Mongolian River Movements bring fight to protect rivers to country's legislators

Mongolian River Movements bring fight to protect rivers to country’s legislators

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In Mongolia, increased mining in recent years has caused severe damage to the country’s environment and the traditional communities that have lived off the land for centuries. The country’s scarce water resources (less than 1% of surface area) and forests are being stressed by mining companies exploiting Mongolia’s vast mineral deposits. Now, as the rivers disappear into parched desert and communities are forced to move to the overcrowded and polluted capital Ulaanbaatar, citizens have brought their life-or-death fight over mining to the government in hopes of garnering legislation that would prevent unsustainable mining in river basins and forests and repair some of the damage that has already been done. 

In the early spring, a coalition of citizen groups from around the country authored a draft law on mining for Mongolia’s Parliament (legislative body), with the expectation that a mining law would be passed before the end of the Parliamentary session –July 10th. Parliament began considering the draft law, but, according to citizen groups, discussion was derailed as some Parliamentarians, who are known to have ties to the mining industry and in some cases own their own mining licenses, sought to water down the draft law’s effectiveness through changing some of its terminology and delaying its passage. 

The coalition of citizen groups, collectively called the seven River Movements, are most concerned that sections of the draft law necessary to make it possible for citizens affected by the impacts of mining projects to file lawsuits against the owners and operators of the mine are being removed. Without these measures, citizens have little ability to hold mining companies accountable for their illegal activities, seek redress for damages, or motivate mining companies to abide by the law. These are all issues with the current mining law. 

 The seven Mongolian River Movements are calling for the mining law to be passed before the 2009 Spring Parliamentary session ends on 10 July. Furthermore, they are calling for Parliament to take the necessary steps to ensure that the integrity of the law is not compromised and that it will be for the benefit of the people, not the mining industry. Indeed, the outcome of this law will determine if Mongolia’s land and traditional culture will be protected for future generations, or if precious rivers and forests will continue to lose out to unsustainable mining exploitation. 

 Friends of the Earth is supporting the seven River Movements in their struggle to defend Mongolia’s river basins and forested areas. We have joined thousands of Mongolian citizens in their petitions to Mongolia’s government to pass a mining law by 10 July that adequately protects these resources and provides the most possible benefit to the Mongolian people.

For more information about the destructive impacts of mining on Mongolia’s land, rivers and communities, please read “Mining Tourism in Mongolia,” a first-hand account from Friends of the Earth staff during a field mission to Mongolia in September 2008.