I’ve visited the copper mine in Erdenet before, but I never ventured outside the viewing area above the pit, nor have I ever learned much about the mine itself or industry in the city. A few weeks ago, I was able to get a glimpse into a few businesses working with copper in the city.
We visited the pits again, but this time, a man from the mining company came with us to answer questions. Turns out the pit we were standing over had another 30 years of resources left in it, but a neighboring mountain contained another 130 years of minerals waiting to be extracted. It was interesting to hear that the mines also extracted molybdenum, iron ore, turquoise, gold, and silver. It was also a Friday, which meant that they would be detonating dynamite that day. We didn’t get to stick around to see that, unfortunately, but you could see monstrous plumes of dust and dirt rising from the mine after several dull thuds were heard from the distance.
Afterwards, we went to a copper wire factory. They process copper into wires using large machines that stretch and coil the metal, making it ready for sale. They also had an interesting machine that attached an insulated coating on some of the wire they sold: The copper would run through a series of wheels before getting sprayed with the liquid hot coating. Then, it travels through a several meter long bath where the coating is cooled. Then, it is stretched again by a pair of large wheels before being sent to the end of the assembly, where it is coiled.
This factory was located out on the outskirts of town, where abandoned warehouses and dilapidated shells of the soviet area still loom over the landscape. It was interesting to see that behind the rusted gates and concrete barriers that life breathed in some of these places. Mining in Mongolia seems ubiquitous, and closely tied to people’s ideas on how to strike it rich. It was a good chance to see just how some Mongolians were trying to get a piece of this mineral pie.