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
NameOyu Tolgoi very large copper and gold mine, Rio Tinto, Mongolia
ProvinceÖmnögovi Province
SiteKhanbogd 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 CommoditiesSilver
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording 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."

In 2016 it was annouced that mining giant Rio Tinto and its Canadian affiliate Turquoise Hill have signed off on a $5.3 billion expansion of their massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold underground mine in Mongolia. The decision ends a three-year stalemate and political tension over revenue sharing and the foreign role in Mongolia’s mining sector. [3]

Oyu Tolgoi is one of the world's largest new copper-gold mines and is located in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, approximately 550 km south of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and 80 km north of the Mongolia-China border. It is a combined open pit and underground mining project in Khanbogd sum, approximately 235 kms east of the Ömnögovi Province capital Dalanzadgad. The site was discovered in 2001 and is being developed as a joint venture between Turquoise Hill Resources (a majority owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto) and the Government of Mongolia. The mine began construction as of 2010 and shipped its first batch of copper in 2013. The Oyu Tolgoi mining project is the largest financial undertaking in Mongolia's history and is expected upon completion to produce 450,000 tonnes of copper annually.

On October 6, 2009, Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto signed a long-term, comprehensive Investment Agreement with the Government of Mongolia for the construction and operation of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mining complex. The agreement creates a partnership between the Mongolian Government -- which acquired a 34% interest in the project -- and Turquoise Hill Resources, which retained a controlling 66% interest in Oyu Tolgoi. Global miner Rio Tinto, which joined Turquoise Hill Resources as a strategic partner in October 2006, is managing the development of Oyu Tolgoi.
Level of Investment (in USD)5,300,000,000
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesRio Tinto PLC from Australia
Turquoise Hill Resources
Ivanhoe Mines from Canada
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Mongolia
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBankwatch
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation 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-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights
OtherThousands of herders live there. Many are struggling with water-supply issues, and the mines need huge amounts to operate.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseAfter some delays the project is going ahead with total support from government of Mongolia.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly."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 and Materials

[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
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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."
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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.
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[2] FoE Scotland, Rio Tinto's wreckage
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Report on the project, by Turquoise Hill Resources
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[3] Rio Tinto goes ahead with $5.3 billion expansion of Oyu Tolgoi, by Cecilia Jamasmie | May 6, 2016.
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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
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Oyu Tolgoi. Enthusiastic report on the project by Rio Tinto, on one of the main copper mines in the world. 2016.
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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.
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Media Links

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

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Last update03/02/2017