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Some geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the western area of the Gobi region (as defined above): the basin of the Tarim in Xinjiang and the desert basin of Lop Nor and Hami (Kumul), as forming a separate and independent desert, called the Taklamakan Desert.

Archeologists and paleontologists have done excavations in the Nemegt Basin in the northwestern part of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia), which is noted for its fossil treasures, including early mammals, dinosaur eggs, and prehistoric stone implements, some 100,000 years old.

The Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, under construction by Rio Tinto in the South Gobi Desert, is expected to begin operation in early 2013, and is the biggest economic undertaking in the country's history.

Rio Tinto estimates that taxes, royalties and dividends generated by the Oyu Tolgoi project is expected to add a third to the country's gross domestic product by 2020.

It occupies an arc of land 1,295,000 km in area as of 2007; it is the fifth-largest desert in the world and Asia's largest.