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OECD Complaint Filed Against Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines in Mongolia

Catherine Coumans Ph.D., Research Coordinator and Asia-Pacific regional program coordinator.

On March 31, 2010, the Government of Mongolia signed an investment agreement with Rio Tinto International Holdings Limited and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. for the development of a massive gold/copper mine.

On April 1, 2010, MiningWatch Canada and Britain’s Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) assisted the Mongolian organization OT Watch in filing complaints in the United Kingdom and Canada against Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe for alleged breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. OT Watch is the lead Mongolian complainant acting on behalf of the Centre for Citizens’ Alliance, the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Steppes without Borders, Drastic Change Movement, and National Soyombo Movement.

The companies in question are developing the Oyu Tolgoi project located in the fragile ecosystem of the South Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In the absence of an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment and water study, Mongolian civil society groups fear that the mine will reduce the quality and availability of water, threaten Mongolia’s wildlife and biodiversity, and decrease the amount of pasture on which the country’s traditional nomadic population depends for its survival.

On April 23, 2010, Mongolian NGOs appealed to John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, to urge the Mongolian government to oblige Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe to undertake a more thorough environmental impact assessment and water study and review the benefits-sharing arrangements in the government/company Investment Agreement. The appeal to John Ruggie followed demonstrations and hunger strikes by Mongolians concerned about the impacts of the proposed mine project on their lives.