Authors: Myagmarsuren, D; Boldbaatar, T; Oidovdanzan, E

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Myagmarsuren, D, Boldbaatar, T & Oidovdanzan, E 2023, 'Navigating change: Lessons learned from engaging stakeholders regarding the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine subsidence and river diversion project', in B Abbasi, J Parshley, A Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2023: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,

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The Oyu Tolgoi underground mine is one of the largest copper-gold mines in the world, situated in the southern Gobi Desert region of Mongolia. The mine has an expected lifespan of over 50 years, and is likely to become one of the top copper – gold producers globally. For the underground mining operation, Oyu Tolgoi adopts the block caving method, which entails undermining ore and allowing it to collapse under its own weight. The mining project has had a notable impact on the Mongolian economy, generating employment opportunities and making significant contributions to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). Nonetheless, this project has encountered several challenges concerning its possible environmental and social impacts. One of the potential environmental, and social impacts of the block caving method used in underground mining is subsidence. Advanced geotechnical data modeling suggests that there is a high risk associated with rock mass movement and the following formation of a subsidence zone at the surface of the underground mine. At the Oyu Tolgoi site, it is anticipated that this subsidence would continue until 2042, requiring a river diversion project to mitigate its environmental effects. Furthermore, the Oyu Tolgoi mine site is situated within a sensitive ecosystem, and there have been vocalized concerns about the impacts mining might have on water resources, land use, and biodiversity. Disputes with local communities could be raised over compensation, transparent communication, and the loss of natural and cultural heritage due to the risk the subsidence poses. Therefore, understanding the potential risk of a subsidence is an important consideration in the mine closure planning process, and appropriate measures should be taken to mitigate the potential impact of subsidence on the environment, the community, and the safety of mine closure activities. To inform the involved stakeholders about the knowledge and impacts of the subsidence and the related river diversion project, a team of national experts has been working with the Oyu Tolgoi Department of Community Relations. The team will verify the findings found within the technical studies from the international expert team and explain them in simple, non-technical jargon to community stakeholders. The paper highlights the importance of effective communication with stakeholders, its challenges and the need for transparency throughout the project. It also explores the challenges of engaging with diverse groups, including local communities and herder families. The role of the expert team in building trust and understanding is discussed. And innovative methods, such as participatory mapping, communication planning and community meetings, are highlighted to involve stakeholders in the decision-making. The lessons learned from this project can be applied to other mining projects in Mongolia and abroad facing similar challenges. By prioritizing stakeholder engagement and community involvement, mining companies can build stronger relationships with the local community and create more sustainable outcomes with the help of an external team of experts. This paper contributes to the conference theme of community and change by emphasizing the importance of collaboration and communication in navigating the impacts of mining on local communities.

Keywords: underground mine, mine closure, community and change, subsidence, stakeholder engagement 

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