Oyu Tolgoi is shaping a new approach to rehabilitation, firmly focused on maintaining the ancient natural environment. The Mongolian Gobi has a dry and extreme climate and native plants such as the saxaul tree have adapted to the harsh conditions over generations. Desert saxaul forests prevent the movement of sand, creating more favourable conditions for other plants, livestock and wild animals to flourish. Oyu Tolgoi plants saxaul trees in order to restore the landscape, vegetation and ecosystems of disturbed land back to as natural a state as possible. In the autumn of 2013, during the first phase of Oyu Tolgoi’s rehabilitation programme, 10.677 saxaul tree seedlings were planted across 6.34 hectares in the Gunii Khooloi area of Khanbogd soum. Eighty per cent of the seedlings successfully survived the winter, with those which had died replanted in the spring, along with an additional 2.860 seedlings.
Oyu Tolgoi only uses native plants in its biological rehabilitation work. But even hardened, Gobi plants require extreme care and support to survive. The saxaul trees planted in the fall are irrigated and the soil is strengthened before it freezes, helping the young plants survive the winter. By the time they face the harsh winds of spring, many are strong enough to survive. Rehabilitation work relies on local communities to support and participate in the effort. Last autumn, 28 local herders worked on the programme, which will lead to the appearance of brand-new, saxaul forests in the Galba Gobi.