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Mandakhaitsetsen “Manda” Urantulkhuur arrived from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last week for a 10-week ELAW Fellowship. This is her first visit to the U.S.

Manda from MongoliaManda began classes yesterday at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute and will work closely with ELAW staff to advance the economic, social, and cultural rights of Mongolia’s disenfranchised.

Manda is Coordinator of the Community Based Development Program at the Centre for Human Rights and Development. Her program has empowered women’s groups in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan, and the provinces of Uvurkhangai, Dornod, and Khentii.

Manda has a bachelor’s degree in education from the Pedagogical University of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and a masters degree in Inter-Asia NGO Studies from Sungkonghoe University, South Korea.

Many thanks to Michael and SueAnn Rangeloff for being Manda’s host family for her first week in Eugene.

We will keep you posted on Manda’s work.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

Last week Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel and I joined other NGO representatives to talk with World Bank representatives as they consider financing Oyu Tolgoi, a massive copper and gold mine in the South Gobi desert.  As has been widely reported, Mongolia has become the new frontier for mining.  As ELAW has reported, the government of Mongolia has issued 3,000 mining licenses for copper, coal, gold, silver, and uranium.  The International Finance Corporation – the arm of the World Bank that provides financing to private enterprises – is one of several international financial institutions considering financing the development of Oyu Tolgoi.

The project proponent (a Mongolian company, Oyu Tolgoi LLC which is a joint-venture between Turquoise Hill Resources, Rio Tinto, and a Mongolian state-run company) published an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the project in 2012.  ELAW staff scientists and attorneys worked with partners in Mongolia to evaluate the ESIA under IFC standards.  We found the ESIA failed to meet IFC standards in several respects.  In addition to other comments, we pointed out the following violations of IFC policy:

  • The ESIA is incomplete;
  • Many critical documents underlying the findings in the ESIA have not been made available to the public; and
  • The project proponent inappropriately dismissed the application of the Indigenous Peoples Performance Standard.
Mongolian herders in Bulgan Province

Mongolian herders in Bulgan Province
Photo: Lori Maddox

We also identified several ways that the project could be improved to reduce its impact on the indigenous herders who live a traditional nomadic lifestyle. The herders’ livelihoods and their land are likely to be destroyed forever if the project is implemented as proposed.  The most urgent concern about the project is its devastating impact on water resources in this arid land.  Among other concerns, ELAW urged the IFC to ensure that the Undai River is not diverted if the project advances and to require the company to employ dry tailings instead of the planned wet tailings.  Tailings are the waste product produced from the ore extraction process and can either be stored in a massive, toxic artificial pond near the mine or dried and back-filled into the areas of the mine where extraction has been completed. Storing the waste as dry tailings could reduce the water needed for processing by 90% and reduce the impact from the mine.

Heidi and I joined Oyu Tolgoi Watch (a Mongolian NGO concerned about the impacts of the project), the Bank Information Center, Sierra Club and the Accountability Counsel to talk with Executive Directors from the World Bank about problems with the project before the Directors decide whether to finance the project.  Before these organizations addressed Executive Directors, we were able to hear directly from an indigenous herder whose family has been impacted by the mine.  He spoke eloquently about the changes that have already come to the community and the fear that the mine could destroy their traditional lifestyles forever.

Heidi briefed the Directors about concerns related to water resource management.  I have focused on demonstrating that the IFC must apply its Indigenous Peoples’ policy to this project.

ELAW will continue working with Mongolian lawyers and organizations representing the communities impacted by mining.

Jennifer Gleason
Staff Attorney

Tsogo, a Mongolian apprentice river guide

I traveled to Mongolia this fall, to work with Mongolian environmental lawyers and try to catch big fish.

I had a great trip, but it was alarming to witness the mining frenzy that is hitting that country now.  The road from the airport into Ulaanbaatar is lined with billboards advertising trucking, hauling, drilling and other mining related services; people are talking eagerly about the Oyu Tolgoi mine, which is forecast to generate 30% of Mongolia’s GNP; and I could see mines from the air as I flew over Mongolia.

We are working with partners in Mongolia to help them prevent mining abuses and gain the capacity to play a strong role in charting a more sustainable future for Mongolia.  Attorneys Erdenechimeg Dashdorj and Bazarsad Nanjindorj traveled here to work with us last spring and I worked with them in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar.  Bazarsad plans to come here this winter for an ELAW Fellowship that will enable him to complete intensive English courses at the University of Oregon.  They are doing impressive work and want to gain skills and build capacity.

Our law and science teams are working closely with our Mongolian partners.  We are reviewing the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Oyu Tolgoi mine, helping track down health problems caused by a mining disaster in Khongor, and putting together a case to clean up Ulaanbaatar’s nasty air pollution.  The small corps of public interest environmental lawyers in Mongolia is doing great work under challenging conditions, and I am glad we can help.

For more about the fishing in Mongolia, read my recent article in the Eugene Weekly.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

It is “that” time of the year again around the ELAW office.  The buzz is starting to build. Next week is the University of Oregon School of Law’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). The conference is organized by students at the school, not ELAW, though sometimes we get credit for it.  This year we will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of conference and the 100th Anniversary of David Brower’s birth. We will also remember the tragic loss of the beloved Svitlana Kravchenko.

ELAW Fellow Rolès Théard

Yesterday we welcomed our first international visitor for this year’s PIELC – Rolès Théard, a founder of l’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN).   Rolès will join partners from Russia and Mongolia to talk about the impacts of mining on a panel during the PIELC.  We’ll also be welcoming lawyers from Guatemala, Madagascar, and Indonesia over the week ahead.  I am thrilled to be working with Rolès this week and looking forward to welcoming the rest of the gang next week.  If you’re going to be in town for the PIELC – please look for ELAW’s table in the busy halls of the law school!

We hope to see you in Eugene!

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

We first visited Mongolia in 1993, when the long lasting friendship of our two families began.  My husband was working as a consultant to Mongolia’s Ministry of Nature and Environment, and I took vacation time to tag along to a new place.

As it happened, I ended up working too – it’s an odd feather in my cap (and a much longer story) that I helped a Mongolian entrepreneur establish the first email “feed” to that country.  We used those first e-mail messages out of Mongolia to ask ELAW colleagues about laws that regulate grazing in their countries, among other things.

Our in-country liaison – the convener of the seminar to develop Mongolia’s General Environmental Law – was Enkhbat, now the Director of Science and Technology for Mongolia’s Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism.  We hit it off, and we stayed in touch.

In 1999, Enkhbat brought his wife and children to Eugene to live for two years while he completed a Masters degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon.  Our families grew very close over many trips around Oregon – from the high desert to the sea.  Since then, Enkhbat’s  daughters Undarmaa and Bolormaa each lived with us for a year while studying in U.S. schools.

Eight years had passed since we were all together and we decided it was time for a new shared adventure.  This summer our families converged on Ulaanbaatar – their kids from Universities in Cuba, Poland, and the U.S. , and our family from Eugene.   And so the adventure began.

In my next post, you will find tales from 2,000 kilometers crossed, and encounters with camels, lakes, wildflowers, good food, and culture.

Lori Maddox
ELAW Associate Director

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