Mongolia: Fact Finding Mission on Human Rights Violations Caused by Irresponsible Mining
29 August 2007 7:00 pm

Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) and Asia Pacific Women on Law and Development (APWLD), FORUM-ASIA members jointly conducted a Fact Finding Mission to document the human rights violations on the rural people due to mining activities in Mongolia.

Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) and APWLD jointly conducted a Fact Finding Mission to the mining areas of Mongolia from 15 to 18 August 2007. Representatives from civil society organisations, working on mining issues in India, Indonesia, and Philippine as well as CHRD staff participated in this event that aimed to document of and bring to the attention the state organisations and the public the human rights violations of the local people caused by environmental destruction and pollution through irresponsible gold mining activities.

The participants visited seven areas and met local herders, doctors, teachers, artisanal cold miners and local governors. The participants pointed out that human rights violations are aggravated due to the lack of implementation of environmental laws and accountability of state officials responsible for the implementation of laws. 

Major human rights violations noted by participants were:

  • Environmental pollution imposes the main risk to the right to a healthy and safe environment and right to life. Majority of the local people and livestock in the Khongor village of the Darkhan-Uul province are affected by chemical hazard. Since May 2007, the citizens have suffered from cyanide and mercury pollution. Most of the people have rashes all over their bodies, experience dysfunction in organs, vomit and tend to have lower resistance to sickness. Hence some of women terminated their pregnancy and many families sent their children to other places. Due to the pollution of all 92 wells, the people are facing the lack of drinking water. On the other hand, the environmental pollution also impacts on the economic situation of the local farmers , because people don’t want to buy any product from Khongor village.
  • The local herders have been denied their rights to water and land because of the illegal and deadly use of water by the mining operations. For instance 20 streams dried up in Zaamar village of Tuv province.  But 20 mining companies still are working around the Tuul River, which is the only water resource for the local people and livestock.  In Tsenkher village of Arkhangai province, a mining company channels polluted water from their artificial lake to Nariin Khamar River. As its result, people living nearby started to suffer from stomach and liver diseases and some of the livestock died.
  • People have been denied their rights to preserve their way of life because of the environmental destruction and deterioration of their pastureland. 60-70 % of the land of 3rd Bag (the smallest administrative unit in Mongolia) of Zaamar village is already under the mining license. Hundreds of families left their original way of living and joined informal mining. Now there are only 69 families who have kept the traditional way of living.
  • The mining and water licenses are taken illegally in all the areas where the participants visited. For instance in May 2007, the Altai Gold Company got the mining license without the any Environmental Impact Assessment in Tsenkher village of Arkhangai province. However, the license was cancelled through the protest of the local people and Ariun Suvarga, a local NGO.  
  • They have been denied the right to participate in decision making on mineral exploitation, monitoring and rehabilitation/recovery of their lands damaged by mining. Currently the legal regulation to protect and promote the rights of the citizens and herders is not developed in Mongolia.
  • The local community can not get any benefit from the mining operations that have been going on in their lands. For instance, 90% of employees are from overseas in a mining company in Uguumur of Zaamar village, where 900 local people are unemployed.
  • There is a big lack of legal regulation to protect human rights of the workers of informal mining sector. The number of these miners is growing day by day. The artisanal mining is the main income for many, but the present situation seems like a crime.

The participants recognise that the role of the state organisations is the most important to terminate all these human rights violations.

The participants urge National Emergency Management Agency, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health and State Professional Inspection Agency, Mineral and Oil Authority to:

  • Investigate again pollution by chemical hazard and neutralize in Khongor village, moving the local citizens to a clean place to recover their health;
  • Pay compensation to the local people and farmers whose health, livelihood and economic situation have been damaged by the guilty people and organisations;
  • Buy products of the areas affected by mining in order to support local economic system;
  • Terminate to give the mining licences unlawfully, especially in the places of water resources, and punish the guilty officials;
  • Develop the rule for accountability on environmental damage as soon as possible and pay compensation to the local communities;
  • Stop the activities of the mining companies that have not bettered the environment and push them to do so;
  • Enhance the transparency of the financial support to the local administration offices from the mining companies and its consumption and spend the tax income from the mining sector to build the new work places for the local people;
  • Investigate the implementation of the Labour Law in the foreign invested mining companies;
  • Adopt the law on mining at small scale. 

CHRD will bring this recommendation to the related organisations and officials, closely monitor their activities as it is recommended by the participants of FFM.  

Source: http://www.chrd.org.mn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45&Itemid=1

For further information, please contact:

Erdenechimeg Dashdorj, Fellow of the Northeast Asia Country Programme (chimgee@forum-asia.org, tel.no. +66 (0)2 391 8801 ext. 602)