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Mining company pays for conservation in Mongolia
Since 2013, WCS has worked with Oyu Tolgoi (OT) to offset the impacts of its southern Gobi Desert copper mining operation in Mongolia—the largest such operation in the world. Offsets include protection of 80,000 km2 of Mongolian khulan (wild ass) and goitered gazelle habitat; monitoring of their status has demonstrated that their numbers are holding steady.
The Turquoise Hill (Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolian) area of the southern Gobi was known for its copper in the time of Genghis Khan. OT is the largest copper mine in Mongolia, with a life expectancy of more than 50 years. It is financially the largest project in Mongolian history. It is financed by the British- Australian multinational Rio Tinto Group through an investment agreement between Canadian owned Ivanhoe mines and the government of Mongolia. OT uses a combination of open pit and underground mining techniques and requires upward of a billion gallons of water per month, which is an enormous environmental concern in the fragile Gobi desert ecosystem with its ancient underground water supplies that sustain wildlife and livestock herder communities. The economic opportunities associated with the mining activities has resulted in an influx of people with their livestock into the Khanbogd soum [district] in Omnogovi Province where the mine is located, bringing with it increased rates of illegal natural resource use (e.g. firewood and medicinal plants), wildlife poaching, and overgrazing through increased livestock density. Mongolia’s Gobi desert is home to the world’s largest populations of Asiatic wild ass (or khulan) and goitered gazelle (or black-tailed gazelle);10 these ungulates are heavily impacted by the mining-related activities and changes to the ecosystem. OT is committed to Net Positive Impact (NPI) on the high value biodiversity in this region and is providing long-term funding to offset the environmental impacts of the mine. Since 2013, WCS has provided technical support to OT to develop a Core Biodiversity Monitoring and Evaluation Program to track OT’s progress on this commitment. Law enforcement teams have been trained in patrolling methods to reduce poaching around mine sites, major roads and within protected areas. Efforts are underway to determine how best to minimize negative impacts from roads and railways, and how to improve rangeland quality.
Since the start of the project we have surveyed the entire potential offset area (a total of almost 3,500 km of survey effort). Our results shown that the populations of these threatened ungulates have held steady since 2013 with just under 36,000 khulan and 28,500 goitered gazelle.
To reach its NPI goals OT has proposed an offset area of about 880 times the size of the OT mine property. Within this 80,000 square kilometer offset area OT is financing anti-poaching activities, measures to reduce road and railroad impacts, and efforts to improve rangeland quality. These activities are being implemented by WCS and our national partners. ,
Economic investment of the OT mine to offset its ecological impacts in the Gobi desert
WCS efforts to offset the impact of the largest copper mine on the planet has safe-guarded
threatened wild ass (khulan), goitered gazelle populations and 80,000 km2 of their habitat in the southern.