What Constitutes “Local”? Exploring How to Create Local Value from Mining in Rural Mongolia

There is growing recognition that successful projects are those that generate social and environmental value as well as economic value.  Yet measuring social value is notoriously difficult.  This has been especially true in the global mining sector where the proposed land use may be contested, where there may be competition for scarce resources, or where world views collide.

The South West Gobi Desert in Mongolia is a sparsely populated area that nomadic herders have called home for generations.  It is also an area that has attracted the attention of mineral exploration companies, including Canada’s Erdene Resource Development Corp.  As efforts get underway to develop the region’s first gold mine, Bayan Khundii, researchers at the University of British Columbia are investigating how to bridge the values of a land-based culture and the mining sector to create and share value.

Now in its third year, the research partnership – funded in 2018 and this year by Mitacs, and in 2019 by a SSHRC Partnership Engage grant – provides a unique opportunity to learn about effective approaches to public engagement when designing a mine.  Qualitative interviews and joint working group meetings are providing insight to local stakeholders’ perspectives on how the mine, local residents, including nomadic herders, might work together to create sustainable economic value.  Local employment is an established practice and helps to boost skills and livelihoods.  Purchasing goods and services (local procurement) can help local businesses to grow and develop and is another way to build mining shared value.  But in the remote areas, such as southwestern Mongolia, with very few local businesses, what constitutes “local” procurement? Are there places where the traditional knowledge held by nomads could support mine planning?  Or where mining could support traditional livelihoods?

The research is scheduled to be completed in the fall 2020.  Findings will be publicized in a research report and via conference presentations.  Zorigtkhuu Bat-Erdene, a member of the UBC team who completed field work in Mongolia earlier this year, will share initial research impressions in an upcoming Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) webinar. Stay tuned for more details.

For more information:

Dr. Jocelyn Fraser      Zorigtkhuu Bat-Erdene 

Dr. Nadja Kunz         Jon Lyons