Meet Mongolia's Gold Ninjas
Age isn't stopping these miners from engaging in Mongolia's lucrative gold rush to support the black market demand for gold in China. Young adults, middle-aged men and women, and seniors alike are taking advantage of the surging gold demand in Asia.
About 250km south-west of Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital, miners set up simple Mongolian tents while they work in the nearby mines. Essentially, these traditional tents are humble little concrete huts filled with little more than dangerous acetylene fumes and scarce resources.
Some look just like this:
*Image courtesy of David Gray/Reuters.
Hungry for wealth, the miners are more than happy to brave the tough labor, harsh living conditions, and the inevitable harassment.
One fortunate lady, Khorloo (a 65-year-old woman), recently stumbled across a big find with her sons. The efforts of their tedious labor paid off when they found 123 grams of pure gold. Khorloo's family could earn as much as $6,000 from that bit of gold alone.
Her family is part of a newly developed horde of 60,000 laborers, farmers, and otherwise unemployed individuals searching for hidden treasure in the pits of the mines in Mongolia.
These people are commonly referred to as “ninja turtles” because of the large green pans they carry on their backs giving them the illusion of looking like turtles.
The ninja miners have their work cut out for them as the mining business has becoming increasingly lucrative due to depleting legal gold supplies and a surging black market demand for gold in China.
Gold supply rates simply can't keep up with the demand spikes in Asia amidst the ten-year-bull-run gold cycle.
Miners do all the work, then changer smuggle the goods over to China. Due to an array of legal hindrances, the black market is the more favored option for most involved in the transactions. Generally, the black markets also pays higher prices.
Mongolia's overall trading volume with China has soared in recent years, primarily in bulk shipments like coal and copper. Mining company officials in Ulan Bator said it was easy - and virtually untraceable - to smuggle a few ounces of gold in one of the thousands of coal trucks heading south.
"For buyers, gold is gold," said Patience Singo of the Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project run by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which is trying to help the ninjas clean up their production methods and get organized.
As this lucrative business is gaining momentum, some mining engineers are attempting to organize the ninja miners in order to provide a safer channel for them to sell their gold findings. Although it has not been completely successful, the black market is thriving more than ever in these tubulent financial times.
For the time being, the ninja turtles are persevering and competing well against some more formal organizations, despite the extreme hardships they endure to make a living.
Watch the ninjas at work:+23
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