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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Environmental monitoring system
The work is according to the triple environmental monitoring system:
- We produce the annual environmental monitoring and management plan and secure the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The local environment and tourism department supervises the implementation of this plan, whereas the environmental specialists of the company are in charge of achieving this plan.
- We are continuing to carry out environmental monitoring every year after the technological ISR pilot that was done in 2010-2011.
- The environmental monitoring program, with the participation of the local governance and representatives of citizens, has continued since 2013.
The environmental activities are inspected, verified and evaluated in two types every year according to the management plan:
- Works done on the site
- Works required by the law as part of the activities of the company, which holds meetings to discuss and assess the planned works.
Environmental research and analysis
Environmental research and analysis actions carried out since 2017:
- State of the quality of the sites in Zuunbayan of Sainshand soum, Dornogobi province, Dulaan-Uul in Ulaanbadrakh soum and near Dulaan, Zuuvch-Ovoo, Uushiin Govi, Umnut and Bogd Uul
- Report of the study on species, population, migration, movement and habitat of ungulates (mammals) and birds
- Report of the environmental audit at the uranium project implemented by Badrakh Energy LLC
- Justification and plan of establishing the tree cultivation site and carrying out the reforestation through planting of saxauls in pots.
According to the monitoring results, no negative environmental impact has been identified from Badrakh Energy’s operation of the project.
Monitoring of radiation
Monitoring of radon in the air
Badrakh Energy, which engages in radiationrelated activities, follows the requirement of “monitoring the concentration of aerosols and radioactive gas in the workplaces and other facilities of the organization” and has performed monitoring of radon in the air either every two weeks, every month and every two months, depending on the risk levels. For example, in a warehouse of uranium charged resins where radon cumulation can be the highest, the highest result registered is 149 Bq/m3. This figure is 7 times lower than 1110 Bq/m3, which is the maximum authorized limit for people working with radioactivity.
Monitoring of radiation in the environment
Badrakh Energy commissioned the Nuclear Research Laboratory and the Central Geological Laboratory to perform an analysis of radioactive isotopes and heavy metals in the soil, groundwater and surface water to monitor the background radiation level in the environment, comparing it with the permissible level under the relevant standard and making an observation.
A precious natural resource, water is essential to the well-being of the communities and environment where Badrakh Energy LLC operates, as well as to the smooth running of its mining operations
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
South Gobi Water & Mining Industry Roundtable
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.
Reducing impact on biodiversity
To deal with the erosion of biodiversity related to mining projects, the “mitigation hierarchy”, also known as the “avoid – minimize – remediate/ restore – offset” sequence, is implemented from the first phases of the project, in accordance with the recommendations of the environmental impact studies.
Our objective is to work towards no net loss of biodiversity. Although the impact on the environment from the project is very small, the company is taking steps to reduce the impact on biodiversity from the work on the site by:
- Reducing the area of any new work site in the field to as small as possible
- Preventing unintentional spill from vehicles and hence pollution of the soil
Taking preventive and protective actions such as protecting and isolating the flora, namely, the saxaul plant, on the project site
Mining operations require the development of infrastructure (supply of energy, roads, facilities) for the processing of uranium ore which has an impact on the natural environment which has to be assessed, minimized and controlled.
In order to anticipate risks, remediation is taken into account right from the exploration and development phases of mining projects. Although some remediation work is carried throughout the active period, most of the technical work takes place when mining operations cease.
The employment-related and social implications of the closure of a site are taken into account as far upstream as possible in coordination with the competent authorities and in consultation with all internal and external stakeholders.
Optimal planning and implementation of the rehabilitation works plays a crucial role in maintaining the confidence of local communities, authorities and all stakeholders involved. It is key to the long-term acceptability of our activities and our «license to operate» in the communities and in the host countries where we are made welcome.
Remediation plan for the project:
- Well field: filing in of wes, dsmanting ofthe surface faites and rehabilitation of land
- Industrial facilities: dismanting, demotion and rehabiltation of land
- Water table: restoration by natural mitigation, based on various hydrogeological studies and studies demonstrating the effectiveness of natural mitigation with regard to the aqufers ofthe areas mined
- Revegetation: Plantation of Saxauls (protected local trees) in rehabiltated areas and in neighboring areas as part of an environmental offset project
- Ongoing monitoring of water tables through a network of piezometers 88
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 2020, Badrakh energy obtained the 90% score of fulfilment of its environmental management plan
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.
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