Gold mining deprives herders of drinking water and living space
Gardener U. Narantsetseg, Sanjint bag:
It was a river with a spring, but now there is no water spurting out. Artisanal gold miners (‘ninja miners’) blocked the river stream in order to dig gold. Natural flows of Shaazgait and Khongor rivers are interrupted and blocked. I water my vegetables with rain water. It is becoming increasingly challenging, because we are experiencing droughts this year.
Shariin Gol soum of Darkhan-Uul province has a small territory. As the goldmine is prevalent, mountain foot and valley areas are dug out everywhere; gold mining companies create artificial reservoirs and wash their gold in them, from which herders water their cattle. When meeting with the herders, they told us that “the pressing issue is that we can’t live to herd our cattle anymore; there is no pasture land for the cattle and no water for them.” When a survey from herders asked, “Have you observed any negative effects on your cattle caused by river water contamination?”, 70% of them answered “yes”. They said that internal organs of the cattle are damaged; cattle suffer from hair loss; birth defect and premature birth increased, and cattle suffer from diarrhea and vomiting. Furthermore, the women who earn their living and survive by growing vegetables are also negatively affected by water shortages.
Women’s NGOs of Darkhan-Uul province, in collaboration with government organizations, conducted dialogues and advocacy meetings with the Governor, Soum Governor’s Office, state-owned companies and mining companies. They surveyed approximately 100 women living near the mining areas of Shariin Gol soum on their consumption of healthy, safe and accessible drinking water or lack thereof and about 60 herder families on water quality and accessibility for livestock; the conclusions of the studies along with the recommendations were developed and sent out to the citizens and the general public. 50 women from Shariin Gol soum participated in knowledge-gaining training and skills-building workshops, further being organized into group structures, forming three groups such as entrepreneur women’s group, herder women’s group and artisanal miners’ group with their leaders selected having determined their challenges and mobilized into active communities.