International Guidelines on Mine Closure: Assessment of the Mine Closure Regime in Mongolia
Mongolia peacefully transitioned to a parliamentary democracy in 1990 after nearly seven decades of one-party socialist rule. Mongolia adopted its first Constitution two years later, in 1992; its predecessor State, the Mongolian People’s Republic, had three constitutions, in effect from 1924, 1940, and 1960. The establishment of the new State, Mongolia, resulted in an overall reform of the legislative system and public governance structures; however, this reform did not occur all at once but was rather gradual and ongoing process.
During the transition into democratic economy, a Law on Subsoil of Mongolia, the first legislation on minerals, was adopted in 1988. Extraction of subsoil wealth as per planned state policy was intensified starting from 1990s, and mining companies started operating in Erdenet mine, Baganuur mine and Bor-Ondor mine. Since the early 2000s, the Mongolian mining industry has expanded, and continues to expand, significantly. As the industry grows rapidly, it has become evident that activities related to the entire mining life cycle from exploration to mine closure and reclamation needed to be regulated and managed wisely. If mine closure and reclamation are not achieved in a planned and successful manner, a mine site may remain hazardous and a source of pollution for several years. There are an estimated c.600 abandoned mine sites in Mongolia. Abandoned or inadequately reclaimed mine sites can be sites of toxic pollution, such as mercury, that are hazardous to both humans and animals, and also sources of desertification.
The Mongolian parliament recognized the importance of up-to-date mine closure regime which reflects international guidance and approved an Action Plan of the Government of Mongolia (GoM). That Action Plan explicitly included mandated end-of-life mine site rehabilitation and mine closure in line with international best practice. Accordingly, the GoM approved the Regulation on Rehabilitation and Closure of a Mine, Mine Plant and Enrichment Plant in 2019 which aimed to include the international guidance into the mine closure regime.
Because of the growing concerns of the abandoned mines or improperly reclaimed mine sites, growing demands for minerals critical for the global energy transition, there is an urgent need to promote good practice in the mining sector, not least with respect to implementation of Mongolia’s mine closure and reclamation regime. This work should be planned in light of a rigorous assessment of its current efficacy, strengths, weaknesses and challenges.
This dissertation is intended to assess the current legal framework on mine closure in Mongolia in line with international best practices and guidelines. For that, the dissertation begins by describing the overview of Mongolian legal framework on mining, and legislation applicable to mine closure. This is then followed by summarising literature on mine closure and reclamation, relevant international guidelines, and an analysis of the current legal framework on mine closure in Mongolia, and its implementation.
The findings of the analysis demonstrate that the current legal framework appears to be developed in line with international best practice. However, some improvements in its provisions pursuant to its improved efficacy. The dissertation offers some recommendations of provisions for the current legal framework of mine closure and reclamation in Mongolia that would, if implemented, support responsible mining development there in the future.