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Legal Risk Rating
Score: 53
Substantial Risk
A school report for the Mongolian law might read "reasonable effort, showing signs of improvement but can lack focus, clarity and reasoning at times - must do more to live up to potential". A 'middle of the class' rating applies - which, when considering the country's mineral wealth, might not look too bad to prospective investors.

Regulatory Corruption Risk

Low Corruption Potential

Corruption Exposure Risk

Low Corruption Risk

Legal Risk Rating

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Mining Overview Commentary plus sign



Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia, surrounded by China to the south and Russia to the north. Historically reliant upon herding and agriculture, the Mongolian economy has evolved over time and now includes sectors such as manufacturing, construction, retail, transport, finance and insurance (National Statistics Office of Mongolia). That said, the country’s mining industry is, by some way, the largest and most important economic contributor.

In the last ten years, and mainly due to the impact of fluctuating commodity prices, Mongolia has experienced both economic booms, with the economy growing at over 17.3% in 2011 - making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world at that time - and downturns, with the economy shrinking by over 1% in 2009 (World Bank). Growth has slowed consistently over the last four years; in 2016, the economy grew by just 1.2%, down from 2.4% in 2015, with the World Bank reporting a GDP of $11.16 billion (USD). However, forecasts for 2017 look positive with the economy growing by 5.3% in the first half of the year (Asian Development Bank).

Mongolia’s mining sector makes up approximately 20% of the country’s GDP and is responsible for over 75% of exports (World Bank). Mongolia is now amongst the most resource extraction dependent countries in the world, with its neighbour China consuming more than 70% of Mongolia’s mineral exports. The country has large proven reserves of coal, copper, and gold and has significant reserves of numerous other minerals including fluorspar, gold, iron ore, molybdenum, phosphorus, tin, tungsten, uranium and zinc ore (USGS). The state is a significant player in the mining sector; most of the producing mining companies are either state-owned or are joint ventures between the government and international companies , which is likely due to state participation rights surrounding strategic deposits. In the last decade, Mongolia has developed some of the largest new mining projects in the world including the Oyu Tolgoi project – a joint venture between Rio Tinto (via subsidiary Turquoise Hill Resources) and the Mongolian government; notably the project contains gold and copper deposits that are believed to be amongst the largest in the world.

In 2016 Mongolia was ranked 88th in the Fraser Institute’s Policy Perceptions Index of 104 jurisdictions.


The principal legislation in Mongolia in relation to the mining industry is the Minerals Law 2006 (ML), which regulates the prospecting, exploration and mining of minerals in Mongolia (s. 1.1, ML). The ML has been amended numerous times since its enactment, with the most recent significant amendments taking place in 2014. Other relevant legislation includes: the Land Law 2002; the Investment Law 2013; the Legal Entity Income Tax Law 2006; the Licensing Law 2001; the Subsoil Law 1989; the Environmental Protection Law 1995; the Environmental Impact Assessment Law 2012; the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation 2013; and the Cultural Protection Law 2014.

Whilst the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry (Ministry) is responsible for the overall administration and oversight of the mining industry, the key government agency is actually the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia (MRPAM). MRPAM’s main responsibility is to implement state policy and guidelines in geology, mining, petroleum and heavy industry sectors (Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia). The agency is divided into 11 divisions and the Cadastre Division is responsible for the issuing of licences (Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia).

In Mongolia, mineral resources are the property of the state (s. 5.1, ML).


Applicants for exploration and mining licences, collectively mineral rights, must be legal persons formed and operating under the laws of Mongolia and paying taxes in the country (s. 7.1, ML). Mineral rights are primarily granted via applications to the MRPAM, but in certain circumstances they may be granted through a tender process - namely when exploration has occurred through state budget funding or when a mining right has been revoked or lapsed (see ss. 20.1, 24.2 and 26.9, ML).

No licence is required to conduct reconnaissance provided that the state and local administrative bodies are notified in advance, the prospector registers its name and address and provides a description and location of the area on which it proposes to conduct reconnaissance (s. 15.1, ML).

The primary types of mineral rights in Mongolia are:

  • Exploration Licence: grants the holder the exclusive right to conduct exploration for minerals within the area (s. 21.1.2, ML). Applications must be submitted to the MPRAM and accompanied by: the applicant’s details; a certified copy of the applicant’s state registration certificate; proof of payment of the prescribed licence service fee; information about the qualifications of the staff conducting exploration works; a document proving that the applicant meets the requirements of s. 7.1 (see above); and a preliminary plan that includes the type, scope and cost of exploration work to be conducted (s. 18.2, ML). The exploration area may not be less than 25 hectares and not more than 150,000 hectares (s. 17.4, ML) and the application must contain the location and co-ordinates of the area (s. 17.1, ML). The MRPAM will register applications and conduct preliminary screenings before reaching a decision (s. 19.1 – 19.2, ML). Applications may be refused where: the applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria; the exploration area overlaps with an existing licence or application, a reserve area or a special purpose area; or the application requirements are not met (s. 19.2.1, ML). If the application is accepted the MPRAM will give written notice to the relevant governor who must consult with the appropriate citizen groups and provide a response within 30 days (s. 19.4, ML). Failure to respond will be taken as approval (s. 19.4, ML). Governors may refuse the granting of the application on the grounds provided for by law (s. 19.5, ML). If the application is successful the MPRAM will notify the applicant and request payment for the first year’s licence fee (₮145 MNT per hectare (Nov 2017)), which must be paid within 10 business days (s. 19.6, ML). Within three business days of payment the MRPAM will issue the licence (s. 19.8, ML). Exploration Licences are issued for an initial three-year term, extendable three times for further three-year terms (ss. 19.8 & 21.1.4, ML). Applications for renewal must be submitted to the MPRAM and must contain: a certified copy of the licence; proof of payment of the annual licence fees, the service fees and the minimum expenditure for exploration work; proof of a renewed Environmental Protection Plan (EPP); and a report on completed exploration work (s. 22.1, ML). The MPRAM will issue a decision within 10 days of the application; extensions will be refused where the licence holder: no longer meets the eligibility criteria; has failed to pay the licence fees; or has failed to meet the minimum expenditure requirements (s. 22, ML). Minimum expenditure requirements and annual licence fees apply during exploration (ss. 32.2 & 33.1, ML).


  • Mining Licence: grants the holder the right to engage in the mining of minerals within the area and to sell the mineral products at international market prices (ss. 27.1.1 & 27.1.4, ML). Only the Exploration Licence holder is entitled to apply for a Mining Licence in the exploration area (s. 24.1, ML). Applications must be submitted to the MPRAM and must contain: the applicant’s details; a document proving that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria; proof of payment of the prescribed licence service fee; the Mineral Council’s note on the discussion of exploration work results and a decision of the MRPAM in relation to the reserve; a verification that the duties under the EPP for exploration have been performed; and an EIA (s. 25.1, ML). A map showing details of the mining area must also be provided (s. 24.3 and 25.1.3, ML). The MRPAM will register the application and conduct a preliminary screening to clarify whether the mining area requested is within the boundaries of the exploration area; whether the requested mining area overlaps with any declared reserve area, special purpose territory or an existing licence; and whether the size and evaluation of the mineral reserve is sufficient for reclamation of environmental damages that might result from mining activities (s. 26.2, ML). Within 20 business days of registration, the MRPAM will either grant or refuse the application, providing reasons in the case of the latter (see s. 26.3, ML). Within 10 days of receiving notice of acceptance the applicant must pay the licence fee (₮21,750 MNT per hectare (Nov 2017); see s. 32.3, ML). Within three business days of payment the MRPAM will issue the Mining Licence (s. 26.4, ML). A commission established by the MPRAM must also accept the project prior to the commencement of mining activities (s. 35.4, ML).  Mining Licences are issued for a term of 30 years, extendable twice for further 20-year periods depending on mineral reserves (ss. 26.5 & 27.1.6, ML). Extension applications must be made no less than two years prior to the expiration of the existing term (s. 28.1, ML). Within 15 business days, the MRPAM shall verify whether the licence holder is eligible to keep the licence, and if there are no violations, the ML term may be extended, though a renewed EIA and EPP / Environmental Management Plan (EMP) must first be approved by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) (ss. 28.2 & 40.2, ML).


Both exploration and mining licences may be transferred, wholly or partially, with the approval of the MPRAM. In relation to a Mining Licence documentation must be submitted which proves that the mine together with its machinery, equipment and documents have been sold and that taxes have been paid (s. 49.2, ML).


Exploration Licence holders must prepare and submit a plan of exploration activities to the MPRAM and professional inspection agency within 30 days of the granting of the licence (s. 48.1.1, ML). Annual reports on exploration activities must also be submitted and must contain: information on the work completed and the expenses incurred in reconnaissance, geophysical and geochemical work, drilling and other activities; information on the labour force; the results of the exploration work; and a map indicating the work locations (s. 48.1 – 48.2, ML). A final report detailing the results of the exploration work must be submitted before expiration of the licence (s. 48.3, ML).

Mining Licence holders must prepare and submit a feasibility study to the MPRAM for approval within 60 days of the granting of the licence (s. 48.6.1, ML). Various annual reports must also be submitted, including: information on productions estimates for the forthcoming year (no later than December of each year); a report on the implementation of the EPP; a report on royalties; a health and safety report; and a mining activity plan (no later than Feb. 15 of each year) (see s. 48.6 – 48.10, ML). The mining activity plan must include information on: the number of days worked, the number of employees, and all agreements and contracts affecting the license; information on the implementation of the mining plan, an estimate of changes in reserves, operation time of the mine, a general overview of production facilities and any expansion or renovation of such facilities; information on the quantity of ore mined, products produced and sold, information with respect to the purchasers, information on investments made during the year, operating expenses, royalty payments and information with respect to the equipment and technology used in mining and information on other related properties (s. 48.7, ML). A health and safety report, a report on the implementation of the EPP and a report on royalties must also be prepared and submitted (s. 48, ML).

An EIA is not required in respect of exploration, however an EPP must be developed and approved after an Exploration Licence has been granted (s. 38.1, ML); a written approval from the relevant environmental agency is also required prior to the commencement of exploration activities (s. 37.2, ML). Mining Licence holders must conduct an EIA as part of the licence application. Mongolia has two levels of EIA – general and detailed (s. 7.1, EIAL). A decision on the need for a detailed EIA will be made after the general EIA has been conducted. Detailed EIAs must be performed by a licensed expert, appointed by the MET and selected by the project proponent (ss. 7.4, 7.6, 8.2 & 13, EIA Law). Decisions on EIAs will be made by the MET. An Environmental Management Plan and Environmental Protection Plan must be prepared as part of the EIA process. Mining Licence holders must deposit funds equal to 50% of its annual environmental protection budget into a special bank account (s. 39.1.9, ML).

Licence holders will need to obtain a land use or land possession certificate prior to the commencement of operations and enter into a land use agreement with the relevant governor. Under the ML, licence holders have the right to enter and pass through land owned or possessed by other persons providing the approval of the owner or possessor is obtained. Compensation for damages may apply. Disputes relating to land use may be determined by the relevant governor, a higher official or the courts.

Licence holders are obliged to employ 90% Mongolian citizens and this obligation extends to subcontractors (s. 43.1, ML); should operators exceed this limit they must pay fines each month at a rate of 10 times the minimum monthly salary for each foreign citizen. Mining Licence holders must enter into a cooperation agreements with local administrative bodies, covering issues of environmental protection, mine exploitation, infrastructure development and job creation (s. 42.1, ML). Mining Licence holders must also give preference to Mongolian registered and taxpaying business for the procurement of goods and services and give preferential supply (at market price) of mined, processed or half-processed products to processing plants operating in Mongolia (ss. 35.9 & 35.11, ML).

Royalty rates and annual fees apply (see ‘Government Take’ Regulatory Risk Analysis, above). In relation to strategic deposits (as determined by the government) the state has a right to participation. Investment agreements and stabilisation agreements may be entered into.

At least three years prior to project closure, a restoration and closure plan must be submitted to the MET (s. 14.1.3, EIA Regulation).

At the beginning of 2017 a draft mining law was published. The new law is focused on regulating mining operations covering aspects such as health and safety, reclamation, waste treatment, financing and ownership.


See Mongolia- Environmental Overview Commentary.

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Environmental Overview Commentary plus sign



Mongolia is a landlocked country located in East Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. The country has an area of 1,564,116 km², making it the 19th largest country by geographic area in the world and the second largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. With a population of just over 3.027 million people (World Bank), Mongolia is the third most sparsely populated country in the world; just under half the population reside in Mongolia’s capital – Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia’s landscape is predominately a large plateau, with an average elevation of 1,580 m above sea level (Britannica). That said, Mongolia does have two major mountain ranges - the Altai Mountains (Altai meaning “Gold Mountain” in Mongolian) which are situated in the south / southwest of the country and run through China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan and the Khangai Mountains in the central region. The Gobi Desert, the largest desert in Asia and the fifth largest in the world, occupies most of southern Mongolia. The north of the country is mainly forested, as one travels east the forests transition to steppe – a large grassland area. A vast portion of Mongolia’s land is used for pasture, though the quality and amount of pastureland has decreased considerably in recent years.

Mongolia is one of the coldest countries in the world. The climate is generally described as being continental, with short, hot summers and extremely cold, long winters. Temperatures can vary hugely throughout the year, peaking at around 30°C in the summer months and dropping to as low as -40°C in the winter. Mongolia experiences extremely low levels of precipitation throughout the year, with the majority of rainfall (if any) occurring in the summer.

Amur maple, Siberian elm and Siberian pea shrub are common in Mongolia, as are a vast number (approximately 3,000) of flower species, including the small-flowered winter cress, Mongolian thistle and Siberian trout lily (WWF). In terms of fauna, Mongolia is known to have over: 450 bird species; 139 mammal species; 76 fish species; 22 reptile species and 6 amphibian species (WWF). Notable animals include the snow leopard, wild sheep, Siberian ibex, Bactrian camel, golden eagle and Gobi bear - the only bear species to have adapted to desert conditions and one of the rarest bear species in the world (WWF).

Mongolia faces a variety of environmental problems including desertification as the Gobi Desert expands northwards, water scarcity and air and water pollution. Severe winters – known as dzud or zud – can sometimes occur; this phenomenon results in the large-scale death of livestock due to starvation or exposure to cold temperatures. In 2010 over 8 million animals were killed by the dzud; numbers for 2016 (when the last dzud occurred) are, as yet, unknown. Natural disasters of this type can cause serious humanitarian issues in Mongolia and also impact greatly on the country’s economy. Mongolia is also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.


The main environmental legislation in Mongolia applicable to the mining industry is the Environmental Impact Assessment Law 2011 (EIAL), which regulates the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. The EIA process is also regulated by the Minerals Law of Mongolia 2006 (as amended) (ML) and the Environmental Protection Law 1995 (EPL). Also of relevance are the various regulations and procedures published by the Mongolian government, including: the Regulation of Environmental Assessment 2013 (EIA Regulation); the Environmental Strategy and Cumulative Impact Assessment Procedure 2013; the Procedure for the Preparation, Review and Reporting of Environmental Management Plans 2014; the Procedure for Monitoring of Special Accounts of Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation Guarantees 2014; and the Procedure on Community Participation in Environmental Impact Assessments 2014.

The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) is the central administrative body responsible for EIAs and the management of the EIA approval process for mining activities. At the regional level, governors of districts (or soums) (Governor) are responsible for the administration of environmental matters and play a key role in relation to exploration activities.


According to the EIAL, EIAs are conducted to preserve the natural state of the environment, to develop and carry out activities aimed at sustaining environmental balance, and to regulate the use of natural resources (s. 7.1, EIAL).

An EIA is not required in respect of exploration, however, the holder of an Exploration Licence does need to develop an Environmental Protection Plan (EPP) in consultation with the environmental inspection agency and relevant Governor (s. 38.1, ML). The EPP must be prepared within 30 days following the receipt of the licence (s. 38.1.1, ML). The EPP must ensure that the level of environmental pollution does not exceed the accepted limits and that the measures to be taken for reclamation of the area allow for future public use (s. 38.1.2, ML). The EPP must be submitted to the relevant Governor who will review and approve the plan within 10 days of receiving it (ss. 38.1.3 & 38.2, ML). A copy of the EPP must also be delivered to the local environmental inspection agency (s. 38.1.5, ML). Exploration Licence holders must deposit funds equal to 50% of its annual environmental protection budget in a special bank account established by the relevant Governor (s. 38.1.8, ML). Written approval from the relevant environmental agency must also be obtained prior to the commencement of exploration activities (s. 37.2, ML). Annual reports on the EPP must be delivered to the relevant Governor and local environmental inspection agency (s. 38.1.5, ML). Reports must contain information on measures taken to protect the environment; utilised new exploration machinery and technology; and proposed amendments to the EPP directed at preventing possible adverse impacts on the environment, which must be approved by the relevant Governor (s. 38.1.6, ML).

Mining Licence holders must prepare an EIA as part of the licence application (s. 39.1, ML). The EIA must identify the possible adverse environmental impacts from the proposed mining operations regarding public health and the environment and must include preventative measures that avoid and minimize such impacts (s. 39.1.2, ML). EIAs should cover all the environmental and social aspects of a proposed project including aquatic, meteorology, geology, hydrology, geomorphology, climate conditions, air quality, soil, vegetation, animals, citizens’ settlement, history, cultural values and land management plans (s. 2.3, EIA Regulation).

Two levels of EIA exist – general and detailed (s. 7.1, EIAL). In the first instance a general EIA must be undertaken before the need for a detailed EIA can be determined. The application for the general EIA must be submitted to the MET and must contain: a brief description of the proposed project; the feasibility study; the engineering design and drawings; a baseline description of the proposed project environment; a written opinion of the relevant Governor; and other related documents (s. 7.3 read with Annex, EIAL). The EIA Regulation lists additional documents that must be submitted, including: an environmental condition assessment report; a description of the project’s overall land management plan; and a proposal on exploration work where necessary (see s. 3.1, EIA Regulation). An assessment expert must then complete an assessment within 14 days, and issue one of the following opinions:

  • The project should not be permitted on the grounds that it is likely to cause considerable harm to the environment, that it does not conform with land management planning, or that its activities are inconsistent with state policy, the strategic assessment opinions or relevant legislation;
  • The project may be implemented without a detailed EIA subject to specific conditions; or
  • The project requires a detailed EIA (s. 7.4, EIAL).


If required, the detailed EIA must be conducted by an authorised Mongolian legal entity, appointed and licensed by the MET and selected by the project proponent (ss. 8.2, 8.3 & 13.1.2, EIAL; see also s. 7.5, EPL). The expert’s assessment of the general EIA shall define the objectives, areas, scope and duration of the work for the detailed EIA (s. 8.1, EIAL). The detailed EIA must include the following:

  • Baseline data and indicators of the environment in which the project is proposed to be implemented;
  • Details of the potential negative impacts of the project, including their magnitude, spatial extent and consequences;
  • Recommendations for measures to mitigate and eliminate the impacts of the project;
  • Recommendations for alternative methods and technology that may potentially reduce the pollution level expected from the proposed project and for the use of environmentally-friendly methods and technology;
  • Risk assessment of impacts of the proposed project on human health and the environment if required by the general EIA;
  • A description of the mine closure activities, objectives and scope, indicators of restoration measures and details of ex-situ conservation measures for mining projects;
  • A description of the objectives, scope and indicators of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP);
  • Notes of consultations made with the local authority and community likely to be affected by the proposed project; and
  • Other issues pertaining to the special nature of the project (s. 8.4, EIAL).


As part of the detailed EIA process, the authorised legal entity must develop an EMP that is intended to protect and ensure the sustainable use and restoration of nature and the environment; ensure the realisation of recommendations outlined in the strategic assessment; mitigate, eliminate and prevent adverse impacts that are identified in the detailed EIA; and monitor and identify potential negative consequences that may arise in the proposed project environment (s. 9.1, EIAL). The EMP forms an integral part of the detailed EIA (s. 9.2, EIAL). An EMP consists of:

  • An EPP, which addresses measures to mitigate and eliminate adverse impacts identified during the EIA and provides timeframes and an estimated budgets for implementation of those measures; and
  • An Environmental Monitoring Program, which addresses the monitoring and analysis of changes made to the state of the environment because of the project’s activities. The program will also clarify reporting requirements, the ways to implement the EMP, timeframes and an estimated budget (s. 9.5, EIAL; see also s. 5.4, EIA Regulation for further requirements in respect of Environmental Monitoring Programs).


The EMP must also contain information on key measures for and the scope of the mine closure; human resource and environmental management structures and organisation information; a plan for reporting the progress and results of the EMP to the relevant government agencies and the public; and resettlement, community health, interests, livelihoods, cultural heritage and other planning information (see s. 5, EIA Regulation). EMPs shall have a duration of not more than five years, as such an updated EMP must be submitted and approved every five years (s. 5.11, EIA Regulation). Annual reports on the implementation of the EMP must be submitted to the relevant environmental departments (s. 7.3, EIA Regulation).

Public participation in the EIA process is required by the EIAL. As part of the detailed EIA, the authorised legal entity must organise, at the report preparation stage, consultations with (and formally seek comments from) the local authority, the community that is likely to be affected by the project, and local residents living in the area where the proposed project is going to be implemented (s. 17.4, EIAL; see also the Procedure on Community Participation in Environmental Impact Assessments 2014).

Following completion of the detailed EIA, a report containing the findings of the EIA and related documents shall be submitted to the assessment expert within the period specified in the general EIA (s. 10.1, EIAL). The assessment expert will appraise the report and issue an opinion within 18 working days (s. 10.2, EIAL). The chief assessment expert of the MET may appoint a team of experts to perform the appraisal (s. 10.2, EIAL). The MET will decide whether the project should proceed based on the detailed EIA report and the opinions of the assessment expert and / or technical board that have conducted the appraisal (s. 10.4, EIAL). Note that the legislation is silent on an applicant’s ability to appeal a government decision in a court.

Notably, section 39.1 of the ML also requires Mining Licence holders to develop an EPP before obtaining the licence, (s. 39.1.1, ML). One would assume this EPP is the same as that which forms part of the EMP (see above). The EPP in terms of section 39.1 of the ML must contain measures to ensure that mining operations are conducted in the least damaging way to the environment and must also identify preventive and comprehensive measures to protect air and water, humans, animals and plants from the adverse effects of mining operations (s. 39.1.3, ML). EPPs must also include the following information:

  • Storage and control of toxic and potentially toxic substances and underground water;
  • Protection, utilisation and conservation of the surface and underground water;
  • Construction of tailings dams and ensuring the mine area safety;
  • Mine reclamation measures; and
  • Other measures as may be appropriate for the mining operation activity (s. 39.1.4, ML).


The EPP must be submitted to the MET for approval (s. 39.1.5, ML). An annual report on the implementation of the EPP must be sent to the MET, the relevant Governor and the professional inspection agency (s. 39.1.7, ML). The report must contain (s. 39.1.7, ML):

  • Information on measures taken to protect the environment;
  • New machinery and technology utilised; and
  • Proposed amendments to the EIA and EPP regarding possible adverse impacts on the environment due to the expansion of mining operations.


The ML holder must deposit funds equal to 50% of its annual environmental protection into a special bank account established by the MET (s. 39.1, ML). (See also the Procedure for Monitoring of Special Accounts of Environmental Protection and Rehabilitation Guarantees 2014).

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