Artisanal mining yesterday, today and the future

SDC started implementing the "Sustainable Artisanal Mining" project in 2005, and now the project is in its final or fourth phase. The first three stages of this project will be completed by December 2019, achieving their goals to formalize the artisanal mining sector, empower the artisanal miners and set up a system of disclosure for the gold supply chain mined by artisanal mining.

Another important task to be completed before the end of the project is to set up a web based platform in order to develop artisanal mining information and knowledge, share best practices and lessons learnt. Particularly, online applications have been created for artisanal miners who do not even know how much gold is worth today. Moreover the project is working to develop an application that artisanal miners could use even without internet access (offline regime).

It has not been easy to achieve those best practices and learn the lessons in the time frame. The current systematic and ethical systems are being achieved thanks to a wide variety of participants’ efforts, such as governmental, non-governmental, public and international organizations.

Previously, these people lived independently simply mining gold without any regulations, they were disorganized, and lacked basic necessities such as health care, social insurance, and the essentials for living in basic comfort, and in so many violations of human rights. The most significant attainment that is being achieved by the NHRC in cooperation with SDC, in order to create an environment of equality is the - change to a human rights approach by the government officers. In other words, NHRC and SDC have played an important role in issuing a human rights based government policy on artisanal mining.

May be it was an incredibly difficult thing to organize, to unite thousands of people, who lived in total chaos and were used to it. Because to make changes in human consciousness is a powerful.

History says that the founders of the ASM National Federation were the main initiators, who took the courage to pull those so-called “ninjas”, “private gold diggers”, whoses lives were considered to be cheaper than a bucket of dirt out of that “war field” out of their previous awful condition.

At the beginning one dozen citizens decided to unify and achieve government awareness for the “private gold diggers”.They managed to initially involve 3000 private miners from 15 provinces and they have established the ASM National Federation. Currently, 6400 artisanal miners from 17 provinces joined the ASM National Federation. The soums, who are dependant on artisanal mining are now operating in close conjunction with the provincial and government organizations.

G.Taivanjatgal: Our Artisanal Miners life is changing

We received information from G.Taivanjargal, the Governor of Batnorov, before the delay in artisanal mining areas from the placer gold mine in Norovlin.

Just before visiting the gold artisanal mining site at the “Norovlin” soum the Governor of the “Batnorov” soum Mr. G.Taivanjargal met us. He commented, "The Government's updated resolution No:151 has many advantages compared to the previous No:308 resolution. There are many things that can lead to the creation of favorable conditions for responsibility and the accountability of the miners. Each artisanal miner pays a 262 thousand MNT monthly tax to the local aimag office.It means that tax money out of four community-based organizations in Batnorov is concentrated locally. They are also organizing good deeds in terms of social responsibility." He also said that even though there are policy measures being taken regarding the ASM sector it is still lacking and challenging. For example, the Aimag Citizens' Representative Khural has the rights to issue and approve land for artisanal mining.This meeting is held only twice a year. Another problem is if the local administration gets the land approval for local special needs then after that it has the right to be blocked for the next five years, but in some licensed places, ore containing veins may come to an end which means there are licensed places without mineral resources.

From Artisanal Mining to Business

Due to the mineral resources reducing within the soum territory we need to seek another life source for our people. In other words, they need to change their way of life. " he said. According to Governor G.Tayananjargal’s speech, there are several artisanal miners in “Batnorov” soum who in the past have changed their life. For instance, J.Bayarmaa, a citizen of Berkh village, created a second job and began to operate a shoe shop.

There is another person who runs a shop and expanded it into a tea shop. Also there is a man in Batnorov who runs a sawmill and a bicycle repair shop and does block production. One of the most interesting examples is the story of the man named H. Dukuun, who came to Khentii province in 2011 from far-away Khovd province just when he heard, that “There is exploration for a mineral called fluorspar in Khentii aimag and the people mining this mineral are getting huge benefits” without having any knowledge and understanding about it. After being engaged in artisanal mining he bought his own tractor.According to his request “Batnorov” soum administration decided to support him and provided a loan of six million MNT from the Soum Development Fund and three hectares of land. Soon, D.Dukhuu decided to plant watermelons and last year he got 70 tons of watermelons. The previous year, he requested to get five hectares of land more for planting, and the soum administration not only permitted his request but also built up a water reservoir near the plantation area. Today H.Dukhuu is providing fruit not only for the soum but for the whole province. Primary school students of Batnorov soum eat delicious melons and watermelons harvested by H.Dukhuu. Moreover he decided to plant vegetables for the needs of the whole province and he got a land license. Now, he has started working on a new plant at the province territory leaving his old plant for his younger brother. To support his business the Aimag administration decided to provide a shopping place at the center shopping center at a discount of 50 percent of lease payment. It is an example of the Khentii community that is able to provide all the necessary things for a person who is able to work and think. Also a good example of moving from artisanal mining to the business field.


The artisanal miners of "Norovlin Cooperative Power" NGO, Norovlin soum, Khentii province, have warmly welcomed us. There is no difference between large mine workers and those with complete protective clothing to artisanal miners. The settlement area is nice and clean. Except for the artisanal miners ger accommodations there is a garden house, playground for children, lighting poles, small tire repair shop and safety boards all set up within the fenced perimeter. During the mining season, artisanal miners bringtheir families. Because of the "Army" of small children, the soum administration operates a temporaryger kindergarden. Mini-trucks lined up outside the fence are visible. After dinner, they briefly introduced us to their cooperative activities and went home to relax. It is strictly forbidden to use alcohol within 50 km of this settlement area. They start work at 8:00 am. Before moving to the mine site the head of the NGO, Mrs. S.Munkhsarnai, gave them safety instructions, as artisanal miners split into outer yard trucks and moved to the mining area.

The Partnerships of "Cooperative Power" NGOs extract gold from deposit mining . In other words they operate at the old"A" licensed mine site. To do so, they set up a triple agreement with local authorities and A-licensed entities in accordance with Government Regulation 151. Key clauses are about reclamation after they have completed mining. Within a framework of social responsibility.they have conducted technical and biological reclamation works at 2 hectares out of the 35 hectares of land previously damaged by so-called ninjas or private gold diggers

The "Norovlin Cooperative Power" NGO works in a company licensed mine area comprising 4 hectares of land. Since its operation at the beginning of 2014 up to 2017 they’ve mined around 800 grams of gold. One household earns approx. 500,000-600,000 MNT income per month. They pay ten million MNT annually for Social insurance and Taxes.

"In the past, we worked one by one with fear. Every day we had fear "When, who, and where from will someone come to arrest or stop us". They immediately left their food being cooked on the fire when they saw a police car. There was time to forget that you are a human being.Compared to that period, now we have a vision, a place to live in, and our own wealth”said S.Munkhsarnai. Most importantly, they have started to live in peace.

Now they have no fear ...