Inside the Dangerous World of Amateur Gold Miners

Mongolia is in the midst of an epic gold rush spawning the modern equivalent of the forty-niners who rushed to California in 1849.

The county is rich in natural resources—stunning scenery, yes, but also vast deposits of coal, copper, gold, and other metals. Over the years, industrial mining has punched gaping holes into the landscape, then moved on after taking all it could. Then the locals scour the open pits, taking what the corporations left behind and creating an informal but dangerous industry.

As many as 100,000 Mongolians — nearly 20 percent of the country’s rural workforce — work as independent and unlicensed miners, sifting the dirt for the smallest flecks of gold. Spanish photographer Alvaro Laiz is fascinated by this trend and chronicles this dangerous endeavor in Ninjas: Gold Rush In Mongolia.