Mongolians discovered that their land contained the most precious metal in the world, gold. Miners started to dig in rural areas all across Mongolia to try their luck.
Nowadays, people from different levels do mining to earn extra money but without any safety protection, gold mining became an everyday high risk task.
Between 1990 and 2002, after a series of droughts and harsh winters, most of the Mongolian herders lost their animals and with the end of the Soviet subsidies, the Mongolian economy started to collapse, leading to an unemployment crisis.
As a response to poverty and unemployment, Mongolians saw artisanal mining as an option.
Searching for gold and other minerals, Mongolians started to dig in rural areas and hard rock sites of formal mining companies to try their luck; this was the beginning of the Mongolian gold rush boom and nowadays there are an estimated 100,000 artisanal miners all across Mongolia. But now not only unemployed people do mining, people from different levels of educations and professions go to mining sites with their families and friends to try their chance in their promised land.
Artisanal mining is still not legalized or organized by the government and miners are deprived from social services access or from any kind of labour safety. The government also criticises these miners for using mercury, causing environment damage and the pollution of rivers.
However, there is potential for development in this sector and with the legalization of mining these problems would be resolved. According to the Mongolian Minister for Social Welfare and Labour, T. Bayarsaikhan, Ninja Miners improve the economy of Mongolia and the “government is drafting a law that will regulate informal mining and allow people to work on the remaining formal mining sites".
Some believe that the name came from the Japanese ninjas that were quick and fast, always moving from one place to another and some believe that when mining started to emerge, miners would carry green plastic bowls on their back and this appearance, similar to the ninja turtles cartoon characters gave them the name of “ninja miners”.