Supporting Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi Mine for 18 years

Oyu Tolgoi (OT) is an exciting mining development containing reserves which make it one of the world’s largest known copper and gold deposits. Situated in the southern Gobi Desert of Mongolia, this flagship project is expected to be a significant contributor to Mongolia’s development.

Sustainability’s history on the OT project  

Since 2002, Sustainability has been supporting the frontier OT project through a range of environmental, social and safety consultation services across a region with unique environmental and social characteristics.

Our history at OT began in the exploration phase soon after the deposit was discovered where we undertook foundational environment, social and heritage baseline studies and approvals through to 2008. The process of gaining environmental approvals through the national statutory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process was a significant step to measure the project’s impact going forward. Sustainability supported local consultants in the Mongolian EIA processes by providing technical support to ensure the statutory process had rigor and generated outcomes that were supportive and feasible for the project.

Off the back of these approvals the project sought funding, here Sustainability worked with International Finance Institutions (IFI’s) and Lenders in a consortium to attain Lender’s Environmental & Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and ongoing compliance with lender requirements which Sustainability was involved in from 2008 through to 2012.  Sustainability managed and developed key studies that contributed to the ESIA including a regional Cultural Heritage Plan, Mine Closure Plan and Air Quality Management Plan.

2013 saw the first shipment of concentrate from the open cut mine. At this time, we further developed and implemented OT’s governing environmental management plans such as; water, air, biodiversity monitoring, biodiversity management (in partnership with Wildlife Conservation Society), non-mineral and hazardous waste management, geological and soils, heritage, and archeological restoration.

Sustainability supported OT’s environmental operational implementation of a range of plans developed to meet the ESIA commitments and Company policies.  Sustainability initiated a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society to implement biodiversity monitoring across a vast area of the southern Gobi to measure potential impacts of the mine on conservation significant species and habitats and to support OT’s biodiversity offset program. The outcomes of the biodiversity monitoring has provided valuable knowledge to Mongolia and the scientific community that contribute to a greater understanding of the conservation of unique biodiversity values of the region which is experiencing rapid growth in resource development.

The underground block cave mine has been in development since 2008 and is underpinned by the 200km expansion program that kicked off in 2016. With a shifting focus to underground mining, Sustainability provided Safety Leadership Coaches to raise the bar in safety standards in Mongolia. Over the next two years we were committed to creating the first world-class safety practices to set the standard for future projects in Mongolia. This included the implementation of the first NEBOSH training and ongoing support for OT Safety Leaders.

Today, Sustainability continues to support the environmental, social and safety aspects of the projects such as ESIA’s for new developments, continuing to provide independent expertise on environmental liability cost estimates, ongoing support on non-mineral waste management and continuing to manage and coordinate the biodiversity monitoring and offset programs.

Sustainability’s accomplishments 

From 2002 to 2019 Sustainability have achieved the following project successes:

  • Environment and social assessment to support approvals for long term ground water allocations designed to avoid impacts to existing water users and protect the environment of the region.
  • A key contributor to the OT ESIA developed to rigorous Lender standards from 2008-2012.
  • Developed a regional Cultural Heritage Plan for OT from 2008-2010 in partnership with national and international specialists that provided a basis for new Cultural Heritage protection legislation in Mongolia.
  • Opened the Mongolian Sustainability East Asia office in 2008 and became a local national provider.
  • 6-year continuous partnership with WCS (and relevant NGO’s and academics) in monitoring the unique biodiversity of the Gobi such as Khulan (Asiatic wild ass) and black tailed (goitered) gazelle – both species of significant conservation significance and with cultural value to Mongolia.
  • The partnership with WCS includes the development of biodiversity offset projects designed within OT’s biodiversity management plans which include an initial pilot anti-poaching program in the southern Gobi region. The Program has been successfully implemented since 2016 and is the first anti poaching project of its type in Mongolia.
  • From procurement to output we have addressed non-mineral and hazardous waste minimisation to reduce legacy issues after mine closure and to prevent contamination and pollution (2016-2018).
  • Assisted in the development a first-class safety culture in the local workforce. Including the introduction of NEBOSH to Mongolia from 2016 to 2018.

Benefits of working with Sustainability

Our long-term success at OT has been underpinned by our commitment to providing expertise that is focused on client needs and which recognises the environmental, social and OHS risks to large resource developments. Sustainability has a culture of reliability and innovation and values working in partnership with clients and stakeholders to achieve sustainable outcomes.