Архив за месяц: Июль 2011

Mongolian Mining Conundrum — A Glance from Canada

Given  huge stake that Canadian capitalists already have in Mongolian mines an article «Mongolia faces resource ‘curse'» in Vancouver Sun presenting views on Mongolian mining and environmental activists is especially interesting to us.RwB

No one missed the symbolism when the Mongolian government this month announced which companies are getting the rights to develop the western block of the world’s largest known coal reserve, Tavan Tolgoi, in the Gobi Desert.

The Chinese company, Shenhua Energy, won the right to develop 40 per cent of the block. A Russian consortium got 36 per cent, and America’s Peabody Energy won 24 per cent.

Those proportions represent a reasonably accurate picture of how the government in Ulan Bator manages its relationships by both courting and holding at arms-length its two overpowering neighbours, Russia and China, with the help of a long range economic and military alliance with the United States.

But 21 years after Mongolia escaped from the collapsing Soviet Union and achieved renewed independence, the stateowned Tavan Tolgoi deposit, believed to contain 6.5 billion metric tons of metallurgical coal, has even greater significance. Early next year, Erdenes MGL, the state company in charge of developing the remainder of Tavan Tolgoi, will float 29 per cent of the company in international exchanges.

The public offering is expected to raise more than $10 billion. Already, however, 10 per cent of those shares have been distributed to every one of Mongolia’s 2.7 million citizens.

As the government of Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold wrestles with the challenges of developing one of the world’s last known great deposits of mineral wealth, he also must confront the monumental social and cultural pressures involved.

It’s a matter of how a culture and an economy based on the produce and virtues of the life of semi-nomadic herders on Mongolia’s vast plains of open steppe can adapt to take advantage of its mineral deposits, estimated at current values to be worth at least $1 trillion.

These are not easy matters and successive Mongolian governments have struggled to evolve a workable policy toward mineral development while establishing a vigorous democracy, even as a tumultuous rush to grab stakes to the country’s mineral resources is underway. Those governments have been well aware that for underdeveloped countries — 30 per cent of Mongolians still live in poverty — sudden wealth from natural resources can be more a curse than a benefit.

The prime minister has said repeatedly that Norway, Canada and Chile are the examples of resource-based economies he wants Mongolia to follow. Hence the issuing of Tavan Tolgoi shares to Mongolians rather than the failed voucher system in a round of privatizations of state-owned companies when the government adopted free-market reforms after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Mongolia is also borrowing from Chile’s experience and establishing a fiscal stabilization fund, which will set aside money for long-term development and tide the country through the inevitable roller-coaster ride in commodity values.

There is also a new Mongolian Development Bank, which will gather mineral revenues to provide loans for infrastructure projects.

A Human Development Fund will use mine revenues to finance education, housing, health care and other social development programs. But not everyone is delighted with the direction Mongolia is taking, even if it does offer a more prosperous future.

There is a loud and sometimes violent anti-mine movement led by an iconic nomadic herder, Tsetsegee Munkhbayer, who heads a group called Fire Nation.

Munkhbayer is in prison after he and followers shot at equipment at a mine in the southern province of Ovorkhangai.

This is not the first time Munkhbayer and his group have used dramatic acts to draw attention to what they say is irresponsible mining operations that they claim are destroying grass land and polluting rivers.

In September, the group riddled a bulldozer with bullet holes at the Boroo gold mine in Selenge province, which is owned by the Toronto-based Canadian company Centerra Gold Inc. And in April, Fire Nation activists charged on horseback into Ulan Bator’s central Sukhbaatar Square.

Munkhbayer began his campaign by leading demands that the Ongi River, one of the country’s largest, be cleaned up after it nearly ran dry because of unchecked mining activities.

Munkhbayer was successful in getting the government to shut down 35 of the 37 mines in the area. As a result, he was awarded in the U.S. in 2007 the Goldman Environmental Prize, which is given to grassroots conservation activists.

By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun July 19, 2011

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Riverpeople in UB Jail- Chronicles

We closely followed crusade, arrest and days in jail of our Mongolian  colleagues. Below collection of news clippings day by day

June  21, 2011

Gal Undesten delivers demand note to seven mining companies

Gal Undesten Union yesterday told journalists that it has delivered demand notes to seven mining companies in Selenge and Darkhan-Uul aimags in the last two weeks. Of them, Puraam LLC in Mandal soum of Selenge aimag has stopped its activity and Buurgent LLC in Bayangol soum has said it will not mine gold. The movement is waiting for a reply from Centerra Gold Mongolia LLC in the Gatsuurt area of Selenge aimag and Peninsula Mining LLC in Bayangol soum.

The companies in Darkhan-Uul aimag to receive the note are Altan Khundii LLC, Zunma LLC and Alfa Orgil LLC in Shariin Gol soum. Gal Undesten also said they yesterday went to Ultiin Gold LLC in Uyanga soum of Uvurkhangai aimag.

June 29, 2011

Seven members of Gal Undesten Union arrested

On 24th June the Mongolian General Police Department reported that members of the Gal Vndesten movement were arrested. The United Movement for Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, led by Munkhbayar, merged with other environmentalist movements to build the Gal Undesten movement.

Due to information from a press conference «On 19th June over 40 activists of Gal Vndesten movement threatened the workers of Ermuun Bosgo gold mining company which operates in Uvurkhangai province and demanded a large sum of money.

They also met with the company’s director and demanded to stop the operation of the gold mine.

However, the company did not respond to any demands Munkhbayar and other environmentalists have sent written demands to stop its mining activity because the territory of this goldmine belongs to places where any mining is prohibited.

They demanded MNT 500,000 making threats by firearms and horsewhip. Then they menaced the director into writing down that the money was given as a donation and made him sign.

It is proved that two days later the Gal Vndesten movement members came again and shot at the gold mining equipment twice» informed the police department.

The police inspected the scene of the incident. Currently, legal proceedings are being instigated against Ts. Munkhbayar, B.Tumurbaatar and O.Sambuu-Yondon. They are being investigated following the criminal code of Mongolia, under the article of offences against property.

Previously, Gal Vndesten movement shot 22 times at the facility of mining company, which operates in Selenge providence. They were scrutinised instigating a legal proceeding by the case of opening fire 3 times to the «Centra Gold» company’s fuel container.

To make it clear, the police explained that Gal Vndesten movement members had been arrested because of repeated offences committed whilst on bail. Chief of the Media Office of General Police Department, T.Sainjargal said «The police are investigating those people because they intentionally defaced and caused damage to another person’s property.

The Prosecutor examined the case and the court made a decision to take them into custody» he said.

Moreover, on 3rd June activists of Gal Vndesten demonstrated at Central Square and shot at Government House with bows and arrows. The legal proceeding was instigated against this case as well. Seven members of the Managing Council of Gal Undesten movement have been arrested for 30 days.

Ts.Munkhbayar, M.Baatarkhuyag, Naimanjin and D.Tumurbaatar are being detained in Prison 461 while G.Dashdemberel, G.Boldbaatar and Ts.Enkhbayar are in Prison 111.


 July 6, 2011

2 civil movement hunger strikers stop drinking fluid

Two of the seven members of the Managing Council of Gal Undesten Union began a hunger strike in detention on July 1 and from July 6 they have stopped drinking any fluid also. The condition of the movement’s Law Advisor, G.Dashdemberel, is as yet stable but that of Ts.Enkhbayar is causing concern. They are protesting against the decision of the court to detain the seven.

Members of Gal Undesten and some other civil movements on July 5 sent a joint note to the Sukhbaatar District Court demanding the release of the seven before July 10. All of them were arrested 10 days ago and have been held without charge since then. The Secretary of the court accepted the note and said a reply would be sent according to law.


July 14, 2011

4 members of Gal Undesten freed on bail

Four of the seven detained members of the Managing Council of Gal Undesten Union were released on bail before Naadam. They are Ts. Munkhbayar, O.Sambuu-Yondon, G. Tumurbaatar and M. Baatarkhuyag. MPs G.Bayarsaikhan and G. Odkhuu, who initiated the law banning mining exploration and exploitation activity in river and forest basins, signed the bail documents to get the four released.


July 22 2011

Gal Undesten Union members likely to be released tomorrow

Ts.Enkhbayar, D.Boldbaatar and G.Dashdemberel, all members of the Managing Council of Gal Undesten Union, are likely to be released from detention tomorrow. The Sukhbaatar District Court had ordered their detention for 30 days.

Boldbaatar is in hospital for an illness and Enkhbayar and Dashdemberel were also in hospital for between 10 and 13 days when their condition deteriorated following a hunger strike. Following talk that the days they were in hospital will not be counted as part of the detention, they have sent a request to the Ulaanbaatar Prosecutors’ Office and the Chief of the Detention Center to ensure that their detention is not extended.

July 25.

All 7 activists freed up and 5 of them participate in Council Meeting of UMMRL.


Hard choice: Oil for China or for themselves?

This summer Mongolia experiences tremendous fuel shortages. In a long term oil-exporting country should be able to provide for itself. So recent decision to develop oil refinery in Dornod Aimag seems very logical, though  associated with certain environmental risks. Continuous attempts to reduce environmental and social losses from operations of Petrochina and other chinese oil-exporting companies may be related or not related to decision to promote Mongolia’s own oil-drilling and oil-processing business. See collection below. RwB

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Petrochina Oil Exporting From Mongolia is Halted

According to local media reports, Road Transportation Authority has briefed today that it has closed transportation road of Petrochina Daqing Tamsag Mongol Company that has PSC with Mongolia

— Agency discovered 10 breaches and suspended transportation right of the company until it will fix the breaches

— Breaches include:

— Not establishing 2011 agreement with authorized auto transportation organizations

— Creating of about 20 subtracks due to not making transportation according to route approved by the ministry

— Environmental damage and so on

— Road is in bad shape

— It is impossible to vehicles to pass each other since auto road from Tamsag valley till Bichigt border crossing has been narrowed

— Classification of driver licenses of some drivers is improper

— There have been instances of driving transportation vehicles with Mongolian license plates with PRC driver licenses and other document irregularities

— Petrochina exports about 2mtpa of crude by 25-30 vehicles with 25-30 tns freight load

COST OF ROAD CLOSURE TO MONGOLIAN CRUDE EXPORTS- Mongolia crude exports YTD (06/15/2011) 979K barrels worth 97M USD.





2011 July 7

Refinery to be set up in Choibalsan, Dornod

The Government yesterday decided to set up an oil refinery in Choibalsan of Dornod aimag. Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy D.Zorigt and Chief of the State Property Committee D. Sugar have been asked to arrange for a partner company to own shares along with the state, and to prepare the rules and regulations under which the joint venture will work. The refinery will be called Dornod Oil LLC. Several proposals have been received to set up a refinery but the only ones to meet international standards are the following, with capacity in brackets: Darkhan (2 million tons), Rashaant Urtuu (300,000 tons), Dornod province (120,000 tons), Zuunbayan in Dornogobi (330,000 tons), and another also in Zuunbayan (50,000 tons).  The cost ranges from USD28 million to USD600 million and it would take between 1.5 years and 4 years to finish construction. Around 1,000 working places would be created. Source http://english.news.mn/

TIME on Sino-Russian energy relationships

«In summer, intolerable closeness; in winter, unendurable cold.»

So Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote of his years of hard labor in 19th century Siberia, after a jittery Tsar Nicholas I banished the famed writer to the lonely Far East. For centuries, the massive swath of land east of Moscow and north of China has been a place of political and cultural exile, but more for its geographic isolation than its lack of provisions. In fact, other exiles in the 1800s made special note that their hosts seemed to have plenty of everything, and by the turn of the century, industrial towns were popping up across the region as tens of thousands of free Russians headed east to take advantage of Siberia’s deep troves of natural resources.

A hundred years later, Beijing is getting in on the action, striking deals to import everything Siberia has on offer — from oil to gas to iron to timber — to help feed China’s growth and appetite for non-coal energy sources.

In 2009, China pushed Germany aside to become Russia’s largest trading partner. Russia and China have already signed a binding (though troubled) agreement that Russia will become China’s largest supplier of natural gas from fields in western and eastern Siberia; in June, the two governments held the latest in a series of ongoing talks over that deal. Despite their failure to reach an agreement on gas pricing, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said last month the utility is «completely ready to begin pipeline construction.»

Meanwhile, as of June 1, over six million tons of crude have flowed from Russia to China via the recently completed East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, and plenty of plans to increase Siberian hydropower for Chinese consumption are in the works. Today, a fourth major hydroelectric dam is being completed on Siberia’s Angara River, a 1,105-mile long river that flows out of pristine Lake Baikal, the world’s largest lake. The Boguchanskaya dam is expected to start producing electricity by next spring, and Oleg Deripaska, one of the wealthiest men in Russia and the project’s financer, says that will be part of the 60 billion kWh per year that China has asked Russia to send its way by 2020. In 2009, Russia supplied China with 1 billion kWh.

Beijing’s official line is that its growing interest and investment in Siberia will help an isolated and economically depressed part of the world get back on its feet. Indeed, in 2009, the Far East was the only part of Russia where investment did not shrink, but grew. «I believe that in terms of GDP of Siberian provinces, it could be tripled in the next 15 years,» Deripaska, whose EuroSibEnergo is Russia’s largest private power company and produces 8% of the Russia’s energy, told the BBC. «I can’t see how we can miss this opportunity.»

Many, however, are concerned about the impact these vast projects will have on Siberia’s culture and landscape. Residents of many villages that are in the dams’ floodways have been relocated from their pastoral villages to the region’s bleak, Soviet-era cities, and environmentalists fret about the loss of water from the rivers and the flooding of forests.

Still others worry about the rapid increase in trade and interdependence given the nations’ fraught history, and the ‘takeover’ of Siberia’s wide open spaces by Chinese migrants. Tens of thousands of Chinese workers already live in eastern Siberia, both legally and illegally, willing to work for half the wages of Russian laborers. The  Russian population of the Far East is expected to drop to 4.5 million by 2015. That’s less than a quarter of the population of Beijing alone. As more and more energy deals are signed, Siberia is about to get a lot less lonely.

Krista Mahr is a reporter at TIME

Guardian: Inner Mongolia’s grasslands in crisis

Temperatures and tensions are rising as miners — and tourists — move in to one of China’s most remote and ecologically fragile regions

Chinese riot police were reportedly dragging off protesting herders while I was blithely listening to karaoke on the Inner Mongolian grasslands this week.

I was unaware of the trouble, though I was on a family holiday in the same northern region. This is not entirely surprising given the vastness of an area that covers more than a million square kilometres and the ruthlessness of a censorship regime that blocks websites and locks up individuals for emailing images of protests. But even from the perspective of a holidaymaker, I could see why the changes in the region — particularly to the environment — might spark unrest.

I chose Manzhouli — close to China‘s border with Mongolia (the country) and Russia — for a summer break because its grasslands are supposed to be tranquil, cool, sparsely populated and extremely beautiful. I should have realised, though, it would not turn out as expected.

Instead of a secluded Mongolian camp, we ended up in a complex of concrete yurts with a karaoke machine, firework display and bonfire disco that blasted out techno music across the starlit steppe. I was at first dismayed, then resigned. On the bright side, it was funny in a not-at-all-like-the-brochure sort of way. Not so amusing was the reduction of Mongolia culture to a series of song-and-dance shows and the evident deterioration of the environment.

At this time of year, locals said the grass was usually lush green and knee high. But amid a severe drought, the blades were yellowing and barely reached my ankles. Some areas had already turned to desert and several nearby lakes had dried up so completely that their beds were cracked and white with salt deposits. One herder told me he would soon have to buy fodder — unthinkable in past summers. His concerns appeared unlikely to make ripples; Timber yards and open cast pits suggested the local economy is now dependent on mining and the processing of logs imported from Siberia.

It is a similar story across much of Inner Mongolia. In recent years, the region has become China’s leading producer of coal and rare earths as well as the doorway to Russia (and the biggest timber trade in the world). This has attracted an influx of Han businessmen. Meanwhile, the traditional nomadic lifestyle has come under multiple assault from open-cast mining, over-grazing, enclosed farming, migration and global warming.

Many Mongolians — who make up only a fifth of the population in their homeland — are unhappy about these trends. Last month, I covered
the wave of protests sparked by the killing of a Mongolian herder by a Han truck driver. This week, police are said to have beaten up and detained ethnic Mongolians who demonstrated against a lead mine in Bayannuur. According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, the protesters shut down the mine’s water pump when it expanded on to their grazing lands. Local police and the mine’s owners, however, told The Guardian «nothing happened».

The authorities might deny the social impact, but something is definitely happening to the environment in Inner Mongolia, just as it is happening in Tibet and Xinjiang. An indigenous population is being squeezed out by a more powerful ethnic group that wants to exploit the region’s resources. It is an old story, similar to that seen in the US, Australia, New Zealand and many other parts of the world over the past few centuries, but with the added complications of climate change and globalisation.

Earlier this week, Radio Free Asia reported that a protest song has been written by a Mongolian rapper. Downloadable here, the lyrics make a direct connection between environmental abuse and social unrest:

«We have grazed animals here thousands of years…How many people are coming here to open mines and plunder our resources…Our home is being devastated..The green grasslands are turning yellow.»

I have not been able to verify how popular this rap has become in Inner Mongolia, but it is unlikely to ever appear on a karaoke machine here.


Jonathan Watts


AFP praises Mukhbayar

By Michael Kohn | AFP – Wed, Jul 6, 2011

Mongolia herder on mission to tackle mining firms

 The destruction of Mongolia’s grasslands to access a wealth of mineral riches has sparked an anti-mining movement led by a nomadic herder who says force can be used to bring polluting firms to heel.

Tsetsegee Munkhbayar is the head of Fire Nation, a small group on a crusade to put an end to what they say are irresponsible mining operations in the resource-rich landlocked country that are threatening their livelihoods.

After failing to gain traction with the country’s political leaders, Munkhbayar and his fellow activists reportedly took matters into their own hands and shot at equipment at a mine in the southern province of Ovorkhangai.

Now Munkhbayar — who in 2007 gained national fame by winning the US-based Goldman Environmental Prize honouring grassroots activists for his work in cleaning up the Ongi river, one of the largest in the country — is in jail.

«We will give the mining companies fair warning — either they must cease their activities or incur our wrath,» Munkhbayar, 44, told reporters shortly before he was detained late last month in connection with the mine incident.

«If they do not comply with our demands, then we will use our guns. We are not violent people but we will do what we need to do to stop these environmental polluters.»

Munkhbayar’s quest for justice began with his work on the Ongi river. It had run nearly dry due to unchecked mining activity as both local and foreign companies look to cash in on the country’s mineral treasure trove.

He won the Goldman Prize after lobbying to shut down 35 of the 37 mines in the area, and has since used the $125,000 that came along with it to increase public awareness about environmental issues.

But he and his ragtag band of activist herders are finding it hard to keep up with the dizzying pace at which private mines are opening up — and are finding their cause largely ignored in Mongolia’s halls of officialdom.

In April, they charged onto the main Sukhbaatar Square in the capital Ulan Bator on horseback, calling for the government to clean up the mining sector and take more responsibility for environmental degradation.

«We wanted to speak to the president, to tell him that if he cannot do his job properly, then he should step down,» Munkhbayar told AFP.

When top leaders spurned their requests for a meeting, the protesters responded Genghis Khan-style — by shooting arrows at Government House. And then came the incident at the mine in Ovorkhangai province.

No one was injured and there was minimal damage to the equipment, but Munkhbayar is in police custody in Ulan Bator. Local media say he can be detained without charge for up to 30 days, until about July 24.

It was not the first time that Munkhbayar had resorted to violence.

In September last year, he and three other activists shot up a bulldozer at the Canadian-run Boroo gold mine in Selenge province, after the mining company refused to cease operations that he said were polluting local streams.

In China’s Inner Mongolia region to the south, ethnic Mongol herders are similarly angry at what they say is rampant mining, and in May staged several days of protests over resource exploitation by powerful mining interests.

The confrontations highlight the rift between Mongolia?s traditional way of life and new economic realities in the impoverished country.

Mongolia is setting itself up to be a global name in the mining industry, thanks mostly to its vast reserves of gold, silver, coal, iron ore, uranium and oil — and the voracious appetite for resources in neighboring China.

Plans are being laid for a vast network of paved highways, rail lines, power stations and other infrastructure that will forever change the landscape of this sparsely populated nation of 2.7 million inhabitants.

Herders are already feeling the effects of the economic boom.

Many have lost their pastures and moved to Ulan Bator, where they have joined an army of urban poor in the shantytowns circling the capital.

Others have turned to «ninja mining» — panning for gold in the tailings left behind by bigger mining companies. Small numbers have joined Munkhbayar in his campaign to fight the mining companies.

«They are not afraid to protest,» Kirk Olson, a US biologist and environmentalist working on a World Bank-sponsored project in Mongolia, told AFP.

«They are starting to realise that all this unchecked mining is impacting their livelihoods and they are standing up and saying ‘enough is enough’.»

Olson says that in many parts of Mongolia, mining companies have drained water resources, destroying grasslands and depriving herders of their livelihoods. He said more cooperation was needed to end the problem.

The government has attempted to slow the destruction.

Last year, it enacted a law banning mining operations near rivers and forests and suspended more than 1,700 mining licenses in these areas. But activists like Munkhbayar have said the law is not being enforced.

Some politicians have proposed setting up a fund financed in part by the mines themselves to help rehabilitate spoiled land.

«Someone has to take responsibility for all this damage and if the mining companies have not done it, then the state has to step up,» lawmaker Sanjasurengiin Oyun, a geologist by education, told AFP.

Until then, activists like Munkhbayar are facing an uphill battle.

«We are a small group of simple herders fighting powerful people,» said Munkhbayar.

«It’s not an easy fight but we cannot stand by idly and watch our land and way of life come to an end.»

RAID letter to the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3  July 2011

to H. E Gombojav  Zandanshatar

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade



RE : Arrests of  Leaders of Fire Nation (Gal Undesten) and United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL)



Dear Minister,

 I am writing to you as a matter of some urgency regarding the reports we have just received concerning the recent arrests of leaders of Mongolia’s environmental movement. I am the Executive Director of Rights & Accountability in Development (RAID), a non-governmental organization that works to promote human rights and responsible corporate conduct.  I am also a member of the Steering Board of the British Government’s National Contact Point for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises- a government-backed code of conduct for promoting responsible corporate behaviour.

The arrests on 23 June 2011 of the leaders of Fire Nation and the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL) would appear to be related to their opposition to mining undertaken in areas where such activities are prohibited by law because of the risk to Mongolia’s rivers and key water sources.  They have organized demonstrations in Ulaan Baatar, the capital and visited companies in certain areas to dissuade them from mining in protected zones in contravention of Mongolian law.

According to information that we have received four UMMRL members were arrested on 23 June after they had accepted an invitation to attend a public meeting issued by a local government official of Uvurkhangai aimag.  On arrival Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, N. Sambuu-Yondon, D. Tumurbaatar and M. Baatarkhuyag were immediately arrested. They are now being held at the Gants Khudag detention centre.  Only in the case of Mr Ts. Munkhbayar was there warrant for the arrest for damage to property.  This relates to an incident that occurred in September 2010 when Mr Munkhbayar and three other UMMRL members allegedly fired shots with their hunting rifles at gold mining equipment belonging to two foreign companies, Centerra Gold and Puuram LLC in the mountains of Selenge, one of the provinces with the highest concentration of gold production. The incident is under investigation.  Munkhbayar is also alleged to have fired shots on 22 June 2011 at equipment belonging to the gold mining company,  Irmuun Bosgo LLC, in Uvurkhangai.

Other arrests of environmental activists took place on 23 June in Ulaan Baatar: G. Boldbaatar, Ts. Enkhayar and G. Dashdemberel, who are leaders of UMMRL and the Fire Nation were arrested allegedly on the orders of Sukhbaatar District Judge N. Sukhbaatar because they had helped organize unauthorized demonstrations in Sukhbaatar Square, Ulaan Baatar’s main square.  These demonstrations took place in April, May and early June. Dozens of nomads and herders from regions surrounding the capital converged on Sukhbaatar Square to demand the adoption of draft legislation to demarcate the boundaries of the protected areas.

This is not the first time that the international community’s attention has been drawn to the social tension in Mongolia arising in relation to the rapid expansion of mining activities and the apparent failure of the Government to find a balance between the interests of mining industry and the rights of the wider population to an adequate standard of living and a healthy and safe environment.  Indeed the concerns about the human rights impact of mining was raised in a submission signed by a group of civil society organizations during Mongolia’s Universal Periodic Review:[i]   The United Nations has also expressed its concern about the problems associated with poorly regulated mining:

According to the Constitution, land is the property of the State. The rights of indigenous nomadic people to use the pastureland are recognized in customary law but there are no individual rights to pasture use or ownership. Mining licenses are issued by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy and local stakeholders are barely consulted in the decision making process. In recent years, 40% of the land has been conceded to mineral licenses. As from April 2010, the President has stopped the mineral affairs authorities delivering new mining and exploration licenses for an indefinite period, until a legal environment has been created. In 2009 a law was introduced to prohibit mining near important natural resources. Mining is prohibited within Protected Areas, which cover 14 percent of the Mongolian territory.  The law requires mining companies to rehabilitate the environment, but it is not adequately enforced. People’s right to a safe and healthy environment is threatened by exhausted deposits which leave the land damaged, soil and water sources extensively polluted, especially with mercury and altered or dried up waterways.[ii]

In 2009 the Mongolian Parliament passed legislation prohibiting mining in protected zones including forested areas, river headwaters and water reservoirs.[iii]    But before this law can be implemented, the boundaries of the protected lands must be defined for the whole territory of Mongolia.  In 2010 UMMRL worked with the Water Agency and local representatives to set these boundaries in the regions. The draft law covers an area of about 30 percent of the country. Its enactment is therefore an 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 they require final authorization by the Government of Mongolia.  The demonstrations in the capital had the objective of encouraging parliament to pass the law.

Many mining companies, such as the Toronto-listed Centerra Gold, which has a 100% equity interest in the Boroo gold mine (110 kms NW of the capital), have allegedly expressed their opposition to attempts to strengthen Mongolia’s environmental laws.  A group of MPs with links to the mining industry have also tabled amendments to the 2009 law protecting water resources, which would enable companies, who already have mine licenses, to continue to mine for gold in protected zones.  While the Government of Mongolia has banned the activities of some smaller Mongolian companies, foreign mining companies have been allowed to continue, allegedly because they have threatened legal action if their licences are revoked.

Over the past 15 years gold extraction has diverted or dried up rivers and the use of toxic chemicals has polluted many rivers and streams.  In June 2011, the Fire Nation delivered letters to a number of companies including Centerra Gold, calling on them to cease their operations.

We would urge the Government of Mongolia to respect the right to freedom of expression of the members of Fire Nation and UMMRL.  Those alleged to have committed firearms offences or damage to property should be formally charged or released.  All should be grated access to their families and lawyers. There is an urgent need for the Government to enter into dialogue with Mongolian civil society so as to avoid further confrontation and to enact legislation to protect the country’s ecosystem on which the lives and livelihoods of the rural population depend.   It is only through dialogue that the problems underlying the opposition to the mining sector can be addressed.  Many foreign mining companies such as the Canadian Centerra Gold are expected to adhere to the provisions of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  The OECD Guidelines seek ‘to encourage the positive contribution which multinational enterprises can make to economic, social and environmental progress, and minimise and resolve difficulties which may arise from their operations’.  Companies are also expected to:

Refrain from seeking or accepting exemptions not contemplated in the statutory or regulatory framework related to human rights, environmental, health, safety, labour, taxation, financial incentives, or other issues. [OECD Guidelines 2011 Chapter II (v)]

On 16 June 2011 the UN Human Rights Council endorsed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  The Guiding Principles remind States that they have an obligation to ‘Enforce laws that are aimed at, or have the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights and periodically to assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps’. States should  also ‘maintain adequate domestic policy space to meet their human rights obligations when pursuing business-related policy objectives with other States or business enterprises, for instance through investment treaties or contracts.’[iv]

It is my hope that theses human rights principles will guide the Government of Mongolia in its efforts to reach a speedy and just solution to the conflict that has arisen in relation to mining in protected zones.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Feeney

Executive Director

Rights & Accountability in Development | PO Box 778, Oxford, OX1 9GU | United Kingdom

Tel: (+44) (0)1865 436245 | Fax: (+44) (0)1865 612001

Guardian’s insights into UB build-up

In June The Guardian published an article «Driven from the land» by Kit Gillet attepmting to explain how come that the capital already holds from 55 to 70% of national population.

As desertification and bitter winters increasingly destroy the livelihoods of Mongolia‘s herders, hundreds of thousands are moving into Ulan Bator‘s shantytowns from the dry, desolate countryside. Kit Gillet reports.

It is a supreme irony in a country once known as the land without fences. Stretching north from the capital, Ulan Bator, an endless succession of dilapidated boundary markers criss-cross away into the distance. They demarcate a vast shantytown that sprawls for kilometres and is now estimated to be home to a quarter of the entire population of Mongolia.

More than 700,000 people have crowded into the area in the past two decades. Many are ex-herders and their families whose livelihoods have been destroyed by bitter winters that can last more than half the year; many more are victims of desertification caused by global warming and overgrazing; the United Nations Development Programme estimates that up to 90% of the country is now fragile dryland.

Yet with limited education, few transferable job skills and often no official documents, most inhabitants end up simply waiting, getting angry with the government and reminiscing about nomadic lives past. Many take to alcohol.

«More and more people arrive every year and there are so few jobs available,» said Davaasambuu after queuing for 30 minutes to collect his family’s daily drinking water from one of 500 water stations that dot the slum. «Nothing has changed in my neighbourhood since the last election [in May 2009]. There have been no new jobs or improvements. One little bridge has been added in the last four years — that’s it.»

The basic infrastructure is not in place to support such a large population, which expands by tens of thousands of people a year. Many of them still live in a gerthe traditional round, felt tent they arrived with from the countryside and which gives the districts their name and also their sense of impermanence.

Davaasambuu’s is not an easy life. The area around his home is falling into disrepair, with rubbish piling high. Nightly fights between drunks are getting worse. But at least he can take comfort in the fact that he now has a job with which to support his family, unlike many of his neighbours.

«Not everyone in the ger district is dirt poor — some are doing OK — but it is a hard life,» said Troy Tvrdik, whose educational- and vocational-training NGO, Flourishing Future, is based in the district. «Even when it is minus 40°, you still have to go out to get water.»

A World Bank report published last year highlighted the plight of ger district residents, most of whom have limited access to electricity and no running water, sewage or central heating. The report found that during the long winter, when temperatures plummet to below freezing for up to eight months, poorer residents are forced to spend up to 40% of their income on wood or coal for heating, which adds to their financial burden as well as to the heavy clouds of pollution that hang over the city.

Roads are simple, unpaved mud paths and streets have no signs, lights or even names, but are merely the gaps between rows of tents or shacks set up by newly arrived migrants, without any input from the government.

«The quality of the infrastructure is a major problem,» said Mesky Brhane, a senior urban specialist with the World Bank, who helped produce last year’s report. «[People] are clearly frustrated by the lack of infrastructural improvements by the government.»

Protesters, many from the ger districts, have repeatedly descended on the parliament over the past few years, including a large protest in April, demanding a better distribution of the country’s mining wealth. Despite the money pouring into the country from the mining of natural resources, little makes its way to the residents of the shantytown. Mongolia has a population of just 2.7 million yet has the world’s largest mining-exploration project and, in Tavan Tolgoi, the world’s second-largest coal deposit.

Even in the more central ger areas, where many residents have lived for over a decade and built more permanent wooden or brick houses, running water and central heating are unavailable and the streets remain dark, mud roads with open sewage streams and rubbish piled high.

Another big concern is the level of unemployment. While tens of thousands of rural migrants flood the city every year looking for work, setting up their tents at the point where last year’s migrants stopped, unemployment remains a critical issue, especially in the ger districts where the unemployment rate can be as high as 62%, compared with 21% in the more developed areas of the capital.

The Mongolian government has officially declared 2011 «employment support year» in an effort to create 70,000 new jobs, but so far few signs of improvement have been visible.

«One of the biggest problems is that there is very little economic activity within the ger districts due to inadequate infrastructure — everyone has to leave the area to work,» said Brhane. «One new project the World Bank is working on is looking at ways to generate local economic development so people can live and work there. It would make a tremendous difference to people’s lives.»

«We have 12 people in our family and only two have work,» said Dashkhord, aged 50. She and her family moved from the countryside five years ago after one harsh winter took away their entire herd of 100 animals. They arrived with next to nothing and simply pitched their tent on the outskirts of the sprawling shantytown.

«The first year was really difficult,» she said. «It took me over a year to find my first job — cleaning at a hotel. I spent the first few months simply collecting plastic bottles to sell.»

Today Dashkhord earns the equivalent of about US$100 a month as a cleaner at a supermarket, a far cry from her pastoral background, while her eldest daughter looks after children for a wealthier family.

«My other daughter is also looking for a job helping look after kids,» she said. «But it is hard since there are so few jobs and they are so far away. Also, all the job adverts now say you must be over 1.7 metres, beautiful and well educated.»

«For me, I wish we stayed in the village, but for my daughter and grandkids it is better here,» said Baasankhuu, aged 63, who moved to a ger district three years ago and whose roughly US$65-a-month pension is barely enough for her and her family to live on. «My grandchildren can get a better education in Ulan Bator and maybe have a chance at a real job and future.»


Death sentence after Inner Mongolia unrest

Sun Shuning was found guilty of deliberately hitting a man with his forklift truck during a protest last month over pollution from a coal mine.Earlier this month, another truck driver was sentenced to death for killing an ethnic Mongolian herder.

The herder’s death sparked protests across the northern Chinese region.

The herder, named Mergen, was with about 20 other protesters at the time of his death as he tried to stop the coal truck driving across pastureland.

Mergen was run over and dragged nearly 150m (490ft) before he died, officials said.

The co-driver was given a life term for his role in the 10 May killing, which led to a series of protests in towns and cities across Inner Mongolia — which the security forces acted quickly to put down.

In the latest case, Sun was convicted of murdering Yan Wenlong after «a dispute over pollution caused by a coal mine,» state news agency Xinhua said.

«The act was utterly cruel, the crime very serious, and the consequences extremely bad,» it cited a statement from the court in Xilinhot.

The trials come just weeks after the deaths, with the authorities keen to show they are satisfying the calls for justice, analysts say.

The Chinese government has announced plans to address the protesters’ concerns, including a crackdown on unmonitored coal extraction and measures to ensure more environmentally sound mining.

Inner Mongolia is China’s largest coal producing region.

The region has traditionally been home to nomadic Mongolian herders. But it has seen an influx of mining companies keen to exploit the region’s rich coal reserves, damaging grazing lands.

Less than 20% of Inner Mongolia’s estimated 25 million residents are ethnic Mongolians.

Source: bbc.co.uk