CPSI NewsWire brings you market updates on Mongolia, compiled by CPS International, a Mongolian marketing arm of CPS Securities, a Perth, Western Australia based stockbroking and corporate advisory firm, specialising in capital raising for mining and junior stocks.
Happy Naadam Holidays
Altan Rio to Commence Drilling at Chandman-Yol Copper-Gold Project and Completes Onon Project Earn-In
VANCOUVER, July 10, 2012 /CNW/ - Altan Rio Minerals Limited, (TSXV: AMO) ("Altan Rio" or the "Company") announces today that a contract has been signed for drilling to commence shortly at the Chandman-Yol copper-gold porphyry project in western Mongolia. Additionally, the Company announces that the earn-in for 90% ownership of one of the Onon epithermal gold tenements in northeastern Mongolia will be completed shortly.
· Drilling to begin in mid-July with approximately 3000 m (some 6-8 holes) of diamond core planned
· Two high-priority, never-before-drilled targets identified through field work completed in 2011 to be drill-tested
· Ovoot target - copper-gold porphyry intrusion with high amplitude IP chargeability anomaly (35+ msec) and copper staining visible on surface
· Takhilt target - outcropping copper-gold porphyry intrusion with rock chip values as high as 30 g/t gold and 1+% copper
New Targets to Be Drill-Tested
The 2010 and 2011 exploration seasons at the Chandman-Yol project produced several new and highly promising targets from a combination of geological mapping, large geochemical survey grids and reconnaissance IP profiles. The two most advanced targets that are ready for drilling are Ovoot and Takhilt.
Ovoot - Discovered by reconnaissance profiling, this high amplitude IP chargeability anomaly (35+ msec), the strongest anomaly identified on the Chandman Project to date, is at/near surface and of substantial size, with dimensions of 2+ km long, 1 km wide, and possibly 500 to 800 m thick. Copper staining is visible in vertical fractures at surface directly above the IP feature, which provides strong evidence of geochemical leakage from depth.
Not previously drilled, Ovoot represents a compelling target for potentially large tonnage resources. Two to three first-pass moderately deep (500 to 700 m) drill holes are planned.
Takhilt - An outcropping copper-gold porphyry intrusion with disseminated copper oxide staining named Takhilt was discovered in 2011 by geological mapping in the northern Yol licenses of the project. Follow-up soil geochemical sampling delineated a robust copper soil anomaly about 600 m in diameter. Rock chip sampling locally assayed up to 30 g/t gold and +1% copper. Targeted IP profiles imaged moderate to strong (30+ msec) chargeability responses that extend to about 2 km along strike, and remain open to the east.
Not previously drilled, Takhilt also represents a compelling target for shallow, but potentially large-scale, resources. Up to five 300 to 600 m deep holes are planned this season.
Further information and drill results from the Company's 2011 drill campaign at the Chandman-Yol project can be found on the Altan Rio website at www.altanrio.com.
The Company is also pleased to announce that the earn-in, representing 90% ownership of one of the three tenements that comprises the Onon epithermal gold project, will be finalized shortly. Altan Rio will complete the final stage of the earn-in by issuing Erdenyn Erel LLC, a private Mongolian company, 240,000 common shares in the capital of Altan Rio (subject to TSX approval). The remaining two Onon tenements are already 100%-owned by the Company.
The Onon project, located in northeastern Mongolia, is an early stage gold exploration project where previous work has identified numerous gold and arsenic anomalies associated with epithermal-style mineralization. The three tenements comprise in aggregate an area of 137 km2.
Manas: Investor Relations Update July 2012
ü Passive seismic completed
ü Ranking of prospects completed
ü Commencement of seismic mid‐July 2012 (instead of beginning June; due to equipment availability)
ü Spud of first well ‐ Ger Chuluu 1 – second half August 2012, due to seismic delay
MIG: Annual Report 2012
July 10, Mongolia Investment Group (HK:402) --
NUMBER OF MSE COMPLIANT BROKERS REACH 12
July 10 (MSE) On July 9th and 10th, totally 559.2 million worth of shares have been traded on MSE.
The number of members that met the requirements set by the new trading system is increasing day by day. Lastly, "DCF" LLC has met the requirements by placing the appropriate collateral and Settlement Guarantee Fund contribution. Consequentially, the number of satisfactory members has reached 12.
Therefore, the number of members that contributed to the Settlement Guarantee Fund has reached 39; the number of members that concluded a revised agreement with MSE has reached 45, as well as the number of members that placed the collateral has reached 13.
10 BROKERS MEETING MSE TRADING REQUIREMENTS SO FAR
July 10 (InfoMongolia) A swap agreement was made with the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) security-trading of July 09, 2012. With this swap agreement, 2 million and 524 shares of "Mongol Em Impex" company has been traded for a unit price of 276 MNT, summing the total value at 552,144,624 MNT.
The MSE has been transferred into the "Millennium IT" trading system at the beginning of the previous week. To participate in the trading with the new "Millennium IT" system, the MSE has determined a requirement for broker companies to establish clearing agreements with commercial banks.
As of this week, out of the 79 MSE registered companies, 10 are participating in the trading by meeting the requirements of the new system. They are: "BDSec", "Frontier", "Tenger Insurance", "TDB Capital", "Golomt Securities", "Rescap Securities", "Grandline", "Delgerkhangai Securities", "MICC" and "Standard Investment" LLCs.
BoM issues ₮90B 12-week 16.83% bills
July 10 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 12 week bills worth MNT 90 billion at a weighted interest rate of 16.83 percent per annum. /For previous auctions click here/
Sec. Hillary Clinton has finally Arrived…in UB
July 9 (Mongolia Today) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visited Ulaanbaatar today (July 9th) as part of her Asia tour. Her statements as reported in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, present an interesting picture of the visit and point to some important points in the relationship between Mongolia and the United States.
Firstly, China matters. Sec. Clinton made strong statements supporting democracy and political freedoms as steps just as important to economic growth. The news reporters are very much on the right track with pointing out that this is a clear message to China that the US continues to expect political reforms in addition to liberal economic policies. This was explored at length in both articles.
Secondly, Mongolia matters. What was just barely touched on in these articles is that Mongolia's democratic system is important not just for Mongolian domestic concerns, but also on the international stage. Mongolian democracy stands out in stark contract to it neighbors, Russia and China, as well as when compared across the larger post-communist world. Central Asian authoritarian states, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan stand out in clear contract to Mongolia. Despite all its "robustness/rowdiness" (as terms used in other publications), the Mongolian political system is clearly democratic, though with notable problems that have been explored in this blog already.
Mongolian democracy and continuing commitment to improving its human rights situation is not only a domestic issue, but it also serves as one factor in Mongolia's foreign policy. Looking at Mongolia's "Third Neighbors" (India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States- to name the larger players), all are thriving democracies. While much of the attention Mongolia enjoys on the international stage relative to its small economy, is tied to the growth of the mining sector, we should not be too quick to avoid factoring in the good press that Mongolia enjoys as a result of its developing democratic system. Not only is it one country that can prove that democracy is suitable for Asian nations, but it also means that the US and other countries can interact with Mongolia as one democracy to another.
Human rights concerns and pushes for democratic reform complicate US relations with many other countries. This is one complication that Mongolia has managed to avoid, and perhaps this plays a role in US and international interest in the small country.
Readout of Meeting between Mongolia President Tsakhia Elbegdorj and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - The Office of the President of Mongolia via PRNewswire, July 9
Hillary Clinton's Meets with the Staff and Families of Embassy Ulaanbaatar - Press Release: US State Department, July 9
Hillary Clinton's Remarks to the International Women's Leadership Forum - Press Release: US State Department, July 9
Hillary Clinton's Remarks at the Community of Democracies Governing Council - Press Release: US State Department, July 9
Hillary Clinton's Secretary Clinton Launches On-Demand Network for Emerging Democracies - Press Release: US State Department, July 9
Mongolia's National Day Greetings from Hillary Clinton - Press Release: US State Department, July 10
Globe International deeply concerned over attack on Sky television
(Globe International/IFEX) - 2 July 2012 - Globe International is deeply concerned about an attack on journalists and camera operators from the Sky television station based in Khuvsgul aimag. The media personnel were verbally attacked and beaten, resulting in serious injuries for some.
On the night of 28 June 2012 at 1:00 a.m., when voting for parliamentary elections was nearing completion and the television crew was airing the preliminary results, B. Ganzorig, the executive director of Khuvsgul News LLC, which is the investing company of Sky television, entered the premises of the television station along with several other individuals. Ganzorig beat and injured four journalists and four camera operators. The reason for the assault was purportedly that the television crew aired one-sided news reports that did not serve the interests of an investor who was running for election.
Globe International condemns Ganzorig's brutal actions, considering them to be a crime as they violate the constitutional right to personal liberty and safety, the right to media freedom and editorial independence, the professional rights of journalists and the public's right to receive objective information.
After the incident, the entire crew left the station. They are awaiting a medical report regarding their injuries. The local law enforcement agencies have initiated legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the assault.
Globe International believes the Khuvsgul aimag law enforcement agencies must conduct a thorough investigation into this incident and punish those responsible in accordance with the law.
A recording of the incident has been posted on YouTube.
(Mongolian National Marketing Office) Mongolia's approach to developing its Nation Brand is based on a unique and results-oriented methodology developed by The Hat Factory in London (UK) and called IEMED®.
That is to say, although the focus is on building the nation's reputation – the Nation Brand – it is done through the development of strong sector brands for export. In developing the Nation Brand, design and publicity play an underpinning role; they do not and cannot drive it forward.
IEMED® stands for Integrated Export Marketing for Economic Development.
It takes the marketing and brand development sequences used by most successful marketing-oriented global enterprises and adapts them to take account of the different needs of a country.
The vital difference between IEMED® and traditional models of economic development is the integrated and simultaneous development of thesupply-side and the demand-side. Of all the many feedback loops contained within the IEMED® methodology, the most important is that between what the targeted consumer is likely to buy and how the product can be improved, adapted or developed.
It is often argued in traditional development models that infrastructure, product quality and managerial capacity must first be improved before advanced markets are accessed. We disagree. We believe that capacity building improvements are more likely to be adopted in relation to identified and profitable market opportunities. They provide producers with the incentive to take up the improvements that are offered.
Mongolia's Nation Brand
Mongolia's National Marketing Coordination Office has the responsibility for implementing the agreed strategy for building and sustaining the National Brand.
1. To use the reality of new, reliable brands (and government policies) to generate a particular international commercial reputation for Mongolia and Mongolians as will help those, and other, brands succeed.
2. To use co-ordinated messages in collectively branded exports (including tourism) in several sectors that will spearhead Mongolia's new world reputation. These sectors will be:
1. based on relevant (i.e. relevant to the end consumers) quality
2. and on production improvements to world-class standards
3. selected for their commercial potential and as examples of elements of the international reputation that Mongolia wishes to enjoy.
3. To use the developing reputation of Mongolia in 1. above to underpin the reputation of the sectors, branded exports (including tourism) and to enable innovative export products of quality
4. To set up collective marketing boards for each sector, based on standards of quality. In addition, to ensure that the branding for each sector communicates consistent messages about Mongolia in line with a national strategy developed for the Government by the MNMCO.
5. To apply proven marketing techniques from successful global business to the National Brand (i.e. Mongolia's reputation) and to its exports, and to promote these exports to selected, international, niche target audiences.
6. To work with international donors and other NGOs already engaged in projects of supply-side improvement and/or market access so that all such projects contribute to each other's success and work in line with government strategy.
NSO: Social and economic situation of Mongolia (As of the first half of 2012)
July 10 (NSO) --
I. Social indicators
In the first half of 2012, 35945 mothers delivered 36129 children (live births) increased by 2251 mothers or 6.7 percent, and 2270 children or 6.7 percent, compared to same period of the previous year.
In the first half of 2012, at national level infant mortality decreased by 17 or 2.8 percent to 590, and child mortality aged 1-5 decreased by 6 or 4.7 percent to 121.
The number of unemployed reached 47.5 thousand at the end of June 2012, reflecting an increase of 5.7 thous.persons or 13.6 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
In the first half of 2012, 585.7 thous. persons were registered as insurer, of which 382.1 thousand or 65.2 percent were those from the establishments, and 203.7 thousand or 34.8 percent from the government budgetary organization. Compared to same period of the previous year, the number of insurers increased by 69.2 thousand or 13.4 percent, of which the increased by 59.9 thousand or 18.6 percent from establishments, and increased by 9.4 thousand or 4.8 percent from government budgetary organization.
In the first half of 2012, social welfare pensions and benefits allocated to 53.9 thous.persons, showing a decrease of 1664 persons or 3.0 percent, total amount of the allocated fund increased by 9.8 bln.tog or 63.1 percent compared to same period of the previous year...
In the first half of 2012, the total cash allowance distributed from the Human Development Fund amounts to 375.7 bln.tog which comprises cash allowances of 10.0, 21.0, 70.0 thous.tog.
In the first half of 2012, the number of infectious disease cases was 24205 persons, increase by 3536 cases or 17.1 percent compared to same period of the previous year. The increase in the number of infectious disease cases was mainly due to the increases of 6037 persons or 9.0 times in mumps and 153 persons or 7.1 percent in syphilis although there were decreases of 699 persons or 29.2 percent in varicella, 1493 persons or 27.4 percent in viral hepatitis, 175 persons or 20.2 percent in shigellosis, 116 persons or 4.4 percent in gonococcal infection and 94 persons or 3.9 percent in tuberculosis.
At national level, 11198 crimes were registered in the first half of 2012, reflecting an increase of 1082 crimes or 10.7 percent compared to same period of the previous year. The increase in the number of crimes was mainly due to the increases in crime against the right of ownership (721), crime against the rules of safety of traffic and use of motor vehicles (162), crime against human life and health (or physical well-being) (153), crimes against environmental protection rules (57) compared to same period of the previous year.
In the first half of 2012, occurred crimes caused 4260 injuries and 503 deaths. The number of injuries up by 202 persons or 5.0 percent and the number of deaths down by 67 persons or 11.8 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
II. Macroeconomic indicators
In 2011, GDP by production approach reached 11087.7 bln.tog at current prices and 4891.8 bln.tog at 2005 constant prices, representing increases of 2673.2 bln.tog or 31.8 percent at current prices and of 729.1 bln.tog or 17.5 percent at constant prices compared to the previous year.
In 2011, GDP by expenditure approach reached 11168.1 bln.tog at current prices and 4910.5 bln.tog at 2005 constant prices, representing increases of 2708.6 bln.tog or 32.0 percent at current prices and of 727.5 bln.tog or 17.4 percent at constant prices compared to the previous year.
The national consumer price index in June 2012, increased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous month, 9.7 percent compared to the beginning of the year, and 14.7 percent compared to same period of the previous year. The increase in national index compared to the previous month was mainly due to 0.5 percent increase in food and non-alcoholic beverages and 1.3 percent in housing, water, electricity and fuels.
According to the report of the Bank of Mongolia, money supply (broad money or M2) at the end of June 2012, reached to 7051.2 bln.tog, increased by of 321.6 bln. tog or 4.8 percent compared to the previous month, and increased by 1278.6 bln.tog or 22.2 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
At the end of June 2012, currency issued in circulation reached 891.5 bln.tog, increased by 108.6 bln.tog or 13.9 percent compared to the previous month, and increased by 252.7 bln.tog or 39.6 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
Loans outstanding at the end of June 2012, amounted to 6318.2 bln.tog, up by 197.0 bln.tog or 3.2 percent compared to the previous month, and up by 1765.4 bln.tog or 38.8 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
Principals in arrears at the end of June 2012 reached 51.8 bln.tog, decreased by 8.3 bln.tog or 13.8 percent compared to the previous month, decreased by 18.1 bln.tog or 25.9 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
At the end of June 2012, the non-performing loans over the bank system reached 307.8 bln.tog, showing decreases of 7.9 bln.tog or 2.5 percent compared to the previous month, of 82.7 bln.tog or 21.2 percent compared to same period of the previous year.
In June 2012, there were 19 trading days and 65.9 mln.shares valued at 42.1 bln. tog were traded.
In the first of half 2012, total equilibrated revenue and grants of the General Government Budget amounted to 2355.3 bln.tog and total expenditure and net lending amounted to 2930.1 bln.tog, representing deficit of 574.8 bln.tog in the equilibrated balance of General Government Budget.
Current revenue of the General Government Budget amounted to 2347.6 bln. tog and current expenditure reached 2282.5 bln.tog. Thus, the budget equilibrated current balance was in surplus of 65.2 bln.tog.
Compared to same period of the previous year, tax revenue increased by 414.6 bln.tog or 24.5 percent. The increase was mainly due to the increases of 148.1 bln.tog or 44.1 percent in other taxes, 118.4 bln.tog or 19.1 percent in taxes on goods and services, 104.4 bln.tog or 49.8 percent in social security contribution, 29.7 bln.tog or 8.0 percent in income tax and 11.8 bln.tog or 7.9 percent in taxes on foreign trade.
Compared to same period of the previous year, non-tax revenue increased by 15.0 bln.tog or 6.6 percent. The increase was mainly due to the increases of 9.1 bln.tog or 42.4 percent in revenues from oil petroleum, 6.5 bln.tog or 25.6 percent in revenues from others, 5.1 bln.tog or 20.5 percent in revenues from interest and 4.4 bln.tog or 4.4 percent in revenues from budget entities although there was decreases of 8.8 bln.tog or 26.5 percent in revenues from dividends and 1.7 bln.tog or 8.3 percent in navigation fee.
In the first half of 2012, total expenditure and net lending of the General Government Budget increased by 1061.8 bln.tog or 56.8 percent to 2930.1 bln.tog compared to same period of the previous year. This was mainly due to increases of 468.6 bln.tog or 57.0 percent in subsidies and transfers, 325.5 bln. tog or 2.2 times in capital expenditure, 256.2 bln.tog or 37.7 percent in expenditure of goods and services, 34.6 bln.tog or 2.7 times in interest payments although there was decreases of 23.0 bln.tog or 35.9 percent in lending minus repayments.
In the first half of 2012, spending of 606.5 bln.tog on capital expenditure increased by 325.5 bln.tog or 2.2 times compared to same period of the previous year. This was mainly due to increases of 314.4 bln.tog or 2.1 times in capital expenditure of domestic sources compared to same period of the previous year.
In the first half of 2012, Mongolia traded with 123 countries from all over the world and total external trade turnover reached 5575.6 mln.US dollars, of which exports made up 2262.3 mln.US dollars and imports made up 3313.3 mln.US dollars.
Foreign trade balance showed a deficit of 1051.0 mln.US dollars in the first half of 2012, reflecting 318.2 mln.US dollars or 43.4 percent increase compared to same period of the previous year. The foreign trade deficit in the first half of 2012 was mainly caused by the fact that the import growth was higher by 8.1 points than the export growth.
Total external trade turnover increased by 857.2 mln.US dollars or 18.2 percent, of which imports up by 587.7 mln.US dollars or 21.6 percent, and exports up by 269.5 mln.US dollars or 13.5 percent, compared to same period of the previous year.
Mineral products, natural or cultured stones, precious metal, jewelry, coins, raw & processed hides, skins, fur & articles, animal origin products, textile articles and auto & air transport vehicles & their spare parts thereof accounted for 98.6 percent of the total export value amount.
III. Economic sector indicators
In the first half of 2012, at national level natural losses of animals down by 230.5 thous.heads or 45.6 percent to 275.6 thous.heads compared to same period of the previous year. Out of the losses of animals, 14.2 thousand were horses, 25.6 thousand were cows, 608 were camels, 111.1 thousand were sheeps and 124.1 thousand were goats.
In the first half of 2012, the total industrial output increased by 81.8 bln.tog or 8.7 percent to 1018.8 bln.tog (at 2005 constant prices) compared to same period of the previous year. The increase in the industrial output was mainly due to 1.6-63.8 percent, increases in mining and quarrying products such as copper, with concentrate, molybdenum, with concentrate, zincum concentrate, crude oil and iron ore and 0.9 percent to 5.4 times increases in industrial main products of manufacturing sector such as alcoholic beverage, carpet, spirit, cement, bakery products, bread, soft drinks, beer, milk, metal steel, metal foundries, electric wire, meat, plastering mortar, metal sleeper and briquette.
In the first half of 2012, 9951.2 thous.t freight and 1956.3 thous.passengers (double counting) were carried by railway transport. Compared to same period of the previous year, the number of carried freight rose by 1426.4 thous.t or 16.7 percent and the number of carried passengers rose by 135.2 thous.persons or 7.4 percent. Due to the increase in carried freight and passengers, revenue from railway transport increased by 34.0 bln.tog or 19.5 percent to 208.4 bln.tog in the first half of 2012, compared to same period of the previous year.
In the first half of 2012, 1876.3 t freight and 321.3 thous.passengers (double counting) were carried by air transport. Compared to same period of the previous year, the number of carried freight increased by 917.1 t or 95.6 percent, the number of carried passengers rose by 87.1 thous. persons or 37.2 percent. Due to the increase in carried freight and passengers, revenue from air transport increased by 12.1 bln.tog or 19.2 percent to 74.8 bln.tog in the first half of 2012, compared to same period of the previous year.
According to the report of the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, maximum precipitation was registered in Erdenet city (137.1 mm) of Orkhon aimag in June 2012. In June 2012, Khanbogd soum of Umnugovi aimag had the highest air temperature (37.2°C), while Khatgal village of Huvsgul aimag had the lowest air temperature (-1.7°C). Wind speed reached 28 m/sec in Ulaangom soum of Uvs aimag.
Daily average concentration of nitrogen dioxide exceeded 26 times around the West crossroad of Ulaanbaatar city, 24 times around the 13th micro district, 9 times around Kharkhorin market, and 5 times around the 32nd Toirog, daily average concentration of sulphur dioxide exceeded 3 times around the 13th micro district, and 1 time around the West crossroad, particulate matter less than 10 micrograms exceeded 17 times around the 32nd Toirog, 11 times around the West crossroad, 10 times around the 13th micro district and 9 times around Kharkhorin market, particulate matter less than 2.5 micrograms exceeded 4 times around the West crossroad from the maximum allowable concentration of air quality standard in June 2012,
In the first half of 2012, 2322 disasters and accidents occurred. As a result, 104 people died, 7.3 thous.livestock and animals had lost. By the types of disasters, 2056 fires on possessions, 32 river and lake accidents, 26 cases of animal madness disease, 14 accidents related to artisanal mining and rock falls and 10 incidences of chemical substance usage occurred in the first half of 2012. In the first half of 2012, estimated damage caused by the disasters and accidents amounted to 13.9 bln.tog.
Compared to same period of previous year, disaster and accidents occurred up by 422, people died down by 9.
Habitat Builds 20 Homes in Mongolia
July 10 (GlobalAtlanta) Habitat for Humanity volunteers are still wiping the dust from their hands after the July 2-7 Blue Sky Build project, which brought 20 new homes to families inMongolia.
"We are most thankful for the passion of our volunteers and the commitment of our sponsors in making the Blue Sky Build a success," said Charles Jolliffe, director of Habitat for Humanity Mongolia, in a news release.
The new homes built during the second Blue Sky Build are part of the Atlanta-based organization's goal to construct 1,000 houses in Mongolia in the next three years.
More than 300 volunteers turned out to the build site in the Khan-Uul district, a suburb of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. International volunteers, 190 in all, represented nations as diverse as New Zealand, Cambodia, Nepal, Germany, the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
An additional 150 locally-based volunteers from PricewaterhouseCoopers Mongolia Corp. and Wagner Asia Equipment LLC, students from Technical and Technological College Co. Ltd., and members of the U.S. Peace Corps and Joint Christian Services joined in the work.
Houses were built with polystyrene blocks which offer better insulation than concrete and highly efficient coal-burning stoves that produce heat four times as long as standard stoves.
The homes were decorated with streamers and balloons for an emotional move-in day. To date, Habitat for Humanity Mongolia has built, renovated or repaired more than 2,000 homes in the Asian country.
Housing in Mongolia has become a serious issue as the country continues to grow at a staggering rate. The International Monetary Fund projects a 17.2 percent growth rate this year alone, spurred by foreign investors flocking to the country's rich mineral deposits including gold, copper and coal.
Displaced Mongolians are forced to pitch their gers, or traditional felt tents, in slum-like suburban districts where they burn tires and other fuel to stay warm, leading to increased air pollution and health issues in the capital.
During a visit to Mongolia this week, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the country's perseverance in creating a vibrant democracy while bordering China and Russia, though she failed to elaborate on a rocky election held June 28.
GlobalAtlanta traveled to Mongolia in 2011 to report on the country's rapid growth and the U.S. ambassador there, Jonathan Addleton, whose family hails from Georgia. Read the special report at www.globalatlanta.com/mongoliareport.
Hospitable nomads on Mongolia's harsh steppes
July 10 (AP) It was lunchtime on the steppe in Mongolia, the most sparsely populated country on Earth. So when our driver spotted a lone white yurt in the distance, we stopped for a jug of hot sheep's milk tea.
It was all part of a 10-day journey through central Mongolia that we'd planned through an affordable, family-run company that helped us design our own itinerary and shared our philosophy of travel: authentic cultural experiences that support small, local businesses.
To that end, my friends and I mostly sidestepped the large tourist camps at the canvas-cloaked tents called gers, which are clustered around popular sites that can offer comfortable accommodations and amenities such as electricity, bathrooms and cafe-style meals. As a result, "comfortable" is not how I would describe our trip. But we did experience the hospitality and warmth that are as much a hallmark of the countryside here as the stunning landscapes on the roadless, rocky steppes.
The day we had our sheep's milk lunch, as we stepped into the ger, we felt nervous about intruding on the nomadic shepherds who surely must've had better things to do than host this unexpected band of tourists. But our hosts seemed hardly fazed as the woman served us and her husband cheerfully asked what brought us to their neck of the steppes.
More than one-third of Mongolia's population is crammed into its bustling capital, Ulan Bator, where trendy fashion and fast food are easily found among the Soviet-style tenement buildings. Once you leave the big city, though, it doesn't take long for the urban noise to fade, the paved roads to end and the sky to open up. Another third of the nation's 3.1 million people are considered nomadic, and their pastoral lifestyle is still an integral part of Mongolian identity. But its simplicity can be a revelation for the Western visitor.
Hoping to take in more of the natural wonders, we considered Ulan Bator only a layover on our way to the Gobi Desert town of Dalanzadgad. There we met the driver and guide whom the three of us hired to take us northward, through the desert and grasslands, to the alpine Lake Khovsgol on the edge of Russia's Siberian territory.
In the south, where summer days range from mild to scorching, most gers don't have heat sources, making for bitterly cold nights especially when the winds kick up in the Gobi. The lack of bathrooms or even outhouses also posed interesting challenges: How far do you have to go for a little privacy when there's not a tree or shrub in sight on the open steppes? Then there were hours of bone-jarring rides in our Russian Jeep (apparently built without the technology of shock absorption) on the unforgiving terrain.
But somehow the lack of creature comforts seemed a small compromise for the unique opportunity to truly unplug and glimpse a way of life steeped in Mongolia's rural traditions.
Our first stay with a nomadic family was on rolling grassland about five hours northwest of Dalanzadgad. Just as with the lunchtime stop, our plucky driver happened upon the ger and hopped out to negotiate with its owner before ushering us inside.
Our hostess briefly abandoned her daily chores to offer us a large bowl of fermented mare's milk, which we politely took turns sipping.
The cool drink, called airag, is a warm-weather alternative to hot milk tea, a salty concoction of fresh milk from a sheep, camel or yak brewed with a dash of tea leaves that, served along with biscuits and dried milk curd, is a staple of Mongolian hospitality. I quickly developed a taste for the salty milk tea, but the pungent mare's milk was an experience that my stomach never quite forgave me for.
The fermented mare's milk also can be home-distilled into a mild liquor called arkhi, a more traditional drink than the store-bought vodka popularized during the 70-year Soviet occupation that ended in 1990. Today vodka ironically almost all marketed using the ubiquitous name and image of Genghis Khan, the 13th century warrior whose legend was suppressed during the communist era is still considered "the good stuff" and flows for almost any occasion.
Such unexpected injections of modern influence into centuries-old customs were always fascinating to observe. Men in traditional long robes would hop on motorcycles to catch up to their grazing flock.
Women would cook over a dung-fueled stove under a light powered by the ger's solar panel.
Despite some newer conveniences, including cellphones and televisions for some families we met, life on the steppes certainly isn't easy. As tourists, milking goats, sheep and yaks was a novelty until we realized each animal had to be pumped twice a day rain, shine, or dust storm. Milk makes up a large part of the nomadic diet during the summer, and dried dairy products are made and stocked for the long, harsh winter.
When I wasn't lending our hosts a novice hand, I spent many days wandering the expansive steppes, taking in the enormous, azure sky and enjoying a natural silence unmatched by any remote location I've ever visited. It was never hard to hike a short distance and suddenly feel like I was the only person on Earth, a tranquility I started craving again after returning home. The Gobi is so vast one rarely sees evidence of a mining boom that has touched off an international competition to extract rich reserves of coal, copper and gold.
Our longest family stay came on the shore of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, also known as White Lake, several hours northeast of Tsetserleg.
That's where we got our most intensive course in nomadic living and shared meals with our hosts rather than preparing our own groceries bought from town.
The highlight of nomadic cuisine is the khorkhog, a festive meal that involves slow-cooking large cuts of mutton, potatoes and carrots with stones in a giant pot. Since less than one percent of Mongolia's land is arable, the occasional carrot, potato and cabbage are usually the only fresh vegetables represented in the diet.
The khorkhog's preparation is a group project, from the slaughter of the sheep to the gathering of stones by the lake. Once the food is ready, each person grabs an oily stone and tosses it like a hot potato to promote good health. Then everyone huddles around the pot and digs in with their hands until all that's left is a pile of bones.
Bellies full, we knew exactly what came next.
Our jovial host brought out a bottle of vodka and a small bowl, pouring the first serving for the eldest in our group. The bowl was refilled and passed around from oldest to youngest, each person making a traditional toast by dipping a ring finger into the alcohol and flicking it once into the air "for the sky," again "for the earth," and a third time "for the wind." By the third round, we were singing and laughing in our warm ger, as the elements bore down outside.
If You Go.
WHEN TO GO: Mongolia's peak tourist season is May to September, when the weather is generally mild and most tourist accommodations are open. By mid-September, many tour companies and ger camps start closing up for the long, harsh winter, though destinations in the warmer south welcome visitors as late as October.
GETTING THERE: There are several flights per week to the capital, Ulan Bator (ULN), from Beijing, Seoul, and Moscow. From ULN, domestic airlines such as Eznis, AeroMongolia, or Mongolian Airlines will take you to Dalanzadgad (DLZ), which is the starting point for most Gobi Desert adventures. The one-hour flight costs $120-$200 each way. Buses also travel between Ulan Bator and Dalanzadgad for less than $20 each way, but the bumpy journey takes 12-18 hours.
TOURS: The lack of English speakers, clearly marked roads and established tourist lodging in the countryside makes do-it-yourself traveling nearly impossible. We found it most practical to hire a private driver and guide, who handled all our lodging, food, activities and transportation. There are a number of tour companies based in Ulan Bator, and we had an amazing experience with Travel Buddies, http://www.travelbuddies.info .
Bring small gifts. It's customary to present your host family with gifts, such as bottles of vodka for men, toiletries for women, and pens and notepads for children. Take photos of the family using an instant camera they'll be ecstatic to keep a copy.
Pack layers. A common saying in Mongolia is that you experience all four seasons in one day. In September, we saw everything from sunny skies to howling winds to blizzard on our trip from Dalanzadgad to Lake Khovsgol.
Brace yourself. Paved roads or any roads, for that matter are luxuries only found around Ulan Bator. Traveling through the countryside can involve hours bouncing around in old Russian vehicles.
Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar, Ulan Batar, Ulan Bator, Ulan Baatar or UB. However you spell it, Mongolia's capital is a very likeable place to visit.
July 5 (It's good overseas blog) Historically, Mongolia's capital was moved regularly remaining true to the nomadic lifestyle. It moved frequently along the Orkhon, Selenga and Tuul Rivers (changing names in the process) until 1778 when Ulaanbaatar was established in its current location.
Due to some miscommunication about our trains' departure time to Irkutsk, we ended up with just a morning to see as much of the city as we could. How early did we start? 7.30am.
"Mogi" Munkhdul Badral
Senior Client Manager / Executive Director
CPS International LLC
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