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Thursday, March 21, 2013

[Rio, Mongolia talking but 3rd meeting date unclear, $3.7B pledges for $2B OT bank allotment, and BAEconomics assesses current & proposed mineral law scenarios]

CoverMongolia NewsWire

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Blue Wolf Mongolia Countdown: 30 days till liquidation (Mogi: should I take it down now? See below)

 

Mongolia Says Oyu Tolgoi Shareholders' Meet Date Yet to Be Set

March 20 (Michael Kohn for Bloomberg) A shareholders' meeting to resolve disputes that are holding up construction funding of Mongolia's $6.6 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine is yet to be set, Mining Minister Davaajav Gankhuyag said today.

Mongolia's state-owned news agency Montsame reported on March 14 that a meeting will take place on March 20, citing Minister of Economic Development Nyamjav Batbayar.

The mine is currently operating on a month-to-month budget with funds from Rio Tinto Group (RIO), which owns 66 percent of the project through its Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. unit. Mongolia owns the rest.

Tax dues and cost overruns are among issues that remain in dispute, Gankhuyag said at a press conference in Ulan Bator.

The government alleges that the project has gone 40 percent over budget, while Rio Tinto says the figure is closer to 18 percent. Mongolia says it will only approve the 2013 budget when it sees a complete feasibility study for phase two of the project.

Link to article

 

Mogi: not a big fan of this author Frik Els. Pieces together articles and throws a few unchecked comments and voila!

Political infighting may be behind latest Oyu Tolgoi delay

March 20 (MINING.com) No date has been set for world number two miner Rio Tinto (LON:ASX) (Mogi: LON:ASX?) and the government of Mongolia to sit down and thrash out a new deal for the controversial Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine.

Earlier indications from state owned news agency Montsame were that a meeting was scheduled for yesterday but Bloomberg reports that has now been contradicted by the Asian nation's mines minister Davaajav Gankhuyag. (Mogi: have the feeling the people just starting assuming 20th was the day and didn't think to confirm beforehand. Lot of people I'm sure are feeling a little embarrassed about this)

Mongolia owns 34% of Oyu Tolgoi located in the South Gobi desert. The government of the Asian nation has been at loggerheads with operator Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ) (Mogi: loggerheads is I think a little outdated description of current developments), which is controlled by Rio and the owner the remainder of the mine, for months.

According to a statement last week from Mongolia's minister for economic development, Nyamjav Batbayaron the state-run news agency web site there are six main sticking points, centered on cost overruns, the funding and feasibility study for phase 2 of the mine, the employment of Mongolian workers and contractors and corporate governance.

The drawn out negotiations have forced Turquoise Hill – which has already plonked $6 billion on the massive project – to fund construction from its own coffers under a temporary month-to-month budget ahead of scheduled commercial production in June.

The wrangling over Oyu Tolgoi which is set to dominate the economy of Mongolia, may be about more than just finances.

Julian Dierkes of the University of British Colombia writing in the Financial Times points out that political infighting among Mongolia's politicians jockeying for position in the run up to presidential elections is complicating matters: (Mogi: the author mistakes the below "finger-pointing" as political infighting. Believe Dr. Dierkes meant was finger-pointing between government and OT)

Previously, Mongolia's president, prime minister and cabinet quickly dismissed calls for an opening of new negotiations without much comment. But last month President Tsakhia Elbegdorj aired some common misgivings about the project.

Among them were questions about the role of the three directors representing the state's interest. Ts Elbegdorj singled out former President N Bagabandi's role, sparking brief speculation about the possibility of Bagabandi standing against Elbegdorj in the coming presidential elections. The two sides have since engaged in several rounds of he-said-she-said ahead of a March 20 shareholder meeting.

The finger-pointing is difficult to disentangle from the outside. The government is learning on the job about the role of a co-investor in a large project that relies on international financing. Wrangling over Oyu Tolgoi's construction budget and management fees highlight the contrast between administration-by-fiat in governmental affairs and the operation of its 51 per cent majority stake in the Erdenet mine, and an operation like Oyu Tolgoi, a private company reliant on global capital flows.

Mongolia has long coveted a bigger slice of the mine and has twice in the past couple of years floated proposals to take majority control. (Mogi: not really appropriate to equate 20-25 MPs out 76 as the entire "Mongolia")

Political rhetoric over a bill before the Mongolian parliament (Mogi: postponed till after June elections) – elected last year on promises of greater resource nationalism – which contains sweeping changes for the mining industry has only added to the headaches of Rio and other foreign investors in the country.

Rio also suffered a setback earlier in March after the US raised serious concerns over Oyu Tolgoi's environmental and social impact and decided to abstain from voting on a $4.5 billion debt package being negotiated with the World Bank and other institutions. (Mogi: "setback" is an exaggeration of a single abstention from voting during of a board meeting, which ultimately approved the financing deal, so I'd describe it as symbolic at best. $4.5B? Thought it was $4B, if I'm not mistaken)

Link to article

 

Rio Tinto's Mongolia Mine Said to Get $3.7 Billion From Banks

March 19 (Bloomberg) Rio Tinto Group attracted nearly double the $2 billion sought from commercial banks for the Oyu Tolgoi project finance deal, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The Mongolian mine deal has attracted about $3.65 billion from banks, including 11 lenders committing $300 million each, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the transaction isn't public. Further banks may participate in the loan before it closes next month, they said.

Rio Tinto is seeking about $2 billion of 12-year facilities from banks and a further $2 billion from export credit agencies and international development lenders, people familiar with the deal have said. The boards of International Finance Corp. and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said they granted approval to join the deal last month.

HSBC Holdings Plc, Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and Natixis have committed $300 million to the deal, said the people. They join Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., BNP Paribas SA, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Agricole SA, ING Groep NV, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., Societe Generale SA and Standard Chartered Plc in providing the biggest amount, people familiar with the matter said last week.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. and National Australia Bank Ltd. have committed $150 million each, and Nederlandse FMO NV has pledged $50 million, they said.

David Outhwaite, a London-based spokesman for Rio Tinto, declined to comment on the financing.

The bank commitments come amid a tussle for control of the $6.6 billion copper and gold project, Mongolia's single biggest investment. At full capacity the mine, which is suffering from cost overruns, will account for almost a third of the economy.

The Oyu Tolgoi facility, in the South Gobi desert 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Mongolia's border with China, is controlled by Rio Tinto through its 51 percent stake in Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. (TRQ) which holds a 66 percent stake in the project. The Mongolian government owns the remaining 34 percent stake.

Link to article

 

Mogi: time for me to take down my doomsday countdown?

Blue Wolf Mongolia Holdings Corp. Executes Memorandum of Understanding with Li3 Energy, Inc.

Commences Tender Offer and Proxy Solicitation to Extend Time for Business Combination

NEW YORK, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Blue Wolf Mongolia Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: MNGL) ("Blue Wolf" or the "Company") today announced the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") for a business combination with Li3 Energy, Inc. (OTCBB:LIEG), a US-listed exploration stage public company in the lithium mining and energy sector ("Li3").  Li3 aims to acquire, develop and commercialize a significant portfolio of lithium brine deposits in the Americas.  With its controlling interest in its Maricunga Project in Chile, coupled with the completion of the NI 43–101 Compliant Measured Resource Report, Li3's goals are to: (a) advance Maricunga to the Feasibility Stage; (b) support the global implementation of clean and green energy initiatives; (c) meet growing lithium market demand; and (d) become a mid-tier, low cost supplier of lithium, potassium nitrate, and other strategic minerals, serving global clients in the energy, fertilizer and specialty chemical industries. 

Pursuant to the MOU, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company will merge with and into Li3.  Li3's shareholders will receive in the transaction one ordinary share of Blue Wolf for every 250 Li3 shares they own. Blue Wolf intends to negotiate and execute a definitive agreement with Li3 in accordance with the terms of the MOU. Blue Wolf's sponsor, Blue Wolf MHC Ltd. (the "Sponsor"), will forfeit 80% of its founder shares and 80% of its warrants upon the closing of the proposed transaction.  

Since Blue Wolf's existing memorandum and articles of incorporation (the "Charter") provides that Blue Wolf only has until April 20, 2013 to complete the business combination, Blue Wolf's board of directors has determined that it would be in the best interests of its shareholders to seek shareholder approval to amend the Charter to extend the termination date for three months until July 22, 2013 (the "Extension"). In addition, shareholders will be asked to approve an amendment to the Charter to remove the requirement that Blue Wolf acquire a target business that has a fair market value equal to at least 80% of the value of the funds held in the trust account established in connection with its initial public offering (the "Trust Account") and conforming amendments to the Investment Management Trust Agreement to permit the withdrawal from the Trust Account of an amount sufficient to purchase the ordinary shares validly tendered and not withdrawn in the concurrent tender offer and extend the date on which to liquidate the Trust Account to July 22, 2013. 

Blue Wolf also announced today the commencement of its tender offer to purchase up to 7,006,515 of its ordinary shares, no par value, at a per-share price of $9.97 per share (the "Tender Offer") in connection with the Extension and the other shareholder proposals (collectively, the "Shareholder Proposals").  The ordinary shares are currently listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol "MNGL."  On March 19, 2013, the last reported sale price of the ordinary shares was $9.93 per share.  The Tender Offer will expire at 11:59 p.m. New York City time on April 16, 2013, unless extended (the "Expiration Date") but will not be extended past April 19, 2013. 

The execution of a definitive agreement is subject to a number of conditions, including (i) the satisfactory completion of due diligence of the parties, (ii) the execution of lockup and support agreements, (iii) the approval of each of the shareholder proposals by Blue Wolf's shareholders and (iv) the completion of the Tender Offer.  In connection with the consummation of its proposed business combination (assuming completion of the Tender Offer and shareholder approval of the Extension), Blue Wolf intends to permit its then shareholders to redeem their ordinary shares for cash pursuant to a tender offer (the "Second Tender Offer") under the tender offer rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") for cash; however, the Second Tender Offer in connection with the business combination has not commenced.  If shareholders do not tender ordinary shares at this time, they will retain the right to participate in Blue Wolf's proposed transaction or to redeem their ordinary shares at the time Blue Wolf conducts the Second Tender Offer following execution of the definitive agreement. 

Tenders of Blue Wolf's ordinary shares in the Tender Offer must be made prior to the expiration of the Tender Offer and may be withdrawn at any time prior to the expiration of the Tender Offer. The Tender Offer is subject to the conditions and other terms set forth in the Offer to Purchase and other tender offer materials that are being distributed to securityholders and filed with the SEC.  In particular, the Tender Offer is conditioned on, among other things, each of the Shareholder Proposals being approved by at least 65% of the outstanding ordinary shares and no more than 7,006,515 ordinary shares being tendered and not withdrawn.  Each of Blue Wolf's Sponsor, officers, and directors has agreed not to tender any ordinary shares pursuant to the Tender Offer.

Blue Wolf's board of directors unanimously recommends that shareholders do not tender their ordinary shares in the Tender Offer. If shareholders do not tender their shares at this time, they will retain the right to participate in the proposed transaction or redeem their shares at the time Blue Wolf conducts a second tender offer following execution of the definitive agreement. Shareholders are urged to retain their shares and consider the proposed transaction.

Morrow & Co., LLC. is acting as the Information Agent for the proxy solicitation and Tender Offer, and the Depositary is Continental Stock Transfer & Trust Company. The Offer to Purchase, form of Letter of Transmittal, and related documents are being distributed to securityholders and will be made available for distribution to beneficial owners of Blue Wolf's ordinary shares and units. For questions and information, please call the information agent toll free at (800) 662-5200 (banks and brokers call collect at (203) 658-9400).

This announcement is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to purchase nor a solicitation of an offer to sell Blue Wolf ordinary shares. The solicitation of offers to buy shares will only be made pursuant to the Offer to Purchase dated March 20, 2013 (as may be amended or supplemented), the form of Letter of Transmittal and other related documents that Blue Wolf is distributing to its securityholders at no expense to them. The tender offer materials contain important information that should be read carefully before any decision is made with respect to the Tender Offer. In addition, all of those materials (and all other offer documents filed with the SEC) will be available at no charge on the SEC's website at www.sec.gov and from the Information Agent.

About Blue Wolf

Blue Wolf is a blank check company formed in the British Virgin Islands on March 11, 2011 for the purpose of effecting a merger, capital stock exchange, asset acquisition, stock purchase, reorganization or similar business combination with one or more businesses.  In July 2011, Blue Wolf completed its initial public offering of 8,050,000 units. Upon the closing of the initial public offering, Blue Wolf deposited $80,237,500 ($9.97 per share) in a trust account.

Link to release

 

Mogi: just realized or remembered MICC's Achit-Erdene is a Non-Executive Director

Modun: Mines and Money Hong Kong Investor Update

March 20, Modun Resources Ltd. (ASX:MOU) --

Link to preso

 

Aspire: Presentation to Mines & Money, Hong Kong: "Ovoot Coking Coal Project"

March 20, Aspire Mining Ltd. (ASX:AKM) --

Link to preso

 

Winsway: DATE OF BOARD MEETING

March 20 -- The Board of Directors (the "Board") of Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Limited (the "Company", HK:1733) hereby announces that a meeting of the Board of the Company will be held on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 for the purpose of, among other matters, considering and approving the audited annual results of the Company and its subsidiaries for the year ended 31 December 2012 and the publication thereof.

Link to release

 

Mogi: HK$12,496,000

Solartech: COMPLETION OF PLACING OF NEW SHARES UNDER GENERAL MANDATE

March 20, Solartech International Holdings Limited (HK:1166) The Board announces that all conditions of the Placing have been fulfilled and the completion of the Placing took place on 20 March 2013. 31,240,000 Placing Shares have been successfully placed by the Placing Agent to not less than six Placees at the Placing Price of HK$0.4 per Placing Share pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Placing Agreement.

Link to release

 

Od Brothers' Short Positions in MMC Increases

March 20 (Cover Mongolia) Directors' Interest Notices filed today reveled Mongolian Mining Corp (HK:975) Executive Chairman Odjargal Jambaljamts and Non-Executive Director Od Jambaljamts's short positions in MMC increased from 22.92% and 22.58% of total outstanding shares respectively to 25.17% and 24.83% respectively. These are short positions made due to MCS's stake in MMC being put as collateral for MCS loans. Odjargal and Od control 38.44% and 36.32% of MMC respectively through its holdings in MCS and individually.

Link to OJ notice

Link to Od notice

 

Mogi: finally we can start using numbers to argue the case against the draft

Economic assessment of the impact of Mongolia's foreign investment environment and the proposed new mineral law

March 18, Dr. Brian Fisher, BAEconomics. Presentation to BCM

 

Now:

2012

By 2020 we expect:

Existing mineral law scenario

New mineral law and policy uncertainty scenario

Real GDP

15.7

38.9

28.2

Exports

6.0

21.2

8.4

Imports

9.4

26.7

11.2

Real exchange rate

1.0 (index)

1.1 (index)

0.7 (index)

Real wage (purchasing power)

1.0 (index)

2.5 (index)

1.8 (index)

Tax revenue from mining

1.1

4.2

1.3

Total tax revenue

4.7

11.7

8.3

Real GNP

14.5

36.5

27.1

Link to presentation

 

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Mongolia's Khan Bank Announces E-Banking Outreach Campaign

March 20 (MicroCapital) Khan Bank, a Mongolian provider of microfinance and other services, recently launched its "Welcome to the E-Banking World" campaign to provide information about E-banking services, such as payment services available via the internet and mobile phones.  The campaign is scheduled for three months ending in May 2012 and will be held in Khan Bank branches in the city of Ulaanbaatar as well as unidentified areas [1].

For the year 2011, Khan Bank reported to the US-based nonprofit Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) total assets of USD 1.6 billion, a gross loan portfolio of USD 1 billion, deposits of USD 1.3 billion, return on assets (ROA) of 3.91 percent, return on equity (ROE) of 40.9 percent, approximately 300,000 active borrowers and 1.9 million depositors. Khan Bank classifies 51 to 60 percent of its operations as microfinance.

About Khan Bank

Established in 1991, Khan Bank is a Mongolian provider of microfinance and other services through 512 branches in the country. For the year 2011, Khan Bank reported to the US-based nonprofit Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) total assets of USD 1.6 billion, a gross loan portfolio of USD 1 billion, deposits of USD 1.3 billion, return on assets (ROA) of 3.91 percent, return on equity (ROE) of 40.9 percent, approximately 300,000 active borrowers and 1.9 million depositors. Khan Bank classifies 51 to 60 percent of its operations as microfinance.

Sources and Additional Resources:

[1] Khan Bank: "Press Release: Khan Bank Initiates an E-Banking Campaign", https://www.khanbank.com/en/52/News.html?n=251

MicroCapital.org story, March 2, 2013, "Mongolia's Khan Bank Launches Drive-through ATMs, Increases Number of Correspondent Banks", http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-mongolias-khan-bank-launches-drive-through-atms-increases-number-of-correspondent-banks/

MicroCapital.org story, June 22, 2011, "International Finance Corporation (IFC) to Loan $20m to Khan Bank of Mongolia to Support Small and Medium-Sized Businesses", http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-international-finance-corporation-ifc-to-loan-20m-to-khan-bank-of-mongolia-to-support-small-and-medium-sized-businesses/

MicroCapital.org story, February 8, 2010, "responsAbility Social Investments Makes Loans Totaling $12.5m to Belarusian Bank for Small Business (BBSB) of Belarus, Khan Bank of Mongolia, XacBank of Mongolia",http://www.microcapital.org/microcapital-brief-responsability-social-investments-makes-loans-totaling-12-5m-to-belarusian-bank-for-small-business-bbsb-of-belarus-khan-bank-of-mongolia-xacbank-of-mongolia/

MicroCapital's Universe Profile: Khan Bank, http://www.microcapital.org/microfinanceuniverse/tiki-index.php?page=Khan+Bank

Link to article

 

Mogi: a UB based Reuters contributor Terrence Edwards actually made the effort of contacting IAAC to confirm, to which they denied any investigation exists.

Top ZTE staff held in bribery probe

Senior managers of ZTE Corp (0763) have reportedly been detained in Mongolia for alleged bribery involving a digital education project.

Acting on tips, officers of Mongolia's anti- corruption bureau raided ZTE offices and managers' homes as well as checking cars and garages, itxinwen.com quoted insiders as saying.

"The bureau found evidence of bribery after a comprehensive investigation into the documents relating to ZTE's digital education projects," according to a claim yesterday.

Executives of the Shenzhen-based firm - the world's fifth-largest telecommunications equipment supplier - were refusing to comment on the arrests, according to the Global Times, though they were reported as saying the firm had acted in accordance with the laws of Mongolia.

From 2007 to 2012, ZTE was linked to bribery in the Philippines, Algeria and Norway.

The Mongolia case was not the only matter troubling ZTE yesterday.

It is in a patent dispute with Huawei Technologies, which won an injunction from a German court on a complaint about 4G-ready base stations. ZTE is to appeal.

ZTE issued a profit warning in January, estimating losses for the past year would come up to 2.9 billion yuan (HK$3.62 billion) on project delays and lower sales.

Link to article

 

Sri Lankans to be sent to Mongolia for employment as expatriate workers

March 19 (Lanka C News) It is learnt from the Minister from Foreign Employment Development and Welfare activities Dilan Perera that opportunities for a number of employment opportunities have arisen from Mongolia a fast developing country.

The Minister had disclosed that a number of jobs for labourers are freely available. But the only constraint is the cold weather where it is usually below zero degrees centigrade. This concern is been looked into the minister had added. The expatriate workers will have to make sort of adjustment it is learnt before a decision is arrived at.

He also added that Mongolia is a fast developing country and he is contemplating on sending professionally qualified personnel for different fields where there are enough vacancies.

The Minister added that the salaries of the proposed expatriates are at a high ebb and initially as an experiment a few would be given job opportunities which is bound to be increased gradually. It all depends how soon the first batch would adapt to conditions over there.

Link to article

 

Mogi: scary stuff

Researchers Find 25 Countries (Mongolia too) Using Surveillance Software

March 13 (NYT Bits Blog) Last May, two security researchers volunteered to look at a few suspicious e-mails sent to some Bahraini activists. Almost one year later, the two have uncovered evidence that some 25 governments, many with questionable records on human rights, may be using off-the-shelf surveillance software to spy on their own citizens.

Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, and Bill Marczak, a computer science doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the e-mails contained surveillance software that could grab images off computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes. The word "FinSpy" appeared in the spyware code. FinSpy is spyware sold by the Gamma Group, a British company that says it sells monitoring software to governments solely for criminal investigations.

Now, one year later, Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak have found evidence that FinSpy is being run off servers in 25 countries, including Ethiopia and Serbia, without oversight.

Until Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak stumbled upon FinSpy last May, security researchers had tried, unsuccessfully, for a year to track it down. FinSpy gained notoriety in March 2011 after protesters raided Egypt's state security headquarters and discovered a document that appeared to be a proposal by the Gamma Group to sell FinSpy to the government of President Hosni Mubarak .

Martin J. Muench, a Gamma Group managing director, has said his company does not disclose its customers but that Gamma Group sold its technology to governments only to monitor criminals. He said that it was most frequently used "against pedophiles, terrorists, organized crime, kidnapping and human trafficking."

But evidence suggests the software is being sold to governments where the potential for abuse is high. "If you look at the list of countries that Gamma is selling to, many do not have a robust rule of law," Mr. Marquis-Boire said. "Rather than catching kidnappers and drug dealers, it looks more likely that it is being used for politically motivated surveillance."

As of last year, Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak, with other researchers at Rapid7, CrowdStrike and others, had found command-and-control servers running the spyware in just over a dozen countries. They have since scanned the entire Internet for FinSpy.

The Munk School is publishing their updated findings on Wednesday. The list of countries with servers running FinSpy is now Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Britain, Brunei, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia, Singapore, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Vietnam.

In Ethiopia, FinSpy was disguised in e-mails that were specifically aimed at political dissidents. The e-mails lured targets to click on pictures of members of Ginbot 7, an Ethiopian opposition group. When they clicked on the pictures, FinSpy downloaded to their machines and their computers began communicating with a local server in Ethiopia.

"This continues the theme of FinSpy deployments with strong indications of politically motivated targeting," the researchers wrote in their report.

A Turkmenistan server running the software belonged to a range of I.P. addresses specifically assigned to the ministry of communications. Turkmenistan is the first clear-cut case of a government running the spyware off its own computer system. Human Rights Watch has called Turkmenistan one of the world's "most repressive countries" and warned that dissidents faced "constant threat of government reprisal."

In Vietnam, the researchers found evidence that FinSpy was running on Android-powered phones. They found one Android phone infected with FinSpy that was sending text messages back to a Vietnamese telephone number. That finding was particularly troubling, researchers say, given recent clampdowns by the nation's government. Last year, Vietnam introduced censorship laws that prohibit bloggers from speaking out against the country's ruling Communist party. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 40 people had since been convicted and sentenced to prison terms. Many are now serving terms ranging from three to 13 years.

The sale of surveillance technology is still largely unregulated, but Mr. Marquis-Boire and Mr. Marczak's findings have prompted greater scrutiny. Responding to their findings last fall, Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle called for an Europe-­wide ban on the export of surveillance technology to repressive regimes. And last month, Privacy International and other groups filed complaints with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development against Gamma Group and Trovicor GmbH, a German company that also sells surveillance software.

"I don't think you can put technology back in the bottle," said Mr. Marquis-Boire. "I understand why police would want to use this type of technology, but I'm just not for commercial companies selling them to nondemocratic regimes with questionable human rights records."

Link to article

Related: YOU ONLY CLICK TWICE: FINFISHER'S GLOBAL PROLIFERATIONMunk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, March 15

 

Mongolia holds water-saving exhibition to raise awareness

ULAN BATOR, March 20 (Xinhua) -- An exhibition showcasing Mongolia's advanced water-saving technologies and products opened here Wednesday to observe World Water Day, which falls on Friday.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Minister for Nature, Environment and Green Development Sanjaasuren Oyun said Mongolia was facing serious land desertification and water shortage, a phenomenon now threatening national security.

The exhibition aimed to promote the use of water-efficient products and raise public awareness of the need for a water-saving society, she said.

The three-day event also features a series of seminars on water conservation.

In recent years, water scarcity has increasingly become a bottleneck to the development of Mongolia, where land desertification is expanding at an alarming rate, especially in its mineral-rich southern Gobi area.

Link to article

 

Surgery Mission to Mongolia - OR Nurses Needed

Cardiac and/or thoracic surgery OR nurses needed ASAP for May earthMed Mongolia medical mission.

Expenses not paid, but fundraising tools are available.

Mission has been underway for more than ten years with a high level of success, safety, and cameraderie.

Link to post

 

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE TAWAKKOL KARMAN TO ATTEND VII CD MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE IN MONGOLIA

March 20 (Community of Democracies) Ms. Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has accepted the invitation of Honorable Luvsanvandan Bold, MP, Foreign Minister of Mongolia, to participate in the VII CD Ministerial Conference to be held in Ulaanbaatar on 27-29 April 2013.

Ms. Tawakkol Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen.

She became the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date, at the age of 32.

Ms. Karman is a mother of three as well as a human rights activist, journalist, politician.

Link to article

 

DAI's Jim Winkler Elected to American University of Mongolia Board of Directors

March 19 (DAI) DAI's Vice President of Solutions Jim Winkler on March 14 was elected to the Board of Directors of the newly established American University of Mongolia (AUM).

An economist who specializes in private sector development, economic growth, competitiveness, and governance, Jim has supervised more than 50 long-term DAI projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), personally managing projects in Vietnam, Croatia, Cambodia, and the Palestinian Territories. Jim holds a Ph.D. in international relations from The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

As head of DAI's Solutions group, Jim leads a team of 50 core technical staff and global practices in economic growth, economic and social stability, agriculture and agribusiness, health, governance, and environment and climate change.

"I have known Jim Winkler for many years as a colleague at DAI," said AUM Chairman J. Peter Morrow, the former CEO of Khan Bank. "With his academic background and development experience, we welcome him and his contribution to the building of the university."

AUM was established in September by a group of Mongolian and American business, educational, and community leaders to bring the best traditions of American higher education to serve the unique needs of students in Mongolia.  It will be an independent, nonprofit liberal arts university and accredited by U.S. and Mongolian accreditation bodies.

DAI's unbroken engagement in Mongolia dates back to the early 1990s and proceeded through various assignments for clients such the USAID, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank, culminating in the successful turnaround of the Agricultural Bank, now known as Khan Bank. In winding down its holding in the bank, DAI selected AUM as the best vehicle for marking the firm's ongoing commitment to development in Mongolia, in line with a community engagement program that focuses on supporting young people in countries where DAI works.

This fall, the first students will be accepted into the university's four-year undergraduate program. Degree programs in engineering, business administration, and natural sciences will be the first priorities, followed by additional programs developed at the masters and doctoral levels. AUM will eventually become a full-fledged research university that will stand as a center of excellence for the entire region.

Link to release

 

Freedom in the World 2013 - Mongolia

March 16 (Freedom House) --

2013 Scores

Status: Free
Freedom Rating: 1.5
Civil Liberties: 2
Political Rights: 1

Ratings Change

Mongolia's political rights rating improved from 2 to 1 due to significant progress in the conduct of parliamentary elections, which were regarded as free and fair.

Overview

Parliamentary elections held in June 2012 were deemed to have been free and fair, further confirming Mongolia's status as Asia's only post-socialist democracy. The election was won by a coalition of the Democratic Party, Justice Coalition, and Civil Will Green Party, led by Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag. In August, former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar was convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in jail. Pervasive corruption remained a problem in 2012, particularly in the country's mining sector.


Once the center of Genghis Khan's sprawling empire, Mongolia was ruled by China's Manchu Qing Empire for nearly 270 years. Mongolia declared its independence in 1911. After Chinese troops entered the country in 1919, Mongolia invited Russian Soviet forces to help secure control. Mongolia founded a people's republic in 1924, with the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) governing the country as a one-party communist state. In response to persistent antigovernment protests, the MPRP legalized opposition parties in 1990, but easily won the first multiparty parliamentary elections that year and again in 1992.

The MPRP lost the 1996 parliamentary elections, and power was transferred peacefully to the opposition Democratic Union Coalition. After an economic downturn the following year, the MPRP won both the 1997 presidential election and the 2000 parliamentary vote. The 2004 parliamentary elections were marred by irregularities and gave neither side a majority. The MPRP consequently agreed to a power-sharing government with the opposition Motherland Democracy Coalition (MDC).

The MPRP's Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the parliament speaker and a former prime minister, won the 2005 presidential election. In January 2006, the MDC-MPRP coalition government collapsed, and the MPRP formed a new government with several small parties and MDC defectors led by MPRP prime minister Miyeegombo Enkhbold, who was replaced in November 2007 by Sanjaa Bayar after being accused of excessive political favoritism and corruption.

The initial results of the June 2008 parliamentary elections handed the MPRP a solid majority, but the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and others challenged the outcome. Small-scale protests escalated into large, violent demonstrations in the capital. Five people were killed, scores were injured, and over 700 others were arrested. The government declared a four-day state of emergency.

Former prime minister Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of the DP was elected president in May 2009. In October of that year, Bayar resigned as prime minister for health reasons and was replaced by Foreign Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, who governed in a "grand coalition" with the DP until January 2012, when the DP left the coalition in preparation for parliamentary elections in June. In 2010, the MPRP renamed itself the Mongolian People's Party. In 2011, MPP members under the leadership of former president Enkhbayar broke off from the party and re-formed the MPRP.

In the parliamentary elections held on June 28, 2012, the DP won 33 seats in the elections, the MPP 25, and the Justice Coalition – which included the reformed MPRP – took 11, with the rest of the seats going to other parties. There were significantly fewer foreign election observers present for the elections, although the General Election Commission accredited domestic civil society observers for the first time. Observers, who were concentrated in Ulaanbaatar, generally deemed the election to have been free and fair. While there were some allegations of election fraud, they were relatively muted, though the victories of two MPP candidates in Ă–vorkhangai province were invalidated by the courts.

Ulaanbaatar city elections were held in conjunction with the parliamentary elections for the first time. The MPP leadership in the capital was replaced with a DP majority under the leadership of charismatic democracy activist Erdene Bat-Uul.

Mongolia's economy continues to be shaped by the large gold and copper project in Oyu Tolgoi. In the summer of 2012, the government issued shares in the large Tavan Tolgoi coal project. After leases offered to international bidders were retracted, the government itself apparently plans to operate the mine.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Mongolia is an electoral democracy. The prime minister, who holds most executive power, is nominated by the party or coalition with the most seats in the 76-member parliament (the State Great Hural) and approved by the parliament with the agreement of the president. The president is head of state and of the armed forces, and can veto legislation, subject to a two-thirds parliamentary override. Candidates running for president are nominated by parties but may not be party members. Both the president and the parliament are directly elected for four-year terms.

Parliamentary balloting has varied over the years between multimember and single-member districts. The 2012 elections contained further changes; under the new rules, 48 of the parliament's 76 seats were directly awarded in direct elections, while the remaining 28 were allocated through a proportional system according to parties' share of the national vote. Among the 26 electoral districts, 18 were represented by 2 parliamentarians, 6 elected a single representative, and 2 of the districts elected 3. The elections also included several procedural changes in the registration and voting process, including the introduction of biometric voter identification papers, vote-counting machines, a quota for female candidates, and a more stringent procedure by which the General Election Commission would check and approve party platforms based on their financial feasibility.

Corruption remains a serious problem in Mongolia and is viewed as pervasive. The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) has been actively investigating corruption allegations since 2007. In April 2012, the IAAC arrested former president and MPRP party leader Nambaryn Enkhbayar on corruption charges, banning him from taking part in the June elections. Although Enkhbayar claimed that the arrest was politically motivated, the ban on his participating in the elections was upheld by Mongolian courts, and many observers accepted the arrest as a consequence of the pervasive corruption that took place during his presidency. In August, Enkhbayar was convicted of relatively minor corruption and money laundering charges, and in November he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Although the government operates with limited transparency, the first Citizens' Hall was established in Ulaanbaatar in 2009 to encourage civic participation in the legislative processes. Citizens have the opportunity to provide feedback on draft laws and government services by attending such hearings or submitting their views via letter, fax, e-mail, or telephone. Mongolia was ranked 94 of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.

While the government generally respects press freedom, many journalists and independent publications practice a degree of self-censorship to avoid legal action under the State Secrets Law or libel laws that place the burden of proof on the defendant. Journalists have been charged in defamation suits by ministers of parliament and businesspeople; in many cases, the charges were dropped. Journalist Gantumur Uyanga, who was accused of libel by a former minister in November 2011, was elected to parliament herself in 2012. There are hundreds of privately owned print and broadcast outlets, but the main source of news in the vast countryside is the state-owned Mongolian National Broadcaster. Foreign content from satellite television and radio services like the British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America is also increasingly available. Some international media operations – including Bloomberg in the fall of 2012 – have moved into the Mongolian market. The government does not interfere with internet access.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. The fall of communism led to an influx of Christian missionaries to Mongolia and a revival of Mongolia's traditional Buddhism and shamanism. Religious groups are required to register with the government and renew their status annually. The Kazakh Muslim minority generally enjoys freedom of religion. Academic freedom is respected.

Freedoms of assembly and association are observed in law and in practice. A number of environmental, human rights, and social welfare groups – while largely reliant on foreign donors –operate without government restriction. However, some journalists and nonprofit personnel have alleged government monitoring of e-mail accounts and wiretapping. Trade unions are independent and active, and the government has generally protected their rights in recent years, though the downsizing or sale of many state factories has contributed to a sharp drop in union membership. Collective bargaining is legal.

The judiciary is independent, but corruption among judges persists. The police force has been accused of making arbitrary arrests and traffic stops, holding detainees for long periods, and beating prisoners. Four senior police officers were tried for their roles in the death of rioters following the 2008 parliamentary election. Prison deaths continue to be reported, as insufficient nutrition, heat, and medical care remain problems. President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj issued a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2010.

While women comprise 60 percent of all university students as well as 60 percent of all judges, they hold only 9 parliamentary seats. Spousal abuse is prohibited by law, but social and cultural norms continue to discourage victims from reporting such crimes. Mongolia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The government has continued efforts to eliminate trafficking though funding for such efforts has been inadequate.

Link to report

 

Mongolia moves up 2 spots in UNDP's Human Development Index 2013 to 108th

March 14 (UNDP) --

Summary

The 2013 Human Development Report – "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World" – examines the profound shift in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising new powers of the developing world and its long-term implications for human development. 

The Report identifies more than 40 countries in the developing world that have done better than had been expected in human development terms in recent decades, with their progress accelerating markedly over the past ten years. The Report analyzes the causes and consequences of these countries' achievements and the challenges that they face today and in the coming decades. 

Each of these countries has its own unique history and has chosen its own distinct development pathway. Yet they share important characteristics and face many of the same challenges. They are also increasingly interconnected and interdependent. 

The Report calls for far better representation of the South in global governance systems and points to potential new sources of financing within the South for essential public goods. With fresh analytical insights and clear proposals for policy reforms, the Report helps charts a course for people in all regions to face shared human development challenges together, fairly and effectively.

Highlights

·         Today, the South as a whole produces about half of world economic output, up from about a third in 1990.

·         Latin America, in contrast to overall global trends, has seen income inequality fall since 2000.

·         There is a clear positive correlation between past public investment in social and physical infrastructure and progress on the Human Development Index.

·         Developing countries trade more among themselves than with the North, and this trend can go much further.

Link to report page

 

Misc

Photo Diary: In Mongolia UNICEF health workers travel by reindeer, car, boat AND foot to immunize children.

In the last decade, the number of children dying of measles plummeted 71 percent. While this represents an enormous victory in the fight for child survival, our work is far from over. Worldwide, measles remains one of the leading killers of young children.

This past fall, UNICEF launched an extensive immunization campaign in Mongolia against measles and rubella – reaching more than 500,000 children.

We believe nowhere is too far to go to ensure every child is protected. Ms. Oyunchimeg, a UNICEF health worker in Mongolia, travelled by reindeer, hand-drawn ferry, jeep and foot – to vaccinate children from remote nomadic communities.

Link to photo diary

 

LIVE from UB: VIDEO: KUSH + OYUKA

March 20, 2013 (Lauren Knapp, LIVE from UB) --

Kush & Oyuka are doing big things to make jazz popular for Mongolia's youth. The male-female duo started a couple years ago after Kush (lead singer) found himself hooked on the genre. He had been volunteering for Mongolia's Giant Steppes of Jazz International Festival and reached out to his classmate and top-notch pianist to see if she'd be interested in starting something.

They hit it off and began co-writing a series of songs which they recorded last summer. The album will be the first collection of original jazz tunes written in Mongolian.

Watch Kush & Oyuka's first music video

I filmed them at one of their regular gigs in Ulaanbaatar last year. Here are two songs from that performance.

Link to article

 

How to film a music documentary in Mongolia

March 20 (Lauren Knapp for Pop City Media) I'm standing in a monastery located in one of the most picturesque valleys the Mongolian steppe has to offer. It's about 10:00 am and I've spent the morning filming a whole crew of young Mongolians set up a makeshift recording studio in the back courtyard of one of Mongolia's oldest standing monasteries. The young rock band, Mohanik, is just about ready to start a full day of recording.

It's the end of August, the end of summer, and the end of my stay in Mongolia. My work has all been leading toward this final event – Mohanik recording their completely unique album in a completely unique location. I've spent the last several months following this band of 23-year-olds as well as several others. Today's shoot at the monastery is one of the last pieces I need.

I landed at Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia just after 3:00 a.m. on October 23, 2011. My mission: to make a documentary film about a new generation of urban Mongolians by way of their music.

This was going to be a great adventure. I was alone in Mongolia with only a few key phrases at my disposal. I had been able to find almost no information about the rock scene I was hoping to make a documentary film about. And I was still not entirely sure why I'd chosen to come to the world's coldest capital city just before winter.

More fundamentally, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I set out to make a documentary film all alone, in a foreign language, in Mongolia.

I spent the winter, which could reach a disturbing negative 40 degrees at its worst, doing my preliminary research. I went to bars to check out bands, watched YouTube videos of Mongolian pop stars, and scheduled a whole slew of initial interviews.

While I couldn't have told you exactly what I was hoping to find in Mongolia, I knew I was looking to understand the modern music scene, find musicians who were both talented and passionate, and highlight a trend that was unique to Mongolia.

I had my kit: a Canon 60D DSLR Camera, handheld audio recorder and lavalier microphone, tripod and single light I'd bought at a camera shop in Ulaanbaatar. It was all this one-woman band could carry. I created a team of kind-hearted volunteer translators (almost all University students). And by spring, I began interviewing music producers, rock stars, anthropologists, rappers and DJs. Each new person I met put me in contact with three others. Suddenly, the Mongolian rock scene was tangible and I had become a part of it.

By spring, I had discovered my theme. After years of mimicking Western bands, Mongolian musicians were now creating something all their own. They were meshing traditional sounds, costumes and instruments with rock and pop styles to create a truly new kind of music.

The young band Mohanik was one of the best examples of this.

At first glance, Mohanik was the most Americanized of the bands I'd come across. When I met them they were playing "Johnny B. Goode" at a bar and wearing leather jackets and sunglasses. Two of the members spoke impeccable English, their practice space was covered in American movie posters, and they almost always had the Street Fighter video game on pause, ready to play. When I was with Mohanik, I felt transported back to high school or college when being in a band was more than just making music.

And so, it was particularly surprising to me when they told me about their new material. They were amassing a new collection of tunes that were unwittingly bringing out a Mongolian part of them. They were suddenly singing about wolves, mountains and ancient battlefields. Their rhythms began to sound more like shamanic drumming. They found themselves playing only in the Mongolian pentatonic (five note) scale. As they explained to me, their Mongolian soul was simply emerging through the music.

By the end of summer, they had finished writing and were ready to record. But they would not settle for a studio. Instead, they wanted to record this album in a place that felt more Mongolian. It had to be outside. Nature is a huge part of Mongolian identity. It had to have history. But it also had to have electricity and be accessible from Ulaanbaatar.

They settled on the monastery and invited me to come with them to film it.

And so, a week before I had to leave the country, I hopped in a van with the crew and took the dark, bumpy ride to one of the most peaceful places on earth.

That final two-day shoot was the culmination of so much for me. Mohanik recording that album in that monastery was a pinnacle in a storyline I'd been following for months. It was essential to my film. But it was also a personal milestone. I found myself suddenly understanding jokes the crew was telling in Mongolian. The Mohanik boys had embraced me as a friend, not just some American filmmaker.

I had finally felt a sense of belonging in this terribly foreign country, just in time for me to leave.

Help support Lauren's Indiegogo campaign hereto raise awareness and funds for her documentary.

Lauren Knapp is a multimedia storyteller who has come to Pittsburgh from her native home of Minnesota by way of Iowa, Washington, DC and Mongolia. She is currently editing her documentary film, LIVE FROM UB.

Link to article

 

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Mogi Munkhdul Badral Bontoi

Cover Mongolia

Email: mogi@covermongolia.mn

Mobile: +976 9999 6779

Skype: mogibb

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