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Mongolia's 'ninja' miners help sate China's lust for gold

David Gray / Reuters

A small-scale miner digs a hole searching for gold on a small hill overlooking grasslands in rural Mongolia on April 4, 2012. Pictures made available on April 19.

David Gray / Reuters

Reuters reports — In a hot, concrete hut filled with acetylene fumes, an elderly Mongolian miner struggles to contain her excitement as she plucks a sizzling inch-long nugget of gold from a grubby cooling pot and raises it to the light.

65-year-old Khorloo is a member of a new Mongol horde of at least 60,000 herders, farmers and urban unemployed trying to extract the riches buried in the vast steppe with metal detectors, shovels and home-made smelters.

See more of photographer David Gray's work from Mongolia on PhotoBlog

In the last five years, dwindling legal gold supplies and a spike in black market demand from China have made work much more lucrative for Mongolia's "ninja miners" - so named because of the large green pans carried on their backs that look like turtle shells. For thousands of dirt-poor herders, the soaring prices alone are enough to justify years of harassment, abuse and hard labor. Read the full story.

David Gray / Reuters

A miner pours water into a crushing machine in an attempt to siphon gold at a processing plant around 100 km (62 miles) north of Ulan Bator.

David Gray / Reuters

A miner holds gold that was melted together at a processing plant.

David Gray / Reuters

A miner removes rocks from a hole he dug to search for gold.

Sukhbaataryn Batbold, Mongolia's Prime Minister, talks about the country's mineral riches in a 2010 interview.