Sara L. Jackson, Ph.D.
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
This short report makes general comparisons between fieldwork observations made in May 2012 and May 2015. The three-year gap in research suggests that there have been positive changes (namely paved roads and increased electricity access), but that water and pasture continue to be major concerns for local residents, particularly among nomadic herders. Perceptions of pasture degradation and water quantity decreases demonstrate that current mining company and government policies have not significantly reduced local concerns about the impacts of mining on the environment and local livelihoods. Despite company attempts to facilitate improved rangeland management planning and to provide alternative water resources, the situation for herders, local participants frequently described the situation as “critical.” This report illustrates perceptions of pasture, water, and herders’ livelihoods, following a brief discussion of methods.
Russian and Mongolian Groups Oppose World Bank Funding To Hydro Dams on Mongolia’s Largest Rivers for Mining and Energy Projects
Groups file petition with the Bank’s Inspection Panel to probe projects that directly threaten Lake Baikal
March 2, 2015
Ulaanbaatar – In mid-February, community representatives from Russia and Mongolia – along with several of environmental and human rights NGOs – submitted a request for an investigation to the World Bank’s independent accountability arm, the Inspection Panel. The complainants center on the Mongolian Mining Infrastructure Investment Support Project (MINIS). Specifically, they raise concerns regarding the Shuren Hydropower Plant and the Orkhon-Gobi Water Diversion. For example, the WB completely disregards its own operational policy OP 4.04 – Natural Habitats, when selecting the dam projects on unique rivers with globally endangered species as target for its technical assistance.
While the Bank is currently only funding the feasibility studies and the environmental and social impact assessments, the complainants and their supporting NGOs (Greenpeace Russia, Rivers Without Boundaries, and academics in Russia and Mongolia) are concerned that these will serve as a rubber-stamp for the Mongolian government to begin construction of these widely unpopular projects.
“These plans are extremely dangerous for the ecosystem of the Selenge, the largest river in Mongolia and Buryatia, but also for Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Selenge is Lake Baikal’s main tributary. Inevitably, the lake’s fauna will be badly affected, the hydrological regime and the climate will change, and regional seismicity may rise. The Bank neglects its own policy on the access to information, project implementation controls and on the environmental and social safeguards. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has already twice appealed to Mongolia emphasizing that under the Convention, the government should not undertake measures which might damage directly or indirectly the national heritage situated on the territory of other states parties to the Convention,” stated Greenpeace Russia. (more…)
Sukhgerel Dugersuren is a development specialist based in Mongolia. She founded OT Watch to monitor the Oyu Tolgoi mine. She is a member of the Global Advocacy Team, an 8-person group convened by the International Accountability Project, to conduct local research on development and make recommendations to improve World Bank policy on development finance. The Global Advocacy Team’s final report from 8 countries will be released in 2015.
In the past decade, Mongolia’s South Gobi Desert has experienced an enormous mining boom. In 2000 we had only a couple of large active mines but today there are dozens of large-scale mines with many more being planned. The World Bank reports that mining has contributed to the fastest ever economic growth rate in Mongolia, but the reality for people living near the mines is very different.
Pollution and other impacts of the mining boom have affected a majority of Mongolians and the people who have suffered the most are nomadic herder communities. Their life-sustaining pastures, water springs, and seasonal camps are being lost to open-pit mines and the road-building, waste-dumping, and water- extraction that comes with this industry. Many communities are taking action to propose changes and find better ways forward.
Consider two recent mining projects, the Oyu Tolgoi mine and the Tayan Nuur iron mine. The Oyu Tolgoi mine is funded by a number of international investors, including the World Bank Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The Tayan Nuur iron ore mine has also received financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
In February and March 2014, as a member of IAP’s Global Advocacy Team, I formed a research team with members of the local herder communities affected by these two mines. We interviewed 100 people, women and men of all ages and education levels. Most of the people we spoke to have spent their entire lives as nomadic herders until recently.
Resettlement programs have already begun at both mining sites, although many people have been excluded. . . .
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Click here for a full article.
Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
OT Watch & CEE Bankwatch
Complaint by Mongolian Herders about Iron Ore Mining Company Accepted by European Development Bank
Amsterdam/Ulaanbaatar, 21 January 2015
The company Altain Khuder operates the Tayan Nuur mine which allegedly has caused significant environmental pollution and the displacement of herders in the Mongolian Gobi Altai mountains. The independent accountability mechanism of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has invested in the company, accepted the complaint last week.
The complaint, filed by seven individuals on 23 December 2014 at the EBRD’s Project Complaint Mechanism (PCM), alleges that the environmental and social impacts of Altain Khuder’s mine are inconsistent with EBRD’s policies. Herders have brought these impacts to the attention of the company on numerous occasions but rather than solving the problems the company has reacted with intimidation and legal action.
While the herders have a nomadic lifestyle and migrate with their livestock and ger (traditional tent), they have customary grazing arrangements and a fixed winter location to which they return to survive the harsh weather conditions. Contrary to the requirements of the EBRD, the mining company has not provided them with suitable alternative resettlement sites. Some herders have received monetary compensation but this has not enabled them to access new land.
“In many places in Mongolia land is held and managed as common property, meaning that resettled herders cannot use the compensation to purchase new land with adequate pasture and a winter camp so crucial to their survival”, explains Sukhgerel Durgenson from the Mongolian NGO OT Watch.
“There are no vacant fertile pastures with adequate water resources. All of the viable pasture is already occupied so there is nowhere else for us to go. Migrating to occupied pastures has negative implications for other herders and livestock already inhabiting the area”, states Amibuh, one of the complainants. “Land areas not in use are of inferior grazing quality, and would result in loss of herds and reduced quality of animal products, which are at the basis of our livelihoods”.
Altain Khuder exports the iron ore from the Tayan Nuur mine to China. The gravel roads that are used for the transportation of the ore generate significant environmental pollution. Dust from the road pollutes pastureland and allegedly causes illnesses to herders and their animals. Herders, whose livelihoods depend on their livestock, claim they have lost up to several dozen animals, mainly goats and camels, due to dust-related illnesses. Pollution of air, water and food also creates risks for the health of the herder families.
A paved road is currently being constructed, but herders have not been included in planning of the route and the location of passageways for people and livestock despite the fact that this road cuts through the grazing lands and leads to road safety risks and pasture fragmentation.
The herders, supported by OT Watch, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and CEE Bankwatch, request that the Project Complaint Mechanism convenes a dialogue between them and the company to try to resolve issues. The herders request Altain Khuder to fully assess, disclose and adequately address the negative impacts of the mine, including the swift completion of the paved road with adequate overpasses, restoration of degraded and polluted land, and the implementation of a comprehensive livelihood restoration program in consultation with all stakeholders involved. They also request proper compensation for the loss of animals and provision of suitable resettlement locations.
Additionally, the herders request that the Project Complaint Mechanism conducts an investigation into the EBRD’s compliance with its own standards. “The social and environmental standards that are included in its investment strategies make the EBRD distinctly different from mainstream investors”, states Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath from CEE Bankwatch Network. “The fact that problems of the herders have not been solved suggests that either the EBRD’s environmental and social standards are inadequate, or that their implementation is weak”.
The complaint was officially registered on January 15th and will now move on to the next phase. The Project Complaint Mechanism will now consult with all relevant parties in order to determine if it will facilitate a dialogue between the complainants and the company, and if it will conduct an investigation into the EBRD to determine whether the Bank has complied with its owns standards.
“Given the severe negative impacts of the mining project on the herders’ lives we hope the PCM will move swiftly so that their concerns can be adequately addressed and livelihoods restored”, states Anne Schuit from SOMO. “This is also an opportunity for the PCM to show that independent accountability mechanisms of international development finance institutions play an important role in the field of business and human rights and have the ability to provide remedy for people who otherwise are left without justice”.
For the complaint, click here.
For a report on a fact finding mission to the Tayan Nuur mining area in Mongolia, please click here.
For a multimedia story, please click here.
For a case study on Altain Khuder and the mining project, please click here.
A full report by OTWatch about the first fact finding mission on local impacts of the Tayan Nuur iron mine in Gobi Altai.
A multimedia report by Bankwatch about the local impacts of the Tayan Nuur iron mine in Gobi Altai.
By Sara L. Jackson
Link to full text here