Rio Tinto and the Oyu Tolgoi mine

In March 2013, New Internationalist magazine carried an article on mining in Mongolia, including information about the Oyu Tolgoi project – but it did not mention that activity at the mine is controlled and operated by British-based mining multinational Rio Tinto, which has a history of involvement in projects associated with environmental destruction and abuse of workers’ rights, indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights in general. 

Oyu Tolgoi
Oyu Tolgoi London Mining Network

London Mining Network has been working with Mongolian civil society organization Oyu Tolgoi Watch and other groups in Europe and North America to try to stop Rio Tinto and its financial backers from trampling on the rights of the communities affected by its operations in Mongolia. The company’s approach to the traditional herders who are affected by their operations in Mongolia has been to deny that they are indigenous communities, as that would mean they have internationally recognized rights to free, prior informed consent.

The herders are now engaged in a difficult process of seeking help from the World Bank’s Compliance Adviser Ombudsman with ‘mediation’, and an independent panel to be established to examine their case. The herders filed an earlier complaint about inadequate relocation and compensation which you can be read at the Ombudsman’s website.

At the London Mining Network in 2012, we produced a review of Rio Tinto’s wholly inadequate Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Oyu Tolgoi project developed it into a Key Recommendations report.

Rio Tinto’s Mongolian subsidiary Turquoise Hill Resources has been seeking massive loans to develop the mine. The big ‘sell’ on lending to a leading mining multinational such as Rio Tinto is that they will operate responsibly and sustainably. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have been operating in Mongolia since 2006, and with Turquoise Hill since 2009. Both banks have approved huge loans to Oyu Tolgoi despite all the controversy over the mine’s inadequate Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

London Mining Network and others tried to persuade IFC and EBRD not to fund the project. As a result, the US representative on the World Bank’s Board of Directors abstained, and expressed a number of concerns. Unfortunately, both banks decided to back the project, and we are now trying to make sure that they put strict conditions on their loans.

Sukhgerel Dugersuren, the Director of Oyu Tolgoi Watch, will be in London in mid-April 2013 to attend Rio Tinto’s Annual General Meeting and tell shareholders about the real impacts of its activities in Mongolia. You can hear Sukhgerel speak at the ‘Stories of Resistance’ event at Amnesty International UK on Monday 15 April. There will also be a demonstration outside the Rio Tinto AGM in London on Thursday 18 April, from 10 until 11am.

You can read a lot more about the Oyu Tolgoi project on the London Mining Network website.

The demonstration at the Rio Tinto AGM will be at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE.