Архив за месяц: Июнь 2011

Mongolian Government declared war on environmental movements

On June 21st Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, N. Sambuu-Yondon, D. Tumurbaatar and M. Baatarkhuyag have been arrested and are now detained at the Gants Khudag detention centre. As of June 29th the detainees have not been provided access to lawyers and allowed meetings with their family members.

Detention decision is available only for Mr. Ts. Munkhbayar, who was on bail under investigation of shooting at Puuram and Centerra Gold equipment in September 2010. Songinokhairkhan District Judge Sh. Oyunkhand issued order #210 dated June 22, 2011 to discontinue bail orders, to arrest and detain until July 22, 2011 based on the resolution of Police Major T. Baatar and Capital City Prosecutor S. Enkhbat justifying detention on alleged possibility that the suspect will escape from investigation.

There are no arrest and detention decisions available for N. Sambuu-Yondon, D. Tumurbaatar and M. Baatarkhuyag.

G. Boldbaatar, Ts. Enkhbayar and G. Dashdemberel have been arrested by the order of Sukhbaatar District Judge N. Sukhbaatar as Administrative Court penalty for calling upon the members of Fire Nation Movement to demonstrate and organizing demonstrations on Sukhbaatar Square on April 19, 2011 and from April 25th through June 3rd without permission of relevant government authorities. The penalty decision of the judge refers to police reports and protocols dated April 19, 20 and May 2nd. NOTE: The arrests have taken place on June 23rd or in conjunction with the arrests of Ts. Munkhbayar and his team.

These detainees also do not have lawyers, communication with family and/or friends. Family members have approached the National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International/Mongolia seeking protection of the rights of the detainees.

During period June 10-19 Puuram LLC,  Buurgent LLC, PeninsulaMining, Altai-Valley LLC, Alfa-Orgil LLC, Zunma LLC and Dadizin LLC have been visited and handed the written demand to comply with law. All companies stopped operations on the demand of the Fire Nation Movement but reportedly have resumed operations after the arrests of this group. Centerra Gold/Mongolia has promised to send their reply in writing but no response has been received as of June 29, 2011.

OT Watch

Rivers without Boundaries Coalition


Before the arrest.

Background information on United Movement of Mongolian Rivers & Lakes and the «Law to protect rivers from mining impacts»(«the law with a long name»).

United Movement of Mongolian Rivers & Lakes (UMMRL) is a union of local civic movements protecting specific rivers and lakes of Mongolia: Onggi River Movement, Toson Zaamar Movements, Salkhin Sandag Associaton, Angir Nuden Munduuhei, Khuder River Movement, Calling of Mountains & Rivers Movement and Nature Protection — Local Development. Each movement has notable experience in protecting their rivers from mining and other threats and achievements of the Onggi River Movement leader Munkhbayar were recognized in 2007 by Goldman Environmental Prize. The UMMRL has combined civic mobilization with the knowledge and understanding of environmental policies and laws to identify violations and call the government to account for them. The UMMRL has won recognition in summer 2009 when it successfully lobbied the passing of the «Law on prohibiting mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water bodies and forested areas».

In order to have the law passed, representatives of the UMMRL first asked for the support of local people. They gathered signatures and sent a petition to the Parliament, pressing it to pass the law. Local people were encouraged to write letters and text messages to Parliament Members.

In June 2009, after months of hard work on the law, the Parliament threatened to delay the vote to the next Parliamentary session, i.e. in September. As this would have jeopardized its chances of ever being passed, the representatives of the UMMRL decided to demonstrate on Sukhbaatar square, the main square of Ulaanbaatar. Six of them, including a 65 year old herder went on a hunger strike. Thanks to their resolute stand and to the support of the population, the law was finally passed on July 16th, 2009, just before the end of the summer Parliamentary Session.

The law states that mineral exploration and mining operations are prohibited at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoir and forested areas. Before it can be implemented, the boundaries of the protected lands must be defined for the whole territory of Mongolia. In 2010 UMMRL have worked together with the Water Agency and local representatives to set these boundaries in the regions. The law covers an area of about 30 percent of the territory of Mongolia. Its enactment is therefore a very important step towards ensuring the ecological balance of Mongolia and a healthy and safe environment for its inhabitants, as well as towards preserving its territorial integrity and biological diversity. Boundaries of protected lands are enacted by decisions of local governments, but still await final resolution of the National Government.

However, the mining companies pledged to stop implementation of the new law. In June 2010, some UMMRL members and environmental scientists visited to site of the «Boroo Gold» company. During the visit, Mr. John Kazakov, director of «Boroo Gold» company said «Mining Association and mining companies are trying to pass a new law which will stand against the law on prohibition of mineral exploration at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forested areas of 2009. We have lobby group in the Parliament and hope that law will be passed very soon.»

Since the law was still not implemented as of the beginning of September 2010, seeking to force the government to take action, Munkhbayar and three other activists from the River and Lake Movement, armed with hunting rifles, fired upon equipment from a gold mine belonging to two foreign companies, Centerra Gold and Puuram, in the mountains of Selenge aimag. As a result of the incident, a criminal case has been filed, and after the investigation Munkhbayar and his comrades will stand trial. Munkhbayar and his comrades filed a counterclaim against the Mongolian government on 22 October 2010, on behalf of the River and Lake Movement demanding compensation for the environmental harm done to eight river basins as a result of the government’s inactivity and failure to uphold the norms set forth in the Constitution and by similar laws. On 15 March 2011, in Sukhbaatar District court, following repeated delays on account of the defendant’s failure to appear, judicial proceedings were finally able to proceed in the case of the River and Lake Movement versus the Government of Mongolia. After an eight hour session, all charges brought forward by the United Movement were dismissed by the judge. Yes, nature is destroyed, but Mongolian government is not accountable.

But to certain extent the shot was heard: the Mongolian Cabinet of Ministers finally announced, on 17 November 2010, gradual implementation of the law on «prohibition of exploration and extraction of mineral resources at river sources, water protection zones and forest regions». The recall of first 254 licenses for the extraction of alluvial gold was announced. However nothing was done to calculate compensation to mining companies, whose licenses should be revoked, nor environmental damage and post-mining land reclamation costs were calculated. Some of the smaller companies were given notice to stop the mining but that is all what the Government has done since 2009. The big companies stay untouched. The underlying reason for procrastination is simple: lobbyists for the mining industry had threatened to charge Mongolian government for expenses incurred in the amount of up to 4 billion dollars should licenses held by big foreign companies be withdrawn.

Therefore on 19 April 2011, dozens of nomad wagons and hundreds of riders and shepherds arrived at Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, the centre of Mongolian officialdom. They came from the surrounding regions of Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai, Tov, Khentii and Dundgobi to demand protection of their land from the plundering of mining operations. Across from parliament they set up eight nomad tents, which they vowed would remain there until parliament was dismissed, the government resigned and new elections on non-party basis were called. Protesters again have demanded from the Government that it must enforce the law on a non-discriminative basis and stop all mining in areas protected under the 2009 law or the law known as «the law with a long name». This demonstration was organized by new Gal Undesten Union and United Movements for Mongolian Rivers and Lakes.

On May 23 President Ts. Elbegdorj replied that it was not possible to accept the demands put forward by the alliance of two civil movements. However he insisted that the Parliament extends a ban on issuing new mining licenses until the end of 2011. No other government officials responded to requests of civil movements.

The law, which prohibits any mining and exploration at  headwaters of  rivers, protected zones of water bodies and forest areas is now in danger too, because the mining lobby succeeded in encouraging a group of MPs (Kokiushuzan D. Batbayar, O. Chuluunbat, A. Tleikhan, J. Batsuuri, Ya. Batsuuri, Kh. Badelkhan) to initiate an amendment to this law. The amendment submitted in the beginning of 2011 proposes to insert word «limit and» before «prohibit» in the name and body text of the law. Provision 4.1 stipulating that «exploration and extraction in headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water bodies and forested areas shall be prohibited» is edited to «borders of such areas shall be defined by government». In Article 4.5 «exploration and extraction licenses shall not be issued» will be edited to «new exploration licenses shall not be issued» in areas protected under this law. The initiators of this amendment justify it by the fact that the law has not been implemented in the one-year-half period since its adoption.  Enactment of such amendments will significantly compromise the main objectives of the law. It is also widely stipulated that «Centerra Gold» and other «reputable international companies» are devoted to their own standards, which are higher than those prescribed by Mongolian laws, and therefore should be left in peace to mine where they please.

The discussion of proposed amendment by parliament standing committees has triggered action by UMMRL, which sent a group of 40 horsemen to the mining sites in Ongi and Selenge river valleys to «act as a law enforcement agents», since government is unwilling to act.  Munkhbayar and the team have demanded in writing from each company to stop mining activity in compliance with the 2009 law. They have succeeded in stopping the mining activities of 15 companies in the past weeks but ran into a «stubborn» one, most likely to have clout with government forces.

This company, while signing the pledge to stop mining also donated an amount equivalent to 400 USD in support of this civil movement, but immediately that it turned around and reported to police that they fell victim of racketeering. Such behavior did not sit well with the leader of «Gal undesten» movement Ts. Munkhbayar resulting in shooting at the water cannon of the gold mining company «Irmuun Bosgo» in Uvurkhangai aimag.

On June 23, the official of Uvurkhangai aimag invited horsemen to «public hearings» and when they came they arrested Ts. Munkhbayar,   Ts. Sambuu-Yondon, M. Baatarkhuyag and brought him  that night  to Ulaanbaatar. «Coincidentally» the Director of UMMRL Dashdemberel and two leaders of «Gal undesten» have also been arrested the same day in Ulaanbaatar.

The Government officials and Parliament members have direct involvement in the mining business and/or they benefit from it and that is why they are not willing to do anything to control mining impacts.  The corrupt Mongolian Government has no desire to enforce this particular 2009 law because if they do, it will harm their interest. Now it opted for silencing those civic leaders, who have been instrumental in systematically pushing government to implement the law in a consistent and just manner.

Leave Munkhbayar and his friends alone!

Leaders of United movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes were arrested on June 23. English language media are silent and only SODON-blog reacted to this outrageous event.

Police  arrested Munkhbayar  again on June 23 and brought him  that night  to Ulaanbaatar. Three  others who were in Munkhbayar’s team were also arrested: Enkhbayar, Baatarkhuyag, and Naimanjin.
The reason? The leader of «Gal undesten» movement Munkhbayar and the others have shot at the water cannon of the gold mining company «Gurvan tamga» in Uvurkhangai aimag.
Munkhbayar and other environmentalists have demanded in writing from  this company to stop its mining activity because the territory of this goldmine belongs to the places where any mining is   prohibited  by the law (nicknamed a law with a long title) which was passed 2 years ago. But this company  has not responded and ignored their demand and that is when they fired at the mining equipment.
It says, some of leading members of this movement have been arrested too when they were in Ulaanbaatar.

So the Goldman Prize winner Munkhbayar and his friends are in jail. The corrupt Mongolian Government has no  desire  to enforce this particular law because if they do, it will harm their  interest.
The Government officials have direct involvement in the mining business and/or they benefit from it and that is why they are not willing to do anything even though it has passed already two years since the law went into effect. Those corrupt officials  don’t care about  saving the environment and wild nature but they care about their gain and welfare.
Some of the smaller companies were given notes to stop the mining but that is all what the Government has been doing since 2009. The bigger ones  stay   untouched.

Munkhbayar has demanded from the Government that it must enforce the law equally and stop all mining  in those areas described in that law, but nothing worked and that is when he went to the mining sites with his friends to «act as a law enforcement agent».  The law  which prohibits any mining and exploration at  headwaters of  rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forest areas is being in danger too because those corrupt officials are trying to amend this law lately.
He and his friends have succeeded in stopping the mining activities of few companies in the past weeks but this time he met  a «stubborn» one which  is probably backed by some greedy bastards.
So his battle is disrupted now and  he and his friends need an urgent help and support.
I urge everybody who cares about Mongolian nature to pass the word and do whatever is possible to support Munkhbayar and condemn the Government’s  shameless action!

SODON June 24, 2011

Green light to the DIPA World Heritage application

China is planning to build cross-border wetlands and nature reserves in its northeastern provinces to protect precious bird and fish species, the Minister of Environment Protection Zhou Shengxian said Thursday.The wetlands and nature reserves will be built at the lower reaches of such transnational rivers as the Amur-Heilongjiang River, Ussury-Wusuli River and Tumen River, Zhou said at a China-Russia environmental protection conference in Harbin, capital of northeastern Heilongjiang Province.

«China is willing to join hands with Russia to expand environment protection by deepening cooperation in such areas as biodiversity, wetland protection and environment policies,» Zhou said.

Also, China will further strengthen management and pollution control over such key transnational rivers, the minister said.

The Sino-Russian Sub-comission on cooperation on environmental protection conference that opened June 1 was also attended by Russia’s Minister for Natural Resources and Ecology Yuri Trutnev. Trutnev hoped that the two countries would soon reach an agreement on the building of natural reserves for Amur leopards and Siberian tigers.

Two important results of the meeting is approval of Sino-Russian Strategy for Development of Transboundary Network of Protected Areas  and  support to the application to World Heritage site listing for trilateral Sino-Russian-Mongolian «Dauria»International; Protected Area (DIPA).


Inner Mongolia Starts Sweep of Coal Mine Operations

Following recent protests, authorities in Inner Mongolia announced plans to review local coal mining activities on June 1.Local authorities in China’s Inner Mongolia have launched a month-long overhaul on the coal mining industry which started June 1, according to Inner Mongolia Daily

Pan Yiyang, vice governor of the autonomous region, called for an immediate environmental assessment over the sector, said the newspaper.

Sparked by a death of a herder in early May, several protests erupted in the region calling for stronger oversight in the mining industry’s impact on the local environment and the protection of traditional culture.

In response to the incident, Inner Mongolia’s governor, Bateer, told the official Xinhua Agency that the local government will not ignore the mining activities of companies which damage the environment or seriously affect local life. «We will conduct a thorough probe, and no individual or enterprise shall be spared if violations are found,» said Bateer.

About 4.2 million ethnic Mongolians live in Inner Mongolia, accounting for 17.1 percent of its total population, according to the sixth national census released in early May.

Inner Mongolia is the nation’s top coal producing region with an output of 786.65 million tons of raw coal in 2010, according to the Coal Industry Bureau of Inner Mongolia.

Source:   Caixing Journal


Factories turn grasslands into dust bowl

In the wake of  ecological protests in Inner Mongolia RwB reposts old article by Stephen Chen from SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST that shows how current crisis has been developing over years.

Trust an artist to know beauty when he sees it. That’s why it was good to know the timing was right for a visit to Inner Mongolia.
«August is the best season to visit,» said oil painter Chen Jiqun on the flight from Beijing to Xilinhot. «The grass is flowering, sheep fattening and horses prancing all over the steppe.»
Then he added: «Too bad you won’t be able to see them any more.»
After his listener got over the impact of the last sentence, he lifted the window shield. Below was Xilingol League, one of the most celebrated pastures in Inner Mongolia but now a flat, lifeless landscape as brown as the Australian Outback.
Less than 10 years ago, most of Inner Mongolia still looked more or less the same as the heavenly pasture where Genghis Khan and his horsemen sauntered, said Chen, who has been painting in the region since the 1960s. Despite the customary lack of rainfall, a wide spectrum of perennial grasses grow waist-high in summer, thanks to a scattered but ample quantity of lakes, seasonal rivers, wetlands and a fairly reliable supply of underground water.
But as China’s economy has boomed, a large number of coal and mineral mines have been built, followed by polluting factories, densely populated new towns and

ever-extending railways and highways to connect those industrial outposts. The thriving mining and heavy industries need water. With government approval, they have drained all permanent lakes, dammed or stopped the flow of almost every major river and built wells hundreds of metres deep to fetch an enormous volume of irreplaceable underground water used to wash ore, cool steamers and mix with pollutants for discharge.
In just a few years, healthy pastures have disappeared all the way north to the border with the country of Mongolia. According to some environmental researchers, the rampant industrialisation of Inner Mongolia may have produced the biggest man-made drought in history.
Knowing their crusade would face fierce resistance from 2000,000 Mongolia herdsmen whose livelihoods depended entirely on the steppe, the government of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has come up with a policy to disarm them.
Wriliji, a Mongolian herdsman in West Ujumchin Banner, Xilinhot, said that since 2003, the government had been tearing down primary schools in pastoral communities and forcing all the children to attend school in the banner’s headquarters.
The officials reasoned that a big, concentrated school would provide better education, but really it was to pave the way for the incoming mines and factories,Weiliji said.
Most herdsmen lived far from the banner headquarters, more than 200 kilometres away, and the school offered no boarding, so they were forced to leave their land and take their children to the headquarters, rent a house and stay there for a long period ?sometimes permanently.
While they were away, the government officials led mining companies to their land sinking shafts. If something valuable turned up, they would force the already cornered herdsmen forsaking their pasture to accept a low price such as 200,000 yuan(HK$228,000) for 3,000 hectares.
Raising cattle on our land is what we herdsmen are horn to do. Without land we are nothing. They knew I would meet them with a stick, so they hijacked my child,Weiliji said. Bastards.
But water was taken away, as well.
The Wulagai Wetland, less than 1,000 kilometres north of Beijing, used to be one of the largest, most ecologically prosperous and geographically important wetlands in China.
In Inner Mongolia there was simply nothing like it. More than 2,000 sq km of lowlands were thoroughly watered by a perennial river, and even during the worst droughts in the past, biological life still had a comfortable refuge and thrived. Mongolians even had a song singing the whenever Genghis Khan had trouble feeding his army, he went there to hunt game. Millions of Mongolia gazelles roamed, gorging themselves on more than 400 species of grass.
«It is hard to believe the government dared to build a dam over the river and turn such a heavenly pasture into a desert, but here you are. They dammed it,» said Aluha, a 60-year-old herdsman who said the first half-century of his life was bliss.

In 2002, a dam was built over the upper stream to harness water for the Wulagai Economic Development Zone, a medium-sized industrial complex of coal mines, power plants and chemical industries. Since then, not a single sluice gate has been raised. In less than three years, the entire wetland dried up and became a major source of the salty fine dust that fuels dust storms in Beijing.
Losing all his cattle, Aluha and his family moved north and resettled near the border of Inner Mongolia’s last pasture. «If the factories come here, I’ll fling myself over the border,» he said.
Professor Yi Jin of Inner Mongolia University leads a privately funded project that aims to restore a certain level of vegetation to the denuded landscape by applying a biologically degradable membrane over the dust. It is an untested technology, but even if it works, Yi said it would cost billions of yuan to make anysignificant changes.
A much cheaper, easier and more effective way is to blow up the God-damned dam, she said. According to Xinhua, the total investment in the industrial zones factories was only 12 million yuan, and their revenue was almost negligible compared with the cost of revamping the environment.
Yi was one of the few scientists in China who believed that the drought in Inner Mongolia was man-made. Other scholars made excuses for the government and mining business, in her view, by blaming global warming. For example, in a 350-page book by Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences professor Wang Zongli entitled Grassland Disasters ?C one of the few most authoritative accounts of the topic on the mainland ?C only the last chapter, consisting of 30 pages, was dedicated to human factors, and there was just one page about mining.
Data collected by the Xilinhot Meteorological Bureau showed the rainfall in the region remained more or less consistent. In recent years, it had even increased, Yi said.
But a direct comparison between Inner Mongolia and Mongolia shows that Mongolia is colder, drier with a fragile environment that ?C if the global warming argument is valid ?C should be as static as it is in Inner Mongolia. While the grassland on the mainland has disappeared, it continues to exist on the other side of the border.
Each time I return from a trip to Mongolia, I feel ashamed, Yi said. In the eyes of Mongolians, we Chinese must be a bunch of savages.
Another frustration for the herdsmen was the discharge of pollutants once the mines and factories were up and running. Biligebateer was one of the angry victims of Baiyinhua Coal Mine, one of Inner Mongolia’s largest, in West Ujumchin Banner.
Living on a small hill that oversees a huge plain stretching from west to east, Biligebateer witnessed that in just a few years the entire plain was filled by mines and factories that produced suffocating dust and smoke. His sheep began to die in large numbers. Their innards were black.
After attempts to get compensation from the government and the factories ended in vain, he laid up two piles of rocks on the hill.
It is a Mongolian’s shrine to say a prayer,he said. I pray for their bankruptcy.
The prayer may have been heard. Despite the continuing breakneck pace of industrialization, many mines and factories that were hastily built during the investment frenzy have begun to encounter financial difficulties.
The reason was that although Inner Mongolia had lot of minerals, from coal, copper and zinc to less-known xilingolite, it couldn’t match China’s other energy and mineral-rich provinces, such as Shanxi and Jiangxi in terms of quality, quantity and accessibility. Inner Mongolia coal, for instance, is notorious in the industry for its low burn tanking, which means that when burnt, it generates little heat but produces lots of ash bad for coal powered electricity plants.
Also, poor traffic conditions in the region result in higher levies on its excavation and transport. Most roads are long, poorly maintained and always slippery when it rains, prompting truck drivers to charge more. If the global demand for coal and minerals falls, many mines and chemical plants will not survive. Many, in fact ,are already out of business, leaving sheep and cows grazing leisurely inside the abandoned compounds.
It is also perhaps ironic that nature could deliver the decisive blow on the mines and factories through drought — the very disaster they created. Li Qinghai , an engineer with the Xilinhot Water Statistics Bureau, said that nearly all mines and factories in Inner Mongolia had built secret, illegal wells to suck up water from deep underground.
«There’s simply not enough surface water in Inner Mongolia to support heavy industry. They must go underground,» Li said. «The problem is that beyond a certain depth, such as 150 metres, the water reserves are usually not recyclable. Some were accumulated over a million years’ time. When they are gone, they are gone. In eight years, most factories in Inner Mongolia will run out of business for lack of water.»

Reposted from Echoing steppe http://www.cy.ngo.cn