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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Jul 1;557-558:404-14. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.092. Epub 2016 Mar 24.

A multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the impacts of mines on traditional uses of water in Northern Mongolia.

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Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia. Electronic address:
Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Mongolia is an example of a nation where the rapidity of mining development is outpacing capacity to manage the potential land and water resources impacts. Further, Mongolia has a particular social and economic reliance on traditional uses of land and water, principally livestock herding. While some mining operations are setting high standards in protecting the natural resources surrounding the mine site, others have less incentive and capacity to do so and therefore are having adverse effects on surrounding communities. The paper describes a case study of the Sharyn Gol Soum in northern Mongolia where a range of mining types, from artisanal, small-scale mining to a large coal mine, operate alongside traditional herding lifestyles. A multi-disciplinary approach is taken to observe and attribute causes to the water resources impacts in the area. Surveys of the herding household community, land use mapping, and monitoring the spatial variations in water quality indicate deterioration of water resources. Collectively, the different sources of evidence suggest that the deterioration is mainly due to small-scale gold mining. The evidence included the perception of 78% of the interviewed herders that water quality had changed due to mining; a change in the footprint of small-scale gold mining from 2.8 to 15.2km(2) during the period 1999 to 2015; and pH and sulphate values in 2015 consistently outside the ranges observed at a baseline site in the same region. It is concluded that the lack of baseline data and effective governance mechanisms are fundamental challenges that need to be addressed if Mongolia's transition to a mining economy is to be managed alongside sustainability of herder lifestyles.


Herding; Livelihoods; Mining; Pasture; Pollution; River

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