Price of Gold

Cinema Documentary about the real Price of Gold

Gold – the most popular investment product in today’s world. The documentary is the first to film illegal gold-diggers in Mongolia carrying out their dangerous work in the Gobi. In amazingly intimate shots, Sven Zellner shows us the men who experience the real »price of gold« at the other end of the world. An archaic male-dominated society in previously untouched regions of the earth, which is becoming disjointed not least as a result of the triumphant progress of the so-called »free market economy«. While the speculative market value of gold in the Western world seems to bear no relation to any tangible yardsticks anymore, the film describes in very direct and stark images what it means to prospect for gold by hand, be it just for a few grams.



The vast desert landscape of the Gobi gives you the impression of untouched nature. Thirty meters under the earth, however, in the pit of an illegal goldmine, there is total darkness. A compressor pipe is the only means of communication with the people at the entrance of the mine. Khuyagaa, the illegal gold-digger or, as they are called here, the ninja, shouts into the pipe: “Take a good look at the rocks to see whether there are any traces of gold or not!” Then he takes the pneumatic hammer and continues working on a vein of gold on the ceiling. Dust and rocks rain down on him. “Gold is a gamble,” says Khuyagaa. He is digging with four other men who used to be nomads. At the head of the group are two undisputed leaders. Usukhuu Akh, who has a dreadful scar across his face, the result of a knife fight, is one of them. And Ochiroo Akh, who swears a lot and puts everyone in a bad mood, is the second boss. Khuyagaa is the foreman. And that means he works the hardest of them all, and he is the only one who does the most difficult part of the work. He is the one who has to go down into the gallery to prepare the blasting with sticks of dynamite. He dreams of finding enough gold so that he can finally quit illegal gold-digging and do something else one day, of finding a job with a steady income and less danger.

The big companies have long split the mining rights for gold in Mongolia among themselves. Everyone knows that. But as nomads they believe that it’s their land and no one may take any of it. They feel cheated. Ochiroo Akh says: “We want a handful of earth of the country that we grew up in.” It’s a fight for survival. Usukhuu Akh tells us: “We have no other choice. We are poor, life in Mongolia is poor.” Not only the illegality is dangerous. Digging for gold as they do involves underground blasting with inadequate means. Yet Khuyagaa still goes down into the mines with a couple of sticks of dynamite. One wrong move and his worries will be over. And so will his life. For him, that has become a part of his everyday life and probably won’t change anymore either. And with the mercury used in gold extraction, the ninjas are poisoning their environment and destroying the basis for the nomads’ livelihood. They hardly ever become rich from searching for gold. More likely they become even poorer, poison themselves or die in an accident. And nevertheless they keep digging so that they can live a life of freedom under the skies of their ancestors.

86 min

HD + 35 mm

Sven Zellner

Chingunjav Borkhuu

Sven Zellner

Sven Zellner,
Uisenma Borchu

Maximilian Plettau,

Bayerischer Rundfunk
FFF FilmFernsehFonds Bayern