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Anti-mining protests and controversies around the “Law with the Long Name”, Mongolia


Mongolia, a nation bordered by China and Russia, has 1.5 million and nearly 3 million people. It is known for vast, rugged expanses and nomadic culture. Its capital is Ulaanbaatar.  Due to its richness in minerals, Mongolia has become a target for more and more international mining companies. In the last decades, more and more mines have been opened with little regard toward the detrimental effects of such activities, both towards the environment and the local people –especially pastoralists who keep their heds on land held in common.   In 2001 the Onggi River Movement (ORM) appeared, considered the first grassroots movement of resistance to mining in Mongolia. By 2006 the Mongolian Nature Protection Coalition (MNPC) was formed, which brought together the ORM and 11 other organizations. It later split and other coalitions appeared [3].

Also in 2006, the Asia foundation enabled the formation of a Multistakeholder on Responsible Mining (MSF), bringing together the different actors involved and affected by mining activities. However, the forum did not last: some members departed after the MNPC split in 2008.

  The Law with the Long Name –as Mongolians call it- was written in 2009 to protect 25 % of the country’s ecosystems, mainly rivers and forested areas, from mining activities. The law was adopted after a hunger strike organized in front of the Parliament. Yet, implementation was not enforced due to pressures by international mining companies [1][2][3]. Different protests took place by the United Movement of Mongolian Movements and Lakes (UMMRL) –the most radical group that emerged from the split of the MNPC-, including a horse riding protest in April 2011. Finally during 2011 and 2012 the LLN was used to deny mining licenses. The increasing difficulties faced by international investors led to renewed pressure to the government, who responded with a proposal to revise the LLN. At the same time, conflicts were reported between people in the countryside and mining enterprises. On the 16th of September 2013, Munkhbayar –the founder of ORM and Goldman Environmental Price in 2007- brought a petition to the Parliament and activists from different coalitions protested in front of it. Munkhbayar and many others were arrested and condemned to prison [3].

The UMMRL was not invited in the negotiations to introduce changes to the LLN  and the government refused to share with them the draft. In response, the coalition organized silent protests in front of the Parliament. The government put pressure on journalists to avoid any kind of reporting of the silent protests and filtered any kind of information regarding the process [1].

In February 2015, 9 activists began a hunger-strike to avoid the changes on the LLN to be applied. They received support from different political parties and organizations but, nevertheless, the amendments where approved. In addition, more than 20 thousand citizens signed and handed in a petition to the government demanding them to protect Mongolian ecosystems. Different eyewitness testified the use of violence by the Mongolian police who finally dissolved the protest and forced the hunger-strikers to go to hospital.

At the end of 2015, Munkhbayar was released on bail, together with 3 other activists.

In March 2016, around 2000 demonstrators gathered at the Freedom Square, Ulaanbaatar, to demand a dissolution of the Parliament after it had passed on foreign mining concessions.

Basic Data

NameAnti-mining protests and controversies around the “Law with the Long Name”, Mongolia
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state 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
Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesFluorspar

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsFrom 2006 to 2013, the mining’s sector share of GDP rose from 17% to 30%, while export earnings account grew from 58% to 80%. Land degradation or physical exclusion of herders derived from the growing mining sector violated their rights to land. Citizens protests have taken place against the expansion of mining, while extractivist companies have pressured to remove restrictions. In addition, the increasing presence of “ninja miners”, that is, small to middle illegal mining enterprises which do not follow any kind of regulation, further threatened the environment and pastoralists’ livelihoods.

The export of minerals accounts for 94% of all exports and is controlled by foreign companies.

China Shenhua and its consortium partners Mongolia Mining Co. and Japan’s Sumitomo are aiming to develop the Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Ömnögovi Province in southern Mongolia. In the same province Rio Tinto and subsidiaries are developing the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, with financing from Rio Tinto, Ivanhoe and the government of Mongolia. The mine shipped its first batch of coppee in 2013.
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected PopulationWhole country population 3,000,000
Start Date04/06/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesSumitomo Corporation from Japan
Puraam Mining from China
Centerra Gold from Canada
Rio Tinto PLC from Australia
Shenua from China
Mongolian Mining Corporation from Mongolia
Relevant government actorsState Great Khural (Parliament)
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersRivers Without boundaries

United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes

International Rivers

Yes to Life, Not to Mining

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Horse riding protests. Demonstrations in Parliament in the capital city. Buddhist rituals and pilgrimages..


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil contamination, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Soil erosion, Global warming, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Potential: Other environmental related diseases, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
OtherDamage to the sacredness of nature ("Baigal", translated as "sacred geography", Upton, 2017). Buddhist and Shamanic involvement in the defense of the land and rivers.


Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The LLN was ammended and new mining concessions have been given out to foreing companies. The sentences for people arrested during the mobilizations of September 2013 have been reduced.

Sources and Materials




[3] Upton, C., 2017. Contesting development: pastoralism, mining and environmental politics in Mongolia. In: L. Horowitz and M. Watts. Grassroots Environmental governance. Routledge. Ch.8.

[2] Simonov, E. (2013) "Protect Mongolian rivers from mining!" International Rivers

[1] Simonov, E. (2013) "The Short history of the Law with the Long Name" Rivers without boundaries Coalition


The Salt Lake Tribune "Thousands rally in Mongolia over mining" (online newspaper)

The Daily Mail "Thousands rally in Mongolia over foreign mining concessions" (UK newspaper)

Global Research "Foreign Mining, State Corruption and human Rights in Mongolia" (Centre for Research on Globalization"

Yes to Life Not to Mining "Hunger Strikes and Protests: Mongolian Governments gives green light to hundreds of mining projects" (EJO blog)

Media Links

Interview with Ts. Munkhbayar by Michelle Nijhuis 25 April 2007: At Onggi River (because of gold mining) "my youngest son, who is 15 years old, got sick from drinking that water, and my mother, who was only 50 years old, passed away because of liver damage."

Other Documents

Protests of february 2015

Horse riding protest in 2011

Meta Information

ContributorClàudia Custòdio, Lund University. Contact: [email protected]
Last update01/02/2017



Protests of february 2015


Horse riding protest in 2011