D.Renchinkhand: There’s nothing wrong with the mining industry if we do environmental restoration
The following is an interview with senior miner and former Deputy Minister of Geology and Mining Industry D.Renchinkhand. He was one of the first mining engineers of Mongolia and contributed to the development of policies in the sector and assisted in establishing Mongolia’s oldest and significant mines such as Erdenet copper and molybdenum mine and Bor-Undur coal mine. D.Renchinkhand is currently working as an advising professor at the School of Mining Engineering of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology.
-Why did you choose a profession in mining?
-I finished high school in Bayan-Uul soum of Dornod Province in 1961. More than half of the 26 students who graduated were given opportunities to study abroad. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry, I was to go to Russia. I wanted to study geology, however, the ministry didn’t get any syllabus that year and I had to study mineral exploitation. After graduating in 1966, I returned to Mongolia and in that year, I was assigned to work at the tungsten mine of Burentsogt in Sukhbaatar Province. I started working for the Department of Mining as an engineer later. In 1968, I worked as the Head of the Department and by the end of 1968, I worked as the general engineer of the industry. In 1972, by order of the ministry, I participated in projects for developing proposals for the department’s future prospects. On December 1972, I was assigned as Head of the Mining Division of the Ministry of Fuel, Power and Geology.
-What was your first role in the ministry?
-At the time, apart from coal mines such as Nalaikh and Aduunchuluun, fluorite mine of Berkh, Burentsogt and tungsten mine of Ikh Khairkhan were active in the nonferrous metal sector in Mongolia. In addition to this, I approved of the Zinc Plant of Khajuu-Ulaan. On April 1974, I began building the zinc mine in Khar Airag.
-Your contribution to the development of Erdenet plant is significant. Can you elaborate on your role at the plant?
-In early 1973, signatures were signed on the agreement to restart cooperation in the sector between the governments of Mongolia and Russia. In November 1973, a negotiation was held for the establishment of a concentrator plant for Erdenet mine. Preparations to build the plant underwent from 1974 to 1975 and within the year, a council meeting of the joint industries was held. The operation office was established under the Ministry. Russia’s copper and molybdenum company, Stroytrest took up the construction work.
-At the time, were there enough personnel in the mining sector to operate the mines in Mongolia?
-In order to prepare personnel for Erdenet, our ministry sent around a hundred people to Russia from 1973. The first of the students left to Russia in 1977 and the majority returned after graduating in 1978. The first President P.Ochirbat led seven Mongolian members of the council which has equal number of representatives of Mongolia and Russia. At the time, P.Ochirbat had just been assigned as the Deputy Minister in charge of mining of the Ministry of Fuel, Energy Industry and Geology. When the ministry was divided into two in 1976, P.Ochirbat was assigned as the Minister of Fuel and Energy Industry. When the Ministry of Geology and Mining Industry became the base of the current Ministry of Mining, P.Ochirbat left after appointing me as the Deputy Minister. Until October 20, 1989, I led the Mongolian side of the Joint Industrial Council.
-It’s quite a long time.
-Indeed. The operations of Erdenet began in 1978. Accepting all these responsibilities and commissioning was the main thing that I was responsible for. I lived and worked in Erdenet as if I were a native. The first Mongolian director was appointed in 1989 and I passed on my work.
-The first Mongolian director was Sh.Otgonbileg, right?
-We prepared him rationally. At the time, many engineers were returning after graduating. Sh.Otgonbileg was one of them. He returned after graduated in 1976. We have information about who is studying and where, as well as who is graduating with red diplomas (Honorary Diploma). However, Sh.Otgonbileg hadn’t arrived to his assigned position. When we enquired from the Head of Industry of the Central Committee Ts.Gurbadam, he replied that he didn’t know and told us to check again with the Human Resource Department. When we went to the department, we took him back from L.Tudev who was just about to assign him as the Union Head. Sh.Otgonbileg worked in the Ministry from 1976 to 1981 and recieved a degree in science in Russia. After he became a scientist, he became the first Deputy Head of Mongolrostsvetmet Union. On October 20, 1989, he was appointed as the first Mongolian General Director of Erdenet Plant.
-Until 1989, why didn’t Mongolia assign a Mongolian director?
-People wanted us to assign a Mongolian director. At the time, there weren’t any highly trained personnel in Mongolia. We couldn’t assign a regular engineer as the director of such a big facility. The Russian side assigned excellent people with many years of experience in working in different industries and our side didn’t have personnel to match that.
-Were there sufficient labor force to work in the industry in Mongolia?
-In 1978, less than five percent of the workers were Mongolians and more than 95 percent were specialists from Russia. In 1989, around 90 percentages of the staff were engineers and technicians of Mongolia.
-What kind of role did the mining sector play in the Mongolian economy at the time?
-In 1972, around two percent of industrial products and around one percent of exports was from the mining sector. By 1990, around 40 percent of exports and a quarter of industrial products was manufactured by our sector. Now, a third of the GDP, around 70 percent of industrial products and around 90 percent of exports is derived the mining sector.
-How was the mining industry perceived by the public at the time?
-Before, there wasn’t any environmental restoration work done. The state didn’t give any funding for restoration. The Ministry of Finance focused on collecting revenue. This was the work of the government. At the time, the state focused on all the things they could acquire from mining industries. There’s nothing wrong with the mining industry if we do restoration. The fact that restoration isn’t being done due to lack of financing is what is giving negative image in the minds of the public and strong opposition. This is why the public largely perceives mining as something wrong and that it only leaves many holes in the ground. Now, private industries do restorations.
-Your home land is Bayan-Uul soum of Dornod Province which is famous for their sharp-sighted and skillful archers. Are you also an archer?
-Around ten skillful archers and around 30 sports masters were born from my soum. When I was in middle school, archers would get up early and go to work after shooting some arrows. In the evening, they would practice until it was dark. I used to bring arrows closer to the archers. The Head of National Archery Union was Ph.D. of the science of medicine D.Baldandorj. I was the Deputy Head for 20 years. I have a National Archery Honor. Since the 1990s, I have participated in national festivals nonstop. Since middle school, I trained in skiing and archery and for three years, I competed for the nationals. In eighth grade, I came to the city in 1956, participated in the Adult National Ski Championship and placed fifth. In 1960, I got a bronze medal from the People’s Sports Festival.
-Did you do your ski training at your soum only?
-In my soum, there’s a continuous mountain with pine trees. Children skied on the mountains there all the time. L.Radnaa, father of MP R.Burmaa, was an excellent skier and would take children skiing. We became better at skiing after following him. Next summer, is the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Bayan-Uul soum of Dornod Province.
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