The lump of copper ore beneath the brown scrub and sand of Mongolia’s Gobi desert is about the size of Manhattan and contains enough of the metal to meet world demand for two years. Rio Tinto recently postponed the scheduled first shipment from the US$6.6-billion mine, saying it will start as soon as the government indicates support. The project, which also contains rich deposits of gold, will supposedly bring jobs, along with expectations of improved health care and education to the nation’s 2.9 million people, who live in a country three times the size of France. But it is also raising concerns about water supply in Mongolia’s most arid region.
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