If you open our soum newsletter, you’ll see a list of lucky local men chosen for jobs at the mines. Women also work at the mines as chefs and administrators. According to a past volunteer, the mining companies come from US, Canada, China, Russia, and India. These companies must reserve 90% of their jobs for Mongolian nationals. In addition, the companies must give 30% of their profits to the Mongolian government. Of course, the companies are also supposed to dispose of their chemicals properly.

Unfortunately, not all mining companies comply with Mongolian rules. Disclaimer: Please note that I’m very unclear on the details hereā€¦ But from what I remember, one company in our aimag (province) belongs to a politician’s brother in law. The politician handed over extraction rights without going through a licensing process. He excused the company from following any safety procedures. In order to blast the gold out of the rocks, the company used mercury. The mercury then seeped into the river of a nearby soum. One PCV had to leave site at
that soum because of chemical contamination.

“Ninja Turtles,” or illegal miners, number about 100,000 in Mongolia (or so says Lonely Planet). They get their name from the green, shell-like buckets on their backs. Some ninjas may have invaded the mountains close to our soum. The Peace Corps is on the alert for cyanide contamination. Eek.