Архив за месяц: Ноябрь 2010

Mongolia to examine mine permits

Mongolia’s government is reviewing a list of more than 1,700 mining licenses for possible termination under regulations aimed at protecting the environment, a senior official said Friday.

Dashdorj Zorigt , Mongolia’s minister for mineral resources and energy, also confirmed that the government was suspending 254 gold-mining licenses to conform with the law.

The Water and Forest Law prohibits mining activities in water basins and forest areas of the landlocked desert country of fewer than three million people, where water is in scarce supply. Since the law was passed in July 2009, the government has conducted surveys to see what licenses might be affected.

The number of licenses to be reviewed for termination compares with a total of about 4,000 mining licenses that the country has issued to date. Regulations have been established to compensate license-holders facing losses as a result of the law, Mr. Zorigt said.

Michael Waring , a fund manager who specializes in mining stocks for Toronto-based Galileo Global Equity Advisors, said the review shouldn’t be viewed as an attack on foreign miners.

«Mongolia is only really moving towards where the rest of the developed mining world is already at, in terms of protecting watersheds,» he said in an interview Friday.

Mongolia’s vast and largely untapped mineral and energy resources, as well as its proximity to China’s booming economy, have attracted a surge of interest from mining companies and investors, particularly in the past year. A number of major mining companies with assets in Mongolia are listed on exchanges in Canada and Hong Kong.

However, the revocation of the licenses highlights the regulatory risks businesses operating in Mongolia face as the country comes to grips with the implications of its resource boom.

«Lots of Mongolian land is tundra,» said Mr. Zorigt. «It is difficult to rehabilitate. Forest is easily damaged.» He called the termination of the licenses a response to a «difficult situation.»

On Thursday, shares of Toronto-listed Centerra Gold Inc. fell 7% on concerns that the company would be impacted by the revocation of mining licenses in Mongolia.

Shares rebounded Friday, rising 2.9% to 16.50 Canadian dollars ($16.17) in 4 p.m. trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Centerra said Thursday it has four alluvial gold-mining licenses on the list of those to be revoked, but none were material to the company’s business. Alluvial gold refers to gold dust found in sand, silt or other substances deposited by flowing water.

The company noted that its principal Gatsuurt hardrock mining license wasn’t listed among those licenses to be revoked.

The names of companies whose licenses are to be terminated haven’t yet been made public but would be at a later date, Mr. Zorigt said.

Work is now taking place to sort out which of the nongold licenses under review will be terminated.

Some may be partially terminated, Mr. Zorigt said, in cases where only part of the area covered by the license is in violation of the law. Some mines may be classified as strategic deposits, in which case they could be exempted from the law, though the government would then acquire an equity stake in the project.

Source www.marketwatch.com


Lawsuit against gold-miners

On October 21, Mongolian citizens Ts.Munkhbayar, G.Bayaraa, D.Tumurbaatar and O.Sambuu-Yondon filed law-suit against Puraam and Centerra Gold-mining companies for environmental damages and violating Mongolian environmental protection regulations in the State Investigation Office.  E.Gantulga, director and other relevant officials of Puraam and John Kazakov, director and other relevant officials of Centerra Gold-Mongolia have committed crimes specified in Articles 202, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 214 of the Mongolian Criminal law. Actions of both companies are illegal as they are operating in prohibited areas by Mongolian law on prohibition mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forest areas. Because of these mining companies, local citizens, herders and livestock animals experienced environmental damages including skin irritation and formation of lumps; eye disease and intoxication of internal organs of humans as well livestock animals in Mandal soum, Tunkhel area of Selenge province. These companies are operating in the headwaters of Gachuurt and Budanch Rivers and reduced flows of these rivers. Local people and livestock animals have no access to the drinking water sources.

On September 2 Ts.Munkhbayar with several UMMRL members made several bullet-holes in gold-mining  equipment of thos companies to draw attention to their illegal activities and inactiveness of the government. Police continues investigation against Ts.Munkhbayar , but  damage the activists made to Puraam and Centerra old tractors is likely to be far less than  damage of their activties to the environment and well-being of local people.

The scientists of the Advanced Study Institute assessed the environmental damages caused by Puraam and Centerra Gold. Environmental damage caused by both companies exceeds 9 billion tugrik (approximately $ 7 million US). 

 

Rivers without Boundaries based on UMMRL materials

Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes sued Government of Mongolia

On October 22, United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes sued Government of Mongolia in the court of Sukhbaatar district of Ulaanbaatar city in order to get compensation of environmental damages in basins of Onggi, Zavkhan, Tuul, Khangiltsag, Khuder, Ulz, Yeroo and Gachuurt rivers in compliance with article 19.1 of the Mongolian Constitution, and  Article 7.7.2, 11.1.6 of the Mongolian law on  Government.  The Government of Mongolia is not implementing the above laws, so ecological imbalance has been observed throughout the country. We consider that Government of Mongolia is responsible for natural-ecological disaster facing Mongolia. Therefore, we are suing the Government of Mongolia according to article 32.1.1 of Mongolian law on Environmental Protection. In Article 16.1.2 of the law on the Constitution of Mongolia, which calls for “the right to a healthy and safe environment, and to be protected against environmental pollution and ecological imbalance”, but the right is violated seriously. According to Mongolian Constitution, the Government of Mongolia is responsible to protect this right for Mongolian citizens. However, the Government is not implementing the laws and therefore, much ecological damage has already occurred.

The vice -minster of the Ministry of Nature and vice minister of the Ministry of energy and minerals will represent the Government of Mongolia  in the courtroom.  Decision to cancel 254 licences taken by the Government on November 17 is only partial solution, and 391 exploitation and 1400 exploration licences should be cancelled according to the new law. During summer 2010 the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes actively participated in delineation of no-mining water protection zones under this Law and recent Government decision means that deliniated protection zones finally officially come into effect.

Rivers without Boundaries based on UMMRL press-release

The Law implementation started: Mongolia to revoke licences

Mongolia’s Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy has revoked a swathe of exploration licences in the country’s river basins and forest reserves. The order was approved at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday November 17, and follows the enactment of a law in July 2009 prohibiting exploration and mining in protected areas (with specific exceptions for deposits of strategic importance).

Map of water-protection zones planned under the Law in Khentii Province. 

New Water Protection zones in Khentii Province 2010

The revocation of almost 1,800 licences will proceed on a staged basis, starting with 254 alluvial-gold licences. Analysts at Ulaanbaatar-based Frontier Securities estimate that the decision will ultimately affect 20% of the country’s iron-ore reserves, 24% of the gold and 74% of the tin reserves.

The decision incorporates the provinces of Selenge, Bulgan, Tuv, Uvurkhangai, Darkhan, Arkhangai, Bayankhongor and Khentii. Frontier says the declaration will include the Bayangol iron-ore mine of Hong Kong-based Iron Mining International Ltd.

The important Boroo gold project of Centerra Gold Inc is apparently not subject to the new law but the Toronto-based company confirmed that four of its other licenses may be revoked. Centerra was warned in March that the licence for its Gatsuurt hardrock gold deposit could be revoked, but it has not so far been listed.

The decision follows an announcement in April by the country’s president, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, halting all new mining permits until the passage of a new mining law to prevent attempts to «exert influence on our sovereign policies».

The government says compensation will be considered with regard to licence fees already paid and environmental costs incurred.

News by Mining Journal

Mongolia Eco-Warriors Call Attention to Economic Development Dilemma

A 1991 discovery led to the present day gold rush in the area around the former logging hamlet of Tunkhel. The Gatsuurt deposit, managed by Centerra, contains an estimated 1.3 million ounces of gold according to the company. 

In early September at a small outpost 110 kilometers north of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, four environmental activists armed with hunting rifles opened fire on gold mining equipment owned by two foreign companies. The incident has come to symbolize the challenges faced by the Mongolian government as it strives to balance environmental protection and economic growth in the development of the country’s immense mineral wealth.

A landlocked nation of steppes and desert, Mongolia is now known mostly as a country of nomadic herders. But vast and sudden changes could be in the works for the country’s roughly 3 million inhabitants. With an estimated $1.3 trillion worth of untapped mineral assets, according to Eurasia Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment bank, the investment world is eagerly eyeing opportunities in Mongolia. Some call it the «Saudi Arabia of Central Asia.» Analysts at Eurasia Capital have predicted the country’s GDP could swell from $5 billion to $30 billion by 2020, based on its mineral resources alone. The pressure on Mongolia — or ‘Minegolia,’ as some investors call it — to develop is intense.

To a certain extent, the early September shooting incident is a reflection of the wrenching economic changes already underway. The shooters, members of the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, caused only minimal property damage, just a few dents in a bulldozer tread and a busted radiator. But they sent a powerful message: Puraam, a Chinese firm, and Centerra Gold, a Canadian-operated company, aren’t welcome in the area, one of Mongolia’s few forested regions.

The activists were also protesting the government’s failure to properly implement environmental regulations, including a one-year-old law prohibiting exploration or mining at the headwaters of rivers. Mining experts and activists agree the government is at fault for enacting laws it has neither the ability, nor perhaps the will, to enforce.

Centerra Gold and Puraam are operating on 168 hectares of land in the headwaters of the Selenge, Mongolia’s largest river, which feeds Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

In the rush to develop the site, the local environment has suffered, activists contend. «We targeted these companies because they are mining illegally in a historically important place and right next to the headwaters of two crucial rivers in a healthy forest region in defiance of existing laws. They need to be shut down,» alleged Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, a former herder turned conservationist and recipient of a 2007 Goldman Environmental Prize.

A 1991 discovery led to the present day gold rush in the area around the former logging hamlet of Tunkhel. The Gatsuurt deposit, currently managed by Centerra, contains an estimated 1.3 million ounces of gold, according to the company’s website.

Activists became alarmed after traces of arsenic were found at the site. «When you’re talking about risks like arsenic, responsible and transparent mining does not work,» said Dambiinyam Dashdorj, a retired Tunkhel resident who is now campaigning for the closure of the Gatsuurt mines. Outside the fenced-off mining sites, a herder says he can no longer access a well now within company’s work zone and must instead rely on the polluted rivers for drinking water.

Back in the capital, facing criminal prosecution, the environmentalists justified their radical actions, asserting they had no other choice in order to accomplish their aim of calling attention to government negligence.

Some officials hint that the reason for government inaction could be that environmental protection legislation is too expensive to implement. «The principle of the law is right. The government adopted the law with a view to protect the environment, but the implementation side has many issues,» admits Tamir Tegshsaikhan, an official at the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia, the state’s implementation agency for the law.

Licenses of mining companies operating less than 200 meters from a water source may be revoked or modified, provided the government compensates license holders for exploration expenses already incurred, or lost revenue from mining operations already initiated. Technically, mining companies can continue operating until they’ve been compensated, Tegshsaikhan told EurasiaNet.org. Currently, the total compensation that would have to be paid out in order for the law to be fully implemented stands at a staggering $4 billion.

«When you make a law, you have to put a lot of thought into it, and in this case, it looks like the homework was not done very well,» said Rena Guenduez, senior mining advisor at the USAID-sponsored Economic Policy Reform and Competitiveness Project.

The shooting incident is part of a trend. Mining conflicts and confrontations have increased dramatically in Mongolia in the last two years, she said. This year alone there have been six reported mining related confrontations and one death.

«This will increase and escalate, if there is no mechanism for participation and no mechanism to resolve conflict,» Guenduez said, adding that frequently changing laws, «myths about mining,» and lack of informed decision making in Mongolia leave both mining companies and the public frustrated.

Foreign company representatives also express frustration about the legislative framework. Centerra Gold’s vice president for Mongolia, Doug Krahn, told EurasiaNet.org that his firm had done nothing illegal and fully supported environmental protection provisions. But he added there was not enough consultation done with the industry to create a law that could be effectively implemented. He also blamed pollution at the Gatsuurt site on previous operations there, undertaken prior to the start of Centerra’s activity. «That entire valley is covered in tailings from work that previous companies have done before us,» he said. He stressed that all water currently discharged from area mines is treated to meet required groundwater standards.

Although many Mongolians are dazzled by economic growth projections, some, like Munkhbayar of the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, are already convinced that the social and environmental costs are too high.

While he had neither heard of the term «eco-terrorism,» nor thinks it applies to him, Munkhbayar readily acknowledged to EurasiaNet.org that he broke the law and he could end up with a five-year prison term. It is a sentence, he said, that he is more than willing to endure, if it will help preserve Mongolia’s environment.

«Exploiting everything is not development,» Munkhbayar said.

Originally published by EurasiaNet.org.

The Children of Father Sky and Mother Earth

 

 

Today Munkhbayar lives with his wife and children in a crowded apartment in the congested city of Ulaanbatar, the capital of Mongolia. They sleep on the floor, a tradition Munkhbayar just can’t shake from his life as a yak herder on Mongolia’s Onggi River.  It has been more than a decade since he was able to herd though, because the Onggi River near his home dried up – an innocent victim of the country’s emerging gold mining industry. He stands on what used to be the banks of an Onggi River tributary and reflects:

“Ten years ago if I’d been standing right here the water level would have been above my head” he said, looking at the accumulation of rocks and pebbles before him.

Munkhbayar and his community have paid a heavy price as Mongolian, Russian, Canadian, Chinese and other mining companies unearth the gold beneath their pasturelands. The mining companies use water intensive extraction methods that have bled out the rivers; highly toxic waste pollutes what little groundwater remains.

“My own family was affected by the pollution. We faced the tragic loss of my mother, who died of liver disease when she was just a little over 50. My son was one of the 30 or 40 children [in our community] who also became ill; and I had a cancerous legion removed from my chin. If I were living in a cleaner environment, none of this would have happened.”

Munkhbayar and his community were determined to oppose the gold mining on the Onggi River to save their way of life. When they began, there were 37 mines on the Onggi River.  In seven years he and the movement shut down 36 mines.

“We saw that people started to believe that citizen movements can make a difference.”

But the government kept giving new permits to mining companies. Soon Munkhbayar was joined with citizens from across Mongolia in what is today called the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL). Together they have called on the Mongolian government to better protect their water, land and traditional livelihoods through nationwide petitions and hunger strikes. They have fought for the government to pass legislation that would ban the most egregious mining exploration and exploitation near the country’s riverbeds and forests. They faced much adversity though, as Parliamentarians often emerged as partial owners of mining operations throughout Mongolia.

Munkhbayar and the UMMRL fought hard, but their task seemed overwhelming.

“During the last 8 years we’ve been trying to save our river and our water, but in the overall picture we’re not succeeding. We can’t stop all the mining operations…”

Finally, just before Parliament concluded its 2009 session, it passed mining legislation in a heated eleventh hour meeting. The new law would prohibit mineral exploration at the headwaters of rivers, riverbeds and forests, and enlist the assistance of local communities and civil society groups to demarcate protected zones.

As the UMMRL celebrated their achievement, they waited for the government’s implementation measures. And as the government sorted through the details of how to compensate mining operations they had erroneously giving permits to, the Mongolian mining industry launched their own attack to reverse the law. According to Mr. John Cazakov, a mining industry executive with the Boroo Gold company,

“The Mining Association and mining companies are trying to pass a new law which will stand against the [2009 mining law]. We have a lobby group in the Parliament and hope [our proposed] law will be passed very soon.”

With Mongolia’s scarce water resources drying up before their eyes, the UMMRL vowed in September 2010 to stop illegal mining operations of companies such as Centerra Gold and Puraam that skirt the 2009 mining law by force of local citizens. The severity of their decree echoes the gravity of their concerns. Munkhbayar and the UMMRL members will keep defending their environment until they can return home to the land and the livelihoods that are their lifeblood.

“Mongolians say we are the children of Father Sky and Mother Earth.  I believe this completely. There is nothing more precious than our environment.”

 This publication was dedicated by Frieds of the Earth Int to the 15th anniversary of the murder of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, remembrance activities are being organized all over the world by Friends of the Earth International and others. They continue his legacy of defending territories, resisting corporate rule and state repression and seeking justice for communities who suffer from the practices of companies like Shell. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were sentenced to death on 10 November 1995 for speaking out against the impact of Shell and other oil companies