Every activity in the lifecycle of a mine, from exploration to site remediation, has an environmental impact which all teams strive to reduce to ensure that the environmental footprint is kept as small as possible.

Before the project begins: Environmental baseline

The environmental baseline study covers geology, geography, hydrology and climate conditions as well as biological diversity, soil and vegetation characteristics of the project site. It also includes local socio-economic aspects.

The environmental and socio-economic baseline study at the Zuuvch Ovoo exploration site was completed in 2012 by Eco Trade LLC.

South Gobi Water & Mining Industry Roundtable

Members share good practises

Badrakh Energy joined the "South Gobi Water & Mining Industry Roundtable" working group in April 2018.

This group is coordinated by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank (IFC) and promoted by the ICMM International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM).

Its objective is to assess and propose solutions for managing the risks related to water resources in the area where mining activities are conducted in the Gobi Desert.

The working group meets four times a year to pool knowledge relating to the usage of water by mining companies, to share best practices in water management, and to understand the expectations of the local government authorities and population. Its approach is also focused on providing the local population and authorities with training and communicating with them. Local authorities are directly engaged in discussions.

Groundwater and aquifer in the Zuuvch Ovoo area

Advanced exploration began in 2011 for Zuuvch Ovoo. This involves detailed delineation of the mineralization in order to measure the quantity, grade, and geometry of the uranium ore bodies, as well as hydro geological studies and geological environment. Water is a vital natural resource. Understanding where it is and how it moves under the ground is essential in protecting this resource. By using geological maps and taking samples of underground and surface water for analysis, hydrogeologists are building a detailed picture of how water flows underground.

  • Aquifers are underground permeable layers that are mostly made of sand, where groundwater is stored and moves slowly over time
  • Groundwater is part of the water cycle and is heavily dependent on the climate
  • Groundwater conditions in the Zuuvch Ovoo area have been studied since 2006 through a network of 200 monitoring wells
  • The groundwater is not suitable for drinking, according to national and international standards
  • This poor groundwater quality is partially due to the fact that groundwater has been slowly interacting with minerals in the aquifer over thousand years

During the project development stage

Detailed environmental impact assessment

In March 2016, the Professional Council of the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism approved the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) of the Zuuvch Ovoo pilot project.

Four phases of the study:

  • production technology study,
  • environmental baseline study,
  • field study,
  • data processing.

The assessment covered the studies of radiation, chemicals, residues, soil, air, fauna and flora, noise, surface and ground water quality, hydrology, public health and socio-economic conditions.

Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring is maintained and reinforced from construction to operation, and an environment management system is applied on site. Mechanisms are set to systematically monitor the food chain, soil, water and air surrounding sites, particularly in areas that are near to those in which people live, work and travel.

Environmental monitoring

Best international practices: Environmental monitoring program with communities

Each year an environmental monitoring program is put in place to check the quality of air, soil, water and preservation of biodiversity.

sessions of Participative monitoring conducted since 2013

Participative environmental monitoring has been successfully implemented since 2013 on a trilateral cooperation basis between COGEGOBI (ex-AREVA’s exploration subsidiary in Mongolia), local authorities and citizens from Zuunbayan bag of Sainshand sum and Ulaanbadrakh sum of Dornogobi aimag. This practice was extended to Badrakh Energy's pilot project.

Badrakh Energy organizes a participative environmental monitoring program with local citizens within the framework of the pilot. The water samples are extracted from six spots across the territory of Argalant, Bayanbogd and Zuunbayan bags and sent to be analyzed in the Central Geological Laboratory and Nuclear Research Centre Laboratory chosen by local people. Radioactivity measurements are also made in the field. Results are presented and reported to the stakeholders.

Badrakh Energy LLC was once awarded as “Best Practice” by the workshop entitled “Best Practice on the Participatory Environmental Monitoring” held in April 2019 by the Ministry for Environment and Tourism of Mongolia.

Remediation work and environmental care

During the development of the project, the eventual closure of the mine is anticipated and integrated into the planning as early as the exploration stage.

Pilot drilling uses clay and biodegradable components to prevent the borehole from collapsing. The used mud is stored afterwards in dedicated ponds entirely closed and constantly monitored to ensure that the impact on the environment is minimized.

The remediation work is inspected and validated by company’s environment protection team before the official environmental inspection and delivery of conformity certifications.

The ground is levelled in such a way as to make the landscape similar to its original state. This work also involves making sure that vegetation is able to grow again.

The Zuuvch Ovoo pilot well field of 3 ha will be brought back as closely as possible to its initial state with the re-filling of its wells, the removal of piping and cables and landscape re-shaping. The industrial facilities will be secured, the equipment dismantled, the buildings pulled down and the industrial zone territory planted with vegetation. The monitoring program will continue after the remediation works.

Before (2014) and After (2015) drilling

Monitoring & Remediation work control

Every year Badrakh Energy submits its environmental monitoring plans and the remediation work carried out systematically on completion of exploration activities to the Ministry of the Environment and Tourism. These action plans are audited by local authorities and then by the regional environmental protection department before the Annual Environmental Monitoring Report is submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

In 2017, Badrakh Energy obtained the best score for objectives fulfillment among mining companies (87% vs 70% average). This score was given by the Dornogobi Region Commission.

Case studies

  • Case Study 1: Saxaoul Compensation project

    As part of the preparation of the Zuuvch Ovoo ISR pilot site, the detailed environmental impact study determined that a number of saxaouls situated in the pilot area would be impacted. The Orano Mining subsidiary in Mongolia, Badrakh Energy, opted for unique compensation.

    Upstream of the project, the majority of the facilities will be built outside the high density saxaoul zones and Badrakh Energy will ensure strict management of the tracks.

    The company has proposed replanting saxaouls on a surface equivalent to that affected by the pilot. The compensation measure will be carried out in an area close to the pilot and compatible with the sustainable recovery of the trees, in a location chosen in agreement with the stakeholders and respecting local traditions. Thus, in order to create a positive societal and environmental dynamic, stakeholders will be involved and the work will be carried out by local companies and professionals specialising in the replanting of trees in arid regions.

  • Case study 2: Site remediation after exploration drilling
    Dulaan Uul test remediation

    Drilling mud consists of clay and biodegradable components such as bentonite and polymer. This mud is injected during drilling to prevent the borehole from collapsing. It is stored according to need in a mud tank near the drill rigs. Once the drilling is finalized, the remediation will be performed following the below steps. The quality of remediation works gives to us the possibility to minimize as reasonably possible the impact on the environment.

    The remediation of the borehole surrounding is done as per the following steps:

    • When drilling ends, the mud used for drilling cleaning contained in the mud tank which is 1X1 m in size and 1.2 m deep is pumped out, transported and disposed of in a mud pit
    • The backfilling and ground levelling is made manually in such a way as to make the landscape similar to its original shape
    • The regeneration of vegetation is monitored on the annual basis and necessary data is registered on the electronic database
    • The mud tank is closed and backfilled with soil came from drilling

The carrying out of remediation works

The environment officer officially receives the implementation of the remediation works in accordance with the form containing the following information for each borehole:

  • The number and name of the licensed area
  • The contractor name and the reference letter given by the drilling team
  • The coordinates and reference number of the borehole
  • The start and finish date of the drilling
  • The technical information regarding the borehole
  • The area remediation work is performed
  • The control of the contamination and waste (leakage, impact on the vegetation cover)
  • The conclusion on the implementation of the remediation works
  • The pictures made before, during drilling and after remediation, and information on the measures of the radioactivity background

Once this information is registered on the environment electronic database, we consider the remediation works are completed. 

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