Mongolian herders protest mining, demand elections

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 9:47 AM
Mongolian herders protest mining, demand elections

About 200 Mongolian herders on horseback and horse-drawn carts set up camp in the capital with environmental activists Tuesday to protest international mining deals and demand elections.

The herders swept into Ulan Bator's central square abutting the parliament building and erected traditional round, felt tents for what activists said would be a lengthy protest.

They say deals with international mine companies have spoiled grazing lands and political parties have sacrificed the national interest to please the mining firms.

Herders have become increasingly hard-pressed in largely poor, landlocked Mongolia as overgrazing, rough winters and industrialization degrade grasslands.

"More and more people are coming from rural areas of Mongolia to support us," said environmental activist Munkhbayar Tsetsgee. "We all want same thing: dismissal of the parliament and government and elections. We will camp here until our demands are met. "

Mining Mongolia's rich deposits of copper, gold and coal has been a source of growth in the landlocked country where nearly a third of people live in poverty. But herders are a powerful constituency in a nation that traces its origins to Genghis Khan's uniting of nomadic tribes 800 years ago.