On 21st December, members and supporters of Delhiin Mongol Nogoon Negdel (“DMNN”), a Mongolian environmental NGO, started a 3-day sit-in in front of the Victims’ Monument in Ulaanbaatar demanding the cancellation of an illegal gold extraction permit given to an Australian-Mongolian joint company. DMNN are also calling for Mining Minister Jigjid Rentsendoo, who granted the permit, to resign.
The permit itself violates several Mongolian laws, including an environmental law known as the Long Name Law, which prohibits mineral exploration and extraction activities at and near headwaters, river basins, forests and protected zones.
MV-019023, the special permit granted to extract gold at Onon River Basin was issued on August 13, 2015. This permit covers 779.32 hectares of land in Batshireet and Binder counties, Khentii province. The Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia confirmed that the borders of the land completely overlaps with and lies within the protected forest zone.
Onon River, one of the most transparent and clean rivers in Mongolia rises in Burkhan Khaldun Mountain (one of the Khentii mountains) and enters the Amur River. The region around the Amur River has one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world, vast steppe grassland and unbroken taiga forest. The Amur River Basin was named one of the 20 largest protected watersheds and eco-zones in Asia by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The WWF has advised that any mining operations at and around Onon River should be prohibited.
Most mining companies in Mongolia use cyanide to extract gold which is extremely toxic and pollutes the surrounding environment, animals and bodies of water. Using cyanide will have a devastating effect not only on Onon river but on Amur river and Burkhan Khaldun mountain’s ecosystem.
DMNN has tirelessly been fighting to stop all illegal mining activities around the country since 2013. During the group’s recent trips to Tov, Selenge, Darkhan-Uul, Arkhangai, Ovorkhangai and Bulgan provinces, they discovered many mining companies have been operating illegally, violating the Long Name Law, under the current Mining Minister Mr. Rentsendoo’s watch.
Since no tangible actions have been taken by the government against these companies after repeatedly notifying the proper government agencies, DMNN organised the three-day sit-in in front of the Victims’ Monument demanding that Mr. Rentsendoo’s resignation for supporting and encouraging irresponsible mining operations and that the illegal permit allowing to extract gold right at Onon river be cancelled.