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Mongolian Herders Pursued Remedy Through Dialogue with a Mining Company

Despite a huge power imbalance and entrenched interests, nomadic herders used a voluntary dispute resolution process to help remedy impacts of a massive copper and gold mine in Mongolia.

Livestock herding represents both the traditional culture in Mongolia’s South Gobi, as well as the primary economic activity. Development of Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine fundamentally changed their traditional way of life, displacing herders from critical pasture, disrupting traditional movement patterns and depleting precious water resources. In 2012 and 2013, herders filed complaints to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the accountability mechanism of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Insurance Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which together supported the mine.

The CAO facilitated a mediation process between the company and the herders, which eventually also included the local government. In May 2017, after years of negotiations and two independent expert studies commissioned through the dialogue process to establish key facts, the parties signed agreements that include over 60 separate commitments to address impacts of the mine. The CAO monitored agreement implementation before closing the case.

As a result of the agreements, more than 100 new households were approved for compensation, dozens of children received university scholarships, and various infrastructure and livelihood programs were undertaken. However, implementation of several of the most important commitments, which would increase access to water and pasture and better connect herders to markets, has been challenging. The sustainability and ultimate impact of the agreements remains unclear.

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