By: Frankie Garofalo, `14
Mongolia has a unique situation: it has one of the last enduring pastoral societies. This society is put at risk by mining, because mining requires land that would be pastures for herding, depletes water sources necessary for herding, releases dust and chemicals into the air that degrades the health of animals and people, and destroys the topsoil of large areas. In addition, herders’ land rights are made illegitimate by mining rights and licenses. At the same time, the GDP of the nation rises, bringing some out of poverty and to the cities, as well as improving the lives of some herders. However, Mongolia’s economy has its foundations on herding, and it cannot afford to lose that foundation. An effect of a resource curse will be the end of pastoralism. The fundamental question, which may be pertinent to other developing nations, is how to balance economic development, culture, environmental damage, and prevent social inequality.
In summary, Mongolia’s mining industry has caused and exacerbated rapid changes in Mongolia’s economy, politics, and social structures, jeopardizing the integrity of the nation’s culture; this phenomenon invites a debate of a “resource curse” and tests the viability of a democracy faced with economic, political, social, and cultural issues.