Submitted by: Mongolian Nature and Environment Consortium
Implemented country: Mongolia
Title: Helping Ninja Gold Miners in Mongolia Help Themselves
In Mongolia there are more than 100,000 illegal gold and coal miners commonly referred to as Ninja Miners because they work under very dangerous conditions. There are no safety precautions for handling cyanide or mercury. Mercury poisoning is very common. These workers receive no medical attention. Children don’t go to school but instead have to work as forced laborers. Violation of human rights is the order of the day. No help can be expected from the police. Once a mine is exploited it remains open – like a huge gash in the landscape. Protecting the environment is not a topic. People are only concerned about day-to-day survival. This needed to come to an end. Badarch Mendbayar, an ecologist and director of the Mongolian Nature Environment Consortium, became active and developed an aid plan for the afflicted miners of the Zaamar gold mines, but also for the environment.
The first issue was to legalize the working status of the miners by getting help from the government. This would put an end to the inhuman system of exploitation. Then the miners needed to be taught safe ways of handling toxic elements and getting some basic medical knowledge. They also needed to learn about their rights, which they could then assert before the mine operators as far as working conditions were concerned. And finally they needed to learn how to organize themselves, for example as an NGO for Ninjas, which would help them legalize their status as far as residence permits, voting rights and entitlement to claiming benefits, for example, sending their kids to school, were concerned. The challenges were enormous. A passionate chess player, Mendbayar proceeded step by step and move by move, and he reached most of his goals.
In an amazing effort he conducted interviews with many of the workers and forwarded detailed reports to the government. As a consequence and through the pressure he and his consortium exerted, mining laws were amended, the miners received legal residency, and the environment was included in the laws. The Ninjas learned how to handle toxic materials and how to provide medical help for each other. He even succeeded in organizing a Ninja NGO. And only recently another NGO was founded and legally registered with the Ministry of Justice. NGO members now train other Ninja miners. Mendbayar increased his PR efforts and has recently contacted Energy Globe. He is working on creating more awareness and would like to receive much more support for his work, especially in form of financial help. From experience he knows that is extremely hard to get people to work towards one common goal. And he knows what he is talking about.
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