SMI researchers, finding a sustainable balance for herders and Mining in Mongolia
20 December 2013

The dramatic expansion of Mongolian mine sites from initial diggings to their present size has been captured using satellite imagery for the first time by researchers at The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI).

The two videos show satellite footage of the mine sites, the surrounding urbanisation, new roads and illegal small-scale or ‘ninja’ mining sites.

Produced by Phill McKenna at SMI’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, using Landsat satellite imagery of Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the South Gobi Desert and Sharyn Gol in the Northern steppe region of Mongolia.

“The videos cover an approximate 40 year time series that depicts the growth and scale of impacts from mining,” said Mr McKenna.

“Satellite imagery is rarely used to map the growth of a mine site over such an extended period of time, so these videos are really unique education tools for researchers and the community.”

UQ SMI Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) Project Manager Isabel Cane said the videos would be used to study changes to herder community livelihoods through social changes stimulated directly and indirectly by ecological impacts.

“The images visually display the mine-related environmental impacts that these sites are facing, and provide insights into the effects the mines are having on local communities,” Ms Cane said.

She added that the videos would contribute to the broader goals of the research: to demonstrate changes in natural resources and to assist in predicting future sustainable development objectives for the affected communities.

The images are the first product of a two-year Australian aid project funded through the Australian Development Research Awards Scheme (ADRAS) entitled ‘Managing the impacts of minerals development on women and men and their traditional livelihoods in Mongolia’.

The ADRAS project is part of a new Mongolia Research Hub focused on sustainable development in Mongolia.

It brings together current CSRM research in Mongolia, with information on the country and its rapidly developing mining sector.

 “The Hub will be a portal to access new outputs from expanding research on Mongolian mining and help build Australian engagement with the development potential in that country,” Ms Cane said.

The Australian Government has recognised Mongolia as a priority country in mining for development, with the aim to ensure that mining revenue is distributed equitably, and that social and environmental impacts are managed well.

The CSRM currently has four research projects in Mongolia, partnering with such organisations as the International Mining for Development Centre (an Australian aid initiative), the Sirolli Institute, and other Mongolian stakeholders.

Find out more

Media: Isabel Cane, Mongolia Research Hub Project Manager, Phone 07 3346 4042, Email Anna Moloney, SMI Communications Manager, Phone 07 3346 4233, Email  


The Sustainable Minerals Institute is made up of seven research centres whose disciplinary roots lie in people, environment and production. Established in 2001, the Institute’s research covers all facets of mining from exploration to site rehabilitation. The Institute has approximately 350 staff including 100 postgraduate students. For more information go to