Monday, February 25, 2013

[Voyager gains 85% after Khul Morit update, ETT to start West Tsankhi production in April, and Mongolia to host World Environment Day 2013]

CoverMongolia NewsWire

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Blue Wolf Mongolia Countdown: 56 days left till liquidation


PETITION: Please spell Mongolia's capital correctly: It’s “Ulaanbaatar,” not “Ulan Bator”

180 signatures since 20 February 2013


PETITION: It’s “Chinggis Khaan” not “Genghis Khan”

40 since 24 February 2013


VOR trading as high as +85% in early trading to 2.4c

Voyager Resources makes strides in Mongolian copper exploration

February 25 (Proactive Investors) Voyager Resources' (ASX:VOR) early exploration at its  Khul Morit copper deposit in Mongolia has returned significant intersections of ignimbrite and block ash tuff similar to those discovered above the ore zones of Rio Tinto's mammoth Oyu Tolgoi project.

The preliminary results are from the three drill holes completed in the current programme.

The ignimbrite/block ash tuff formation contains significant primary chalcopyrite with visible copper mineralisation in one of the drill holes.

Voyager believes these could be formation rocks associated with a copper porphyry target supplying the copper mineralisation to the very high grade breccias found at surface.

The grades here included 116 metres at 2.4% copper and 7.2 grams per tonne silver from 30 metres; 75 metres at 2.4% copper and 5.7g/t silver; and 34 metres at 3.4% copper and 14.7g/t silver.

Voyager has started targeted geophysical work at specific locations at Khul Morit.

This will include gradient induced polarisation over the prospective area with lines orientated in an east-west direction. 

It will also undertake spectral alteration mapping on some key core including the new core recovered. This will additionally assist in defining an alteration vector to augment the above IP exercise.

The Khul Morit Project is located in the Erdene Island Arc Terrain, which is one of a number of tectonic terrains that extend across the Gobi and southern regions of Mongolia that have been proven to host a number of mineralised copper porphyry systems, including the giant Oyu Tolgoi deposit.

Link to article

Link to VOR release


Foreign investors on alert as Mongolia announces coalmine launch

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Mongolia will begin producing coal from a block of its giant Tavan Tolgoi mine this year, a senior official at the state-run company in charge of the deposit said on Friday, a step that may give foreign firms a way into the long-delayed project.

Major foreign mining companies, including U.S.-based Peabody Energy and China's Shenhua Group, have long sought to invest in the 7.5 billion tonne coal development at the core of a mining boom expected to transform land-locked Mongolia's fortunes.

Batdorj Enkhbat, the chief financial officer of Erdenes-Tavan Tolgoi (E-TT), told a mining conference that coal extraction at the western Tsankhi block would begin soon, providing a much-needed fillip for the cash-strapped company which last month was forced to suspend deliveries to its only customer China because of financial difficulties.

A local newspaper, citing E-TT, said production would start by April.

Domestic miner Khishig Arvin LLC would carry out the initial development work, but Enkhbat would not say whether E-TT would finally take on foreign partners. "We don't yet know the answer to the question," he said.

The development of the western block would add 888 million tonnes of reserves to the mine, bringing the total current exploitable reserves to 1.8 billion tonnes, Enkhbat said.

The project, situated near the Chinese border, is facing a host of financing problems and bureaucratic hold-ups as well as political opposition to the role likely to be played by foreign investors.

In 2011, Peabody and Shenhua were named as members of a consortium that would be granted the rights to develop Tavan Tolgoi's western block, but the Mongolian government was forced to backtrack after other bidders from Japan and South Korea branded the decision unfair.

Peabody was asked last year to draw up logistic and infrastructure plans for the block, with a view to becoming the temporary mine contractor ahead of any new bidding process.

Peabody was offered a contract by E-TT last month (CORRECTION FROM AUTHOR: last October), but it has not yet made a formal decision whether to accept it.

In a statement, Peabody said it would continue to hold talks with the government on the development of Tavan Tolgoi but said it "would not comment on the status of specific discussions related to the project."

E-TT's chief executive Batsuuri Yaichil told Reuters in January that the company was under severe financial strain, and that Mongolia would delay a long-awaited international IPO for Tavan Tolgoi's eastern block until next year until the market improved.

Link to article



February 22 (InfoMOngolia) On February 18, 2013, Member of the State Great Khural (Parliament) of Mongolia Mr. Badmaanyambuu BAT-ERDENE, who was promoted from Mongolian People's Party (MPP) for 2012 Parliament Elections, addressed the Prime Minister Norov ALTANKHUYAG to give detailed information on Mongolia’s current foreign debt.

In his requisition, Parliamentarian B.Bat-Erdene asked, "Since 1990 there were not released any official statements regarding Mongolia’s foreign debt, particularly how much money were borrowed from International Organizations and Financial Institutions, how much were spent and how much were paid off, moreover how much is left and what is the current rate for interests?"

Accordingly, representing the Government of Premier N.Altankhuyag, Minister of the Cabinet Office of the Government, Parliamentarian Chimed SAIKHANBILEG answered as follows:

Mongolia’s foreign debt is two billion USD as of November 30, 2012

The Government spent 2.7 billion USD borrowed from Donate countries and international financial institutions in 1990-2012, whereas 0.9 billion USD (primary payment) and 0.2 billion USD (interests) were repaid, and as of November 30, 2012, 2.0 billion USD is left as a foreign debt. The 55% of total money loaned from international financial organizations and the rest 45% loaned from various countries.

By the means of foreign currencies, 7% of the total volume loaned is estimated for Euro, 20% for Japanese Yen (JPY), 8% for other foreign currencies and the rest 55% comprises for Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), whereas 42% is USD, 36% is Euro, 11% is JPY, and 11% is Pound Sterling (GBP).

In 2013, the Government of Mongolia is expected to pay back a total of 115.3 billion MNT, whereas for Primary Payments 87.4 billion MNT and for Interests 27.9 billion MNT to cover a part of foreign debt due to agreements established.

Government of Mongolia to pay back for Primary Payments and Interests in 2013

(MNT, Mongolian National Currency - Tugrug)

Primary Payments


Abu Dhabi


Asian Development Bank


Republic of Bulgaria


People’s Republic of China


Republic of Finland


French Republic


Federal Republic of Germany  


International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)


International Monetary Fund (IMF)




Republic of Korea


Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED)


Nordic Development Fund


Republic of Poland


Kingdom of Spain


Kingdom of Sweden


The World Bank




Abu Dhabi


Asian Development Bank


People's Republic of China


French Republic


Federal Republic of Germany






Republic of India




Republic of Korea




Nordic Development Fund


Kingdom of Spain


Kingdom of Sweden


The World Bank




Link to article                                                                          


MIBG: Coal Mongolia Government Hour Review

February 25 (MIBG) Coal Mongolia 2013 was a largely successful event. Industry and Government presenters discussed many of the key issues facing Mongolia’s coal sector delivering a wide perspective for the market outlook. With presentations focused on the development of the coal industry it appeared that conversations between attendees were focused elsewhere, primarily on regulatory and legislative concerns. The ambassadorial presentations were particularly poignant on these more pressing issues and delivered clear statements outlining the concerns of Mongolia’s foreign diplomatic partners.

The second day of the conference delivered a highly anticipated Government session, The Government Hour, which would deliver key Officials and meaningful discussion on the future of Mongolia. However, to the dismay of attendees Mr. Gankhuyag (Minister of Mining) and Mrs. Oyun (Minister of Environment and Green Development) were not able to attend. In attendance and representing the Government during the session were Mr. Chuluunbat (Vice Minister of Economic Development), Mr. Dorjpurev (Vice Minister of Energy), and Mr. Altansukh (Director of the Mineral Resources Authority).

The session covered a range of topics including a small selection of issues currently being disputed by the majority of the public sector regarding the proposed Draft Minerals Law – these included: ownership percentage and the claiming of projects into state reserve by the Government. When the Government Official’s were provided with an opportunity to speak specifically about the draft legislation they simply stated that it is still under discussion and that feedback from individuals and companies will be considered with great importance.

The direction that the discussion took was focused primarily on the development of infrastructure, both transportation and utilities networks in underdeveloped regions of Mongolia. Specifically, the development of a railway that would lead to increased trade, alleviate current transportation capacity issues, and help to protect the environment.

Link to report


Possible Suspension of Former Chairman of State Property Committee from Constitutional Court to Prosecute over MIAT

February 22 ( Request has been made to suspend the powers of D.Sugar, a member of the Constitutional Court, former chairman of the State Property Committee to the State Prosecutor General`s Office because of the MIAT money laundering case

Local reports say that legal action against the former chairman of the State Property Committee will begin because enough evidence has been recovered  regarding illegal actions. 

If the Constitutional Court considers the evidence to be enough to suspend D.Sugar’s power as a member of the Constitutional Court, there will be the legal authority to announce him as a suspect or a defendant in the MIAT case. 

According to the Constitutional Court article 5.2, a request to suspend the power of a member of the Constitutional Court who is a suspect in a crime must be solved by the Constitutional Court two weeks after being received. 

Therefore the Constitutional Court will make a decision whether or not to suspend D.Sugar`s power as a member of the Constitutional Court after a discussion in early March. 

The Anti-Corruption Authority is investigating former MIAT senior officials who are suspected for laundering money by charging a fake 5 US dollar war risk insurance from passengers since 2001 and transferring it to an illegal bank account based in Japan. 

Currently nine suspects have been detained for questioning over the MIAT case. The suspects are all former senior officials of MIAT and their friends. 

The former chairman of the State Property Committee, D.Sugar appointed the former executives for MIAT during his term. 

D.Sugar claims that he is not guilty in this case. But there is evidence that the former MIAT executive B.Erdenebileg created a post as an assistant to the former chairman of the State Property Committee and was paid over one million MNT for the work. 

Link to article


Universal network of infrastructure to be created

The centres of provinces to be connected with paved asphalt with Ulaanbaatar

February 22 (UB Post) The Minister of the Roads and Transportation, A.Gansukh, gathered the press to update them on current situation of and future projects in auto traffic, railway, sea and water transport, and other transportation modes in the upcoming years.

This year, Dornod, Dornogibi, Dundgobi, Umnugobi, Bayankhongor, and Khuvsgul provinces are to be connected with the capital city of Mongolia with paved road. The total length of the new roads will be 1,347 kilometres. Next year, Zavkhan, Gobi-Altai, and Sukhbaatar provinces and, in 2015, Bayan-Ulgii, Khovd, and Uvs provinces are to be connected with Ulaanbaatar as well.  Starting this year, the quality of the newly paved roads will be improved and the roads will be completed at their designated time. The permission to participate in the tender bid will be terminated to those entities that cannot complete the road work on time.

Studies are being made to make changes in the budget expenditure to build roads taking into account the geographical feature of the provinces. Over 90 percent of road quality depends on the engineering, equipment, and facilities. “Thus, special attention must be paid to that, said Minister A.Gansukh.

Mining OUTPUT to be delivered to third neighbour countries via new railway and seaport

The new railway, which will become the major means to export Mongolia’s mining output to the world market, will be built in the direction of the seaports of two neighbouring countries. The authority to for this project was granted to Ulaanbaatar Railway to build the 1,900-kilometre long railway. According to A.Gansukh, the company that will implement “Project New Railway” will be formed next week.

The citizens are grateful for this project which is in line with the sub-program to reduce the price of imported commodities and products. In general, any  freight once delivered in Zamyn-Uud will no longer be on hold for many days, and travel time of the freight train from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar is 20 hours on average. The new railways to be built in Mongolia, which was included in the official document, “The State Policy to be Followed in Railway Transportation,” adopted in 2010, will reach the seaports via the railways of neighbouring countries. This is connected to the long-term objective of creating a universal network of railway and sea transportation. The government also plans to launch transport cooperation initiatives with leading countries in the sea transport field as well as to train national specialists and workers in that field.

Mongolia to buy three more planes

As a landlocked country, the airspace relations are considered as a leading policy issue in Mongolia. Under the framework of this policy, Mongolia plans to buy three planes from Boeing in 2013 and 2016. Their estimated total cost of 240 million USD will be completely paid by 2024 along with its interest. Mongolian airlines companies travel to 12 destinations in five countries. Domestically, we have 22 airports and three companies make the scheduled flights to 13 destinations. Around 240 flights of 80 companies from 54 countries pass through Mongolian airspace. Annually, there are approximately 80 thousand flights passing through Mongolia that carry around 20 million passengers.

The journalists asked the Road and Transportation Minister, A.Gansukh, the reason for Mongolian Airlines’ (MIAT) constant losses and wanted a response to questions about its management and structure. MIAT buys one ton of fuel at a cost of 1,700 USD, while the average price in the world market is 1,100 USD. Buying such expensive fuel leads MIAT to lose three billion MNT a year. The company will also be given a status as a national airline and the State will eventually own shares of 51 percent or above. A.Gansukh also announced that operational and structural reforms are being made at MIAT.

75 percent of total transport means are old

There are 563,887 means of transport officially registered in Mongolia and 75 percent of them have been used for more than ten years. There are 51 public transportation entities that serve 68 provincial destinations to 1.8 million passengers, while 2.4 million people are served by international airlines, according to Minister A.Gansukh.

The Minister of the Roads and Transportation also mentioned plans to improve the control and registration of road transport means and to establish a centre to monitor the traffic countrywide, introducing modern information technology applications. He also told reporters projects to build terminal centres in Zamyn-Uud and Ulaanbaatar which will meet international standards. He emphasised that the legal environment should be created to redevelop the law on auto transport and to introduce these international standards in Mongolia.

Link to article


APIP February Newsletter

February 23 (APIP) Since the beginning of year, the economic landscape in Mongolia has been associated with extreme volatility. January saw a worldwide rally in mining stocks, with Mongolian stocks following suit. These gains quickly dissipated, as resource nationalism became more apparent and the progress in two of the largest mines faltered.

Oyu Tolgoi once again set a precedent for investors’ confidence in the Mongolian Government. Following another attempt by the Government to renegotiate its equity stake in Oyu Tolgoi, rumors began to circulate that production may be halted despite the mine producing its first copper concentrate. Rio Tinto was quick to condemn the rumors, stating on 31st January that the mine was on track to reach commercial production in the first half of this year.  Further updates on the loggerhead are expected this week.

At the end of January it emerged that Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi would delay its planned IPO for 2013. This was put down to financial difficulties arising from an agreement made with Chalco to sell coking coal at a fixed price and a lack of available capital to pay its current costs.

Draft revisions to the Minerals Law have been provoking a strong reaction from the investment community. In late January, an open letter from the Business Council of Mongolia to the government criticized the law, claiming it would halt all current mineral exploration and extraction and deter future foreign investment.

With an election scheduled for May, the general consensus is that much may be political posturing and populist rhetoric. Although it is unlikely that quick resolutions will be found before the elections, the fundamentals remain strong and investor appetite remains high, as exemplified by the heavily oversubscribed $1.5 billion ‘Chinggis’ bond issuance in November.  

Below is an update on the Group since the last communication in December:

As at the end of March, all Convertible Bond Holders will have either taken up their conversion rights and become equity holders or had their interest and principal repaid. Including interest, approximately US$3.2mn of convertible bonds will become payable and we have ensured that there are sufficient funds ring-fenced to meet all of these commitments.

APIP’s 2011 audited statements are currently being finalized and it is expected that these will be signed off by PWC within the next two months. 2012’s audits will follow suit in April and both sets will be distributed to shareholders on completion as they become available.

Throughout 2013, procedures are to be implemented to ensure that we are deemed “fit for purpose” from the Hong Kong Listings Authority’s perspective. This will include expanding our Board, improving corporate governance procedures, installing the requisite enterprise systems and improving our management accounting systems so that we will be able to report our position monthly

There are a number of events that we will be participating in over the next two months. Please let me know if you are interested in attending and we can help arrange tickets for you.

MIPIM, France (
12th – 15th March

Mines and Money, Hong Kong (
18th – 22nd March

Sovereign Man, Chile (
29th – 31st March

Mongolia Investment Summit, UK (
16th – 18th April

As always, I would be more than happy to organize a time for a call and offer further information on any parts of the Group

Real Estate

As has been reported in the local press over the past few months, the Mayor’s office has been systematically revoking construction licenses. We have suffered the same fate for a plot of land we hold near Peace Bridge and where we intend to begin construction of Park Place (aka MITIC) in the next 12 months.

We are currently preparing a defense, as we believe that we have adhered to the terms of the license and remain in our prescribed construction window. Our first action will be to present to the Mayor’s Office and then, should this be unsuccessful, we will take the case to the Mongolian Courts. Although any costs associated with this land were absorbed a number of years ago, we see this as a key plot that enables us to fulfill our development pipeline.

2012’s target sales for the Olympic Residence were exceeded and we now have a very limited number of residential units left. We have yet to find a buyer for the three floors of the retail space, however we are making some headway in early stage discussions and will present the space to a large number of Investors at the MIPIM property expo in March.

The construction deadline on the Village @ Nukht remains on track for November 2013 and sales are where we would expect for this time of year.  This remains a very important development for APIP and the entire Mongolian Properties team is focused on selling this project in its entirety before the end of 2013.  

Central Asian Cement

An operational agreement for the renovation of the current plant has recently been signed and this will ensure that all work will be completed in time for the beginning of the operating season.

We engaged three firms in a competitive tender process for the build-out of a parallel crushing facility. This has now been completed and full plans and costs are set to be finalized by the end of February.  An agreement has also been signed for the purchase of approximately 50,000 tons of clinker from Inner Mongolia at a substantially lower price than last year’s. This will have direct implications on our margin growth for 2013. We will purchase an additional three cement trucks in the next three months to ensure delivery needs are satisfied.

Diamond Finance

At the start of February we launched a bond issue to raise US$3mn for Diamond Finance (aka Asia Finance).  For those unfamiliar with Diamond Finance, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of APIP that holds a Non Banking Financial Institutional License. This permits it to lend money but not take deposits. 

Typically it provides loans to small and medium sized companies. It has been been in operation for over two years and to date has lent out just over US$1mn to approximately 50 borrowers at interest rates of greater than 3% per month. We now intend to increase the scale of the operation and provide an additional US$3mn to the loan portfolio. We are offering investors a US dollar denominated two-year bond with a coupon of 13%. If you would like any additional information on this, please contact me.


We have recently taken on a new digital marketing agency who will support a couple of upcoming marketing campaigns we are looking to launch in the Spring and will also provide assistance in updating our current online presence.

There are a number of events that we will be participating in over the next two months. Please let me know if you are interested in attending and we can help arrange tickets for you. 

Asia Pacific Properties

The first intended development project to be injected into Asia Pacific Properties was the Oasis land located at the end of Seoul Street. We have encountered a number of difficulties related to the permissions for this site and as a result we are now looking for an alternative plot for the inaugural development. We are also bidding for a number of government funded construction projects in the Ger districts. 

Link to letter


Mongolia, One of the Worlds Fastest Growing Economies, Named as Global Host of World Environment Day 2013

WED celebrations began in 1972 and have grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Nairobi, February 22 2013 (UNEP) - Mongolia, which is prioritizing a Green Economy shift across its big economic sectors such as mining and promoting environmental awareness among  youth, is to host this year’s World Environment Day (WED) celebrations on June 5, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

The 2013 theme for the event, the single biggest day for positive action on the environment worldwide, is Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint - building on the global campaign of the same name to reduce food waste and loss launched earlier this year by UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners.

UNEP made the announcement during the close of its first Governing Council session under universal membership, where hundreds of environment ministers, senior UN officials, and civil society representatives met to discuss some of the most-pressing environmental issues of the day, including food waste as part of the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future.

Mongolia’s President Tsakhia Elbegdorj was named as one of six recipients of UNEP’s Champions of the Earth 2012 award for leadership that had a positive impact on the environment.

“Mongolia is facing enormous challenges including growing pressure on food security, traditional nomadic herding and water supplies as a result of the impacts of climate change,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Indeed it is estimated that annual mean temperature has increased by over 2°C during the last 70 years and precipitation has decreased in most regions, except the western part of the country, indicating that Mongolia is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to global warming.”

“Yet its government is also determined to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities of a less-polluting and more-sustainable future - from a moratorium on new mining pending improved environmental regulations to plans to become a renewable energy power-house and exporter of clean energy regionally,” added Mr. Steiner. “I am sure that as the global host of WED, Mongolia will demonstrate to the world that a transition to a Green Economy is possible, even within some of the most traditionally challenging industrial sectors, when leadership, vision, smart policies and political will are translated into action on the ground.”

Mr. Steiner also announced that a UNEP mission to Mongolia was scheduled to depart in April to assist the country with Green Economy Advisory Services across areas such as energy, land and water.

Mongolia’s transition is already underway. It has passed a law on decreasing the air pollution that was triggered by a growing population and coal usage in the capital Ulaanbaatar. It is planning to establish a satellite-city near the capital for the purposes of limiting coal-burning in the capital, transferring energy-saving technology, and imposing air-pollution tax in some regions of Ulaanbaatar.

Since 2010, Mongolia has suspended the issuance of all new mining licenses until fresh regulations are drawn up, citing the protection of the mineral-rich Asian country’s environment and herdsmen’s livelihoods as well as promotion of green development with consideration of water shortage and land degradation.

Projects that enhance youth understanding of environmental protection have been set up, and national tree planting days to combat desertification and water scarcity have seen over two million trees planted across Mongolia’s vast desert regions since 2011. Mongolia also has huge solar power potential, particularly in the sparsely populated Gobi region, and is looking for ways to exploit this.

Our government has shown its commitment to positive environmental actions, not just with words but with concrete action,” said Mr. Tulga Buya, Vice Minister of Environment and Green Development, “so we seized the opportunity to host World Environment Day with both hands.”

“We hope our leadership in terms of what we have done at home and hosting this important yearly event will show the world that change is possible,” he added.

Link to article


Mongolia to host UN World Environment Day 2013UN News Centre, February 22


Mongolia: Promoting Social Accountability


·         Mongolian citizens want to improve the public services they get from the government.

·         A World Bank-funded program introduces social accountability to the country and trains local NGOs how to use tools to hold the government accountable.

·         The 14 pilot projects of the program have increased public awareness and also reached out to government officials.

Ulaanbaatar (Mogi: good), Mongolia, February 21, 2013 (The World Bank) – As Mongolia rushes from nomadism to high growth thanks to a mining boom, its citizens hope that the public services in the country also catch up.

These are some of the typical complaints from Mongolians:

“We spend 20% of the national budget on education, but there are 40 children in a classroom, in three shifts.”

“I pay for nine family doctors, but only five of them actually work.”

“I wait for 40 minutes to get just one form.”

“I knock on ten doors to get a single document.”

Our studies show that Mongolian citizens are not happy with the public services they get from the government,” says G. Undral, Network Coordinator of the Partnership for Social Accountability.

Introducing Social Accountability to Mongolia

To address the public concerns, the Partnership for Social Accountability, together with international partners, implemented the Social Accountability Learning in Action Program with World Bank funding, to promote social accountability in Mongolia.

Social accountability simply means to “hold the government accountable”, explains G. Undral. So, the program, besides introducing the concept to the country, also trains local NGOs how to use tools such as Citizen Score Cards, Citizen Report Cards and Public Expenditure Tracking Survey to hold the government accountable.

Social accountability is a new concept for Mongolia, unlike the public demonstrations we had in the mid 2000s. It is objective, measurable and results-oriented,” says D. Tserenjav, Network Coordinator for the Citizen Oversight of Budget.

Through the program, these organizations learned how to collect information about deficiencies in services, verifying them with facts and evidence.

“We have shared these facts and evidences with government agencies, which add value to our advocacy,” says B. Nyamsuren, Coordinator of the Dashin Dem Foundation. She finds the concept and practices of social accountability are the most useful ways for citizens to engage in the process of obtaining and improving the most needed public services.

“We citizens pay tax and in return we receive public services from the government,” she says.

“When we in public agencies start engaging with citizens, we see clearly what we do well and what we need to work on better. Their feedback helps us improve our performance.” S. Enhtsetseg, a public official in Ulaanbaatar

Piloting Projects to Demand Accountability

To test what they learned on the ground, the Partnership for Social Accountability looked at what needed to be done to improve the quality and accessibility of public services and, during 2010-2012, carried out 14 pilot projects in five areas: education, health, governance, infrastructure and mining. 

D. Oyunbolor worked on a project to raise her community’s awareness of the extractive industry operations and their environmental impacts.

“Mining operations create excessive dust and their negative impacts on livestock and humans are huge. So the community was very interested in the project,” she says.

Before the project, they had no information about the mines nearby – who was managing them or what was being mined. “We just saw the few people digging the land and trucks running around. Fluorspar was mentioned, but no one knew anything for sure,” she says.

“The project taught us what laws, rules and documents are there, how they can be applied, how the mining sector operates,” she says. “The project linked citizens and the mining industry.”

B. Bayarmaa is the head of Owners of Huvsgul Lake NGO and they monitored revenues, expenditures and reporting of the Human Development Fund. This fund, which disbursed 21,000 MNT (US$20) per month to each citizen, was set up by the government to ensure that citizens get a share from the income gained from mining operations.

The project covered many aimags (provinces) and used Citizen Report Cards, Community Score Cards, focus group discussions, expert interviews and surveys.

People responded to these simple tools very well.

“These tools provide scientifically verifiable findings that make sense to policy-makers,” says B. Bayarmaa.

Reaching out to Government

The projects increased public awareness and also changed the mindset of government officials.

 “When we in public agencies start engaging with citizens, we see clearly what we do well and what we need to work on better. Their feedback helps us improve our performance,” says S. Enhtsetseg, a public official in Ulaanbaatar.

“We often criticize public services as weak and not working,” says Oyuntuya, CEO of Voters’ Education Center. “But it is important to sit down with service providers face to face and have an open discussion about where problems exist and how we can solve them by working together.”

Link to report


Divining Method in the Political Madness

February 22 (The Mongolist) One of the many explanations for the shape of Mongolia's mining policy is based on national security concerns. The argument goes that, as a sparsely populated and militarily defenseless country sandwiched between two giants, Mongolia must play a cunning and complicated game of geopolitics to protect sovereignty over its mineral wealth. On the face of it this seems like a fair explanation, and proponents can offer many examples of politically charged issues and legislation that spring from "obvious" concerns of foreign influence, most notably from China, in the mining sector. However, for me this explanation produces a gnawing sense of retroactively imposing rational or, at least, predictable decision-making lurking under the surface of actions that otherwise look detrimental to Mongolia. It's as if analysts are Lord Polonius watching Hamlet's erratic behavior and concluding "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."

As tensions between the government and Rio Tinto escalate, I instead see policy being shaped by insular, short-term political considerations that are uninfluenced by an actual coherent long-term national security strategy. Mining policy is arguably the national security issue of this generation, and yet mining legislation is often reactionary and arguments about mining issues are used as blunt instruments against opponents for short-term political gain. The rhetoric often times turns disgracefully ugly, and questioning the motives or patriotism of individuals, parties, or the entire government with slander and hearsay almost feels like the official pass time of parliament.

For example, in a recent issue of Uls Turiin Toim, Member of Parliament G. Uyanga expressed her suspicions that the government and Ivanhoe Mines colluded in the negotiations over the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) stability agreement given that it seems so favorable to foreign investors from her perspective. This is the same agreement the current government and Rio Tinto are wrangling over and took nearly five contentious years of negotiations to complete. That kind of suspicion and cynicism is disappointing to see from an MP on the front page of a daily newspaper, but it is also not unusual. If the regular public recriminations aired by both sides of the negotiations were orchestrated to throw everyone off the "real" behind-the-scenes negotiations, then I say bravo. It was extremely convincing, because the two sides looked like antagonists to me rather than partners in crime. Ms. Uyanga's statement suggests no one is above suspicion. That is an impossible environment in which to develop good policy. If the current government and Rio Tinto reach a resolution that allows OT to go into commercial production, then are we left with no other explanation than the government sold the country out? The relationship between the two parties is as contentious today as the period before the agreement was signed, so are we being treated to another elaborate show to distract us from the "real" negotiations? The absurdity of those questions is driven home by the fact that the current government, which Ms. Uyanga's political party is a member of, is composed of people who were members of the government when the OT stability agreement was signed. Current Deputy Speaker of Parliament S. Bayartsogt, for example, signed the agreement on behalf of the government as Minister of Finance.

This is symptomatic of a wider failure by political leadership in all parties to elevate the discussion of mining policy to a level above petty domestic politics. Petty politics is arguably the primary force shaping mining policy, and the resulting dysfunction is beginning to take a significant toll on the economy and international reputation of the country. Obviously it is easier said than done, but if mining policy is a part of Mongolia's long-term national security, it should be treated with the same level of respect as any security threat. Every Mongolian will suffer the consequences of poor decisions and reckless actions, so questioning the motives and patriotism of political opponents rather than actual policy is dangerously counter-productive in a democracy. After all, a more plausible explanation than Ms. Uyanga's for the perceived shortcomings in the OT stability agreement is that the Mongolian government was a poor negotiator then and remains a poor negotiator now as a result of the corrosive domestic political environment in which it has to negotiate.

I don't see any method to the madness, at least from a security perspective. Until there is a general consensus on how best to protect Mongolia's security in the mining era and that consensus is respected by all parties as occupying space above the political fray, the government and, by extension, the people of Mongolia will remain at a disadvantage in exploiting the country's mineral wealth. In other words, there needs to be actual method without the madness.

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Mogi: a very accurate of the culture and festivities of the traditional lunar new year


February 22 (Michelle Borok via Roads & Kingdoms) First, a few basics about the Mongolian holiday Tsagaan Sar.

Tsagaan means “white” and Sar can be translated as “month” or “moon”. The holiday—arguably Mongolia’s most important—is the celebration of the Lunar New Year, held a month after the first new moon following the Winter Solstice.This year it fell on February 11th. It’s celebrated for a minimum of three days, but can easily be stretched out for a month. And yes, the White Moon is celebrated largely by eating foods that are white.

That much you can learn from Wikipedia. But Tsagaan Sar, like the best holidays, is all about family. So in order to truly understand it, you need to be kin to some Mongolian. And this is where I’ve made some unique commitments to getting the inside story. I am a native Californian of Korean extraction who met a Mongolian man, moved to his home region in north-central Mongolia, and, as a final act of assimilation perhaps, gave birth to a daughter earlier this winter. I am now, irrevocably, family.

And so, here is my view from the inside of the festival. These are the Seven Steps of Tsagaan Sar.

1) Clean your house

The start of Tsagaan Sar, Bituun, is a time to clean house, literally and figuratively. Carpets are cleaned, debts are paid, grudges are let go, and bellies are filled for an auspicious start to the New Year. Nomads don’t need New Year’s resolutions. Best get the job done now, because there’s only going to be more work to be done later.

2) Build something that looks like a Twinkie castle

Ul Boov—in the lyrical, literal style of the Mongolian language—means “shoe sole cake”, like the impressions your feet leave in the crisp snow of a long winter. The cakes are stacked in odd numbered layers, suffering sandwiched by happiness and always outnumbered so as to signify peace and contentment. The tower is filled with offerings of aaruul (dried milk curds), sugar cubes, and candies—“white foods” to illustrate and honor the purity of Shambhala, the mystical kingdom of Tibetan Buddhism.

Aaruul is traditionally made in the summertime and meant to be kept and eaten throughout the year. It can be made from the milk of four of the “five snouts” (the domesticated animals of Mongolia): sheep, goat, camel, cow/yak, but never from the milk of a horse. It’s the working nomad’s Power Bar, imbued with the best nutritional properties of milk, portable and well-preserved, and because it’s hard as a rock, it takes a long time to eat. I like it best in the summer, when it has the consistency of dense fudge and is still chewable. Our aaruul came from family in the countryside, dried in the summer sun on the roof of a Mongol ger, the same dwelling nomads have lived in for centuries.

3) Ride the rangelands

With our boov built, we were prepared to entertain visitors, but a family’s first responsibility of the holiday is to pay tribute to the head of the family. My husband’s family matriarch is his aunt, but we all call her Emee (Grandmother). She has nine children, an award winning accomplishment in Mongolia; women who have 4 or more children get subsidies from the state, plaques, medals, and high praise all around. Emee truly embodies the maternal spirit. She supports everyone in the family, raises everyone’s children like her own, and guides them through all of life’s milestones. Her winter camp in the countryside, between Darkhan and the small town of Nomgon, is our first stop of the day.

This is the heart of the Tsagaan Sar tradition: it is steeped in Buddhist and nomadic traditions, a filial pilgrimage. We rode in a Hyundai Sonata with a baby’s carseat in the back, but it was in some ways the same journey as in centuries past, bringing people together across a landscape that travelers often find lonely. You can easily romanticize the solitude of the steppes, but it’s a bitter landscape to be alone in. Family keeps Mongolia alive.

4) Pass the snuff

Every culture has its own greeting traditions, and Tsagaan Sar calls for nearly all of the Mongolian formalities in a single session. First, younger family members pay respect to their elders by offering a formal greeting, plus a sniff or a kiss on each cheek. Holding up the elder’s arms is a gesture that says “I’ll support you the way you’ve supported me”.

After the khadag greeting comes the exchange of snuff bottles. The bottles are held gently with three fingers and the thumb of the right hand and offered with your arm extended. The recipient takes a small sampling of snuff and passes it back. The bottle works its way around the room, never closed until its back in the owner’s hands. As everyone’s snuff bottles were being wrapped up in their silk pouches and put away, spaces were being cleared on the table already loaded with small plates of potato salad, candy, fruit and kimchee.

5) Eat your sheep

I’m a former vegan, but meat is king in Mongolia, and Tsagaan Sar is no exception. The centerpiece of the Tsagaan Sar table is uuts, the boiled back, tail, and sometimes head of a sheep. A family looks for the largest, fattest tailed sheep to overflow on the platter. The fatter the tail, the more good fortune headed everyone’s way in the New Year.

The meat and fat can be eaten as is, or softened with a soak in a cup of milk tea. While slices from the uuts are being offered, a large silver bowl of airag (fermented mare’s milk—still not vegan) is passed around to be sipped, but never emptied. The fermentation gives the horse milk a sharp tang and the slightest hint of carbonation. In the summertime people drink it by the jug, but on special occasions throughout the year, it’s offered in a single shared bowl.

By the time our bowls of milk tea were emptied, space had been cleared on the already overflowing table for big bowls of buuz, the signature menu item of Tsagaan Sar. Buuz is a steamed goat or sheep meat dumpling with a thick, doughy skin. The meat is mixed with onion and garlic, and at its best, a meaty broth is created as it’s steamed. Leaving some broth in your bowl is fine, as it mixes nicely with a refill of milk tea.

Families make hundreds, sometimes thousands, of buuz in preparation for Tsagaan Sar. The Mongol ger at Emee’s winter camp had become the kitchen for the day, and its iron stove, fired with wood and dried dung, stayed busy with round after round of buuz being steamed for the table. And while I can’t say that Mongolians invented competitive eating, there is traditionally a friendly who-can-eat-the-most-buuz competition among family members that would make heroic eaters like Joey Chestnut proud.

6) Drink vodka, get your fortune told, ride horses

First thing we had done for Bituun the day before was to stock up on vodka for visitors and all of the inevitable toasts for the New Year. Suffice it to say that a clear liquid that warms you powerfully is welcome in Mongolian winters.

In between toasts, everyone took advantage of taking in the crowd: rarely is so much family gathered in one place. Only a few faces were missing. Middle children were left at home with the grazing herds, and married daughters were delayed by visits to their husband’s elders first. A set of four sheep ankle bones were passed around for quick fortune telling. They’re rolled like dice, with the four sides of the bone representing camel, horse, sheep and goat. You get three throws of the bones, which gives some hope to those with a cold hand.

Despite the frigid weather, the bravest of the grandchildren went outside to ride horses that had been brought in from the range and tacked up—the horses that hadn’t been eaten by the wolves, that is. The youngest children rode double with an older arm around their waist, except for 8-year-old Zoloo, who regularly jockeys for Emee’s two-year old racehorses.

7) Ride onward

It’s your cue to leave when gifts are given. At Tsagaan Sar modest gifts are given by the host to their guest, but my Western origin lets me get away with breaking protocol and bringing gifts for the host. Gift exchange in Mongolia is similar to other parts of Asia, and is normally an understated affair. The gift is offered with two hands, and accepted with the same. Thank Yous and Your Welcomes are said, but the gift is quickly put out of sight and even though it may be greatly appreciated, it’s rarely spoken of ever again.

We rode off after a small exchange, not for home, but for more visits to family in Erdenet. This year it took my husband and I four days to visit all the homes of family in Darkhan and Erdenet, and we still weren’t able to come through on every invitation presented. On top of that, we managed to play host to a few visitors, though I got away with not serving buuz and milk tea. Next year, I will get no such free pass. I will be, even more than this year, family.

Michelle Borok is a Darkhan-based writer for Giant Robot and others. You can follow her at @invictus

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Cultural relics on display in Great Mongolian Empire Exhibition

February 22 ( An Exhibition of Cultural Relics of the Great Mongolian Empire will be opened at the Mongolian Art Gallery on February 28th till March 18th.

The Mongolian Presiden’s Office, the Government, the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Travel and the Union of Mongolian Architects are jointly holding the exhibition. 

The Widespread Mongols NGO, developer of the national program called “Mongolia through great history”, with the consent of the President will show pictures of historical remains of ancient cities and sites founded by Mongolian conquerors. 

A team of photographers carried out the photographic surveying in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan following traces left by ancient Mongol warriors conquests. 

The exhibition will present photographic evidence of the tomb of Emperor Zuchi, the eldest son of the Great Chinggis Khaan, observatory center remains founded by Khulagu Khan, an astronomical observation founded during Khubilai Khan`s rule in China and an observation center founded by astronomer Ulugbek. Also the remains of Argun Khan`s summer palace, Ulziit Khan`s palace and the tomb of Timur Khan. The display will also cover over 50 ancient coins from various Mongolian Emperors rules, handy crafts of the Mongolian period in the Middle Age, remains of the Scientific Academy University, a city founded by Khulagu Khan. 

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Mogi: free trade huh?

Olympic champion Tuvshinbayar visits Town of Niagara to promote free trade

February 22 (Niagara Frontier Publications) --

Town Supervisor Steve Richards noted that Roger Trevino of Niagara Falls Redevelopment brought three visitors from Mongolia to visit the Town of Niagara last week: Pagva Bira, Ph.D., chairman of the National Authority Police Force (Khuch) Bayanzurkh District, Mongolia, and Olympic champions Naidan Tuvshinbayar (judo) and Munkhsailhan Usukhbayar (wrestling).

The visitors were on a mission to promote free trade and were interested in the Town of Niagara because of the Niagara Falls International Airport, the town's plans to acquire the old Army base on Porter Road, and the availability of space around the airport, including 150 acres already designated "shovel ready," Richards said.

They exchanged gifts and "the chief (Town of Niagara Police Chief H. James Suitor) and I were invited to come to Mongolia," Richards said.

"Is that why we're changing our March meetings?" quipped Councilman Charles Teixeira.

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Caves point to thawing of Siberia, discover scientists from Britain, Russia, Mongolia and Switzerland

February 22 (Oxford University) Evidence from Siberian caves suggests that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius could see permanently frozen ground thaw over a large area of Siberia, threatening release of carbon from soils, and damage to natural and human environments.

A thaw in Siberia's permafrost (ground frozen throughout the year) could eventually release over 1,000 giga-tonnes of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, potentially enhancing global warming.

The data comes from an international team led by Oxford University scientists studying stalactites and stalagmites from caves located along the 'permafrost frontier', where ground begins to be permanently frozen in a layer tens to hundreds of metres thick. Because stalactites and stalagmites only grow when liquid rainwater and snow melt drips into the caves, these formations record 500,000 years of changing permafrost conditions, including warmer periods similar to the climate of today.

Records from a particularly warm period (Marine Isotopic Stage 11) that occurred around 400,000 years ago suggest that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the modern (pre-industrial) climate is enough to cause substantial thawing of permafrost far north from its present-day southern limit. 

A report of the research is published in this week's Science Express. The team included scientists from Britain, Russia, Mongolia and Switzerland.

'The stalactites and stalagmites from these caves are a way of looking back in time to see how warm periods similar to our modern climate affect how far permafrost extends across Siberia,' said Dr Anton Vaks of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences, who led the work. 'As permafrost covers 24% of the land surface of the Northern hemisphere significant thawing could affect vast areas and release giga-tonnes of carbon.

'This has huge implications for ecosystems in the region, and for aspects of the human environment.  For instance, natural gas facilities in the region, as well as power lines, roads, railways and buildings are all built on permafrost and are vulnerable to thawing. Such a thaw could damage this infrastructure with obvious economic implications.'

The team used radiometric dating techniques to date the growth of cave formations (stalactites and stalagmites). Data from the Ledyanaya Lenskaya Cave – near the town of Lensk, at a latitude of 60 degrees North – in the coldest region showed that the only period when stalactite growth took place occurred about 400,000 years ago, during a period with a global temperature 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than today. Periods when the world was 0.5-1 degrees Celsius warmer than today did not see any stalactite growth in this northernmost cave, suggesting that around 1.5 degrees Celsius is the 'tipping point' at which the coldest permafrost regions begin to thaw.

Dr Vaks said: 'Although it wasn't the main focus of our research our work also suggests that in a world 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than today, warm enough to melt the coldest permafrost, adjoining regions would see significant changes with Mongolia's Gobi Desert becoming much wetter than it is today and, potentially, this extremely arid area coming to resemble the present-day Asian steppes.'

A report of the research, entitled 'Speleothems reveal 500 kyr history of Siberian permafrost', is published this week online in Science Express. The work was carried out by scientists from Oxford University, Russian Academy of Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, and Arabica Speleological Club. The research was supported by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), The Royal Society and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.  

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“Mogi” Munkhdul Badral

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