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.
Post Naadam Edition
Democratic Party MPs Propose N. Altankhuyag for PM, Z. Enkhbold for Speaker
July 15 (summary by Mogi) Newly elected Democratic Party Members of Parliament met on Saturday to choose their parliament leader with D. Erdenebat, the party's previous (Mogi: not sure if officially ex yet, probably tomorrow) Secretary General, elected as DP faction leader, announced Saikhanbileg on Sunday, the previous faction leader. The faction also chose to submit N. Altankhuyag's name for Prime Minister, and Z. Enkhbold's for Speaker in Monday's Democratic Party National Consultative Meeting.
Link to article (in Mongolian)
SouthGobi takes action against Mongolia
SouthGobi Resources in dispute with Asian country over role of Chinese company in project
July 12 (Canadian Press) SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ, HK:1878) has filed a notice of investment dispute on the government in Mongolia, where officials are leery about the possible sale of the Canadian company to a state-owned Chinese concern.
Vancouver-based SouthGobi said Wednesday that it filed the notice after management determined that it had "exhausted all other possible means to resolve an ongoing investment dispute" involving its Mongolian operating subsidiary.
The notice "consists of but is not limited to" alleged failure by the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia to execute the pre-mining agreements associated with certain exploration licences of SouthGobi Sands LLC.
Filed pursuant to the Bilateral Investment Treaty between Singapore and Mongolia, the notice triggers a dispute resolution process.
Under the process, the Mongolian government has a six-month cure period to satisfactorily resolve the dispute through negotiations.
"If the negotiations are not successful, the company will be entitled to commence conciliation/arbitration proceedings under the auspices of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes," SouthGobi said in a release.
Last month SouthGobi announced curtailment of production at its Ovoot Tolgoi mine in Mongolia amid controversy over a bid by state-owned Aluminum Corp. of China (Chalco) to acquire a majority stake in SouthGobi from Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
The company said earlier that Mongolian authorities had asked it to suspend production while they reviewed the Chalco bid.
Mongolia has profited from selling coal, copper and other minerals to China's booming economy but some in the sparsely populated north Asian country are uneasy about possible economic domination by their giant neighbour.
Chalco's plan to buy a 57.6 per cent stake in SouthGobi from Ivanhoe triggered anxiety in Mongolia about Chinese ownership of a major resource producer.
Earlier this year, Mongolia's parliament passed a foreign investment law that appeared aimed at stopping Chalco. It requires government approval for investments in mining or other strategic industries if the investors are foreign state-owned companies or if foreign investment would exceed 49 per cent of the venture.
Both Ivanhoe and SouthGobi have most of their operations outside Canada but are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and have corporate head offices in Vancouver.
Ivanhoe is developing the Oyu Tolgoi mine in southern Mongolia.
The mine is expected to produce 1.2 billion pounds of copper and 650,000 ounces of gold a year in the first decade of operation.
Rio Tinto owns a 51-per-cent stake in Ivanhoe, which in turn owns two-thirds of the Oyu Tolgoi project. The Mongolian government owns the remaining third.
Entree Gold Confirms High Grade Gold on Argo Zone at Shivee West, Mongolia
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - July 10, 2012) - Entrée Gold Inc. (TSX:ETG)(NYSE MKT:EGI)(NYSE Amex:EGI)(FRANKFURT:EKA) ("Entrée" or the "Company") has recently completed excavator trenching and sampling on the near-surface Argo Zone, on its 100%-owned Shivee West project in Mongolia. One of the current trench samples returned 81.4 grams/tonne gold ("g/t Au") over 3 metres, confirming the high-grade gold values announced earlier (see news release January 10, 2012). The area of gold mineralization at Argo has been extended 140 metres further north from that defined by the reverse circulation ("RC") drilling program undertaken in 2011, and now measures approximately 400 metres long by up to 130 metres wide. It is part of a larger mineralized area that includes the Zone III gold target. The entire area of known gold mineralization has now been traced over 700 metres along strike and remains open.
Greg Crowe, President and CEO of Entrée commented, "The expansion in size of the near surface Argo Zone is extremely encouraging. The presence of very high grade gold values, occurring within a much larger gold system, attests to the potential of this new discovery. This zone has geological similarities to some of the volcanic-hosted gold deposits of Nevada and Mexico. The Argo Zone will continue to be a priority focus for further exploration. Our wholly owned Shivee West property is distinct from our joint venture ground, which hosts the Hugo North Extension and Heruga deposits. The first phases of Oyu Tolgoi mine development are advancing on schedule, including development of Lift 1 of the Hugo North Extension deposit. First development production from the joint venture ground is expected in 2015."
Near surface gold mineralization at Argo is hosted by quartz veined felsic volcanic rocks associated with a 2.5 kilometre-long magnetic low. Work in 2011, which included 23 vertical RC holes (2,470 metres) and 1,120 linear metres of excavator trenching and surface sampling, helped define two distinct zones of shallow gold mineralization (Zone III and Argo Zone). The 2012 work has extended the area of gold mineralization 140 metres further north, and the northeast-trending Argo Zone now measures approximately 400 metres long by up to 130 metres wide.
Twelve excavator trenches totalling 1,240 linear metres were recently completed for sampling, geological mapping and to aid in interpretation of the zone (see map on www.entreegold.com). Significant results from the sampling are summarized in Table 1 below. A chip sample from trench T39334 returned 81.4 g/t Au over 3 metres, not only confirming two previously reported chip samples averaging 42.4 g/t Au over 4 metres and 19.3 g/t Au over 3 metres but expanding the high grade gold mineralization. A new trench located 125 metres north of these samples returned 2.24 g/t Au over 6 metres and a separate sample of 3.10 g/t Au over 3 metres. The most northerly trench, located 170 metres north of the high-grade samples, returned 3.76 g/t Au over 6 metres.
Lookout Hill Joint Venture
Joint venture manager Oyu Tolgoi LLC ("OTLLC") has recently commenced drilling over a strong geophysical target located below Cretaceous cover approximately 7 kilometres north of the Hugo North Extension deposit and 3 kilometres west of the Ulaan Khud zone. Work will initially comprise approximately 27 rotary holes, some of which may be extended later as diamond core holes.
Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. Cancels Private Placement Offering
Calgary, Alberta CANADA, July 13, 2012 /FSC/ - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (YAK - CNQ), ("MGG") or ("The Company") today announces that it has cancelled its previously announced offering ("Offering") of common shares ("Common Shares") for aggregate gross proceeds of up to CDN $5 million on a best efforts basis.
Due to the uncertainty in the global markets the company has opted to cancel its current capital raise. The Company ended the second quarter with 7.8 million in unrestricted cash and has no substantial capital outlays planned beyond expanding its real estate portfolio.
The Company is currently evaluating other methods of accessing capital to grow its investment portfolio.
Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. Publishes June 2012 Monthly Letter to Shareholders
Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA, July 13, 2012 /FSC/ - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (YAK - CNSX),is pleased to announce the release of its June 2012 letter to shareholders.
June 2012 Shareholder Letter
To the Shareholders of Mongolia Growth Group Ltd.,
June was another month of moderate growth in our portfolio. Outside of acquisitions to almost complete a redevelopment site, we only made one mid-sized acquisition. However, we are still negotiating on a number of sizable assets that are on the market, but we have no certainty that a transaction will take place. At the same time, we continue to make sales from our list of "held for sale" assets. These sales continue to be at very agreeable prices.
During June, we noticed a substantial slow-down in the pace of business activity due to the elections and the pending Nadaam celebrations. Last year, this lull lasted roughly the month of July, however, this year, due to the elections; this period has been extended substantially. It is our expectation that by mid-August, the pace of business activity will pick up again. Fortunately, the majority of our tenants continue to pay their rents on time and our vacancy rates remain quite low.
I should note that Mandal continues to make progress, particularly in the auto segment. Since the government introduced mandatory auto liability, Mandal has sold 2130 policies and now insures almost 1% of all the autos in Mongolia. While the government has mandated that all drivers buy policies, the police will not begin issuing fines until October 1st 2012. As we get closer to that date, I would expect the rate of policy acquisition should accelerate.
Without much to report on, I think it makes sense to take a quick look at Mongolian economic statistics as it has been a while since I've spoken about the continued rapid growth that we've witnessed here. While most of the world continues to fret about problems in Europe and anemic growth in other developed countries, Mongolia reported a first quarter growth rate of 16.7% in 2012(i). This is down only slightly from the annualized growth rate of 17.3% in the fourth quarter of 2011(ii). Much more importantly to future growth, the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine is expected to begin commercial production in the first half of 2013(iii) which should substantially increase government tax revenues and allow continued investment in infrastructure-which is vitally needed.
Our business is designed to be leveraged to this growth and we have naturally seen many of the positive effects of it.
Meritus Announces Additional Cash Payments in Revised Gutain Davaa Option Agreement
July 12 (TheNewswire.ca) Vancouver ,B.C. Meritus Minerals Ltd . (MML) (TSX-V- MER) Meritus is pleased to advise that, subsequent to the issue of a Default Notice and termination of the Gutain Davaa Option Agreement, it has successfully renegotiated the terms of the Agreement with the non defaulting party, Asmos Co. Ltd.
Apart from the changes listed below and some consequential changes, the terms of the new agreement are the same as the prior agreement. The significant changes in the new Agreement are as follows:
- Asmos is required to make a non-refundable subscription of US$350,000 on or before the 31st August 2012 to be paid in tranches. A first tranche of US$100,000 has been paid;
- On completing the payment due on August 31st Asmos will be issued with 12.75% of the shares in Gutain Davaa LLC and be entitled to a seat on the board of that company;
- Total payments to complete subscription for 51% of the shares in Gutain Davaa LLC have been reduced from US$4,000,000 to US$3,500,000 which must be contributed within 12 months of the start of production;
- The incoming party is now entitled to write off their pre-production development costs against future revenue from the project after making the contributions due to Gutain Davaa LLC.
During the period in which the agreement was renegotiated Asmos has been active in upgrading access to the project, has held discussions with the Suom administration concerning their objectives, and has commissioned an Environmental Impact Report which will be presented at the negotiations for a pre-mining agreement once the resource is registered in the National Reserves Register.
Meritus is also pleased to advise that steady progress is being made in having the high grade gold resource at Gutain Davaa registered with the National Reserves Register. The two independent experts required to undertake the detailed review of the application have completed their work and signed off on the resource. The application was subsequently submitted to another group of eight experts all of whom have now signed off on the application.
With these approvals in place the report was presented to a full meeting of the Minerals Industry Council for final approval on 5th July 2012 and discussed in detail. The formal decision of the Minerals Industry Council will not be received until some time after the Nadam holiday period which finishes on 16th July 2012. Following registration negotiation for a pre-mining agreement will take place.
Origo: Private Placement of Convertible Notes Agreement with Kincora Copper
July 11 -- Origo Partners Plc ("Origo", OPP:LN) is pleased to announce that it has agreed to participate in a private placement offering with Kincora Copper Limited ("Kincora" or the "Company") an existing Origo portfolio company. Origo will subscribe for up to $2.5 million of a three year convertible note (the "Convertible Note").
The Convertible Note is due and payable three years from the date of issuance (the "Maturity Date"), and has a 8.7 per cent yearly interest rate, calculated and paid annually by way of the issuance of common shares of Kincora priced at the time of issuance in accordance with the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange (the"TSX-V").
The Convertible Note is convertible into units ("Units") at any time after the date of issuance at a price of $0.25 per Unit. Each Unit is comprised of one common share of the Company and one share purchase warrant (a "Warrant"). Each Warrant is exercisable to purchase one common share at a price of $0.45 for a term ending at the Maturity Date.
The completion of the private placement offering is subject to the approval of the TSX-V.
In connection with the placement, Kincora has granted Origo certain pre‑emptive rights to acquire further equity securities in the Company. Origo is currently the largest shareholder of Kincora holding a 29.28 per cent equity stake.
Kincora intends to use the proceeds of the private placement for further development of the Company's mineral properties in Mongolia and for general working capital purposes.
Xanadu Mines Investor Presentation July 2012
July 11, Xanadu Mines Limited (ASX:XAM) --
Ekhgoviin Chuluu (Noble/Xanadu JV) Investor Presentation July 2012
July 11, Xanadu Mines Limited (ASX:XAM) --
Centerra Gold 2012 Second Quarter Results Conference Call and Webcast
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 13, 2012) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX:CG) will host a conference call and webcast of its 2012 second quarter financial and operating results at 11:00AM Eastern time on Thursday, August 2, 2012. The results are scheduled to be released after the market closes on Wednesday August 1, 2012.
· North American participants should dial the toll-free number (800) 728-2056.
· International participants may access the call at +1 (416) 981-9033.
· The conference call will also be broadcast live by Thomson Reuters and can be accessed at Centerra Gold's website at www.centerragold.com.
An audio recording of the call will be available approximately two hours after the call via telephone until midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, August 9, 2012. The recording can be accessed by calling (416) 626-4100 or (800) 558-5253 and using the passcode 21598038. In addition the webcast will be archived on Centerra Gold's website www.centerragold.com.
Passin on Investing in Mongolia, Kenya and North Korea
July 11 (Bloomberg) -- James Passin, fund manager and co-founder of Firebird Management LLC, discusses investment opportunities in "exotic" frontier markets. Passin speaks with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television's "Market Makers." Steve Drobny of Drobny Asset Management also speaks.
Asia's Best-Kept Growth Secret
July 10 (By Chris Mayer, iStockAnalyst) The Mongolian stock market was the world's best performing in 2010 when it doubled. It followed up with a 58% return last year. Even so, it's one of Asia's smallest stock markets. This year, it's been flat to down. But if the Mongolian boom follows the trajectory of other booms from Kazakhstan to Vietnam, the stock market could rise five- to 10-fold before it is all over.
Short of opening a brokerage account in Ulaanbaatar (which I did), it's not easy to buy Mongolian stocks. I met with the only fund I know of that is open to Americans and specializes in Mongolian stocks: the Khan Mongolia Equity Fund. I subsequently exchanged emails with the manager, Travis Hamilton. What follows are notes from that exchange.
Travis was eloquent in his view on Mongolia's exciting story. He told me how Mongolia is emerging from the shadows of almost 700 years of occupation and oppression. "Mongolia is experiencing phenomenal growth," Travis said, "growth not seen since the last of the great Khans."
He went on to note:
"Within the next couple of years, the country will have the potential capacity to affect global coal prices and will be one of the largest copper exporters in the world. The country possesses a massive resource endowment and is literally on the doorstep of the world's largest and growing commodity consumer. With poor infrastructure, a small population and masses of required development needed in order to extract the country's mineral riches, there are ample investment opportunities."
Mongolia has a business-friendly environment, in his view. But there are always risks. I asked Travis what worried him. As in all frontier markets, Travis pointed to governance issues and the lack of transparency. He emphasized the importance of working with local, experienced and trustworthy partners.
"Fortunately, we have a strong onshore presence and a solid working partnership with one of the country's oldest investment banks, Monet Capital," Travis said.
Because the opportunity in Mongolia is so new, the funds that exist are also pretty new. Khan does not have much of a track record to point to. The fund has 70% of its assets in natural resources, so it's suffered of late. But Travis sees opportunities in other sectors as new listings arrive in the coming months.
"Many stocks within the portfolio continue to test new 52-week lows," Travis wrote. "We continue to average down and accumulate more of our high-conviction positions in light of current price weakness… We believe that certain stocks are trading at deep discounts to even modest estimates of value. And these are likely to bounce hardest on the return of (more) rational markets."
I asked about the valuation of Mongolian equities.
"In short: CHEAP," Travis wrote. But he readily admitted stocks can be hard to value, given the massive growth rates.
An example is Remicon, a maker of concrete. Remicon ranks third in the local concrete market but will double capacity such that it will take the No. 1 spot by 2014. By 2016, Remicon's earnings could rise more than sevenfold. Yet the company trades for only 8 times trailing earnings.
Travis shared his thinking on Remicon:
"For Remicon, the business currently commands just over 10% of the local concrete batching market. They are vertically integrating to cement production. Currently, Mongolia produces less than 30% of the cement it consumes. This is a very interesting angle for us to play the construction boom in Mongolia — but also the required mine site development angle."
I visited Remicon on my trip to Mongolia. And I remember coming away thinking that concrete and cement were the places to be in Mongolian equities. With all the construction on tap and the shortage in domestic supply, the opportunity for Remicon is tremendous.
I also visited the largest beverage maker, APU. I toured its plant, which struck me as an impressive operation. APU along with Remicon are the two biggest positions in Khan's fund. As Travis points out, "It is difficult to value these businesses on current earnings, given the massive growth in their respective industries/sectors… In an economy that is expected to achieve 23% real GDP growth this year — or almost 38% nominal GDP growth — earnings multiples have the potential to expand significantly."
Khan also invests heavily in mining companies at all stages of development, which have hurt performance of late as commodities sold off. Still, mining is a big part of the economy here, and Khan has found some intriguing plays. Haranga Resources is one, an iron ore explorer that lists in Australia and whose chief asset is the Selenge project in Mongolia. Haranga is backed by Garrison Capital, which brought Hunnu Coal to the market in 2010 and wound up selling it for 800% of its listing price. Khan believes Haranga has a high-quality deposit and offers huge upside.
To find and invest in these kinds of deals requires on-the-ground expertise. Travis elaborated on Khan's robust investment process:
"For us, fundamental company analysis is key. We evaluate management, the board's experience and independence and accessibility of both. We also value Western or international experience. We look for transparency and sound accounting practices… These are all key areas of investigation for us. We undertake regular company visits and meet with management. We will not invest unless we can trust the board and the management, regardless of how good the numbers appear."
Khan's fund is pretty small at just under $5 million in assets under management. It is also new, without a track record worth citing. The fund got started at a bad time.
"Our initial offer period was September 2011 — perhaps one of the worst three months over the last decade to launch a new fund," Travis wrote. "We self-seeded the fund with a small circle of friends and a family pot of just under $1. While markets remain challenging, we have yet to have any redemptions."
The fund's investors seem committed to the vision of what Mongolia could be.
"From our perspective," Travis continued, "there has never been a better time to invest in the Mongolian growth story — a nascent economy that will experience real double-digit GDP growth for the rest of the decade!"
I agree. Mongolia is a very exciting story.
APB acquires a 51% stake in the parent company of Spirt Bal Buram for ₮29.1B
APB VENTURES INTO VODKA IN MONGOLIA
· Extending joint venture partnership in Mongolia to a new level
· Expanding business scope and opportunities with venture into vodka
· New income stream from vodka to enhance APB Group earnings from Mongolia
· Significant synergies expected
· Access to new customer base and more distribution channels
· Export opportunities for Mongolian vodka brands
July 11 (Asia Pacific Breweries Limited) Five years after it invested in a brewery in Mongolia with a local partner, Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd (APB) is taking that co-operation to another phase. This new development will see APB purchasing 27,516,387 ordinary shares of Mongolian Beverages Company Pte. Ltd (Mongolian Beverages) from Grandkhaan Holdings Limited (Grandkhaan) and its controlling shareholder for MNT 29,139,876,845 (approximately SGD 27.7 million). The remaining 26,437,313 ordinary shares of Mongolia Beverages will be retained by Grandkhaan. (APB 51%, Grandkhaan 49%)
"We have a positive and constructive working relationship with our partner in Mongolia. We share the same business focus - an absolute commitment to quality, a desire to exceed consumer expectations and strong relationship with our trade partners. We also share similar corporate values and commitment to social responsibility. Growing our partnership with them is exciting as is the potential within the Mongolian market," said Mr Roland Pirmez, Chief Executive Officer, APB.
Mongolian Beverages will engage in the production, marketing, sales and distribution of vodka and spirits in Mongolia. It will offer brands such as Grandkhaan, Chinggis, Khubilai, Xappa and Eruu which are familiar vodka names amongst consumers in the market.
"Our maiden investment in the spirits sector in Mongolia will enhance APB's growth in the Mongolian alcohol market. Though Mongolia is predominantly a vodka market, beer is increasingly gaining popularity. Our diversification into vodka will strategically enable us to build a multi-beverage portfolio to ensure our relevance, sharpen our competitive edge and drive greater top line gain in Mongolia," continued Mr Pirmez.
Apart from generating a new income stream for APB, the vodka business will improve the position of the brewer as a multi-beverage player with product offerings in both beer and vodka – something that the market demands. Combining the merits of the two joint venture partners – Grandkhaan's expertise in vodka production and market know-how as well as APB's marketing capability and extensive export network worldwide – Mongolian Beverages will pursue the ambition for greater local success and take Mongolia's home grown vodka brands such as Chinggis to the world via the export network of APB that spans 60 countries.
Upon completion of the deal, both the beer and vodka businesses will share the same sales and distribution infrastructure. This means that a larger portfolio of products can be delivered to a wider reach of outlets and markets more efficiently, thereby improving margins.
Moreover, with the enlarged distribution network, the beers of APB including Tiger, Sengur and Jalam Khar will gain access to previously untapped retail channels as well as markets, particularly those beyond the capital city of Ulaan Baatar.
APB started its beer brewery operation in Mongolia in 2007. Last year, its business in Mongolia recorded a volume gain of 15% versus the year before.
SgurrEnergy Supports Mongolia's First Wind Farm Through Construction
Glasgow, United Kingdom, July 13, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Construction has commenced on Mongolia's first wind farm this month, with Scottish-based renewable energy consultancy, SgurrEnergy, mobilising personnel to live on site to support and guide the project through construction.
The $100m (USD) Salkhit project, comprising 31 GE wind turbines, will generate 50MW of clean power to the Mongolian grid, which is equivalent to over 5% of the grid's entire capacity. Another 2GW of potential renewable energy production has already been identified to support the country's vibrant expected energy growth.
SgurrEnergy, part of Wood Group, is technical advisor to Clean Energy LLC and has provided expertise across project development, tendering, contracting and construction of the site. Additionally, SgurrEnergy will provide advice to the team in Mongolia during the early stages of operation to ensure successful energy production.
The Salkhit wind farm site is situated deep in the Mongolian Steppe, around 70km south of the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. The Asian country is undergoing rapid economic and energy development and this wind project will help to ease reliance on Russia's energy resources and offset current coal-fired generation.
SgurrEnergy's engineering group manager, Andrew Barker, said of the assignment: "The project represents a major development in a new market and demonstrates SgurrEnergy's expertise in delivering ground-breaking projects and encouraging sustainable development across the globe. Our appointment as project manager and technical advisor on Mongolia's first wind farm is testament to our expertise and dedication to delivering successful projects."
Neal Detert, project manager at Clean Energy LLC, said: "As the first wind farm project in Mongolia, the Salkhit wind farm represents a true landmark for Mongolia, and the birth of a vibrant renewable power industry in the country. The SgurrEnergy team has been instrumental in realising this project, providing professional and timely support from feasibility to due diligence and technical project management. We have relied greatly on the SgurrEnergy team's experience and they have delivered."
With temperatures ranging from -40ºC in the winter to 40ºC in the summer, these extreme weather conditions present an interesting and exciting engineering challenge for the SgurrEnergy team, who will be based on site for the duration of the project.
Miners fear anti-foreigner voices in new Mongolia government
July 12 (Michael Kohn via Reuters) - Anti-foreigner campaigners have emerged as the big winners in Mongolia's June election, a bloc whose increasing power is bad news for the international mining corporations which have been trying for years to get potentially huge projects going there.
Politicians are jockeying to decide which parties form the coalition that will manage the money flowing into Asia's fastest-growing economy, but whatever the government's lineup after the inconclusive poll, some of its members will stridently oppose overseas ownership of Mongolian natural resources.
Mongolia is home to some of the world's biggest unexploited mineral deposits and has become one of the hottest destinations for billions of dollars of mining investment, a scale which has already transformed the economy.
"The fact that several resource nationalists won increases the uncertainty for investors," said Oscar Mendoza, the Mongolia manager for Canada's Prophecy Coal, which controls two coal deposits in the north Asian country. "Resource nationalism in Mongolia is not new but it is growing."
More than a quarter of the 76-seat parliament is now held by politicians who advocate local control of mines.
The Democratic Party, which won the most seats, is broadly in favour of the free market, but at least nine of its 31 parliamentarians have reputations as resource nationalists, and could press for a deal with the Justice Coalition, a group whose central doctrine is greater national ownership of mines.
Its leader Nambar Enkhbayar - who was president between 2005 and 2009 - wants deposits discovered by foreign companies to be returned to the state after a fixed period.
"For an initial period of 20 years it can be privately owned, because it was privately discovered. (Foreign companies) can invest in it, get their money back and make a profit but starting from the 21st year they should give it back to the Mongolian side," Enkhbayar told Reuters as votes were counted.
Were it to become law, this could mean investors have only two decades to recoup their huge capital outlay. Rio Tinto says the cost of building its Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, due to start production this year, will be around $13 billion, a project it would then have to hand over without compensation.
Enkhbayar's minority group would need the support of other lawmakers to get the law passed, but just by pushing the issue they are inflaming the debate about foreign investment.
"I think the politicians in Mongolia need to know that what they say in public gets reported, and if things get said often enough and in a certain way, people do pay attention," said Cameron McRae, chief executive of Oyu Tolgoi LLC and Rio Tinto's country manager in Mongolia. "But this is a normal part of the political process and common sense usually wins out in the end."
APPEARANCE OF HOSTILITY
Some in the industry fear the risk of the government demanding contracts with mining firms are renegotiated has risen, meaning they will have more hurdles to jump before they even start digging the minerals out.
Along with Oyu Tolgoi, other high profile projects that could be at stake are Tavan Tolgoi - potentially one of the world's biggest coal suppliers - and Chinese firm Chalco's attempted $926 million acquisition of coal miner SouthGobi Resources.
"In terms of Tavan Tolgoi, (resource nationalist politicians) want to keep it 100 percent in Mongolian hands. They want to distribute all shares to the public," said Dale Choi, chief investment strategist at Frontier Securities, a Mongolian investment bank.
Talks to develop Tavan Tolgoi have been frozen since last July, when the government reversed a decision to sell mining rights to a consortium involving China's Shenhua and U.S.-based Peabody.
Choi suggested emboldened nationalist lawmakers may try to make the government rework Rio's deal for Oyu Tolgoi, currently 34 percent owned by Mongolia. "They want more than 50 percent," he said.
Mongolia's economy, driven largely by mining development, grew at a roaring 16.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012, according to the World Bank, more than double the pace of its neighbour China.
In the runup to the election, nationalist politicians introduced a law to cap foreign investment. The law was later relaxed to allow overseas firms to own a greater than 49 percent stake in Mongolian deposits, but only with parliamentary approval, and foreign state-owned companies need parliamentary permission to invest at all. That could be much tougher given the makeup of the new parliament.
"We want to have small government in this country," said Dambadarjaa Jargalsaikhan, an influential political commentator, "so why would we want a big foreign government doing business in Mongolia? Never. It will not happen."
As pressure builds from grassroots voters to assert domestic control of these engines of growth, the appearance of hostility to foreigners - especially Chinese - is often a vote-winning public stance that masks a more pragmatic approach.
" Some politicians said the contract with Oyu Tolgoi needs to be redressed, but the government is still in dire need of investment in infrastructure, power, technology, key areas that the government cannot provide any funding or financing for, so they do need foreign investment," said Prophecy's Mendoza.
Experts back UNCTAD proposal for technical assistance to Mongolia to bolster competition law and policy
A group of experts on competition policy has discussed the peer reviews of the competition laws and policies in three African countries and Mongolia, and has recommended that UNCTAD carry out a proposed technical assistance programme to follow up on progress already made in the field.
July 13 (UNCTAD) The Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy concluded its twelfth session, held 9-11 July, by backing a proposal from the organization to help the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to carry out recommendations contained in a "tripartite peer review" of national efforts to set up an effective environment for fair business competition. It also requested potential donors to support such a technical assistance programme for Mongolia.
In the follow-up to the peer review, the UNCTAD secretariat presented project proposals outlining activities to be undertaken to implement the recommendations. The proposed activities include country-specific programmes as well as some to be carried out at the regional level in collaboration with existing regional groupings.
The tripartite peer review, in which experts (from other countries) studied the laws and policies of three countries and then discussed their findings with representatives of the countries concerned, was held on Monday - the first day of the three-day conference.
The meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts concluded on Wednesday afternoon with a peer review of the competition laws and policies of Mongolia.
Other activities at the conference included round table discussions on: competition policy and public procurement, the challenges posed to developing and transition countries by cross-border anticompetitive practices, knowledge and human-resource management for effective enforcement of competition law, and effectiveness and capacity-building for "young" competition agencies.
In the case of the United Republic of Tanzania, the voluntary peer review noted that the country had "recognized that competition policy aims at perpetuating freedom of trade, freedom of choice, and access to markets".
Among the review's recommendations are that:
a. Stable funding should be ensured for the country's Fair Competition Commission and Fair Competition Tribunal.
b. The Tanzanian Fair Competition Act be amended "to include a situation where at least two firms exercising dominance in a market may be cited for joint dominance".
c. The Fair Competition Commission be more broadly authorized to receive anonymous complaints from consumers and traders.
In its peer review of Zambia, the group noted that "in line with international best practice, and as suggested in the UNCTAD Model Law on Competition, Zambia's new Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2010, is a general law of general application." Among the experts' recommendations are that the country's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission be given guidelines that "cover pertinent issues such as merger notification requirements, general assessment of mergers, and any other current merger control practices"; that "the maximum merger notification fee in Zambia should be revised and lowered from the very high $600,000 in line with practice in the region"; and that "the Commission should allocate more funds for the financing of its advocacy and awareness activities."
The voluntary peer review of Zimbabwe recognized that "there is generally wide political support for competition policy and law in Zimbabwe." Among the experts' recommendations are that the Zimbabwe Competition Act "include a section providing for the objectives or purposes of the law"; that the language of the Act be adjusted to include "clearer definitions and use of important common competition language for terminologies"; and that the Act "introduce a general prohibition of the abuse of a dominant position" by a firm, "followed by a non-exhaustive list of examples."
The voluntary peer review of Mongolia notes that the Law of Mongolia on Prohibiting Unfair Competition was first adopted in 1993 and has been amended on five different occasions. Among the experts' recommendations are that the Regulatory Board of the country's Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection (AFCCP) "start its operations at full strength, since enforcement actions and competition policy suggestions by the Agency do not have sufficient legal weight without it"; that steps be taken to ensure "greater actual independence of the AFCCP from the rest of the Government in prioritizing its enforcement actions and preparation of competition law and policy initiatives"; and that measures be undertaken to foster "the development of private lawyers specializing in antitrust matters."
Over 300 delegates from 80 countries and international and regional organizations attended the three-day meeting on competition law and policy.
Voluntary Peer Review of Competition Law and Policy: Mongolia – UNCTAD, July 2012
PacNet #43 - Ten Things We Get From Mongolia
By Stephen E. Noerper
July 11 (Center for Strategic & International Studies) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit this week to Mongolia is significant in both symbolic and substantive terms. She last visited as first lady -- 17 years ago -- when Mongolia was in the early throes of democratic and economic transition from its communist era. Mongolians remember her visit then, when she offered support for change and women's rights, with fondness and no small degree of sentimentality. And so the return of the "rock star" Madam Secretary to a Mongolia that now boasts the world's highest growth rates for the second year running was a call for celebration. That she addressed the gathering of new democracies from Mongolia was especially opportune: the United States has a vested interest in pointing out Mongolia's success in political and economic transition. Here is a list of 10 things we get from Mongolia (and I'll leave mineral wealth -- the subject of most media focus -- to last).
Mongolia Awards $300K PR Pact to D.C. Firm
July 11 (O'Dwyer's Blog) Venn Strategies has a $300K, six-month pact to promote Mongolia as a "stable target for direct investment with reliable rule of law and investor protections," according to its contract with the Mongolian Investment Institute.
The D.C. public affairs shop founded and headed by Stephanie Silverman will handle PR and media support; conduct outreach and dialog building exercises with U.S. government entities, and engage with influential third-party interests.
Mongolia, a former satellite of the Soviet Union, was in the news July 9 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the minerals-rich country that borders China.
During a speech in Mongolia's capital of Ulan Bator, Clinton praised the country as a model of how a democracy can rise from a former authoritative state. "To those who doubted, Clinton said, "Let them come to Mongolia."
The New York Times reported that Clinton also met president Tsakhia Elbegdorj in a ceremonial yurt, which is the traditional home of nomadic herders.
The Obama administration is backing a bid by Peabody Energy to develop a massive coal project in Mongolia in a competition with a Chinese company.
Prior to launching Venn Strategies, Silverman was a senior advisor at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and an associate in Citibank's global finance unit.
$200,000 Funding Available for Strategic Trade Management Law Industry Outreach in Mongolia
WASHINGTON, July 13 (Targeted News Service) -- The U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation has announced that it expects to award a discretionary cooperative agreement for assisting the government of Mongolia to reach out to businesses and industry to ensure they are aware of the draft strategic trade management law.
The estimated total program funding available was cited as $200,000.
This funding opportunity is open to institutions of higher education and non-profits.
A funding opportunity notice from the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation states: "The Government of Mongolia also needs assistance to raise awareness of the importance of passing strategic trade management legislation. Subject matter expertise is required to help industry understand the draft law, its consequences for business, and how to comply with the law once it is passed by parliament. Subject matter expertise is also required to help parliamentarians understand the draft strategic trade management legislation and its importance."
The funding opportunity number is ISN-ISNECC-12-004 (CFDA 19.901). The application closing date is Aug. 3.
Mongolia: wrestling, coalition building, and resource nationalism
July 11 (Financial Times) This week Mongolia is celebrating Naadam, a holiday marked by horse races, archery competitions, wrestling, and lots of airag, which is fermented mare's milk.
But amid the festivities there is also some serious political wrestling taking place. Mongolia's new parliament, sworn in July 6, has been in the process to see which parties will form a coalition government to rule the country for the next four years.
The next government will shape resources policies at a crucial time for this mineral-rich country of 3m people, where huge deposits of coal and copper are just on the brink of coming online.
Although no formal deal has been finalised yet, the rough outlines of the new government are already clear: It will be led by the Democratic Party, a center-left party that was the junior coalition partner to its larger rival the Mongolian People's Party for the past four years.
The Democratic Party said this week that it plans to eschew its former partner the MPP, and pair up instead with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, a breakaway faction of the MPP that is led by former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar. Enkhbayar recently drew headlines because he is on trial facing allegations of corruption – charges he says are false and politically motivated.
The pairing is surprising because Enkhbayar and the Democratic Party are normally fierce political enemies. But it is also pragmatic: The Democratic Party won 31 seats in parliament, just shy of the 39 that would have granted them a majority, and the MPRP won eight. (The parties could still gain more seats, because four seats in parliament have not yet been finalised due to unrest or legal challenges.)
So what would a marriage of the Democratic Party and the MPRP mean for Mongolia? Analyst Dale Choi of Frontier Securities says that this arrangement, if finalised in coming weeks, has the potential to give a lot of power to politicians who lean towards resource nationalism. He writes in a recent client note that "Enkhbayar is well known to analysts as a larger than life father figure behind radical resource nationalism, such as demands for revision of the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement."
Choi also cited the MPRP Facebook page, which included the following (Choi's translation):
When we tell them (authorities) to fix Oyu Tolgoi agreement, their foreign partners pressure them from behind and authorities who are in their pawn fulfill instructions of their "shadow masters" and defend with life Oyutolgoi agreement that is not beneficial to Mongolia. When we tell them give 100% [Tavan Tolgoi] to people as TT agreement is common riches of Mongolia, few oligarchs who are getting filthy rich from this deposit are scared to death.
In interviews with the FT, Enkhbayar has said he welcomes foreign investment, while also advocating citizen ownership of Tavan Tolgoi, a giant coking coal deposit near the border with China.
No formal announcement about the composition of the new government is likely to be made until well after the horse races of Naadam have concluded. But until then, the political jockeying will continue.
Capitalist Exploits: On The Ground In Mongolia
July 12 (Mark Wallace, Capitalist Exploits) I've been in Mongolia for 12 days now. The road to get here has taken me through 10 countries in a little over 4 months. To say it's been a whirlwind would be an understatement.
Chile, Uruguay, the US, Fiji, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, China and finally…the land of Chinggis Khan.
We've written about this place for a couple of years now. Chris was here 10 years ago…this is my first time.
I had done a little bit of study on Mongolia's history prior to arriving. A friend recommended a fantastic book by Jack Weatherford titled, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. I've mentioned it before, and for anyone who wants to get a perspective on this country's FASCINATING history, I highly suggest reading it.
Mongolian's are extremely nationalistic. If you read Weatherford's account you'll understand why…if I were a Mongolian I'd be right in there with them. They have a lot to be proud of. Khan wasn't a simple barbarian…far from it.
His military strategy, social structuring, public education programs, religious tolerance and respect for the rule of law made him a leader unlike any other. As Weatherford stated, "The Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule."
Mongolia introduced the first international paper currency and postal system. International trade was taken to a new level, at a pivotal time in history.
Modern Mongolia is a much different place. Years of Soviet rule took their toll, and the transition from that system to one of democracy and capitalism, while steady, has been fraught with challenges.
Corruption is endemic. You find this in most frontier markets, to be sure. Mongolia is no different. Doing business here comes with risk, but that risk is offset by outsized potential for reward.
We've talked about the success stories herein. The fortunes made by expats pale in comparison to those made by Mongolian nationals. In the last week I've heard several rags-to-riches stories right from the horse's mouth. For those who saw opportunity and acted the rewards have been amazing.
If you want to see capitalism in action, look no further than Mongolia!
Example: My first taxi experience was a bit of a shocker…just stick out your hand and if someone wants to pick you up they'll stop. Every car is a potential taxi. The "official" rate is 1,000 Tugrik per kilometre. I have taken quite a few of these "taxis". Just tonight I was picked up by an elderly couple on their way back from the Nadaam festivities in the countryside. I have yet to be cheated or swindled.
Summer brings out the street vendors. They sell everything from fruits and vegetables to umbrellas (which I discovered one needs in July). A woman even offered to sell me US silver coins from the early 1900′s, at a very competitive rate by the way. I passed for fear of counterfeit, but they looked legit.
Like most up-and-coming populations, Mongolians have a penchant for luxury goods and gadgets. I've never seen more Mercedes SUV's and Hummers in one place. Not to mention iPhones, Louis Vuitton purses, Rolex and Jimmy Choo. Mongolian women can navigate the craziest, pothole-infested sidewalks in 6-inch cigarette heels like no others…and they look good doing it!
A contrast to the West
While sitting in the Grand Khan pub tonight with Chris we found ourselves marveling over the contrast between East and West. The progress being made here is amazing, and as Chris pointed out, there isn't much that money can't solve. Potholes will be fixed, streets will be widened, public transport will improve, buildings will be torn down or renovated and the middle class will grow.
You can see it happening, like a time-lapse photograph on a Discovery Channel special. You can feel the energy and excitement everywhere.
In contrast, last week I saw an email that compared WWII Hiroshima to modern day Detroit. At the end of WWII the US left Hiroshima and Nagasaki smoking piles of ash. Today they are gleaming, bustling cities. Modern-day Detroit on the other hand is pretty close to a smoking pile of ash. Who would have thought?
The West is moving backwards…quickly.
Endless laws, increasing taxes, restriction of personal freedoms, deteriorating infrastructure and a primary education system that is beyond shameful.
And the hits keep on coming…
As of last week in France a new law took effect that requires all drivers, including tourists, to buy a breathalyser test (actually two) to keep in their cars. Want to drive? You'll be forced to breath into a device that will measure your blood alcohol level. Don't have it and you'll be fined.
In Germany a think tank just proposed that the government place a surcharge of 10% on the assets of the wealthy. This is on top of the already predatory taxes being imposed across Europe and elsewhere to pay for the failures of the imbeciles in charge.
I expounded to my companions that we should just leapfrog all this bullshit and just let the government assign each of us a "guardian", someone who watches and records our every move from the time we wake until we retire for the evening. Hey, 100% employment! They can catalog all of our "offenses" and simply bill us monthly or auto-deduct from our checking accounts. What do you think? While they're at it they can wipe my ass too!
Mongolia and places like it aren't burdened by this craziness. Sure, it's a bit nuts, and in reality we need SOME laws to keep order. However, what we have now in the West is a totally out of control nanny state that restricts the free flow of capital due to endless bureaucracy and regulation. It's taking its toll.
I'm not willing to count America out (Europe, maybe…). Many have gone broke betting against US capitalism, but I have to say that from my vantage point here, it looks like the best way to build and keep wealth is to look to the frontier markets. It's what Chris and I focus on, and the reasons for that look clearer by the day.
That's also why we decided to host our first Meet Up in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia on July 25th, to be right where the action is.
We've sold out at this point, but fear not, we'll be offering DVD's, special reports and exclusive interviews available after the Meet Up concludes. It's not as good as being here, but it will give you a great overview of the many opportunities and how you can participate. Stay tuned for details.
Meanwhile, we'll write more from Ulanbaatar as we get closer to our Meet Up.
"Do not start if afraid, once begun do not be afraid." – Mongolian Proverb
Mongolian consul general for Ontario to operate from Scarborough office
Former Markham MPP Dave Tsubouchi named to position
July 14 (InsideToronto.com) Become lost in the Gobi Desert, and you will see what sort of people Mongolians are, says Dave Tsubouchi, a former provincial cabinet minister who this week was made Mongolia's first consul general for Ontario.
A former Markham MPP who grew up in the Agincourt area of Scarborough, Tsubouchi has visited the landlocked Asian nation several times, including the remote Gobi where, he said, there are no signs and personal electronics don't work.
Lost, the ex-politician was welcomed by a camel herder to his yurt and offered tea mixed with milk, goat fat and salt.
Mongolians, descendents of the conquering Genghis Khan, are very hospitable and have much in common with Canadians, Tsubouchi said during a Scarborough ceremony formalizing his three-year appointment as honourary consul general.
"The job is very important, not only for him but for us, for all Mongolians in Ontario," said Tundevdorj Zaala-Uul, Mongolia's ambassador to Canada, who said the role required Tsubouchi to attract investment to Mongolia, promote cultural exchanges between the two countries and to help Mongolian nationals learn about Canadian laws, customs and traditions.
Canada opened an embassy in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator, in 2008 but Canadians are already the second-biggest investors in Mongolia.
Rich in coal, gold, silver, uranium and rare earth - valuable minerals used in new technologies - the once-isolated country has "gone from little wealth to sudden wealth" and many Mongolians are leaving the old ways of the desert behind to live in cities.
Tsubouchi said he wants to help make certain Mongolians participate at the management level as more of its resources are developed.
He is trying to raise money for a university library in Ulan Bator and said Canadians can make lives better in Mongolia by bringing the country their expertise in infrastructure, healthcare and education.
Zaala-Uul and Tsubouchi made the appointment official Wednesday, July 11, by signing a memorandum of understanding between the two governments before both men stood to hear the recorded national anthems of Canada and Mongolia.
The ceremony took place in the same Scarborough office off McCowan Road south of Steeles Avenue that will be Tsubouchi's headquarters as consul general. It also houses a travel agency and Danny Leung Enterprises, a company run by Tsubouchi's business partner.
"I believe Mister Tsubouchi is going to help us," said Oynkhishig Yura, director of the Mongolian Community of Ontario. "We have a big opportunity to introduce our community and our country."
The first Mongolian families arrived in Ontario a decade ago. The community, "growing year by year," now numbers 280 including children, she said.
Scarborough-Rouge River MPP Bas Balkissoon and Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti told the ambassador Mongolia could not have chosen a better man for the job than Tsubouchi, who grew up in Scarborough and later served as a town councillor and MPP in Markham.
By making the former Conservative cabinet minister a diplomat, "you have stopped David Tsubouchi from being involved politically at all," Scarpitti told the people at the ceremony, who laughed.
MONGOLIA: OPPORTUNITIES FOR AUSTRALIAN EXPORTERS
- Contributing article prepared by Enkhtuul Enkhtuvshin
July 12 (Export Council of Australia) According to the World Bank data, the economy of Mongolia grew by 17.3% in 2011 compared to 6.4% in the previous year. As of the first quarter of 2012, the growth rate was 16.7% and estimated to reach 20% by year end (Eurasia Capital, 2012). Traditionally the country is mainly dependent on livestock herding and agriculture, but in the recent years, due to exploration of large mineral deposits, mining has come to contribute to nearly 20% of the total GDP. Two of the major mining projects, namely Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi, are considered to be part of the five largest copper and gold mines in the world and considered to supply high quality coking coal for over a century (World Bank, 2012).
In terms of foreign investments nearly 70% of the total FDI is invested into the mining sector and about 20% into trade and catering services. In relation to the mining boom and the development in this sector, in the last 3 years the number of service imports in the form of financial and legal services, business consulting firms and human resource recruitment agencies has also increased exponentially. Australian mining and construction companies such as BHP Billiton, Leighton and Rio Tinto have been in Mongolia for many years and hold significant leases to the mineral deposits (FIFTA, 2012).
Diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Australia began in 1972; however it was not until 1990 when Mongolia transitioned to a free market economy that the bilateral engagement was enhanced. According to the customs official statistics report for 2011, the total export trade from Australia to Mongolia was 44 million AUD and the import from Mongolia to Australia totaled 0.5 million AUD. While the trade total is a modest sum compared to Australian trade with other countries, Australian exports to Mongolia have doubled every year since 2009 and has further growth potential (Australian Government, 2012).
A significant portion of the Australian export to Mongolia include heavy machinery, specialized equipment, measuring and analysis apparatus and technologies mainly used in the mining sector. The main exports from Mongolia are cashmere, coal and fluorspar. China is both the principal importer and exporter from Mongolia at 80% of the total export and 40% of the total import (Austrade, 2012).
Austrade has recently opened a permanent office in the capital city Ulaanbaatar with an aim to enhance the commercial ties between Australia and Mongolia and it serves as the gateway for Australian businesses and individuals hoping to expand into the Mongolian market.
With nearly half the small population of less than 3 million living in the capital city, and with a few large companies dominating the majority of the trade, it is easy to find distribution channels and buyers in Mongolia. Growing number of young people are educated abroad exposed to the western way of doing business and thus language barriers and cultural misunderstandings will not be an obstacle.
The Mongolian government policy to promote international trade has created a favorable environment for the traders and the country continues to facilitate trade. In order to overcome the over dependence on imported products and to enhance export, the export duty has been set to 0% and the import duty is one of the lowest at 5% for all commodities with the exception of a seasonal duty increase on vegetables between July and April at 15%. Throughout the country there are a number of free trade zones, free economic zones and bonded construction site and manufacturing areas (Mongolian Customs, 2011).
With an aim to support the small and medium enterprises, current import duty on equipment, machineries, mechanical appliances, reactors, boilers and the corresponding parts for SME purposes has been set to 0% until the 31st of December, 2012 (Mongolian Customs, 2011). Exporters in this sector must not lose the opportunity. Additionally, construction and services sectors and private consumptions are expected to grow for those in the business of exporting construction materials and food products.
Currently Australian export is less than 1% of the total import of Mongolia. With the increase in the average household income and people's growing conscience toward quality health products, suppliers of food, beverage and snacks may be able to expand their market and increase Australian share in the market. Other main exports from Australia the Mongolians are accustomed to include Australian wine, machinery and mechanical appliances, prepared foodstuff, chemicals or products of the allied industries, and construction materials (Mongolian Customs, 2012).
EU Hails Mongolia Legislative Elections
July 11 (RTTNews) - The European Union has hailed last month's legislative elections in Mongolia as an important step in strengthening democracy in the mineral-rich Central Asian nation, and said it looks forward to the smooth formation of a new government that will work for the benefit and prosperity of the Mongolian people.
"The EU and Mongolia share many common values. Respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law are at the heart of our relationship. I look forward to further deepening of our relations when we sign a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in the near future," EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Tuesday.
The June 28 polls were for electing members to the 76-seat unicameral legislature. Preliminary results indicated that the Opposition Democratic Party has captured more votes than the ruling Mongolian People's Party, but not enough to form a government on its own.
Currently, both the Democratic Party as well as the Mongolian People's Party were engaged in separate talks with smaller parties on the formation of a coalition government. Announcement of final poll results was delayed due to technical problems connected with the newly-introduced automated counting system.
Run-up to the elections was marred by the arrest of former President Nambaryn Enkhbayar on corruption charges. Enkhbayar, who was Mongolia's President from 2005 to 2009, was arrested on April 13 for failing to appear for questioning on graft charges.
Enkhbayar was released on bail in May after he went on a hunger-strike protesting his detention. Nevertheless, charges against him were not withdrawn. The charges reportedly include stealing a donation of television equipment worth about $113,000 meant to go to a Buddhist monastery in 2000 and not paying duties to ship eight volumes of a book he authored from South Korea to Mongolia.
Enkhbayar and his family insist that the case was part of an attempt by the government to prevent him from making a political comeback after losing the May 2009 elections to incumbent President Elbegdorj Tsakhia. However, Enkhbayar's newly-formed Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) had contested in the June 28 polls.
The European Union had earlier urged authorities to ensure that Enkhbayar was "treated transparently and with full respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights."
Altantuya's dad question's Najib's innocence for refusing to help in Scorpenes trial
July 13 (Malaysia Chronicle) When even the father of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the young Mongolian woman who was murdered in Malaysia, questions why Prime Minister Najib Razak is so reluctant to take part in the French Scorpenes corruption trial, then it is indeed time for Najib as the leader of his nation to step forward and clear his name and his government's for the world to see.
Setev's words are not only loud and clear for all to hear but have deep implications for Malaysia, which has been dragged into the centre of the 6-year-long global scandal. If Najib doesn't dare to defend his own name, then he must be hiding something or is even guilty of the damning allegations made against him. This is what Setev is saying.
And if this is so, then Malaysians may have to finally rouse themselves into action and demand the resignation of their scandal-tainted prime minister if he refuses to come clean and be responsible to them and the global community.
Shocking silence, a sign of guilt?
In a press statement issued to the Malaysia media on Thursday and read out at a press conference by PKR MP for Kelana Jaya Loh Gwo-Burne, Setev said it was shocking that the Najib administration had not taken any interest in assisting or participating in the Scorpenes probe.
His 28-year-old daughter is believed to have been killed because of her knowledge of the Scorpene submarines deal, in which French vendor DCNS has been accused of bribing officials including Najib to seal the RM7.3bil sale to the Malaysian government.
Setev also expressed shock that the Malaysian Parliament - which is controlled by Najib's Umno party - had rejected a recent motion to debate new evidence uncovered in the French trial that indicated Najib's close friend and Scorpenes negotiator Razak Baginda may have sold military secrets to DCNS.
"Due to the murder of my daughter, I have taken a keen interest in the Scorpene trial in the French Court. The latest developments have seen information regarding a Hong Kong company named Terasasi whereby Razak Baginda and his father are directors, being implicated in the selling of military secrets to a French company," said Shaariibuu.
Sweeping dirt under the carpet
DCNS is now on trial in Paris for corrupt dealing in the Malaysian Scorpenes purchase. French police have uncovered hundreds of documents which are still being assessed by the French court. So far, the money trail established for the payment of the Scorpenes bribe has led to Baginda, whom many regard as Najib's front man, and Umno.
Nonetheless, Malaysian authorities including current Defense minister Zahid Hamidi and top military officials have denied naval secrets were sold. And although such an act is high treason, no one in the Malaysian government has dared to call for an investigation. Their nonchalant sweeping of the dirt under the carpet has sparked public indignation and anger.
Some political watchers say Najib and Umno will have to keep closing an eye and repeating their denials because the country's 13th general election is due to be held soon. To Altantuya's dad, that might be trivializing his daughter's murder, but by sitting on both the Scorpene and Altanutya cases, Najib is courting serious trouble and loss of voter confidence in his personal integrity.
We have proof Altantuya traveled to France
Setev also refuted the slew allegations spun by the Umno-controlled Malaysian media that Altantuya did not travel to France between 1999 and 2007. The Scorpenes were bought in 2002 and Altantuya was killed in 2006.
"We have proof that she did indeed travel to France and will produce the evidence if so required. I hope that through this case and efforts of other good people in France and Malaysia, we will get to the truth and hopefully find the real masterminds behind my daughter's murder," said Setev.
Setev, who added that he was willing to assist in the Scorpene probe and could provide useful information that would bring more clarity to the case, is alread on the list of witness due to testify before the French court.
Intertwined - Altantuya and Scorpenes
Deliberately misreporting, the Malaysian media had cited French immigration records and insisted that these showed she had not entered France. However, the latest court documents showed that she actually did so, bolstering Setev's claim. There is also testimony from a DCNS official saying that he had met her and she was known to him as Baginda's interpreter.
The reasons are obvious why Najib and Umno would go all out to de-link the Altantuya murder from the Scorpenes deal. In the Scorpenes case, at the most, Najib and Umno could be found guilty of only graft.
However, once the connection between the Scorpenes purchase and Altantuya is established, it would be difficult for the Malaysian courts to refuse to re-open the case. There might even be a re-trial if the evidence uncovered in France is deemed significant and central to the motive behind her murder. Najib and top Umno officials might find themselves on the list of new suspects.
Extend full co-operation to Mongolian investigators
Setev also appealed to the Najib administration to extend "full and sincere" assistance to a Mongolian working team due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur to investigate Altantuya's murder.
Altantuya, who speaks 4 languages including Russian, was shot in a jungle clearing in Shah Alam by two of Najib's former bodyguards. They also blew up her body with restricted-for-military-use C4 explosives so as to prevent identification. While the two cops have been sentenced to hang for the murder, there is obvious public dissatisfaction with the outcome.
Firstly, Baginda was controversially acquitted of having abetted in the murder. He was seen as having been let off easily, without the full story being dragged out from him by either the police or the prosecutors. Secondly, the majority of people following the case believe that the real master minds behind the killing have yet to be exposed.
"I hope for the sake of justice and mutual relations between Mongolia and Malaysia, that the Malaysian government will provide full and sincere assistance to the Mongolian working team which will be arriving in Malaysia this August to investigate the murder of my daughter."
KEEPING AN EYE ON NAJIB: Mongolian officials to come to KL in Aug over Altantuya – Malaysia Chronicle, July 11
With wild rides and grapples, Mongolia celebrates muscular past
July 12 (Reuters) - A small cloud of dust rising in the distance sparks fevered chatter from hundreds of herders pressed around a wooden bandstand on the verdant Mongolian prairie.
Seconds later, dozens of small children on horseback, many of them under ten years old and most without helmets, thunder past the crowd, now whooping wildly.
It's almost a millennium since the descendents of Genghis Khan ruled an empire stretching as far as Europe, but Mongolians are still fiercely proud of their ancient nomadic culture, and the annual Naadam festival is where they show it most - and pass it on to the next generation.
As the winning jockeys dismount, members of the audience jostle to scoop handfuls of sweat from the stocky Mongolian horses, wiping it on their own foreheads for good luck.
"Naadam is a tradition passed down from our ancestors to our parents," said Battulga Tsogbayar, a tiny 14-year-old boy who won Tuesday's horse race near the town of Zuunmod, Tuv province.
"Coming first in a horse race at Naadam makes my family happy, and for me that's the most important thing about the festival."
Naadam centers around the three "men's sports" of horse racing, wrestling and archery, which have been practiced for centuries as intrinsic parts of nomadic life.
Nearby, wrestlers in cloth underpants and jackets covering their arms and shoulders lumber into a small stadium, where, arms outstretched, they perform a slow, almost balletic dance to display their physical prowess.
The winner of each tussle collects a handful of boortsog, a type of fried wheat, some of which he throws to the sky as an offering to nature before sharing the rest with his friends.
Instead of gold, silver or bronze, the winner earns the rank of lion, while runners-up become elephants or hawks.
"I'm Mongolian, so of course I started wrestling from childhood," said Battungalag Chultempuntsag, an imposing figure with broad, slanting features and flattened ears who ranked as provincial elephant last year - the second-highest position.
"We Mongolians all grow up wrestling. It's an important tradition, and I'm pleased to carry it on."
The national festival on Wednesday in Ulan Bator, the country's heaving capital of over one million, hinted at the country's future as well as its past.
In a televised opening ceremony lead by the president, mass dances evoking shamanic ritual were followed by pop songs from the winners of the Mongolian equivalent of "American Idol" and a turn by the country's Olympic athletes, as banners advertising Pepsi and electronics brands fluttered overhead.
The wrestling and horse racing that followed have become big business, as the country's fast-developing mining industry brings in huge amounts of money, and victorious horses can fetch hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.
Mongolia's economy grew at 16.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012, according to the World Bank, mostly due to foreign investment in the vast mineral resources lying beneath the steppe.
New opportunities are now tempting many of the country's three million people towards Ulan Bator's sprawling suburbs, far from the grasslands that fostered the sports of Naadam.
"Young people are moving to the city and using traditional ways of life less and less, and this certainly has an effect on our national culture," said S. Dulam, a professor of culture at the National University of Mongolia.
As a result, festivals like Naadam have taken on a greater significance, he said.
"There are two events through which we can pass on and preserve our traditional and national culture: Naadam, which is happening now, and traditional Mongolian lunar New Year."
For Enkhbayar, a local artist watching the "Shagai" - a popular sport in which competitors flick part of a sheep's ankle bone at a target also made of bone - the endurance of Naadam was a great comfort.
"Naadam is in Mongolian people's blood," he said. "It will continue forever. As long as you have Mongolians, no matter where they are, Naadam will still exist."
Photos: Naadam Festival in Mongolia – AP, July 11
Naadam: Mongolia's Ancient Mid-Summer Sports Fest – Audio Report by Lauren Knapp for PRI's The World, July 13
Happy Naadam (Part 1): Archery and Shagai – Khugjmiin Duureg, July 11
Happy Naadam (Part 2): Horse Racing – Khugjmiin Duureg, July 13
Happy Naadam (Part 3): Wrestling – Khugjmiin Duureg, July 13
As Mongolia Changes, the Past Is Still Present
July 13 (The New York Times – Travel) IT was our third day in Mongolia. We were just setting out on a trail ride across the hills — a lazy, ambling exercise designed for children and grandparents — when we witnessed our teenage guide turn into ... well, I don't know how else to describe it. A spirit.
One of his family's horses had gotten loose, jerking the heavy wooden pole he was tethered to out of the earth and barreling in terror through a wire fence. This was shocking enough, but what happened after that was almost supernatural: The boy leapt onto his own horse and became a streak of color. He could not possibly have paused long enough to make a decision.
There were a handful of moments like that during our weeklong vacation in Mongolia, when we caught glimpses of an ancient people, remnants of a culture that by all rights should have vanished along with most of the earth's wild places.
One day we were tooling around when we came across a horse race — three riders screaming at a high, warbling pitch as they thundered across the steppe, a cloud of dust rising up behind them. For a second or two we could understand the awe that greeted the Mongol armies as they descended on Russia's princedoms in the 13th century. Were they even human?
We hadn't actually gone out in search of adventure. Our party included my two daughters, aged 11 months and 3 years, so we travel with vast stockpiles of Cheerios and moist towelettes. Also along were my parents, who, at 75 and 76, had announced they were traveling by train from Beijing, where they were visiting, to Moscow, where we live. A tent camp in the Mongolian mountains emerged as the logical site for a midroute family reunion — or so my father endeavored to persuade me. The proposal was so ridiculous that we found it impossible to refuse.
The funny thing is, some part of it felt familiar. Mongolia is one of the world's most sparsely populated countries, with 2.8 million people scattered over an area the size of Western Europe. It has the flavor of a frontier, and the frontier strikes a chord in an American.
We had just hauled our suitcases into our ger — the cylindrical tent also known as a yurt — when hooves pounded on the other side of the thick felt wall. Our hosts were driving their small herd of horses home from the pasture. My mother had worked as a hand at a dude ranch in Montana in the 1950s, and she felt right at home; Mongolia, she said, reminded her of Big Sky.
It is not unusual for well-off Mongolian families to vacation in tents in the mountains, and we could understand why. Hearty meals — warm beef salad, savory egg drop soup with pickles, liver with a haystack of French fries — were served three times a day in a central building. Our ger, its floor lined with vinyl mats, had the fresh smell of earth after rain; when thunderstorms rolled through the valley we sat in our "little round house," as my daughter called it, and listened to rain thrumming on the roof.
At dusk, the valley grew dark except for the lights from a few ger camps glowing like strings of pearls. We walked to the top of a ridge near our camp and came upon shaggy Bactrian camels grazing in the moonlight. At bedtime our hosts built fires in the wood stove at the center of the ger, and we laid on our backs watching golden light playing on the striated ceiling above us.
But even in the middle of all that summer ease, there were whiffs of something dangerous. We kept stumbling across the bleached skulls of animals that had not survived the winter. In the worst times, when temperatures can fall to 40 below zero, livestock in Mongolia sometimes freeze to death in a standing position; the herders' families then tramp through the snow and gather the bodies together into a miserable heap.
There is a word for this kind of disaster — dzud. A white dzud buries the life-giving grass under heavy snows; an iron dzud seals it under a glaze of ice. The snows continue until April, when the animals are so weakened by their ordeal that they shudder in the wind and stop searching for grass. A black dzud comes after a dry summer, when the ground is scoured bare and winter means slow starvation.
I brought the subject up with Tumuruu, a jovial and mostly toothless herdsman who, on the afternoon we visited, was monitoring his yaks through high-resolution binoculars. Tumuruu had been serving us green tea with yak milk so rich that chunks of cream floated on the surface. When I asked about the dzud it was if a curtain came down over his face.
"It's not a thing people like to talk about," he said. "Springtime is the most dangerous. That's when people get lost and die. In the morning they think the weather is nice."
That was all he wanted to say about it.
It was a conversation that could have occurred in this century, or in the 19th or 18th. Tumuruu has awakened at 6 a.m. every day of his adult life to oversee milking before 7, when the flies come out. Between a third and a half of Mongolia's population is still nomadic, living more or less the way their ancestors did, down to the prescribed arrangement of vermilion lacquered furniture inside their gers. They live without bank accounts — for that matter, without money. The herd is the source of everything that matters.
Tumuruu's grandchildren will not keep animals, he told us with some satisfaction, as he set my daughter on top of a yak. There are several reasons Mongolia's nomadic tradition may be on the wane, not least that the country is on the brink of a monster boom. It sits on huge reserves of copper, gold, uranium and coal, and Chinese demand is fueling major mining projects. The gold-rush environment of the capital city of Ulan Bator has attracted such local color as Burberry, Hugo Boss and Emporio Armani.
Some of this was going through my mind that afternoon when I watched the young boy ride headlong after a fear-mad horse.
With the tall wooden pole bouncing behind him, the horse blew through the wire fence as if it were made of tissue and headed for a wooded area. The animal was in such a desperate state that it seemed it might kill itself in the next few minutes by lodging the pole between trees and breaking its leg or neck. We set off in nervous silence — especially my ranch-hand mother — wondering how the rider would get close enough to calm the horse without endangering his own life.
I had arrived in Mongolia with a mystery lodged in the back of my mind: how this apparently peace-loving people had taken Baghdad and Beijing and Moscow, the fortress city where I now live.
I found some technical answers. The horsemen protected themselves by wearing silk underwear, which snagged the tips of arrows as they pierced the body. Leather armor was lacquered with fish glue, so that it was impenetrable but light.
What must have been most terrifying to their Western adversaries was the way Mongolian warriors stood in their stirrups at a full gallop, their upper bodies perfectly steady so they could aim with extraordinary precision. They would release their arrows in the fraction of a second when all four of the horse's hooves were in the air.
But the best answer came when our teenage guide trotted up behind us, now riding the rogue dun-colored horse we had seen streaking into the woods. The boy looked like a mortal again in his polyester track pants and baseball cap. The horse looked as if it had been hypnotized.
I can't say that the secrets of one of human history's largest empires were revealed that afternoon. But I felt lucky to get a glimpse of them just once in my life.
From the train station or airport in Ulan Bator, it is about a 40-mile drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, part of a vast and virtually uninhabited protected area with rock formations straight out of "The Lord of the Rings."
A southern section of the park is developed for tourists, with scattered ger camps that serve as a retreat for Mongolian families and foreign travelers alike. Family businesses rent camels and horses, and tour guides can arrange visits to a mountainside Buddhist monastery, nomadic families or traditional horse races.
WHERE TO STAY
We booked our trip through Discover Mongolia (discovermongolia.mn), which arranged a three-day tour of the park and the capital city for $420 per person, including all meals, lodging and transportation. But when we arrived at the camp the first night, we were so enchanted that we rearranged our plans to stay longer.
Our ger had four beds, lacquered in a vivid shade of vermilion and built to fit the curve of the tent. It was heated by a wood stove that our hosts stoked quietly during the night. The package included three heaping Western-style meals per day, served in a central hall that also offered a bathroom with flush toilets and showers. We paid $5 an hour to ride horses, with a guide included.
There are dozens of similar ger camps in the park, some of which cost considerably less. Terelj Lodge (tereljlodge.com) rents standard gers for $20 a night per person, or $62 with three meals included. A deluxe ger with meals runs $110 a night.
Chinggis Ger Camp (chinggisgercamp.com) offers three-meal packages for $45 per night.
WHEN TO GO
The months of June through September are temperate in Mongolia, with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s.
A seasonal highlight is the summer festival of Naadam, held in mid-July, which center on "the three games of men" — archery, horse racing and wrestling. Another favorite pastime is shagai, a game in which players toss or flick the ankle bones of sheep at nearby targets.
First Ever Videos of Snow Leopard Mother and Cubs in Dens Recorded in Mongolia
ScienceDaily (July 12, 2012) — For the first time, the den sites of two female snow leopards and their cubs have been located in Mongolia's Tost Mountains, with the first known videos taken of a mother and cubs, located and recorded by scientists from Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, and the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT).
Because of the snow leopard's secretive and elusive nature, coupled with the extreme and treacherous landscape which they inhabit, dens have been extremely difficult to locate. This is a tremendous discovery and provides invaluable insight into the life story of the snow leopard.
Dr. Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera's Snow Leopard Program stated, "We have spent years trying to determine when and where snow leopards give birth, the size of their litters, and the chances a cub has of surviving into adulthood. This is one of those exceptional moments in conservation where after years of effort, we get a rare glimpse into the life of an animal that needs our help in surviving in today's world. These data will help ensure a future for these incredible animals."
A short video of the female and her cub who were bedded down in a partially human-made den was recorded from a safe distance by Örjan Johansson, Panthera's Snow Leopard Field Scientist and Ph.D. student, using a camera fixed to an extended pole.
The team, which included a veterinarian, entered the two dens (the first with two cubs, and the second containing one cub) while the mothers were away hunting. All three cubs were carefully weighed, measured, photographed and other details were recorded. Two of the cubs were fixed with tiny microchip ID tags (the size of a grain of rice) which were placed under their skin for future identification. The utmost care was taken in handling the animals to ensure they were not endangered, which was the top priority of the team at all times. In the following days, the team monitored the mothers' locations to ensure that they returned to their dens and their cubs, which they successfully did.
"Knowledge about the first days and weeks of life is vital to our understanding of how big cat populations work, and how likely it is for a newborn to reach adulthood and contribute to a healthy population. A valid conservation program requires such information, which this new development in snow leopard research provides," said Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera's Executive Director of both Jaguar and Cougar Programs.
Referred to by locals as 'Asia's Mountain Ghost,' knowledge of snow leopards in general is quite limited due to the cat's elusive nature, and even less is known about rearing cubs and cub survival in the wild. Until now, what is known has mostly been learned from studying snow leopards in zoos. Although snow leopard litters typically consist of one to three cubs in a captive zoo environment, no information exists regarding litter size in the wild. As wild snow leopard cubs are subject to natural predators, disease, and also human threats such as poaching or capture for the illegal wildlife market, the percentage of cubs which survive to adulthood has until now only been speculated.
The use of PIT tags and observations of snow leopard rearing in the wild will allow our scientists to learn about the characteristics of a typical natal den and speculate how a den is selected, how long snow leopard cubs remain in dens, when cubs begin to follow their mothers outside of the dens, how often and how long the mother leaves the cubs alone to hunt, how many cubs are typically born in the wild, and other valuable data.
All of these data and more, gathered through camera-trapping and GPS collaring, help to inform effective conservation initiatives undertaken by Panthera across the snow leopard's range.
Mongolia: Fighting for the Past – Interview with Nature Conversancy's Gala Davaa
Many people say Mongolia is at a crossroads.
A lot has changed since Gala grew up in the mountains of Mongolia, but he's working to preserve the country's immense natural resources as it approaches a momentous crossroads.
Join Gala Davaa, conservation director for The Nature Conservancy's Mongolia program, in the wild, rolling grasslands that define his country's environment.
About the Interviewee
Born in sparsely populated western Mongolia, Gala Davaa developed a passion for protecting the wild, rolling grasslands that define his country's environment. With degrees from Central European University/Manchester University and the Yale School of Forestry and a fellowship with the Conservancy's Colorado program, Gala's international conservation acumen has allowed him to play a key role in confronting the developmental issues that threaten Mongolia's ecosystems.
China: traditional herders protest "Five-Year Plan" to extinguish nomadic cultures
July 13 (World War 4 Report) Newly announced plans by China's central government for the "resettlement" of the last remaining nomads over the next five years have sparked protests in Inner Mongolia, with traditional Mongolian herders accusing authorities of the illegal expropriation of grazing lands for development projects. At least four protests by Mongolian herders have been reported over the last month. The most recent protest took place on July 2 in Imin Sum (Yimin Sumu in Chinese; "Sum" is equivalent to township), Eweenkh Banner (Ewen Keqi in Chinese; "banner" is equivalent to county), Hailar district. According to an appeal letter to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) written by the Imin Sum protesters, local herders have lost large tracts of their grazing lands to government projects including highway and rail line construction, mining and power plants. The process began in 1984 when Chinese state-run company Hua Neng Coal Electricity developed up a coal mine on local grazing lands.
Hundreds of herders also marched June 19 in Haliut, seat of Urad Middle Banner (Wulate Zhongqi), where a long banner read "Corrupt officials are occupying herders' grazing land; Herders are demanding justice." Riot police were immediately deployed and the streets and parks were ordered cleared and shut. Two weeks before that, there were clashes in Imin Sum as thugs hired by land-grabbers attacked herders who were tending their livestock on a last remaining piece of remaining grazing land. Many herders were reportedly beaten up and wounded, with two women hospitalized. One still remains unconscious.
On May 30, Premier Wen Jiabao announced a "12th Five-Year Plan for the Project on Resettling Nomadic People within China," which calls for settling the remaining nomad population of 1.157 million people by 2015. Authorities say 90% of China's 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of grassland now show some degree of environmental degradation, with over-grazing by nomads seen as a key contributing factor. SMHRIC says environmental concerns are being used a pretext for land-grabbing, and that the policy violate China's obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Ethnic Mongolians make up not quite 20% of the 23 million people of Inner Mongolia, which the SMHRIC calls Southern Mongolia. The majority of the residents are now Han Chinese. The 12th Five-Year plan would also affect remaining nomadic populations in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. (SMRIC, July 8; Intercontinental Cry, June 26; SMHRIC, June 20; Radio Free Asia, June 5 via Mines and Communities)
"Mogi" Munkhdul Badral
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