Remember Mrs. Mungun? She was the “gold ninja” who learned to go mercury-free at a Pure Earth training workshop so she could provide a better life for her two children.
We met Mrs. Mungun again recently and we’re delighted to report that she’s continuing to do well. In fact, she has become a leading proponent of the mercury-free technique in her community.
In the photo above, she is proudly showing off the gold in her pan. Now that she is mercury-free, she can keep her son Enkhnaata (pictured above) near her as she works without fear of him being poisoned.
Standing next to Mrs Mungun is Pure Earth’s Promila Sharma, who had traveled from her office in India to Mongolia to meet Erdene Naidansuren, Pure Earth’s local coordinator. Together, Promila and Erdene spent four days reviewing the results of our project work in Mongolia, visiting communities and talking to miners we trained.
The pair traveled to Khailaast village in Zaamar county to check on an artisanal gold mining community (pictured above), and held meetings with the county governor, local healthcare workers; representatives of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia and other stakeholders such as the Swiss Development Corporation and the Mining Umbrella NGO, an association of artisanal and small-scale gold miners.
We wanted to find out what the community thought about our project. Is it working for them? Getting feedback from participants, partners and other stakeholders is essential. It enables us to gauge a project’s success, measure our impact or spot mistakes, and continue making progress.
Ms. Battsetseg (above), a Pure Earth project site leader, told us that the mercury-free method seemed to be especially effective in Mongolia. She explained to us how trainees have been able to extract gold from the waste generated by mining companies using the panning method they were taught, without even the use of non-toxic borax. (Borax is used instead of mercury in the technique to help bind the small bits of gold).
Miners we met agreed. They told us that their their economic condition had improved after going mercury free.
One woman reported that she was able to buy a home and car with her increased earnings. Others told us how they were able to help a couple too weak to leave their home by bringing them mine tailings that the husband and wife could then process safely in their home without using mercury.
We were also happy to learn that miners we had trained were in turn teaching others how to go mercury free. One of them was Ms. Narantsetseg (above), who was busy instructing three new trainees in effective panning techniques when Promila visited.
Promila and Erdene also met with Ms Bayarmaa (above), the Executive Director of the Mining Umbrella NGO, an association of artisanal gold miners, and Ms. Khandmaa (below), the social worker of Khailaast village, who told us how she felt the project had positively improved the livelihoods of the mining communities she serves.
The team also met with Mr. Sambuu (below), the newly appointed governor of Zaamar soum.
In Mongolia, our review has revealed that the program is working. Our workshops have, to date, trained over 1000 miners to go mercury free, with many more on the waiting list. Word is getting out, and change is happening, one miner at a time.