Community Story


Bayarmaa Dasndondog:

From ninja to mining representative


When she lost her job at a timber company, Bayarmaa Dasndondog became a ninja, as the informal artisanal miners in Mongolia are called, because they carry green containers on their backs similar to the shells from the characters in the Ninja Turtles series.


Like herself and many others, artisanal mining became the only way to survive. This was the result of them losing their jobs and livestock due to the economic change after the fall of the People’s Republic of Mongolia in 1990, and the intense winters in 2001 and 2002.

Today, Bayarmaa Dasndondog works to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining in Mongolia through workshops and conferences.

“When I see informal artisanal miners, I ask myself: How can I contribute to their safety and help them become better informed?” says Bayarmaa, who has dedicated her life to improving the conditions of this mining sector for a little over 20 years.

The voice for artisanal miners

Being a ninja was Bayarmaa’s only way to survive. At that time, approximately 20 years ago, she remembers the difficult conditions they faced: “We worked in groups of 4 or 5 people in places not authorized for mining, without any protection or social security”.

This situation led Bayarmaa to ask the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for support. Thus, she began her work contributing to the formalization of artisanal and small-scale mining in Mongolia.

She was part of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project (SAM) of the SDC, in which she proudly represented artisanal miners. And since 2018, she has been a trainer for the National Federation of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Mongolia. There, she is dedicated to helping miners, organizations, governments and other public groups to improve and formalize the conditions of artisanal mining in relation to business and the Fairmined certification, among other issues.

“I feel very proud to contribute to the progress of artisanal and small-scale mining in Mongolia,” says Bayarmaa, who has witnessed the efforts made towards formalizing the sector since its inception.

Steps towards legal mining

The work of the SDC in Mongolia paved the way for this country’s government to issue resolutions to allow the legal work of artisanal miners through associations.

This is how the first artisanal mining NGO was founded in 2008. Bayarmaa dedicated herself to visiting the directors of large mining companies to explain that they were no longer ninjas, but miners organized with support from the SDC and requesting authorization to do mining in their area of exploitation.

In this way, the NGO, with approximately 125 miners, obtained a contract to do organized mining in a mining company for 5 years.

The dreams goes on

Bayarmaa continues to work for artisanal mining in her country. She hopes that this mining sector will keep improving to share good experiences with artisanal miners internationally. She believes that the Fairmined Certification is a practice that should continue to be implemented in Mongolia.

In addition, she dreams of going to other countries to provide training for their artisanal and small-scale mining sectors.

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