As we reported last year, important snow leopard habitat in the Tost Mountains of southern Mongolia is covered with licenses for mining exploration. We and the members of the local communities were concerned about what further mining action could do to this land and its wildlife if the licenses were allowed to move into the extraction phase.
For the past 10 months we have worked hard and focused on helping the people of Tost develop and submit a petition and campaign that would register their land as a community-managed protected area. Twice, the application was rejected. But with your support we all persevered.
We are happy to announce that on Tuesday, December 7th 2010, after our third attempt, received notice that the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources approved an official ‘Local Protected Area’ for the Tost community!
Since we are actively following snow leopards using GPS radio collars in this location, we were able to provide the Ministry with suggested boundaries for the protected area. This area is 6689 sq. km, greater than the size of Delaware or Luxembourg and will provide greater protection for dozens of snow leopards.
The application’s approval provides the region with protected area status for the next 7 years. It does not guarantee that companies holding exploration licenses now will stop any extraction while their 3 year licenses are valid – but it does make it much more difficult for them. Once their exploration licenses expire, they will not be renewed between now and 2017. If a company currently exploring finds a mineral deposit and wants to begin extraction of the minerals, they cannot legally move forward without first consulting with Local Government and the community members. Additionally, no new licenses will be issued during the next 7 years of protection. These are significant gains that grant the people of Tost more control of resource use in their area and much more protection for wildlife, including snow leopards.
While we should all celebrate this milestone, much work remains to be done. There are 37 mining exploration permits in the area, and as they expire the communities will assume management responsibility. The community has asked us for support to develop a plan that can ensure the management of this area for the benefit of both people and wildlife. We will begin this effort to support, guide and provide the necessary resources to the community to develop a sustainable protected areas management plan involving the local community and government officials. We also will work with the community to lay the ground work that will hopefully make renewal of this protected area application likely 7 years from now.
We asked you for help with this mining issue in the spring, and with your support, we raised the funds that made this victory possible. Thank you for all your help and for making this success a reality. We hope you join the celebration!