Monday, April 9, 2012

[CPSI NewsWire: Easter Holiday Slow Edition]

CPSI NewsWire brings you market updates on Mongolia, compiled by CPS International, a Mongolian marketing arm of CPS Securities, a Perth, WA based stockbroking and corporate advisory firm, specialising in capital raising for mining and junior stocks.

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ASX, HKEx, Europe on Easter Holidays on Friday, April 6 and Monday, April 9; US, Canada on Friday, April 6


10 Wackiest ETF Ideas (TVIX, ONN, GAZ) (Market Vectors Mongolia ETF)

April 6 (Benzinga) Only 14 new ETFs debuted in March, a dramatic decline from January and February, but the pace looks like it's picking back up in April .

As is always the case with new ETFs, some will thrive, attracting strong average daily volume and high assets under management. Some will survive with just enough cash flowing in to sustain themselves. Others will end up in the ETF graveyard.

To be sure, some new ETFs will be wacky ideas. We've seen plenty in the past and there plenty on the market today, just take a at the now notorious  VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (NYSE: TVIX ).

That said, "wacky" doesn't mean bad. It can mean, crazy, eccentric, or silly, but it does not mean bad. Here's the Benzinga list of 10 wackiest ETF ideas, past, present and future. In terms of the future wacky ideas, we only looked at those funds issuers have filed for. In no particular order with no favoritism for and nothing against any particular ETF issuer...

Market Vectors Mongolia ETF. It has been nearly a year since Van Eck Global, parent company of Market Vectors, filed for a Mongolia ETF and it still isn't out yet. We're just speculating, but maybe slumping coal prices have kept this fund on the shelf. There might be other countries that warrant an ETF before Mongolia, but there are to give this one a look  if it comes to market.

Link to article


Mongolia Minerals Corp Facing Local Unrest in Uvs Aimag

April 5 ( --

Link to article



April 6 (BCM NewsWire from Unuudur) PetroChina Daqing Tamsag LLC has requested from the government another 650-square kilometers of land for its oil extraction operations, meanwhile the firm has failed to meet the reclamation requirements imposed by the government.

The Memengiin steppe is famous in Dornod for its superb nature, and it has been preserved by the people living there. However, it seems it is inevitable that this land will be consumed by the operations of Petro China for oil exploration and extraction. PetroChina is the main company of the 20 operating at the Tamsag region, where oil reserves are taken and distributed to Sukhbaatar and Dornogobi Aimags.

Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil have passed through the Memengiin plains by truck, bringing great damage to the land. Examinations of the operations of Munkh Oril Trade at Matad Soum made in September 2010 estimated damages to be worth MNT 1.3 trillion. That particular case will be heard at the Bayanzurkh court.

The Petroleum Authority and heads of PetroChina agreed in June 2011 to increase the extent of its operations by annexing the 650-square kilometer Toson Uul XIX site. The proposal has been presented to government, and there is word that the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy has already given its approval. The company has operated there since 2010.

The Petroleum Authority has handed PetroChina orders for reclamations for both 2010 and 2011, which have reportedly since been ignored by the company. Last year the government decided to rescind the company's rights of the site Buire XXII after it had excavated 5.3 million barrels of oil. Although the government ordered that land restoration commenced, there have been no reports of any activity conducted toward that cause. Furthermore, PetroChina has failed to make good on its promise to build an oil refinery, instead sending its production to Hohhot in China for refining.

Link to BCM NewsWire archive


Dual approach to railways looks to meet president's request

April 6 ( UB Post) Railway construction connecting large mining projects will begin this May. The following is an interview with J. Bat-Erdene, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Roads, Transportation, and Urban Development, and also the Chairman of the Mongolian Railway Board of Directors. Translated from Udriin Shuudan newspaper. 

-A few days ago Base Structure of the Mongolian Railway was established at a Government meeting. What is the difference between this company and the Mongolian Railway?

-A legislative add-on was made to enable free competition in railway transportation. Before, there was the Ulaanbaatar Railroad, a company owned by both Mongolia and Russia. The add-on enables other parties to establish railway companies that provide transportation and related services.

That was how Mongolian Railway was established. It can provide railway transportation and use the infrastructure to provide services. The Government of Mongolia, through a loan from China, provided the Mongolian Railway with 200 train cars and road repair equipment. 

The Government decided that it is correct to build two separate companies – one to carry out infrastructural operations and the other specifically for transportation. The one for dealing with infrastructure was established as the Base Structure of the National Railway. 

So the Base Structure of the National Railway will own the railroad that it builds. Before, the Mongolian Railway was responsible for building and transporting. But now, the Mongolian Railway has given the duty of building the railroad to the newly established the Base Structure of the National Railway. 

-The President made an urgent request to speed up overall infrastructure construction projects. The request included starting phases 1 and 2 of railroad construction within the year. How reasonable is this? 

-Yes, the Government changed the decision and made it so that both phases are to begin in 2012. 

-During yesterday's Government meeting, the border port plans were passed. Can you elaborate on the plans?

-It was very disorganized because there was not enough funding provided for the border ports and gates. Since the plan is now passed, the customs, loading and unloading terminals, monitoring and administration will be appointed and all border ports will be much more organized. 

During this Government meeting, out of six general plans to be passed, two of them were passed: the ports in Gashuunsukhait and Shiveekhuren. The Gashuunsukhait port plan was made for 2,100 hectares of land and the Shiveekhuren for 3,000 hectares of land. Each port will have 12 exits and entrances. 

Also, an exit for railways was planned. Each exit will have 8 terminals.

Link to article


2011 Export and Tax Data of mining companies operating in Mongolia

Монгол улсын хэмжээнд уул уурхайн үйл ажиллагаа эрхэлж буй аж ахуй нэгжүүдийн 2011 он болон 2012 оны эхний 2 сарын экспортын хэмжээ, татварын дүн 

4-р сарын 5 (Сангийн Яам) Монгол улсын хэмжээнд уул уурхайн үйл ажиллагаа эрхэлж буй аж ахуй нэгжүүдийн 2011 он болон 2012 оны эхний 2 сарын экспортын хэмжээ, татварын дүнг мэдээллэж байна.

Эх сурвалж


KHAN BANK and MANDAL INSURANCE SIGN FIRST EVER Banker's blanket bond policy

April 5 (BCM, Source: Hogan Lovells) --

Khan Bank is pleased to announce that it is now protected by a "Banker's Blanket Bond" insurance policy, the first ever to be issued by underwriters for a Mongolian bank.

As always, Khan Bank strives to be the leader in bringing innovative financial products and services, risk management tools to Mongolia. With the involvement of Mandal General Insurance, the Lloyd's of London backed Banker's Blanket Bond policy was put into effect starting March, providing Khan Bank with added security and a lowered risk profile. Having a Banker's Blanket Bond is a norm in banks around the world as the coverage is mandated by law in many countries.

Khan Bank is paving the road for other commercial banks of Mongolia to seek this type of insurance policy by being the first bank to do so and creating awareness. The banking sector of Mongolia would be one step ahead by having this insurance in place for all commercial banks as the sector is geared towards tremendous growth.

Source: Khan Bank, Mandal General Insurance

Link to article


Mongolian cashmere & fur products to get trademark

April 6 (Fibre2fashion ) Mongolia is set to introduce a 'Tansag Shirhegt' trademark for its fur and cashmere wool items to earn recognition for producers of these items in the world market.

About 80 percent of Mongolia's cashmere and fur products are exported, however, the actual producers are never recognized as these items are exported through international channels.

To address this issue, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MFALI) proposed to develop a trademark and logo for Mongolian fur and cashmere industry, in association with the Mongolian Fur and Cashmere Union and Agricultural Marketing and Brand Development project of the Asian Development Bank

B Batsetseg, Head Specialist at the Light Industry Strategy Implementation Department of the MFALI, said the name 'Mongolian Tansag Shirhegt' meaning 'Mongolian Luxurious Texture' will be used for goat cashmere, camel and yak furs.

Regarding logo, he said, cashmere is considered 'king' of textiles and the same concept has been incorporated in the logo. 

The name and the logo of the trademark were decided after discussions with more than 60 fur and cashmere producers in Mongolia, he said.

The new trademark and logo would be introduced to the world during the 81st International Textile Organization Congress, scheduled to take place in New York from May 7 to May 9, 2012.

Link to article


Mongolia is ready to export about 100K Kashmir goats to Kyrgyzstan

April 6 ( Mongolia is ready to export about 100K Kashmir goats to Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Agriculture and Melioration Ministry press service reports.

According the press service, the necessary agreement was concluded during the meeting between the Kyrgyz minister Askarbek Zhanybekov with the Mongolian colleague Tunjin Badamzhinay. As noted the Mongolian party also wishes to cooperate in food industry field, irrigation, joint enterprises establishment, and it is also interested in Kyrgyz Merino breed.

Link to article


Cabinet Decisions on Energy Companies

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, April 5 /MONTSAME/ The cabinet decided on Wednesday to change the name of the "Electricity distribution network of central region" company. Now the company's name will be "National network of electricity distribution".

The cabinet also decided to allot MNT two billion 83 million from the governmental reserved fund for recovering debts to be paid off by the "Energy system of western region" state-owned company to Chinese and Russian sides.

Link to article


General Consulate of Australia to Open in May

April 5 ( --

Link to article



April 6 (BCM) MIAT is considering changing its business model to become more profitable. The airline is considering giving up at least some of its European routes to concentrate on the Asian region.

Flights via the large Boeing 767 plane and the smaller Boeing 737 to Europe during the winter season have only resulted in losses, said MIAT Executive Director Ts. Orkhon. He added that present market conditions have failed to align with demand, competition and cost. However, as a state entity, the airline must keep in mind the importance of Mongolia's relations with Germany and Russia, he said.

MIAT is a state-owned firm regulated under the government's instruction, but has historically not received any financial backing from the state. Although Mongolia opened up its air force and air transportation network as early as 1925, permanent air passenger flights were not offered until 1956. It was able to direct local air traffic to create Mongolia's own airline network, despite serious losses in its early days of inception. MIAT managed to renovate its air fleet step by step, replacing its Soviet era TU-154 plans with western classic Boeing 727 and 737 planes in 2002. Last year it leased an Airbus 310 and a Boeing 767.

The airline is still looking for financing and investment for the leasing of those planes for the benefit of foreign tourism and connecting Mongolia to the international community.

Link to BCM NewsWire archive



April 6 (BCM) The leave of the director of mobile phone service provider Mobicom Corp. seems to have created disappointment within the company. R. Arvintsogt has stepped up to serve as executive director for a third time.

D. Bolor has left Mobicom Corp., the mobile communications arm of Newcom LLC, to serve as the head of Skytel Company, Ltd. Bolor, who had worked at Mobicom for nine years, cited the company's practice of rotating personnel and his interest in not leaving the field of mobile communications as the main reasons for his leave.

"Of course the decision by D. Bolor to join a competitor's company is not in Mobicom's favor, but anyone has the right to make his own personal decisions," said Arvintsogt. 

Arvintsogt would not go into detail about the new initiatives Mobicom would take under his helm, but mentioned there would be some changes in management. He said communications in Mongolia needs a great deal of investment, pointing out that the mobile phone network technology it uses is outdated. He said his company is looking to upgrade its current third-generation technology to that of the fourth-generation.

Link to BCM NewsWire archive



April 6 (BCM) A grand opening celebration was held this week in honor of a new laboratory that will focus on analyzing the pollutants that come from mining activities. The institution is a result of a partnership between International South Korean aid organization KOICA and the Mining Reclamation Corporation (MIREC) to conclude the effects mining operations are affecting Mongolia's environment.

The initiative is part of KOICA's East Asia Climatic Cooperation project. Since 2011 it has worked on the project investigating the pollution that results from mining operations and establishing a fund to reduce pollution and restore land.

Within three years, project organizers have opened a laboratory dedicated to these purposes. The laboratory will be used to examine soil and water samples, in addition to polluted elements that emerge from mining activities. Mongolia will also have the opportunity to take this research to the national scale if these operations are able to attain the USD 1 million worth of equipment it needs. The equipment would be used to conduct detailed analysis of hazardous and heavy metals, organic polluters, and establish the current status of pollution caused by Mongolia on a country-wide scale.

Project organizers hope to begin with the analysis of 120 mines in the eastern part of Mongolia.

Link to BCM NewsWire archive


"Гадаад валютын форвард хэлцэл" дугуй ширээний ярилцлага боллоо

4-р сарын 6 (МЭЗФ) Монголын эдийн засгийн форум, Монголын банкны холбоо хамтран 4 дүгээр сарын 5-нд Гадаад валютын форвард хэлцэл сэдэвт дугуй ширээний ярилцлага зохион байгууллаа. 

Тус дугуй ширээний ярилцлагад Сангийн дэд сайд Ч.Ганхуяг, Сангийн яамны СЭЗБГ-ын дарга Б.Батбаяр, Монголбанкны МБСГ-ын захирал Д.Болдбаатар, Монголбанкны ВЭЗГ-ын дарга Д.Дэлгэрсайхан, МБХ-ны ерөнхийлөгч М.Болд, МБХ-ны гүйцэтгэх захирал Л.Төр-Од, МЭЗФ-ын гүйцэтгэх захирал Б.Найдалаа, Стандарт Чартерэд банкны монгол дахь төлөөлөгчийн газрын захирал Бонггун Шин (Bonggun Shin) болон арилжааны банкуудын төлөөлөл оролцсон юм. Ярилцлагад оролцогчид валютын форвард хэлцэл хийх шаардлага хэрэгцээ, гадаад валютын форвард хийх эрх зүйн орчин, банкны дэд бүтэц зэргийн талаар санал бодлоо солилцсон юм. 

Тус ярилцагад хөндөгдсөн зүйлсийг товч дүгнэн та бүхэнд хүргэж байна.  

Хөгжиж буй улс орнуудад гадаад худалдааны эргэлт 10 хувиар өөрчлөгдөхөд валютын ханшийн хүчтэй хэлбэлзэл бий болох магадлал өндөр байдаг. Манай улсын хувьд гадаад худалдааны эргэлт эрчимтэй өсч байгаа ба 2011 онд бодит ДНБ-ээс давсан байна (Зураг 1). Гадаад худалдаа өргөжиж байгаа энэ үед бид ханшийн эрсдэлээс хамгаалах тогтолцоог яаралтай нэвтрүүлэхгүй бол ханшийн хүчтэй савалгаанаас улсын хэмжээнд томоохон эрсдэл хүлээх магадлал өндөр байна.


Зураг 1. Гадаад худалдааны эргэлт 2011 онд бодит ДНБ-ээс давсан байна. Эх сурвалж: Үндэсний статистикийн хороо 

Зураг 2. Валютын ханшийн мөчлөг нь Гадаад худалдааны эргэлтийн мөчлөгийн эсрэг хөдөлж байна. 

Манай улсад валютын зах зээл хөгжихөд дараах хүчин зүйлс бий болох, төлөвших шаардлагатай байна. Үүнд, (1) Арилжааны банкууд харилцагчдыхаа ханшийн эрсдэлийг зөв хуваалцах, (2) Урт хугацаат хүүний бэнчмарк тогтох, (3) Своп болон форвард хэлцэлийн хугацааг уян хатан тогтоох, (3) Своп болон форвард хэлцэлийн санаачилгыг хувийн хэвшил, арилжааны банкуудаас идэвхитэй гаргах зэрэг юм. 

Урт хугацаат хүүний бэнчмарк тогтоход Засгийн газрын бондын зах зээлийг төлөвшүүлэх хэрэгтэй юм. Монголбанкны бодлогын хүү нь урт хугацааны жишиг хүү болж чадахгүй. Засгийн газрын бондын зах зээл төлөвшихөд хууль эрх зүйн орчинг бүрдүүлэх хэрэгтэй. Одоогоор Үнэт цаасны тухай хууль УИХ-д өргөн баригдахаар болсон. Энэ хууль болон холбогдох хуулиудад өөрчлөлт орж батлагдсанаар эрх зүйн орчин үндсэндээ бүрдэнэ. Мөн Сангийн яамны төлөөлөгчийн хэлсэнээр бүх банкуудад нейтраль байх үүднээс аль нэгэн банкны платформыг ашиглахгүй харин блүүмбэргийн платформыг ашиглахаар яригдаж байна. 

Форвард, своп хэлцэлийн хугацаа нь төв банкы үнэт цаасны хугацаатай уялдаатай буюу 7 болон 84 хоногийн хугацаатай байдаг. Энэ нь хэт уян хатан биш юм байгааг арилжааны банкуудын диллерүүд хэлж байна.   

Монголбанк 2011 онд 10 тэрбум ам.доллартай тэнцэх захиалга гүйцэтгэх боломжтой байсан ч арилжааны банкуудаас 150 сая ам.долларын своп хэлцэл, 50 сая ам.долларын форвард хэлцэлийн захиалга Монголбанкруу орж ирсэн байна. Энэ нь гадаад валютын зах зээлд арилжааны банкууд болон хувийн хэвшил идэвхигүй оролцож байгааг илэрхийлж байна. Форвард, своп хэлцэлийн захиалга бага байгаагийн шалтгааныг арилжааны банкуудын диллерүүд эдийн засгийн нөхцөл байдал, хүлээлт зэрэгтэй холбон тайлбарлаж байна. Мөн эдгээр хэлцэлүүдийг хийхэд арилжааны банк, хувийн хэвшилийн хоорондын харилцааг зохицуулсан хууль эрх зүйн орчин хэрэгтэй байгааг арилжааны банкуудын төлөөлөл хэлсэн юм. 

Своп болон форвард хэлцэл дээр хувийн хэвшлийхний сонирхол, санаачилгыг нэмэгдүүлэх, энэ талын таниулах арга хэмжээ авах хэрэгтэй байна. Арилжааны банкуудын хөрвөх чадвар сайжирвал цаашид Монголбанкруу захиалга өгөхгүй, арилжааны банк болон харилцагчдын хооронд эдгээр хэлцэлүүд хийгдээд явах боломжтой. 

Гадаад валютын зах зээлийг хөгжүүлэхэд их хэмжээний гадаад валют ашиглан үйл ажиллагаа явуулдаг томоохон компаниудын оруулах хувь нэмэр өндөр болохыг дугуй ширээний ярилцлагад оролцогчид онцолж байна.

Эх сурвалж


South Dakota School of Mines professor named Fulbright Scholar, will travel to Mongolia

RAPID CITY, S.D., April 8 (AP) — A South Dakota School of Mines and Technology civil and environmental engineering professor has been named a Fulbright Scholar.

Scott Kenner will travel to Mongolia during the next academic year to teach and conduct an extended research project.

Kenner applied for the Mongolia program after traveling to the northern Asia country last summer. He met with faculty during the trip and visited several coal and copper mining operations.

The presidential-appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board selects 800 U.S. faculty and professionals to travel abroad for research, lecturing or seminars.

Kenner proposes to teach a graduate level course at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology during the fall 2012 semester on watershed monitoring, assessment and modeling.

Link to article


Ambassador to Mongolia: Who Is Piper Campbell?

April 8 (AllGov) The landlocked nation of Mongolia, sandwiched between Russia and China, has long been one of the most remote and least developed places in the world. Its progress toward democracy and economic development since the end of the Cold War will likely be familiar to the career diplomat nominated by President Obama on March 5, 2012, to be the next ambassador to Mongolia. 

Piper Anne Wind Campbell, daughter of Gay Campbell and David N. Campbell, a longtime director of Gibraltar Industries, which manufactures and distributes building materials. She was born circa 1966 in Buffalo, New York, and graduated Nichols School, a Buffalo prep school, in 1984. She later said her participation in a summer exchange program to Japan "definitely set me onto this career path in diplomacy." Campbell earned a B.S. in Foreign Service with a certificate in Asian Studies at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1988, and a Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in 1999. 

She worked briefly for an organization promoting trade between Western New York and Canada prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1989. She began her career with service as a consular and administrative officer at the embassy in Manila, Philippines, followed by a stint as a general services officer providing support to the three U.S. missions in Brussels, Belgium (to the EU, to NATO and to Belgium). Campbell served in the State Department Operations Center from 1994 to 1995, and in the International Organizations Bureau from 1995 to 1996. Detailed to the civil affairs section of a UN peacekeeping mission in the Balkans from 1996 to 1998, Campbell helped the US Agency for International Development (USAID) establish an office in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia, in 1998. 

After taking a one-year leave to earn her M.P.A. in 1999, Campbell covered Asian issues and Security Council reform at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York from 1999 to 2002, and served as counselor for Humanitarian Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, from 2002 to 2006. Campbell then served at the Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, first as deputy chief of mission, starting September 20, 2006, and then as chargé d'affaires ad interim from August 25, 2008, to January 19, 2009. 

Back in Washington, Campbell served as chief of staff to Jack Lew, the deputy secretary of state for Management and Resources, until being named consul general at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah, Iraq, on July 12, 2011.  

Piper Campbell has donated $3,200 to Democratic candidates and organizations over the years, with $1,500 going to the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry and $700 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004; she also donated $1,000 to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008, according to An avid runner, Campbell has competed in marathons and half marathons on three continents.

Link to article


TV9 receives exclusive right broadcast Euro 2012

April 6 ( UEFA has awarded the media rights to this summer's European Championships to a number of broadcasters covering territories in the Asia and Oceania regions.

In the Philippines, pay-TV operator Solar Entertainment has been granted exclusive pay TV rights to Euro 2012. Solar Sports will broadcast all 31 matches and highlights programmes on each match day, as well as pre-tournament magazine programmes. All matches will also be exploited on the network's internet platform.

In Mongolia, TV9 has been awarded exclusive pay-TV rights to 27 matches, which will be shown live on TV9, and free-to-air rights to all 31 matches, which will be aired on ETV. Furthermore, TV9 will show highlights and a series of magazine shows. All matches will also be exploited on TV9's internet platform.

In Vietnam, public broadcaster VTV will screen all 31 matches live on free-to-air television. The network will also transmit highlights programmes for every match and simulcast each match live on the internet.

In South Korea, IB Sports will show every match on its pay-TV channel IPSN. In addition IB Sports will deliver a minimum of 8 matches and highlights programmes for all matches on free-to-air television. All matches will be aired on internet and mobile platforms.

In Australia, Setanta Sports will broadcast 27 matches live alongside daily highlights programmes for every match and supplementary programmes promoting the tournament. Every match will be shown on internet and mobile platforms.

Free-to-air television coverage in Australia will be provided by SBS, which will broadcast eight matches on SBS One and SBS Two, in addition to simulcasting each match on its internet portal. Furthermore, SBS will broadcast highlights programmes on each match day in strong time slots.

In Fiji and the Pacific Islands, Fiji TV has acquired exclusive media rights in Fiji and Papa New Guinea, and non-exclusive rights in the Pacific Islands. The network will broadcast all the matches live on its pay-TV channels, Sky Pacific World and Super Channel. Meanwhile, eight matches will be transmitted on its free-to-air channel, Fiji One in Fiji, and all the games will be broadcast on EM TV in Papa New Guinea.

Link to article



Last of the Nomads: How Mongolian Culture May Change Drastically Within a Generation

April 5 (The Huffington Post) "I'm going to be the last herder of my family," said Erdenemunkh, a nomad living in Central Mongolia. We were sitting in his cozy ger -- or Mongolian yurt -- drinking salty milk tea, a staple of the Mongolian herding diet.

"I'm going to do everything to send my kids to school," Erdenemunkh continued. I glanced at his 9-year-old daughter playing with her 3-year-old brother. They had no idea that their lives were going to be drastically different from their father's, or from the millions of herders who had carried on Mongolia's ancient nomadic tradition for millennia.

In Mongolia, as in other parts of the world, this century is proving to be an era of fast and furious change. Modernization, a new economic system, opportunities in mining, and the effects of overgrazing and climate change are nudging an ancient nomadic culture to adopt a more urban, settled lifestyle. Erdenemunkh is just one herder out of many all across Mongolia who believes the era of herding is over: He has decided that his children will not be herders, and like many others, he will be the first in his family to break the generations-old tradition of passing down the family herd to the youngest child.

Erdenemunkh has many reasons to leave the ancient lifestyle behind. This year, his Central Mongolian home region of Azraga was hit with a "dzud," a devastatingly harsh winter that killed as much as 40 percent of many families' livestock. For a nomadic family, the loss of livestock translates into a direct loss of household income. And that's not even the worst-case scenario --Erdenemunkh had a neighbor who lost all but one of his 80 cows in the unrelenting cold.

Herders distinguish among three different types of dzud. This year's was considered a "glass dzud," where the ground froze solid under a thick layer of snow, prohibiting animals from grazing. With temperatures reaching -40 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout January, it was the coldest winter in local memory, and animals both froze and starved to death. Most families in Azraga said this year was even worse for them than the notorious dzud of 2010, in which almost 8 million head of livestock, or 17 percent of the entire country's animals, died and the government of Mongolia declared disaster status.

The dzud of 2010 forced many nomads to give up herding altogether and move to the city for employment. Two years later, while many in Mongolia continue to recover from the 2010 dzud, the trend of urbanization still continues, and at a rapid rate. Many herders now agree that pasture quality and the harshness of recent winters are so bad that herding has become untenable.

"The pastures of Taragt used to support 170,000 livestock. Now it can only support 80,000," said Erdene, vice governor of the district of Taragt in Övörkhangai Province. Overgrazing and desertification have depleted the vegetation of the pasture lands, making it difficult for livestock to get the nourishment they need to survive the increasingly harsh winters.

"It's getting worse," Erdenemunkh said. "It's discouraging to imagine continuing being a herder."

Erdenemunkh explained that he quit school at 13 to start herding. Now he said he realizes how important education is. As a herder without any other skills or education, one bad winter can take your entire life away from you, he said. Thus, his kids will go to school, he said firmly.

As I traveled with the Vanishing Cultures Project through Central Mongolia and talked to numerous families, we heard the same thing over and over: "My wife and I cannot move to the city because we don't have any education or skills, but we're sending our children to school. They won't be herders." If what these herders say holds true, this means that the ancient nomadic culture of Mongolia will be seriously reduced within a generation's time. Perhaps such change is necessary -- humanity has and always will evolve and adapt to new eras, technologies, and philosophies. But history and tradition have important roles to play even in the modern world, and it would be a shame to simply replace millennia-old wisdom with modern attitudes. My work with the Vanishing Cultures Project is steeped in the belief that the correct way forward is to hold onto the cultural elements that most touch, define, and inspire us when navigating times of development or great change. I hope that in Mongolia's rapid transition away from nomadic life, large-scale or government-backed efforts will be made to safeguard the arts, skills, traditions, and lore that thrived on the steppes since ancient times.

To find out more about Mongolian art and culture, or to contribute to Mongolian nomadic cultural programs, check out these organizations and websites:

Arts Council of Mongolia:

International Institute for the Study of Nomadic Civilizations:

American Center for Mongolian Studies:

UNESCO World Heritage List - Mongolia:

Vanishing Cultures Project:

Link to article


Nice photo album by Reuters

Mongolia: The least densely populated country on the planet

April 5 (Reuters) --

Link to album



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