Horses, Mongolia


We work hard to leave a lasting, positive legacy everywhere we work

We partner with local communities and continually work to develop more responsible ways to explore, mine, and process the minerals and metals essential to everyday life, including the materials – like copper – needed to build a low-carbon economy.

Creating opportunities for host communities

We recognise the Oyu Tolgoi mine must benefit nearby communities and contribute to Mongolia’s prosperity. We strive to employ local people, buy local products and engage local services.

Oyu Tolgoi maintains a dedicated national procurement policy focused on promoting and developing a safe and sustainable local supply chain, which includes the “Made in Mongolia” strategy.

Between 2010 and the second quarter of 2021, Oyu Tolgoi spent US$744 million on procurement from the Umnugovi province. And in the first half of 2021, 85 local suppliers provided goods and services to Oyu Tolgoi.

Oyu Tolgoi is partnering with German international development agency GIZ and the Umnugovi Aimag to run a capacity building program or businesses on topics such as health and safety, business integrity and management, financial literacy and lean manufacturing. Since 2018, OT has hosted 266 training sessions with more than 3,500 participants from more than 450 small and medium size businesses – 58% of whom were women.

Oyu Tolgoi’s workforce is 96% Mongolian citizens, 25% of which are from the Umnugovi Aimag. To increase local employment, we have established the Umnugobi Job Seekers Information and Skills Database, providing human resource counseling and training to local job seekers, and highlight vacancies advertised by contractors.

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Community development fund

Since 2015, the Gobi Oyu Development Support Fund has provided MNT 65.3 billion (U$27 million) of funding and supported more than 273 projects and programs. These address a range of socio-economic challenges in the community – such as healthcare, transport, education (like this school and kindergarten complex), food processing, agriculture and heating. There are working groups in place to ensure local procurement and local employment are important factors in the investments.

The Cooperation Agreement

In April 2015, Oyu Tolgoi signed a Cooperation Agreement with Umnugovi aimag (province) and the soums (towns) of Khanbogd, Manlai, Bayan-Ovoo and Dalanzadgad, to ensure long-term collaboration and partnership.

The Cooperation Agreement sets out how Oyu Tolgoi and its partner communities will work together towards sustainable development in areas such as water, environment, pastureland management, cultural heritage, tourism, local business development and procurement.

The main goal of the agreement is to provide a strong governance structure for Oyu Tolgoi and local communities for effective cooperation and to address mutual obligations. Under the agreement, Oyu Tolgoi will make a contribution of US$5 million every year to a Development Support Fund (DSF) – administered jointly between Oyu Tolgoi and the Community – for community programs and projects in the Umnugovi aimag.

The Cooperation Agreement is a requirement under the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement (OTIA) and the Mongolian Minerals Law.

Protecting cultural heritage

We recognise the cultural, spiritual and physical connections that Indigenous people often have with land, water, plants and animals.

Long before we start to mine, we do cultural and environmental studies to understand the area. We work with local people who live there, work there and know the land. Wherever we can, we avoid disturbing cultural heritage sites. We employ archaeologists and scientists, and partner with universities, government and Indigenous organisations to find new and better ways to preserve cultural heritage and reduce our impact.

Where we have to disturb land, we consult with those for whom the cultural heritage site has significance. We work with them to preserve its value – for example by relocating artefacts – and we make sure we rehabilitate the land the right way afterwards. Where possible, we also enable Indigenous peoples to maintain access to sites of cultural significance to maintain their connection and customary practices.

We continue this engagement throughout the life of a project or operation, as communities’ cultural heritage concerns can change over time, and new ones can appear in relation to new developments or processes. At Oyu Tolgoi, in Mongolia, we have established a cultural heritage management system (CHMS) to meet our cultural heritage management commitments. CHMS outlines various processes to ensure the management and protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

We are listening, learning and changing

Following the destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia, we know we have work to do to rebuild people’s trust in us. The destruction of the rock shelters should never have happened. We are listening, learning and making the changes necessary to make sure it does not happen again.

Walking with dinosaurs

90 million years ago, in Shar Tsav, Mongolia, a river ran through what is now desert. The water attracted a host of dinosaurs who came there to drink, graze, and hunt.

Water resources in the southern Gobi desert

In 1995, palaeontologists from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (MAS) and Japan’s Hayashibara Museum of Natural Science exploring in the Shar Tsav area made an astonishing discovery. Thanks to a fluke of nature, some 18,000 of those dinosaurs’ footsteps had been preserved in rock.

The dinosaur footprint area is an incredibly important palaeontological site for Mongolia – and for the world – and since 2010, we have been collaborating with the Palaeontology Centre at MAS to help conserve it.

As part of Oyu Tolgoi’s Cultural Heritage Management Programme, we are partnering on a programme of activities to protect this rare find for the future, and to share it with the world, by helping develop tourism in the area.

The first phase of the programme saw Oyu Tolgoi invest MNT413 million (US$145,000). This funding was used to develop a cultural heritage management plan for the site, and to build a fence that protects the area where around 80% of the footprints are found. As Shar Tsav is in such a remote part of the desert, there was no water source previously, so the funding was also used to drill a well that provides water for the security guards, the researchers and the visitors to the site.

The Oyu Tolgoi-funded Gobi Oyu Development Support Fund (DSF) has gone on to fund the implementation of the cultural heritage management plan. As part of this, open air walkways, an observation deck and small museum were built, and the investment has also helped pay for further research and exploration on the footprints. Since 2015, the MAS Palaeontology Centre has been partnering with tour operators in the Gobi region – and both domestic and international tourists now come to see the dinosaurs’ movements frozen in time.

Caring for the environment

We are aware that the Gobi Desert includes areas of environmental importance, and we recognise the local community’s concerns about potential impacts on the ecosystems in and around Oyu Tolgoi – including protecting the region’s precious water resources.

We know we must manage the water resources carefully and make sure we don’t impact local supplies. Oyu Tolgoi is carefully stewarding the region’s scarce water resources to ensure the long-term future of the mine, natural environmental systems and local herder livelihoods.

The Oyu Tolgoi team identified the Gunii Hooloi aquifer, a 150 metre deep resource holding around 6.8 billion cubic metres of non-drinkable saline water. The operation goes to great lengths to use its allocation from this water source efficiently with water recycling and conservation practices implemented throughout the operation resulting in Oyu Tolgoi having a design water efficiency of approximately half the industry average.

With the operation expansion over the period 2019-2023 including the development and commissioning of the underground, Oyu Tolgoi will aim to maintain average annual water use efficiency below 550L/tonne of ore processing in concentrator over this next target period.

Working with herders to conserve water in the Gobi Desert

The way we manage water resources at our Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia is of great importance to the local Khanbogd herders, whose livelihoods depend on it.

Herders rely on shallow groundwater springs and wells for their animals

Water is precious in the arid South Gobi region, which receives on average 97 mm of rainfall each year. Local herders rely on shallow sources of groundwater from springs and wells for their animals. And we use water to produce copper, which is used in everything from computers and smartphones to solar panels and electric cars.

Our Oyu Tolgoi team goes to great lengths to use its allocated water efficiently, and balance our needs with those of the local community. To find a sustainable source of water, that would not impact local supplies, we surveyed the area seeking a new underground water supply. The work uncovered the Gunii Hooloi aquifer – which was more than 150-metres deep, holding around 6.8 billion cubic metres of non-drinkable saline water.

We also work with herders, local people and the government to protect the water in boreholes, existing wells and other community water supplies. One way we do this is through our community water monitoring program – we monitor the levels and quality of water in herders’ hand-dug wells, and local herders make their own water records for comparison. The data has shown there has been no negative impact on the wells from the mine’s operations.

We have also invested in recycling and conservation practices that make Oyu Tolgoi one of the most water efficient mines of its kind in the world. More than 80% of the water used in production is recycled, and on average Oyu Tolgoi uses 520 litres of water to process a tonne of ore – around half the industry average.

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Independently verified, responsibly produced

Independent industry stewardship programs help assure our customers of our responsible value chain. Our Kennecott and Oyu Tolgoi copper operations have been awarded the Copper Mark, the copper industry’s independently assessed responsible production program. Kennecott has also been awarded the Molybdenum Mark, an application of the same rigorous framework to molybdenum producers - molybdenum is a copper mining byproduct and a vital material in clean energy technologies and sustainable construction practices. These 2 certifications demonstrate our continued commitment to responsible production as we find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.