Traditional livestock herding has been the main economic activity in Mongolia’s South Gobi for countless generations. Always a precarious livelihood in this harsh desert landscape, herding became even harder when the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine began building its vast network of infrastructure on one of the world’s largest copper deposits. Suddenly in competition for pasture and water resources, in a rapidly changing economic and physical landscape, herders quickly began to feel the impacts on their traditional livelihoods.
In 2012 and 2013, herders in Khanbogd Soum filed complaints to an accountability office tied to the World Bank Group, which invested in the Oyu Tolgoi mine. The accountability office facilitated a mediation process, which led to the establishment of the Tripartite Council (TPC), a freestanding body of representatives from the mine, herders and the local government to resolve issues related to herders, water and pasture.
We walked tall on our land. We were proud herders.
In May 2017, after years of negotiation, the TPC reached two final agreements to resolve herders’ complaints. Together, these agreements contain 60 separate commitments to address issues related to pasture and water resources, monitoring of impacts and community relations, compensation for lost livelihoods, and the mine’s disruption of the Undai River and sacred Bor Ovoo spring.
The agreements were an important achievement, but unless they are carried out effectively, they are little more than words on paper. Turning the agreements into a reality will require dedicated work by all parties, and that work is far from over.
In February 2019, Accountability Counsel published a report analyzing progress in the first 18 months of agreement implementation. This website provides an interactive summary of the report’s findings and recommendations and charts the TPC’s progress on fulfilling the agreement commitments.
Some say progress is “not good enough”
The parties have made some notable progress towards implementation, but some TPC representatives believe that it is still “not good enough,” noting that only a small number of commitments are fully implemented and have started to provide benefits for local herders. These sentiments match our overall findings, which show that progress has been varied and many commitments are seriously delayed. Some of the most important commitments still require significant work, with successful implementation far from guaranteed.
Detailed Plan Developed
Updated January 30, 2019
The question is, in 50 years, whether we will have water at all in this area. And whether we will have herds in this area.
As implementation progresses, we reflect on what is working, what is not, and what can be improved. The TPC’s work has begun to sow real benefits, yet vulnerable herders are still struggling to feed their families and keep their herds alive. It remains far from clear whether the agreements will fulfill their promise of supporting herders to continue their traditional way of life while living next to a world class mine. One thing is clear: rapid and effective progress is needed.
There is no other way for us. We are herders and we will herd. Our children will be herders. There is no other way. But it is a very hard living now.
To achieve meaningful and complete implementation, the Tripartite Council must:
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