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.
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.