Designing Health Impact Assessments for Mongolia’s Mining Sector

June 23, 2015 

Rapid growth in Mongolia’s mining sector will bring many benefits but also will produce pressures on the environment, citizen health and public health systems. Mindful of this, the Government of Mongolia has introduced a mining and health strategy that includes a new law: before any new mine receives a license to operate, it must include in its environmental impact assessment (EIA), an evaluation of the mine’s impacts on human health. To support this new law, Mongolia aims to strengthen its ability to conduct mine-related health impact assessments (HIAs) and subsequently evaluate and use the information it collects.

This month, a team of instructors and facilitators led by Dr. Craig Janes, past professor in the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences, and Kate Dilworth, CIRDI senior advisor and adjunct professor of SFU’s Beedie School of Business, visited Mongolia to share HIA expertise with Mongolian decision makers.

Janes is an expert in globalization and health with extensive experience designing and evaluating HIAs, and has worked with his Mongolian colleagues on several public health issues over a period spanning nearly 20 years. His research has focused on human–environment interactions in Mongolia and northern Canada — particularly those related to resource extraction activities. The HIA training program is endorsed by the Mongolian health ministry, the Mongolian National Health Sciences University and the World Health Organization (WHO).

CIRDI, in partnership with the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR), delivered a pilot course in Mongolia in April/May 2015. Course participants included public officials from various Mongolian ministries, including environment and green development and health and mining, as well as representatives from local academic institutions, government, civil society organizations and communities. Two academics from Zambia’s Copperbelt University and one African scholar currently studying in Canada also participated, along with several emerging Canadian global health scholars.

In addition to addressing human health, an HIA also questions how livelihoods and well-being are affected — especially in vulnerable groups such as elders, women, children and livestock. The information can then be used to develop appropriate health action plans to protect the security of those most affected.

This pilot course helped the CIRDI-CCGHR team refine the curriculum and training methods while learning more about Mongolia’s specific HIA-related needs. Next steps will include following up with Mongolian participants to support their action plans and offering ongoing support as needed.

A long-term goal of this initiative is to develop a scalable HIA model that can be used by other resource-rich developing countries.

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