Stories from the Field

Mongolia

Mongolia is richly endowed with mineral resources. Some of the largest deposits of coal, copper, and gold are found in the South Gobi region. Water is a prerequisite for Mongolia’s growing mining sector. Without the long-term management and resolution of water scarcity issues, mining will be derailed, affecting the country’s economic growth.

Mining Water Solutions in Mongolia

Given the importance of the mining industry for the Mongolian economy, the 2030 WRG is working with a range of stakeholders to address these issues and close the projected water gap.

Mark Newby, Principal Advisor, Tailings and Water Strategy at Oyu Tolgoi mine in South Gobi, says: “There is a lingering perception that the mining sector is damaging and irresponsible, causing negative environmental impact.”

Before the 2030 WRG started working with Mongolia, the government and the mining industry were planning expensive water transfer solutions, including the Orkhon- Gobi water transfer project—a 700-kilometer pipeline from the Orkhon River to South Gobi. The 2030 WRG conducted a hydro-economic analysis, which highlighted that surface water transfers are more expensive and environmentally endangering solutions compared with other management options. Recognizing the value of the analysis, the government and other key stakeholders have shown interest in other cost-effective demand management water solutions to address the water gap.

The 2030 WRG has also been working to support the IFC’s Mining and Water Management Roundtable, established in 2013. The roundtable has successfully engaged mining companies in the South Gobi region to improve their water management and stakeholder engagement practices. 

“The result of the hydro-economic analysis is a paradigm shift for Mongolian stakeholders’ understanding of the possible water solutions. The existing policy was resistant to the recommended solutions, but now with the detailed analysis encompassing the technical, environmental, and social concerns in addition to the high costs of transfer projects, stakeholders are opening up to other solutions,” said Mark Newby.

The 2030 WRG has also been working to support the IFC’s Mining and Water Management Roundtable, established in 2013. The roundtable has successfully engaged mining companies in the South Gobi region to improve their water management and stakeholder engagement practices.

The roundtable supported the development of a voluntary code of practice, based on leading international best practices, which was signed by eight mining companies.

“The voluntary code of practice is a powerful display of corporate accountability. It is necessary to balance mining sector development with the human need for water in the Gobi region. We have made a statement of intent; now we have to deliver on it,” said the signatories of the code (Erdenes Mongol, Oyu Tolgoi, Energy Resources, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, Erdene Resource Development, South Gobi Sands, Terra Energy, and Gobi Coal and Energy).

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