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As the mines go deeper, anger rises to the surface

world Updated: Aug 17, 2014 15:00 IST
HT Correspondent

Inner Mongolia does not usually grab headlines like Xinjiang has been doing lately or the way Tibet often does. But the vast region has its share of problems. And much of the problems according to rights groups is the same the other two regions face — a crisis of identity and culture.

Occupying 12% of the country’s land mass, Inner Mongolia is rich in reserves of coal, gas, minerals and rare earth resources. As China’s top coal producer, the region accounts for about one-fourth of the country’s coal production. But only around 20% of the region’s 24 million population are ethnic Mongolians; till few decades ago, the Mongolians were in majority.

“The so-called “development” is nothing but a process of destroying the Mongolian natural environment, eradicating the Mongolian culture, and altering the Mongolian identity permanently,” Enghebatu Togochog of the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre (SMHRIC) told HT over email.

“As in any corner of Southern Mongolia, Hulun-boir (In Mongolian) is devastated by mining and tourism. Hulun-boir is home to 370 mining fields. The total coal deposit there is about 63 billion tons which is 1.8 times of the coal deposit of the three northern provinces combined… The Mongolians are kicked out of their lands.”

The official “Xinjiang Daily” reported in 2013 that the first massive iron-zinc-gold multimetal mine was discovered in “Dumda Iron Mine”, making it one of the four largest gold mines in the region.

“Amnesty International has been concerned local herders and people who make their living through raising livestock may be especially vulnerable to human rights violations in land grabs and forced evictions. Ethnic minorities in China face a wide variety of issues: employment discrimination... difficulties in maintaining their culture,” William Nee, a researcher with Amnesty International said.

The government says that it is improving the lives of the nomads. It’s an effort to modernise a region that is considered backward, authorities say.