical and microbial drinking water and chlorine disinfection standards. Treatment included dosing, multi-media and granular activated carbon filtration and chlorine disinfection prior to distribution to the construction camp and remainder of Oyu Tolgoi site via utility pipes.


The water systems scope of work comprised many components to support the mining operations and was successfully delivered to the Client. The overall mining project, highlighted by the large-scale (100,000 tons per day) copper concentrator, is a significant driver of the Mongolian economy; production began 2013.

Using Mongolian labor with an infusion of Fluor's safety culture, plus an intern and leadership program in health, safety, environment, and sustainability, the project achieved 10 million construction work hours without a lost-time incident.

Photos ©2015 Oyu Tolgoi.