Mongolia’s Mining Controversies and the Politics of Place
Sarah Combellick-Bidney in J. Dierkes, ed. Change in Democratic Mongolia – Social Relations, Health, Mobile Pastoralism, and Mining Leiden: Brill.
Controversies about mining are not new to Mongolia, and they are never static. There are always new turning points, and earlier controversies provide essential context for understanding current developments on the mining front. This study follows a critical juncture in the mining controversies of 2007, when negotiations on Oyu Tolgoi were stalled and newspapers and magazines covered wide-ranging debates about the role of mining in Mongolia’s future. This case study of development discourse among Mongolian politicians, NGO leaders, businessmen and scholars highlights the ways in which critics were able to erode the legitimacy of the contracts and expand the conversation to include a variety of other options. While the rhetoric of global development casts mining as a standard means of achieving economic development, domestic critics in Mongolia representing a wide range of interests engaged in the ‘politics of place’ to raise questions about the effects of ‘big mining’ on their society and their land. Both the government of Mongolia and the mining sector proved to be more susceptible to such questions than investors had predicted.