Direct impacts of mining operations on the health of ecosystems and people are numerous. Habitat loss in the relatively small area mined is the most obvious threat to biodiversity, at least during the life of the mine (restoration is often a part of mine closure but the value of this is questionable). Noise and dust increase the size of the site impact, making life inhospitable for many plants and animals. Conversely, food refuse from workers can attract or enhance wildlife such as ravens, which when not scavenging garbage heaps will feed on eggs, birds and other small animals, many of which are endangered. Workers and their families cut trees and bushes for fuel, including rare elm and saxual trees, and also collect medicinal herbs to such an extent that certain species have become locally extinct.
In a country where water is precious, many mining operations, especially placer gold mines, overuse surface water and aquifers, and/or pollute these with uncontrolled discharges of slurry and tailings, with the end results being less clean water for people and wildlife (World Bank 2006b).
Indirect impacts of mining may be the greatest threats to biodiversity in the sector. Roads and rail built to transport ore/coal can effectively divide formerly contiguous populations of terrestrial wildlife, especially in the case of railroads which are often fenced to reduce the risk of train derailment. Both transport types result in “roadkill” and fenced rail in the Eastern Steppe kills hundreds if not thousands of Mongolian gazelle each year. Wild ass, Goitered gazelle and Mongolian gazelle are present in current and planned mining sites. Roads and rail are not barriers to movement for birds but transmission lines result in electrocution and fatal collisions.
Four million hectares of critical natural habitat is included within mining exploration licenses, so the potential for biodiversity loss from exploration and eventual exploitation is growing.
Artisanal and small-scale mining
Small-scale mining operations for gold have in recent years become the primary livelihood for an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 people (World Bank 2006b). These so-called “ninja” miners (the pans and shovels they carry on their backs make them resemble the comic book characters “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) operate without regulation or appropriate social and environmental safeguards. Once insignificant, artisanal mining has become a main income source for people without other options, including herders who have lost their herds due to drought or dzuds (World Bank 2006b)
The presence of thousands of miners in unplanned settlements along rivers and streams creates an infectious disease risk for people and wildlife (World Bank 2006b). Mercury is widely used by artisanal placer and hard-rock gold miners to separate gold from ore, even though this use was banned in 1982 and low-cost gravitational methods could be applied to achieve the same result (World Bank 2006b). Mercury is a toxin for people and wildlife, which bioaccumulates up the food chain in fish and consumers of fish, and causes a range of effects, from neurological problems to reduced fertility and development problems to death (EPA 2010). Air pollution from uncontrolled burning of rubber tires to melt permafrost poisons people and wildlife with compounds such as carbon monoxide, benzene and cyanide (World Bank 2006b).
Water Shortages and Climate Change
Temperatures have gone up 2.1 C and precipitation has dropped 7% in the last 60 years.
Partly as a result of increased air temperatures, water censuses conducted by the government have found that many rivers, marshlands, and lakes are drying up, resulting in degradation and loss of habitat for many fish and bird species (MNET 2009). A recent analysis found that 852 rivers, 1181 lakes, and 2277 springs have gone dry due to poor resource management (MNET 2009), including loss of forest and the operations of mines.
The combination of increased temperatures and decreased summer precipitation has resulted in a 20 to 30 percent decrease in rangeland productivity over the last four decades. Other contributors to pasture degradation include increased overall numbers of livestock, and a relative increase in goats compared with cattle and sheep due to market demands for cashmere.
A Mongolian group to save their rivers is here: http://www.rivermovements.org/
Disease and disease management
While diseases such as avian influenza (AI) and foot and mouth disease(FMD) have direct impacts on water birds and wild ungulates like Mongolian and Goitered gazelle, the management response to these epizootic diseases can be much worse than the disease itself. Worldwide, epidemics of AI and FMD have led to widespread slaughter of animals (wild and domestic) in order to minimize economic impacts to the agriculture.
Mongolians blame the wildlife for (FMD) and slaughter any potentially infected wildlife.
Rather than killing wildlife to protect livestock from (FMD), evidence indicates that most places where (FMD) has been eradicated from livestock, it has also disappeared from wildlife (Thomson et al 2003).
Mongolia contains the largest expanse of intact temperate grasslands in the world, with never more than one percent of the total land area under cultivation. Production has declined about 70 percent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the end of collective farming (and efficiencies provided by fertilizers and technology), moving Mongolia from near self-sufficiency in cereals to importing about 40 percent, a major food security issue. In response, the Mongolian government announced in early 2008 the “Third Crop Campaign,” to be implemented from 2008 to 2010 with a goal of intensifying development of arable land and creating the legal and economic conditions for farming and eliminating dependence on imports (Didier and Lkhamjav 2009).
This campaign and plans to develop crop-based agriculture in general, threaten biodiversity in a number of ways:
(1) habitat conversion;
(2) reduced water availability;
(3) land degradation through desertification and erosion;
(4) species mortality through pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers;
(5) introduction of invasive species; and
(6) fragmentation of habitat and migration routes due to fences and transport networks (Didier and Lkhamjav 2009).
Even if the area directly impacted by cultivation is initially small, the indirect effects can be substantial.
Of course this is not as bad as the factory farming of USA. And the disgusting cruelty the animals are exposed to. Such unhealthy meat to eat.
Linear infrastructure: Roads, railways and power transmission lines required to support national development, especially extractive industries, lead to direct mortality of wildlife and fragment habitats and populations (see 3.4). Roads also facilitate transport of illegal goods. The east-west Millennium Road under construction, which goes from Ulaanbaatar to China through the Eastern Steppe, will bisect Mongolian gazelle habitat and disrupt migration, threatening fragmentation of populations and decreased genetic diversity within herds (Chimed-Ochir et al 2010). Numerous north-south roads and mining-related railways are in the government’s investment plans for road and rail development (BirdLife 2009).
Hydroelectric power:Demand for electricity in Mongolia has resulted in several new hydroelectric dams in the last few decades. While preferable in many ways to coal-powered plants, poor planning and little mitigation of some dams has resulted in the drying up of lakes, streams, and critical wetland sites, with adverse impacts on fish and bird species (Chimed-Ochir et al 2010). Other impacts of infrastructure cited above are also present.
Dams also change a large area of the environment by flooding it. As well as affect the geo-stability of the region. Thus so many earthquakes around the Three River Gorge Dam and others.
Water Pollution: Lack of sanitation in city centers and effluent from industry have polluted many rivers and lakes in the last several decades, killing fish and their predators. Mercury from artisanal mining operations is a particular concern (see more information above). One of Mongolia’s more unique threats is to Lake Hovsgol, where traffic on the ice during the winter has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of vehicles breaking through the ice. As recently as February 2011, two oil tanker trucks broke through, though fortunately both were recovered intact (Jacob 2011). Driving on the ice is a legal and expeditious route for vehicles below a certain weight, but the law is routinely ignored and most casualties result from overweight vehicles. Better management of this seasonal route or improvements to the usual land route are needed to avert an ecological disaster. Water stays in Lake Hovsgol for an estimated 300 to 600 years before flowing into biologically significant Lake Baikal and beyond, with pollution accumulating without significant dilution.
Tourism: Tourism operations have steadily increased over the last two decades in Mongolia. Tourism can be an important source of revenue for conservation and provide local benefits through jobs and souvenir sales, but has not been managed with conservation in mind. As the number of visitors to protected areas increases, adverse impacts on wildlife and natural habitats become more likely (Chimed-Ochir et al 2010). Tourism infrastructure is already too dense and not well planned in some protected areas (BirdLife Asia 2009)..
Thats why FANG is prod to create the: Eco-Tour!!!
Fire Both forested and steppe regions of Mongolia are prone to fires, especially during periods of high temperature and low precipitation. It is estimated that over 90 percent of these fires are caused by humans, with devastating impacts on local flora and fauna (Farukh et al 2009). While some are accidental – combustion of grass in tailpipes of vehicles on the Eastern Steppe, for example – herders are known to set spring and summer fires to produce a “green flush” of grass for their livestock. With climate change and a drying of forest and steppe, fires are likely to become more frequent and extensive in the future.
Like Smoky the Bear says "Only you can prevent forest fires"
But lets hear an applause for the brave Forest Rangers and Fire-Fighters!