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Assessment of public awareness on Mongolia's mining sector's water management and radiation impact

Organization Mongolian Sustainable Development Bridge NGO
Name Ulziibileg Dugarsuren
URL http://www.sustainablemongolia.mn
Grant US$5000

The mining site near Tuul river,Ulaanbaatar

Research Background

The current plan of Mongolian government to increase energy production and to resolve the deepening financial debt of the country are further stimulating the ever-expanding mining activities, which impact heavily on the whole ecosystem, especially the water sources of the country. For instance, there are plans to build two major water pipelines in order to deliver surface water to the main mining region of the South Gobi for mining purposes. Ironically, not many people and/or local communities are aware about the licensing, operations and impacts of these projects. So our goal is, in one hand, to increase public awareness, thus encourage public/citizen scientists' participation and awareness on the environmental impacts of the mining sector activities. In the other hand, we should force mining companies to take more responsibility for their socio-environmental impacts and find sustainable solutions.

With the help of Takagi Fund we will be able to tackle the water and radiation issues in the mining sector by empowering and incorporating local communities and affected households, raising awareness of the public by establishing designated website source involving all 21 provinces, as well as by establishing first Mongolian Citizen Science Group. We believe that involvement of the local communities and citizen scientists is crucial in the endeavors to mitigate environmental impacts and water management of the mines.

The web based network and establishment of the first Mongolian citizen scientist community will raise awareness of adverse effects of mining activity for environment and people, will serve as a tool for voicing out real situation of effected people and for uniting their efforts to influence decision makers, will empower and encourage them to become one of the key assessors of the sector's operation, thus to play active role in decision making and further development.
[Sep. 2016]

Final Report

In the second half of the researches has been implemented in Baganuur and Umnugobi's Gurvan tes soum of Umnugobi aimags potential affected areas. The Baganuur is Ulaanbaatar, the capital city's one district although it is located around 240 km away from the city. The Baganuur mining site has been developed for last 40 years and has been exploited its 1/8th of total resource. All Ulaanbaatar's heating coal is provided by Baganuur's mining resources. Thus, it is considered national core important heat provider. Unfortunately, because of cheap price and easy accessibility of coal, the capital city's air pollution has reached the highest polluted rate. It is reported in World Bank findings on Ulaanbaatar's air pollution and its impact on health. "Air pollution was monitored year round in Ulaanbaatar's ger areas for the first time during the study. The calculated exposure of the population to PM2.5 in the city was found to be, on average throughout the year, 10 times higher than the Mongolian Air Quality Standards and 6-7 times higher than the most lenient World Health Organization targets".1 Around 200 000 ger households are using coal and wood burning ways to heat their homes and houses, which contributes around 80% of total air pollution of the city. There could be high pollution from radiation waste from coal ashes as symptoms of diseases of children with autism, miscarriages and premature birth rate have increased significantly.

Instead of seeking way for alternatives of coal heating system, Government of Mongolia had made concession agreement with China's company to expand coal mining and to build 700 mWt (Mongolian total energy usage is 1200 mWt) coal power plant, where it seems no benefit for Mongolia after receiving it 25 years later2. The water for both exploitation and power plant will be used straightly from Kherlen river. The Kherlen river is transboundary river, where flows through Duaria steppe (United Nations Heritage side) and pours China's Dalai lake. Recent years Kherlen's ecosystem was severely damaged by mining, industrial and other human made actions and it's flow level has been decreased significantly. It should be extreme risky if coal plant of more than half of capacity Mongolian power plant will be built and use the water from this river. We aim to approach communities to stand strong against nature damaging and human right violating actions of mega projects. It is very difficult to approach Government and project implementers and affect their actions. Thus we aim to propose new ideas and offer solutions for local people in household levels for their livelihood. A citizen with confident livelihood solutions, knowledge and strengthened capacity could stand strong to protect living area and surrounded nature.

Our organization has reached local community group to raise public awareness in . We approached 35 local people with ages from 24 to 33 years old. Purpose of our "Citizen Science group" and sharing ideas about coming new technologies were introduced and well convinced to substitute coal and oil usages in the future. Here our first "Citizen Science group" meeting was held successfully in September.

In October we organized meeting in Umnugobi's Gurvantes soums local people with same program to introduce importance of water saving and alternative livelihood solutions. Gurvantes soum has been affected by 10 more mining mega deposits of coal exploitation. Unfortunately, water is extreme scarce in Gurvantes soum to sustain all these coal mining companies' need of water. Gurvantes soum is located right in Gobi's center and has the most unique ecological structure as no other place has it3. Half of population is dependent on income from coal mining. Thus it becomes very difficult to fight against these mines. After our seminar local youth people showed deep gratitude as they were informed about importance of protecting environment and other solutions and alternatives are existing.

Although we planned to visit Dornogobi and Dornod provinces most of the time in both aimaks animal related diseases (FMD) had been spread and it was forbidden to enter and exit several times.

1 http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/04/25/curbing-air-pollution-in-mongolia-capital
2 https://mongolianeconomy.mn/archive/7618/