Mongolia Expansion Faces Protests

November 21, 2013


The idea of Mongolia being an economic hub would have been laughed at only a few years ago. However, as China expands its development, particularly mining, the northern region of the vast Mongolian country is facing rapid industrialization fueled by foreign investment in mineral extraction. However, Mongolian Law prohibits "mineral exploration and mining operations at headwaters of rivers, water protection zones and forested areas". This law, known by the locals as the "Law with Long Name" was drafted by representatives of the local community to protect areas that were being severely damaged by gold mining.


Now, the Mongolian Ministry of Mining is drafting new amendments to circumnavigate the law and have also taken to jailing opposition members. The law was originally designed to protect up to 25% of the Mongolian natural ecosystem from destruction by mining. Yet, with resources being found in great quantities, especially in the Onggi River Basin, the law and the land are under threat by new licenses being granted for new development.


Mongolia is known for its pristine environment and nomadic traditions. For centuries this massive land area was left alone, being spared regional conflict, economic exploitation and global politics. However, with the discovery of large gold reserves, Mongolia has become an attractive investment for mining companies. Mongolia also is being pressured by southern neighbor China, a powerful regional force that has been known to ignore laws and customs in pursuit of new economic opportunities.


If the Mongolian government decides to change the Law with Long Name it could result in the opening of more than 1,300 sites to mining and prospective operations and lead to the drastic reduction in legally protected river valleys by more than 20,000 square kilometers.