For fluorspar miners in Khentii aimag, who comprise the majority of the aimag’s artisanal and small-scale miners, trips to the Bor-Undur processing plant are both long and costly. Because of the pressures this places on them, they have proposed the construction of a small, locally accessible processing plant costing an estimated MNT 200 million. There is also a need to establish formal supply chains to boost fluorspar trading, which is currently being researched. Formalised artisanal miners contribute up to MNT 2 million a year to a separate rehabilitation fund, which enables them to overcome the financial burdens of site rehabilitation.
The government’s artisanal mining regulation allows ASM miners to use small machines and equipment in their operations. They are also allowed to hire professional blasting companies. These provisions create safer working environments for miners, and in the process protects their human rights.
G. Taivanjargal, Governor of Batnorov soum, Khentii aimag: The formalization of ASM miners has improved their working conditions, taxaction payments and social responsibility.
Until 1995, Khentii aimag supplied 75 percent of the fluorspar exported nationally. The Berkh mine opened up in 1985, with the extracted fluorspar taken to the Bor-Undur plant for processing. However, overexploitation of the site resulted in an excess of water underground that impeded operations and eventually saw mining at the site grind to a halt. Pumping the water out, while too costly for the miners, would extend the mine’s life for up to six years and enable the water to be used for an artificial pond.
In the past, serious injuries and deaths were common at the site. The use of a professional blasting company based at the Berkh mine has dramatically increased mine safety.
“Miners in our soum extract fluorspar,” said Batnorov soum governor G.Taivanjargal. “They face a lot of problems, such as the underground water at the Berkh mine. We spoke about this problem at the ASM National Forum.
“The initial provision on artisanal mining, Regulation # 308, which was renewed in 2017, was primarily targeted at regulating goldminers. Our artisanal miners voiced their opinions at the ASM National Federation, and as a result the regulation has clauses that are relevant to them. For example, one partnership can own two 3500cm3excavators, and artisanal miners are included in the registration system and allowed to own stamps, which allows them to increase their tax payments and social responsibility.”
Members of the Suld partnership who work at the Berkh mine said that forming an NGO had many benefits for their members. “We pay for health and social insurance and taxes,” they said. However, deteriorating conditions at the mine are impacting on their livelihoods. “The water can be pumped out from the sides, but this costs a lot of money, and needs a lot of manpower and equipment.”