For Oyu Tolgoi, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth – the different animals, plants and micro-organisms, and the ecosystems they inhabit. Oyu Tolgoi’s approach aims to minimize the mine’s operational impact and contribute to biodiversity conservation so that the region ultimately benefits from the mine’s presence.
Oyu Tolgoi LLC also works with international non-government agencies (“NGOs”), consultants and university researchers to ensure a net positive impact on biodiversity of the mine area. The annual biodiversity monitoring programs
provide information to assess the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies that have been incorporated into the Oyu Tolgoi LLC operational management plans.
The Core Biodiversity Monitoring Program has progressed well in 2019 with a ground population survey covering around 79,000 square kilometres area of the South Gobi region. The capture of a total of 30 khulan and 20 goitered gazelles and the deployment of 50 satellite GPS collars provides insights into the movements and habitat use of these Gobi Desert ungulates and provides critical information for planning and assessing mitigation action.
The 2019 survey results indicated a significant increase in ungulate populations, specifically khulan and goitered gazelles. Khulan population increased approximately 42% (from ~36,300 in 2014 to ~51,700 in 2019) and the goitered gazelle population increased about 71% (from ~33,627 in 2015 to ~57,380 in 2019). We believe that both favourable weather conditions and our conservation efforts through the biodiversity offset program have contributed to this excellent outcome.
Oyu Tolgoi has implemented several biodiversity offsetting projects that contribute to making a net positive impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services in the region. An example of this is the anti-poaching offsetting project in which Oyu Tolgoi LLC is collaborating with local government agencies. This project started in 2015 as a pilot and continues to be a successful initiative. A Multi-Agency Team and a Mobile Anti-Poaching Unit were formed to improve and solve the difficulties that patrols face. The Anti-Poaching Unit consists of East, Central and West teams and patrol the Omnogobi and Dornogobi aimags. In addition, the rangers of the Small Gobi Strictly Protected Area A and B also carry out patrols in the protected areas close to Oyu Tolgoi.
Another important component of the anti-poaching project is the implementation of the Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool (“SMART”) software package that is used to plan patrol efforts, monitor patrols, and document the location of carcasses found by the patrols. The information collected in the SMART system can then be used to assess patrol effectiveness. The effectiveness of the SMART system has enabled the Government of Mongolia to develop a working group that is examining the expansion of SMART into other protected areas in Mongolia. To support the anti-poaching programs and overall management of endangered species in the region Oyu Tolgoi also conducts khulan carcass assessments. The khulan carcass survey runs every year to provide the project with relevant information regarding poaching and natural death rate of khulan within a 50,000 square kilometres area of Oyu Tolgoi. The main goal of this survey is to determine the density of poached carcasses in areas believed to be experiencing high rates of poaching and to use this information in planning anti-poaching patrols.
Other offset projects include powerline insulation in order to reduce bird mortality, development of sustainable cashmere and modification of railroad fencing to lower the impact on fauna. There were several significant achievements in the offsetting projects in 2019. The development of sustainable cashmere underwent a restructure to improve long-term viability and to ensure its success. As part of a pilot, the railroad fence project saw the successful removal of two sections of the railroad fence, totaling 1,200 metres. This achievement was made possible by the involvement of multiple stakeholders including representatives from the private sector, academia, civil society organizations as well as government organizations. Initial monitoring has captured Mongolian and goitered gazelles crossing the rail using the opening made in the fence. The monitoring of wildlife movements will continue in 2020.
The biodiversity team has organized stakeholder consultation workshops with significant input from local government officials, which helped them to gain a greater understanding of the underlying goals of offset programs and gained necessary support to continue these programs.
Groundbreaking of Khanbogd soum flood dam.