Environmental Engineering Project

Environmental impacts of small scale mining in Nalaikh

Environmental impacts of anthropogenic activities in and around Nalaikh: Development of a Rehabilitation concept

Start Date:


End Date:


Principal Investigator(s):

Prof. Stehr, G.


Faculty of Engineering

Industry Partner:

1.Nalaikh city government 2. CGL Ulaanbaatar

Scientific Partner:

RWTH Aachen University

Funded by:



The project focuses on the environmental impacts of mining and further anthropogenic activities in and around Nalaikh. Samples of soil, water, and air are taken and analyzed. Besides these ecological components also the socio-economic conditions are of importance for the development of a site-specific rehabilitation concept.


Opened in 1922, the Nalaikh State (Coal) Mine was the nation’s first industrial mining operation. Its official closure was in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet-backed state economy. Nowadays during the peak season (which is in winter, when the soils are frozen) up to 2.000 Ninja-miners work in around 200 mine shafts, and only a very few shafts are authorized. Nalaikh’s coal counts to about 70% of the 1 Mio. t of coal burned every year in Ulaanbaatar’s ger district. Mining activities are related to environmental impacts. These impacts include land use, changes in the soil- (e.g. heavy metals), water- (As-content) or air-quality and erosion. The aspect of rehabilitation (all anthropogenic induced processes with the aim to revaluate degraded areas) in mining areas is becoming more and more important in society. For the bigger mine sites in Mongolia, rehabilitation concepts are available. For the smaller mine sites and especially for the Ninja-mine sites such concepts are not available, even if the necessity is given and commonly accepted.


  • Survey of the project area and mapping with GIS/ drone
  • Soil-, air- and water sampling

The soil analysis will focus on the heavy-metal contents (e.g. Pb, As). Additional important soil-features like pH-value, organic matter or cation exchange capacity (CEC) are measured. For the heavy-metal content, a portable, as well as a stationary spectrometer, are available.

  • Water analysis in the wells as well as in the adjacent streams is mainly concentrating on Arsenic (As).

Contamination of (ground) water with As is well known for major parts of Mongolia and especially for coal-mining areas and poses a health risk to the affected people. The water samples will be analyzed with an innovative (ARSOlux biosensor field test kit) as well as a spectrometric method.

  • Measurement of fine and coarse particulate matter (PM).

Mining combined with general human activities in Nalaikh is subject to high PM pollution. The main sources for as well as the composition of the pollutants are to be determined with well-known and established methods.

Expected results

The research work will lead to the development of a rehabilitation concept for the affected area. Recommendations will be derived from a better understanding and management of Nalaikh’s environment.

Contact person:

Dr. rer. nat.Martin Knippertz  

+976 8050 0203

Building: Seminargebäude Wüllnerstraße

Room: SG406

Templergraben 55

52056 Aachen

nalaikh small scale mining site