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Oyu Tolgoi very large copper and gold mine, Rio Tinto, Mongolia

"Oyu Tolgoi ... contains reserves that make it one of the world’s largest known copper and gold deposits". However, there is political opposition to it. Traditional herders' livelihoods are threatened.


The South Gobi desert in Mongolia, which is particularly rich in copper and gold deposits, is home to  Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine in addition to several other coal and metal resource projects. [2]  Oyu Tolgoi means "Turquoise Hill" in Mongolian.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Oyu Tolgoi very large copper and gold mine, Rio Tinto, Mongolia
State or province:Ömnögovi Province
Location of conflict:Khanbogd sum within the south Gobi Desert , not far from China's border
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Silver
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to Rio Tinto, "Oyu Tolgoi is one of the most exciting developments in copper and gold mining for several decades. It contains reserves and resources that make it one of the world’s largest known copper and gold deposits. The project is expected to be a significant contributor to Mongolia’s development."

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,300,000,000
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Rio Tinto PLC from Australia
Turquoise Hill Resources
Ivanhoe Mines from Canada
Relevant government actors:Government of Mongolia
International and Finance Institutions International Finance Corporation (of World Bank) (IFC)
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bankwatch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsThousands of herders live there. Many are struggling with water-supply issues, and the mines need huge amounts to operate.
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:After some delays the project is going ahead with total support from government of Mongolia.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:"The main communities impacted by the mine are traditional nomadic herders who identify themselves as distinct from the majority of Mongolians. The main impacts on these indigenous peoples is likely to be significant and already includes such impacts as dust and pollution harming the grazing, exacerbation
respiratory disease which already is high, less water availability for their herds, construction and
operation of roads and rails hampering transhumance". (R. Goodland, 2012) [1]
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] The Oyu Tolgoi Copper & Gold Mine Project. Comments on Chapter D1 of the ESIA: “Environmental and Social Management Plan Framework”. 32 pages, dated 31st July 2012. Prepared by Robert Goodland. October 2012
[click to view]

Full reporting by Bankwatch, with videos, on problems at several mining sites in Mongolia (coal, iron ore ...) including also Oyu Tolgoi. "With huge amounts of unexploited natural resources (gold, copper, coal and more) the Mongolian economy is estimated to grow massively in the years to come. But will it also benefit the people in Mongolia? Our work shows how mining operations lead to pollution and displacement for local herders and exacerbate water scarcity issues."
[click to view]

[2] FoE Scotland, Rio Tinto's wreckage
[click to view]

[3] Rio Tinto goes ahead with $5.3 billion expansion of Oyu Tolgoi, by Cecilia Jamasmie | May 6, 2016.
[click to view]

Report on the project, by Turquoise Hill Resources
[click to view]

Mineral-Rich Mongolia Rapidly Becoming 'Mine-golia', May 21, 2012, by Frank Langfitt. "Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade.
[click to view]

Oyu Tolgoi. Enthusiastic report on the project by Rio Tinto, on one of the main copper mines in the world. 2016.
[click to view]

Report on coal fired power station from Talvan Togoi to provide electricity to the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine. Tavan Tolgoi has coking coal deposit used in steelmaking, with reserves estimated at 7.4 billion tonnes
[click to view]

The Telegraph. Mongolia to be transformed by giant Rio Tinto copper mine. Land of Genghis Khan to become global copper superpower after mega deal to build giant underground Oyu Tolgoi mine. Andrew Critchlow, Commodities editor. 23 May 2015.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[4] Opposition to giving away national resources. Thousands rally in Mongolia over foreign mining concessions by GANBAT NAMJILSANGARAV, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Mar 30, 2016
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2615
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