Mongolia is rich in coal, gold, and copper, and it is experiencing an economic transition with the rise of mining as an industry that rivals herding and agriculture. We asked our Zintro experts to comment on how Mongolia can avoid the environmental and cultural ravaging that other countries have faced when going through similar economic transitions.
Julian Fernandez, an expert in refinery and distribution facilities, geothermal, coal mining and distribution networks, says that there should be proper planning and strict monitoring of approved plans when implemented. “Destruction of the environment will surely follow wherever mining is done. Early on there should be areas designated to be untouchable to absorb living organisms that are dislocated,” he says. “Seepage of poisonous materials coming from mining areas should be prevented and proper designs of settling ponds studied and approved and monitored regularly.”
Fernandez recommends that the mining progress be approved and monitored as complying with scientific designs. “Rehabilitation plans should be started immediately where it won’t hinder operating efficiency. You can’t wait until mining is over before start of rehabilitation. These are just a few stop-gap measures that operators must do to avert total destruction of the environment.”
Doug Miell, an expert in developing and implementing sustainable agriculture and water resource management strategies and programs, says that in addition to the obvious benefits that will accrue to the nation, the development of the mineral wealth of Mongolia is an opportunity for the global mining industry to demonstrate that it has learnt and is learning from experiences in other countries. “They have to be willing to apply best practices, not only to the development of the specific mine sites, but importantly, to management of the impacts on the environment, other industry sectors and the wider community,” says Miell.
Miell says that there are many benefits that flow from the wealth that is created by mining activities, and these must be acknowledged and integrated into existing community and business structures in a manner that recognizes traditions, cultures, and the need to preserve and enhance existing social and community infrastructure.
“The mining sector’s competition for resources can have a destabilizing effect on other industries and communities, and this is not always confined to the local area,” he says. “This is most often reflected in wages paid for positions that cannot be matched by other traditional industries; the pressures on social infrastructure such as housing, health and education services, and competition for natural resources such as water resources and wastewater capacities.”
Mining operations can be successfully integrated with existing industries and social structures and, if managed effectively, can and will bring enormous benefit and wealth to the development of Mongolia and hopefully the local regions surrounding the mine operations, Miell says. “My distant knowledge of Mongolia tells me that it is a rich, vibrant, and diverse culture that is centuries old, enriched by traditions that have been preserved by isolation and is not yet, and may never be, developed to the extent of many other nations that are now the home base of the global mining giants seeking to establish operations in Mongolia,” he says. “The challenge for these multi-national operators is to maximize the value of the resource wealth for the benefit of all involved while preserving the natural, social and environmental beauty of what already exists.”
John Rogers, a mining engineer consultant, says that Mongolia has significant uranium deposits that have been of interest in recent years. “Investing in Mongolia has risks other than purely technical, political risk probably being the most important. These risks emanate from the historical political association with both China and Russia coupled with the featured nature of the elected government,” Rogers says. “The one thing to remember about Mongolia is that circumstances can change dramatically after each election and previously negotiated agreements can be threatened. Despite these risks, the mineral potential is great and the probability of exploration success is high. The challenge will be to get permits to develop the mine and then carry out the project without disruption.”
What do you think?
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