MAC: Mines and Communities

Mongolian coalition calls for immediate suspension of massive new project

Published by MAC on 2010-03-31
Source: Joint Statement

Oyu Tolgoi mine may sacrifice vital water resources

It's potentially the world's largest copper-gold mine - one that Canada's Ivanhoe Mines, joined recently by Rio Tinto, has sought to bring on-stream for several years.

In October 2009, the partners were on the verge of being granted permission by the Mongolian government to proceed with the Oyu Tolgoi project. See:

The final go-ahead was contingent on acceptance of a revised technical and economic feasibility study (TEFS). The study was accepted on March 25th and is due for implementation  on April 6th 2010.

However, according to a coalition of Mongolian NGOs: "None of the studies, assessments and the TEFS were audited for accuracy and/compliance with international norms and standards".

Moreover, claims the coalition, the fragile, arid ,ecosystem at Oyu Tolgoi "does not have enough water to carry this huge mine".

The Mongolian NGOs are calling for a delay on implementation of the Agreement, stating that:

"There is much resistance by scholars and local residents to [the mine] ... which will have adverse affect on the ecology, economy and livelihoods of people living in these areas".

Mongolian NGOS call for international action to prevent Oyu Tolgoi disaster


28 March 2010

TO: International community of organizations and individuals concerned about ecological balance and sustainable use of natural resources

On March 25th the Technical Council of Minerals Experts has "accepted" the technical and economic feasibility study (plan) of the Oyu Tolgoi Project. It has"accepted" with a list of another dozen improvements which Ivanhoe Mines (IVN) need introduce in this document, among which is the water issue. The Investment Agreement will come into force on April 6, 2010.

Oyu Tolgoi Watch is calling upon the international community of environmental activists to help delay the implementation of the Oyu Tolgoi Project based on the following issues:

1. The Investment Agreement for Oyu Tolgoi Project was signed on October 6, 2009 before a technical and economic feasibility study (TEFS) was accepted by government as prescribed by law.

2. On December 16, 2010 the Minerals Experts Council discussed and rejected the TEFS submitted by Ivanhoe Mines Mongolia Inc and Entrée LLC. On March 26 the  Council granted conditional acceptance regardless of the fact that Ivanhoe Mines failed to demonstrate availability and access to water resources necessary for production, infrastructure and social needs of the project.

3. Oyu Tolgoi gold/copper deposit is one of world's largest and is expected to be mined for at least 30-60 years. Oyu Tolgoi deposit lies in the Gobi Desert in close proximity of the Gobi Small and Galbyn Gobi Strictly Protected Area (SPA) zones overlapping Important Bird Area and Critical Natural Habitats. This fragile arid ecosystem does not have enough water to carry this huge mine.

Oyu Tolgoi has approval to pump 870 liters per second rate from existing water reserves. In order to extract 100,000 tons per day it needs to pump water at 671 l/sec, while its total need in water is 3,801 l/sec. TEFS allows increase of production rate to 150,000 tons.

4. Discussion and research around Oyu Tolgoi project's water needs and ways to address include a possibility of turning rivers Herlen and Orhon/Onon from north to south. There is much resistance by scholars and local residents to these ideas, which will have adverse affect on the ecology, economy and livelihoods of people living in these areas.

5. World's largest coal mine at Tavan Tolgoi, Ivanhoe Mines' other coal and gold/copper sites at Ovoot Tolgoi and Oyut Ulaan are all located in this same region.

Lack of access to water is a common problem for all these mines. Lack of roads is also a common problem in this vast region supplying raw coal to the world's largest GHG emitter - China. Coal is stored and trucked through Gashuin Suhait port through the Gobi Small SPA.

6. These are mostly open pit mines extracting coal and other minerals trucked by 80-100 ton trucks to China over 240 km long and 36 km wide dirt tracks, which produce
huge amounts of coal and sand dust with major adverse impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health. Gobi dust storms have gained more power and reach
much farther these days than in the "before mining" past.

7. Another common feature is lack of environmental and social impact assessments compliant with international standards. None of the studies, assessments and the
TEFS were audited for accuracy and/compliance with international norms and standards.

We believe that the above concerns provide strong justification for delaying the start of mine building until environmental, social and economic, water impact assessments are carried out in compliance with international norms and standards applicable to large scale mining.

While Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines are not particularly known for good corporate ethics or compliance with environmental and human rights standards we wish to believe that the magnitude of potential environmental hazard will help them see the need in ensuring that impact assessments and mitigation strategies are in place before mining operations begin.

Members of the Steering Committee of Oyu Tolgoi Watch-NGO stand ready to supply any additional information and work together with you on common efforts to delay this project that may add significant adverse impact on climate change, desertification and natural disasters.

Chair of SC:

ZANAA Jurmed, -


URANTSOOJ, Gombosuren -


GANBAATAR, Sainkhuu -


Executive Director:

SUKHGEREL Dugersuren -



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