“Cashing in on the Gobi desert ” is my first attempt of a full report, both text and images. As I travelled through Mongolia last summer, I wanted to understand how this newly opened country was processing its foreign investments. The result is presented in a 7 double page article ( photos + text ) in the latest issue of the global journal ( link online tease article here ).
The global journal is available in major international newsstand in europe and the US or directly through their website.
With the recents foreign investments in mongolia, local people fear for the sustainability of their culture. With little less than 3 millions inhabitant, a lot of locals are fearing for the disparition of their language and tradition. Among them, shamanism is one of the most spectacular. With Genghis Khan himself using the advise of a shaman during his campaign, mongolian and especially the youth is turning again towards those eccentric practices.
Geegii is in her late twenties. At first she seems to be just like everybody, drive her daughter to school, plays folk music and go out with friends to clubs on the week end. But some days of the week, she is a very respected Shaman Master. During her ceremony, dozens and dozens of people come to have a chance to communicate with the underworld.
In her living room, people sit on the ground, waiting for geegii to slowly enter in her transe by chanting and playing her drums. Suddenly, as she falls on the ground, a 70 year old angel / ghost is possessing her. During the next 6 hours , she will answer and heal the people who came to see her. With the help of an assistant, who is here to translate old mongolian ( ghosts are usually 200 years old ) to new mongolian, she will heal, tell the past & / or the future.
As those practices can seem odd from a western point of view, they are very much believed and accepted inside the mongolian youth. Shamanist tradition is also inspiring a lot of the local hip hop singer. Geegii’s brother, also a shaman, is the lead singer of Mongolia’s biggest hip hop band, Ice Top.
Since the late 2000′s, with Mongolia opening its doors to foreign investments, the face of the capital city, Ulan Bator is changing. As on one side, the economy is booming and foreign companies are moving into high rise modern towers occupied by fancy restaurants and luxury shops, the north of the city is developing towards another direction.
With the coldest winters ever recorded in 2008 / 2009, thousands of herders have left the countryside hoping to find a job in the city. But with the government sharing the wealth from the mine in cash instead of infrastructure, poor people are accumulating on the hills north of Ulan Bator, creating a slum of Gers and small houses. With no access to water and sometimes electricity, they are burning their trash and coal to warm themselves in the winter, creating a suffocating cloud of pollution above the Ulan Bator.
At the same time, foreign educated mongolians and the new wealthy part of the population are experiencing fast changes and an access to an exclusive lifestyle, yet inaccessible for the majority of mongolia’s inhabitants.
< click here for the full page portfolio story >
>> archive photos of Ulan Bator
>> full page story of gobi desert & mining in mongolia
>> archive photos for the Oyu Tolgoi mining project
>> archive photos for the illegal mining and gobi desert
The Mongolian Gobi Desert contains large and undiscovered deposits of gold & copper. In 2010, a major contract was signed between the mongolian government and Invanhoe Mining ( Canada) for the construction of the biggest mining project in Mongolia. This project has boomed foreign investments and is currently changing the economic landscape of Mongolia. The Oyu Tolgoi mining company employs mostly mongolian nationals but their contractor, mining construction company Fluor is employing only Chinese Nationals ( 10 000 at peak ). Every month, every single Mongolian citizen is receiving the equivalent of 17 US dollars from the mining project. But this cash is often missused and the Mongolian government is not investing in new infrastructures.
Since the early 2000, with harsh winters, a lot of mongolian have abandonned herding to illegually dig for cold. Compare to 4.6 billions investment of Oyu Tolgoi, their equipment is highly archaic and they often work in dangerous conditions, both treatened by their working conditions and by the police chasing them in the desert. They are called “the ninja miners”.
> click here for the full screen portfolio story <
> click here for the Oyu Tolgoi ming project photo archive <
> click here for the Gobi desert / Ninja Miners photo archive <
More stories about mongolia to be continued on that blog including:
- Ulan Bator | From Louis Vuitton to the Ger City
- Shamanism | How the youth is coming back to their tradition
- Foreign investment in Mongolia
- Mongolian Portraits
all photos and stories belongs to Tim Franco