Continuous environmental monitoring
The objective is to minimize the impact of mining activities on the environment as far as reasonably possible. Soil, water, air, fauna and flora are all monitored on a regular basis.
Environmental monitoring programs
The exploration sites are located in the Great Gobi Desert. For every exploration license, an environmental monitoring program is put in place to keep track of the impacts on the environment in the area where exploration is being carried out. Each program is reviewed and approved by the Mongolian Government and so far exploration activities have had no impact requiring corrective action.
The exploration area has a variety of soil types, in particular a pale brown desert soil, along with gravel-like desert sand. This soil contains little humus and does not hold moisture very well. The ravines and depressions around the lakes in the northern part have the uneven brown soil characteristic of the semi-arid steppe meadows, and there are also areas of salt marshes.
In order to monitor soil conditions in the areas covered by its exploration licenses, COGEGOBI has identified points that are representative of the overall area where it is working. Samples are regularly taken from these locations and analyzed. The results of these analyses show that so far exploration work has had no impact on soil conditions.
COGEGOBI has selected sampling locations across the licensed sites in the Sainshand region for the purpose of monitoring radioactivity in the soil. To ensure effective sampling, the locations were chosen based on their suitability for calculating changes in soil movement perpendicular to the prevailing wind. Soil samples taken from these locations are sent for chemical and radioactive element analysis.
Site water characteristics
The exploration site does not have open rivers and streams, although there are many salt marshes in the northern part of the site. Usually these take the form of dry beds, except for short periods after rainfall when the water gathers in small depressions to form the lakes and marshes.
At the feet of the dunes, rainwater sometimes resurges in the form of springs. The local residents draw this water from manually-operated wells that are 2 to 8 meters deep on average, and this water is also used for livestock. There are a few deep manual wells in the study site.
The water in aquifers containing deposits like those found in Zoovch Ovoo and Dulaan Uul is always highly mineralized as uranium is never present in isolation. In this kind of geology, uranium is always accompanied by metals, sulfides and salts
Each year, a surface water and groundwater monitoring program is implemented in the areas covered by its exploration licenses to assess water quality and track its stability. Protection and monitoring measures ensure that the exploration work is not having an impact on water quality.
Monitoring involves taking samples from sites and the surrounding area to analyze water quality. Sites are also inspected by an independent auditor, who certifies that the environmental management system meets all required standards. The management of natural resources such as aquifers is a major concern for the group.
There are piezometers, groundwater pressure measurement devices, in place across the licensed sites in the Sainshand region to measure the chemical properties and pressure of the water present in the ground. This means that water samples can be taken, allowing the chemistry and radioactivity of the water to be analyzed.
In 2013, COGEGOBI set up a joint monitoring program in which the public authorities and local population also participate. This three-party initiative encourages dialogue and the sharing of information during the environmental monitoring process, which is carried out in a transparent and open manner.
Water recycling technology for drilling
The water-recycling technology usually used in wide-diameter drilling (oil and water drilling) has been modified for exploration drilling in Mongolia. The method reduces the cuttings removed from the borehole and makes it possible to re-circulate the drilling solution, pouring it back into the borehole. It can therefore be used without replacement for a long period while drilling the same number of meters.
Compared to the old method, which used numerous sumps, this method reduces the water volume, the use of natural clay, bentonite, and biodegradable components such as polymers needed for the drilling solution by:
- 60% when drilling 0 - 100 meters,
- 50% when drilling 100 - 150 meters,
- 40% when drilling 150 - 200 meters,
- 30% when drilling 200 - 400 meters.
Air quality monitoring
To monitor air quality, dust measurements are regularly carried out in each exploration area. The results are in line with current health standards.
For example, in March and May 2012, field measurements and studies were conducted, taking measurements and samples in a total of 302 locations. This made it possible to determine the concentration of large and small dust particles in the air, noise levels and the concentration of contaminants in the area.
A commitment to preserving biodiversity
AREVA is committed to preserving biodiversity. To standardize its practices and better take biodiversity into account throughout the mining cycle, a specific biodiversity strategy is currently being drawn up and dedicated reporting methods are being studied.
AREVA also participates in working groups with the French Federation of Ores, Industrial Minerals and Nonferrous Metals (FEDEM) and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). This contribution enables AREVA to share the best practices of the sector and foster thinking on new tools and stakeholder discussions.
COGEGOBI personnel and subcontractors maintain an inventory of animal life in the areas in which they work, recording species numbers for insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. All activities are organized to minimize their footprint on the local fauna.
The region is relatively rich in fauna, with ungulates such as argali sheep, wild asses, white gazelles, goitered gazelles and ibexes; predators such as wolves, lynxes, foxes, corsac foxes, Pallas’s cats, steppe polecats and badgers; birds such as vultures, eagles, harriers, kites, crows, great bustards, cranes, hawks, sparrows, doves, Pallas’s sandgrouse, Mongolian ground jays and hoopoes; reptiles such as snakes and lizards, and rodents such as hamsters, five-toed jerboas and mice.
In particular, the area surrounding the site has the distinction of being home to argali sheep, ibexes, lynxes and wild asses, all listed in the Red Book as rare animals of the world.
The most common families of plants in the exploration areas are all monitored. This involves drawing up an inventory of plants and identifying the main characteristics of the vegetation such as its coverage, abundance and composition of plant families.
Site flora characteristics
The exploration area belongs to the semi-arid steppe zone according to the geographic vegetation classification system of Mongolia. Vegetation cover is sparse due to the scarcity of moisture and the presence of strong winds, and is dominated by drought-resistant shrubs and grassy plants adapted to the local conditions. Elms and poplars grow along the banks of temporary river beds.
Monitoring representative locations
COGEGOBI has selected locations from across the licensed sites in the Sainshand region for the purpose of monitoring chemical composition and radioactivity in plants. These locations were selected to be representative of local species of flora and are perpendicular to the wind to ensure effective sampling. Monitoring is carried out by sending samples of the plants at these locations for analysis.
Preserving the saxaul
The saxaul is an evergreen tree that takes a century to grow to a height of 4 meters. With its long roots, the tree plays a vital role in preventing dune erosion. In addition, its wood is an essential source of heating in the country as well as being used in construction.
The tree’s presence is also crucial for local wildlife. Although site activities require the removal of some saxauls, AREVA’s policy is to ensure they are replanted. To this end, it has an agreement with the local people of the Ulanbadrakh soum in the Dornogobi aimag to run a joint planting program to replant saxauls. Work began on the program on June 22, 2013, and the project will see almost 2000 saplings planted in the region.
Mining and saxauls
Discover how the company is doing everything possible to minimize the impact of mining on the environment through various programs, including site rehabilitation and replanting.