Continuous environmental monitoring

Environmental monitoring in Mongolia

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.

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Soil monitoring

Soil characteristics

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.

Sampling

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.

 

Sampling locations

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.

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Water monitoring

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

Monitoring program

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.

WATER SAMPLING

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.

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.
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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.

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A commitment to preserving biodiversity

COGEGOBI 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.

Monitoring fauna

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.

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.

video

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.

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Participatory environmental monitoring

The participatory environmental monitoring program  launched in 2013, is an opportunity to hold transparent discussions on the field with local people about the company’s potential environmental impacts. It aims at increasing mutual understanding and confidence  between all stakeholders (local population, local authorities, and AREVA Mongol and COGEGOBI) by providing, transparent, reliable and scientifically proven information.

The local  citizens and herders from Zuunbayan bag and Ulaanbadrakh soum and AREVA Mongol and COGEGOBI employees carry out joint sampling and monitoring activities on  herder’s water well selected for the year.   2 separate  samples of water are taken from each location and sent to independent laboratories for analysis. Results from the analysis and the comparison are then presented to participants and during Local Cooperation Committee meetings. 

Protection of the environment and rehabilitation