Increased Mining in Mongolia Could Threaten Environment

Say “Mongolia” and most people think of yaks and yurts — that is, if they think of anything. But these days, mining companies have a very different image of Mongolia: an untapped source of gold, copper, and other natural resources that can be exploited on the cheap and sold to neighboring China. In the last two years, mining exploration has taken off in Mongolia, with the number of prospecting licenses tripling to 3,000 and the number of production licenses skyrocketing from a few dozen to about 650. “I see nothing but good in Mongolia’s future,” said Victor Collinge of Cameco, a Canadian mining company. But environmentalists see something else: potential contamination from toxic mine byproducts and the threat of protected land being opened to mining interests.