Artisanal spar mining settlement area

Mongolian honoured herder, the Otgons family had 10 children. They were an ordinary family, and their children were raised with parents’ love and they are all well-behaved, educated grown-ups contributing to the country development and one of them is Tegshbayar, who is the leader of “Ulziit hishig buyan” non-governmental organization. He earned his degree in social work and public administration following his interests, but didn’t have a chance to work by his profession.

After becoming parents of a daughter, he, as a father and a head of the family, became more responsible and started working as a driver in a private company. Moreover, because he was raised in a family with many children, he is very efficient, diligent and hardworking. He always had his car very clean and ensured that everyone he is transporting is safe and sound. Because of it, he had even been a driver for the governor’s office. He worked as a driver for directors of various companies and government organizations for over 20 years, and during that time, his second daughter was born. Then, it was time for his daughters to go to college, and he wanted them to become highly educated. However, his income as a driver was only enough for the tuition, and nearly fulfilled their living. He had no choice but to enter the tough labor force of “ninjas” rushing to the spar deposit.

At that time, unemployment was high in our soum and the local people’s standard of living was lower than the average. The local people started fighting for their right to equally partake the natural resources and improve their lives. There was no official area to mine that people had to mine illegally, hiding from the controllers, and overall, working as a “ninja” alone is a hazardous situation. Remembering the moments when most of the money people earned by putting the health and life at a big risk had to be paid for fines and penalties.

He, as a neat and clever person, realized that it is not going further like that and understood that was time to use his professional skills and knowledge. He started his own private company, researched the corresponding laws and regulations and united around 200 unemployed locals. He had collected all the necessary documents, got it through the administrative meeting and received the approval to mine legally in 2010. Thus, he increased the number of legal artisanal mining organizations by one and is still working on improving the livelihood of other locals.

Once the local administration trusted they started to establish a formal spar mining and settlement area. “They were imagining and dreaming about it, and made it possible thanks to our collaboration” he recalled. They focused on creating a comfortable living environment and lessen the miners’ daily workload. Therefore, the site in a way like putting the miners’ gers in 3 straight lines with special wagons around them, as well as signs and banners all around the area, in order that everyone reads and reaches their destination easily. Internal regulations and safety information boards were hung high up so that all the miners could see them. It was one of the things that helped them to know their rights and ensure their safety and “members know it all by heart and accustomed to using it in their daily operations” he said.

In addition, public service places such as cafe, grocery shop, barbershop and availability of hot water were centralized in one area to provide comfortable living conditions for the artisanal miners. There is also a centralized parking area, and cars have different color approval tags depending on the area they enter. Generally, “they have implemented many ideas to facilitate miners’ work”, he said while showing his hard working and diligent behavior and the community’s unity.

Everyone, like officials who came to check our work or people who came to learn from our experiences, saying with a single voice “artisanal mining and settlement area should be exactly like this, you have done a great job” and he said and laughed humbly “when you get compliments and encouragement in a result of your work, you get motivation to do more”.

The nature was getting destroyed, water streams and rivers were drying up, grasses and plants were fading before my eyes and seeing this they didn’t want to just sit down. Luckily, “we found out there were organizations that support and work together towards reclamation” he said cheerfully.

The first organization that made land reclamation after mining and handed over to the local administration is themselves, too, he said proudly of his organization. Since 2010, his organization members has been performing reclamation works by themselves. They filled back all the holes they had dug to mine, dispersed suitable plant seeds, which they had collected, over the reclamation areas, and handed it over to the local administration.

By attending the Capacity development trainings and workshops hosted by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Sustainable Artisanal Mining and Asia Foundation, the members became more skilled at reclamation and restoration. Also, with the help of these organizations, we completed reclamation works in 10 hectares of land, which “ninjas” dug previously, in 2015. This year, they also got support from them to do more reclamation works in 5 hectares of land, he recalled happily, showing his pride in achieving something for the Mother nature.

He is planning to work further in reclamation and restoration, and also researching ways to earn income other than mining natural resources. Besides, he saw the need for wool washing factory in his hometown and developed his plan to start this business. Soon, his dream of creating employment opportunities in his hometown and contributing to the development of his country will come true, and he hopes he will be giving his next interview about the wool washing factory.

He has united around 120 members of 7 different unions in his non-governmental organization and still leading them successfully, while showing a great example of creating an artisanal mining settlement area.