Golden Mountain, Iron Heap: Landscape Poetics and Mining in Eastern Mongolia

Jessica Madison
UC Santa Cruz

The recent Mongolian mining boom has meant rapid change for the remote eastern province of Sukhbaatar. Taxes collected from foreign mining interests have transformed this formerly sleepy steppe province into one of the most rapidly “developing” provinces in the country. However, many residents are highly ambivalent about these changes. In Mongolia, poetry is a vital means of knowledge transmission and production. This research uses poetics as a methodological route into understanding the shifts in local concerns and lifeworlds caused by mining. I examine (1) how the ecological materiality of the steppe both creates and is created by definitions of the sacred, cultural memory, and poetic practice; and (2) how mining creates new material, cosmological, political and aesthetic forms via eruptions in the ecological and cultural fabric of daily life. It argues that these emergent forms constitute a kind of political contestation that generates imagined potential futures both vital and disastrous.