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World Placer Journal - 2000 - Volume 1, pages 107-128.
Environmental problems of placer gold mining 
in the Zaamar Goldfield, Mongolia.
John Farrington1
(1) US Peace Corps, P.O. Box 1036, Central Post Office, Ulaanbaatar 13, Mongolia
(1) doeage@excite.com

A classic paper describing the environmental problems in a gold rush valley, and how they might be mitigated before it is too late..

ABSTRACT

Between August and December 1999 five site visits were made to the Zaamar gold mining area, located on the Tuul River, western Tov Aimag, in northern Mongolia's Lake Baikal and Arctic Ocean drainage. Large-scale placer gold mining operations began in Zaamar in 1992, and gold production in 1998 was 4,080 kg (Dallas 1999). Environmental impacts observed were large and mostly avoidable, regarding:

1. extraction of gold-bearing gravels and sands; 

2. pumps and wash plants; 

3. settling pond design, operation and location; 

4. tailings and topsoil storage; 

5. multi-tracking; 

6. mine restoration; 

7. river diversions; and 

8. annual environmental protection plans and

reclamation bonding.

Recommendations are given for measures to alleviate the environmental damage, and further investigation is required. Examples are illustrated of new mines using old technology incapable of recovering fine gold that have very high water demand, poor waste water treatment, poorly-designed setting ponds, and inadequate site management. Attention is drawn to the unnecessary loss of stands of willow (Salix spp.) that are a crucial element of the riparian ecosystem. The Ministry of Nature & Environment lacks the resources to properly monitor and enforce existing legislation concerning environmental impacts of mining.

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gold tailingsMUD-LADEN WATER
discharging into River Tuul.
Result of poor environmental mine management, Ikh Alt Mine. 

gold sluice

OLD TECHNOLOGY low % gold recovery and large water demand. Gold recovery is only 40 to 60%. Many tailings may be remined. Environmental impacts are severe with this equipment.

willows by riverWILLOWS - vital in the river ecosytem. The trees are under threat by very poor management of new placer gold mines.
gold dredge next to Tuul river
  

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