The Big Dig

Mongolia is the next target for the world’s biggest copper mines. The Oyu Tolgoi mine currently under construction in the South Gobi Desert is a combined open-pit and underground mine due to start operations in the next few months, which alone will account for 30 percent of Mongolia’s entire “GDP”. But the Oyu Tolgoi deal between the Mongolian government and the massive Australian mining company Rio Tinto is truly indicative — Mongolia gets just 34 percent, while Rio Tinto is exempt from a profits tax and receives open access to scarce desert aquifers and the provisioning of water to people living close to land that the mining company now ‘owns’. Has this rapid mining-driven growth come at the expense of nature and the local way of life?