Photo: AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel
Mongolia is arguably experiencing the biggest gold rush of the 21st century—yet large swaths of its population remain extremely poor.Unemployed herdsmen are among those who have turned to gold mining in an effort to eke out a living. And soaring demand for gold from neighbouring China has got many locals thinking they could make a fortune.
These miners, referred to as ninja miners because they often work at night, and because they carry green pans that resemble the shells of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, dig with the most rudimentary tools. They also aren’t given a licence because the government says they destroy the environment.
Some 100,000 people are said to work in the unregulated mines and earn as little as $8 a day, according to the BBC.
Ninja miners are constantly shoved onto smaller pieces of land by mining giants. Most recently locals have been protesting Oyu Tolgoi, a copper-and-gold mine that is the biggest foreign-investment project in the country.
They are called Ninja miners because of the green pans they carry that resemble turtle shells and because they work into the night.
They have tainted the water supply with untreated mercury and destroyed agricultural land, prompting the government to ban mining near rivers and forests and revoking licenses.
Ninja miners told Al Jazeera English even if rehabilitation efforts are made they turn up the soil looking for gold.
Chinese demand for gold, and lower legal gold supplies in recent years has made ninja mining more lucrative.
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