Friday, November 1, 2013

[BNP buying Standard Bank's Mongolia loans, MMC upgraded to neutral by CS, South Africa VP on visit, and no Kim meeting for Elbegdorj]

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Friday, November 1, 2013

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Cover Mongolia

Mogi: the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) news piece I was in. The link has a video of it. Below is a transcript. Aired at 18:08, October 31 it says.














雇用者は北朝鮮労働者を雇う場合、入管の機関に手数料を払わなくていいのです。北朝鮮は他の国とは違うやり方をしています」(モンゴル経済に詳しい「COVERMONGOLIA」 バダラム・ムフンドゥルCEO)(Mogi: バダラルムンフドゥル is how I would spell my name in Katakana.)


「(借りたい人たちは)たくさんいます、北朝鮮の人もそうだし、私たち自身で使うかもしれないし、日本人やモンゴル人も借りたがっています。他にもたくさんいます」(アヴァール社 チュワーメト社長)


Link to video


Overseas Market

BNP Paribas agrees to buy Standard Bank's Mongolia loan portfolio

October 30 (Reuters) - South Africa's Standard Bank Group (SBKJ.J) has agreed deals to sell its Asian loan portfolio worth around $1 billion to BNP Paribas SA BNPP.SA and others, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Africa's biggest bank has been looking to sell the loans, which include financing of mining projects in Mongolia, Indonesia and other countries, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because the information is not yet public.

BNP Paribas has agreed to buy the Mongolian portion of the portfolio, which represents about $350 million worth of loans, as well as some other loans in Asia, one of the sources said.

The French bank agreed to pay around face value for the loans, the sources said.

A spokesman for Standard Bank declined to comment. No one was immediately available for comment at BNP Paribas.

The identity of the other potential buyers was not immediately known.

Standard Bank has been a lender in Asia to firms including Indonesia's PT Tower Bersama (TBIG.JK) and Hong Kong-listed Mongolian Mining Corp (0975.HK), according to Thomson Reuters data.

Johannesburg-based Standard Bank, which is about 20 percent owned by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) (601398.SS) has been hiving off businesses outside of Africa to focus on building its presence in fast-growing sub-Saharan markets.

Sources told Reuters in July it was in talks to sell its markets business in London, including its commodities, foreign exchange and interest rate trading operations, for more than $500 million to ICBC.

Last year it finalized the sale of 80 percent of its Argentine business to ICBC. It has sold off stakes in operations in Turkey and Russia.

Link to article


Khan Resources takes Mongolia expropriation to arbitration panel

October 30 (The Globe and Mail) Canada's Khan Resources (CNSX:KRI) is gambling that an international arbitration case in Paris will allow it to regain control of a uranium project that, it claims, was illegally expropriated by the Mongolian government, leaving it with nothing but angry investors.

While Toronto-based Khan is only a bit player in the Canadian mining scene, resources companies with far-flung operations will likely pay close attention to the arbitration. International commercial arbitration in general, and arbitration cases against governments in particular, are becoming increasingly popular, to the point they are gaining favour over traditional courtroom litigation.

The rise of bilateral investment treaties is triggering a surge in commercial arbitration cases against governments, which are handled through the World Bank's arbitration court, known as ICSID – the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The 3,000 international treaties, covering everything from hotel investments to dam construction, form the basis of the arbitration.

"International arbitration is used a lot," said Grant Edey, a former Iamgold chief financial officer who has been Khan's CEO since 2010. "It's being used more often as developing countries get more aggressive about taking control of their resources."

Khan had planned to develop a uranium mine in northeast Mongolia, near the Russian and Chinese borders, through an effective 68-per-cent stake in the Dornod deposit with state-controlled Russian and Mongolian partners. The property's potential was well known. The Russians had spent about $150-million (U.S.) exploring and partly developing the site before abandoning it 1995.

Khan took over the project in 2003 and went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2006 (it has since been demoted to the CNSX market). After spending $21-million on exploration and development, it outlined its $330-million mining development plan three years later and expected to be in full production by 2013. The goal was to mine about three million pounds of uranium oxide a year over 15 years.

In 2009, Khan's ambitions fell apart when the Mongolian government passed a new nuclear energy law that would allow the government to take as much as 51 per cent of the Dornod project at no cost. Khan and a Russian company, ARMZ, would own the rest. Khan says it wasn't offered compensation for the downgrade to minority partner, nor were its mining permits renewed. At one point that year, ARMZ launched a hostile bid for Khan that went nowhere. Later, China National Nuclear Corp. did the same. Its bid also failed.

Khan shares collapsed, going from $4 (Canadian) to penny-stock status. On Wednesday, Khan traded at only 25 cents a share, giving the company a market value of $16-million.

Stuck in legal limbo, and without control of the Dornod project, Khan launched an arbitration case against the Mongolian government in 2011, seeking $326-million (U.S.) in compensation.

A tribunal was appointed and the case is to be heard in Paris starting Nov. 11. Arbitration specialist Yves Fortier, the former chairman of both Alcan and the Norton Rose law firm, was Khan's nominee to the tribunal.

International commercial arbitration cases are adjudicated behind closed doors, tend to be shorter, and produce final decisions that can't be appealed. But they are not necessarily cheaper. "Over all, businesses continue to show a preference for using arbitration over litigation for transnational disputes, although concerns remain about the costs of arbitration," a new PwC report on arbitration says.

Recent plaintiff victories have made them popular options despite the costs.

Earlier this month, Argentina agreed to compensate five companies that won arbitration cases. The payment is to be made in the form of dollar bonds with a face value of $506-million. The many cases against Argentina stem from the nationalizations and currency devaluations related to the country's sovereign default in 2001.

The number of registered ICSID cases last year reached 50, up from 38 in 2011.

Mr. Edey said Khan has already spent $4-million on legal and tribunal fees. He would not rate the company's chances of success. "We're looking for closure after four years of uncertainty and insignificant value for our time, effort and money."

Link to article


Credit Suisse ups Mongolian Mining to "neutral," maintains TP at HK$1.2

[ET Net News Agency, 31 October 2013] Credit Suisse maintained its target price for Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC)(00975) at HK$1.2, but upgraded the stock to "neutral" from "underperform".

MMC signed two MoUs with Shenhua Group, together with other two Mongolian coal companies, to collaborate on cross-border railway construction and coal trade for 1 bn tonnes in 20 years

Credit Suisse views the cooperation to be positive on MMC's ASP in the long term by providing more stable procurement for Mongolian coal and cutting cross-border and logistic costs at the China end via rail facilities. 

However, the research house noted that the downside risk remains on MMC's 2013 earnings, as 9-month HCC sales volume is 63% of the house's FY2013 forecast and that ASP continues to underperform benchmark prices in 2H due to lock-up sales.

Link to article


Cash at end of Q A$2.658 million. HAR closed +1.27% to 8c on Thursday


October 31 -- Haranga Resources Limited ("the Company," ASX:HAR) is pleased to report on its activities for the September 2013 Quarter. Strong progress was made over the quarter on the development of the Company´s Mongolian Iron Ore Projects.  


·         The Company is in the final stages of selecting a contractor for the pilot scale metallurgical test work.  

·         Pilot plant level test work to achieve a high quality magnetite ore concentrate as a final saleable product is set to commence with representative bulk samples prepared.  

·         The official permit for the hydrogeological study has been obtained from the Ministry of Environmental and Green Development of Mongolia.  

·         The preliminary geotechnical study work has been completed.  

·         The Company expects to finalise and submit the Selenge Project mining license application to the Minerals Authority of Mongolia in the coming weeks.  

·         An independent assessment of the Selenge Iron Ore Project economics based on the Measured and Indicated JORC Compliant Resource was completed during the Quarter.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


Cash at end of Q A$1.444 million


October 30, Voyager Resources Limited (ASX:VOR) --


·         Initial license "Primavera" transferred from Xstrata Do Brasil Exploração Mineral Ltda, ("Glencore Xstrata") to Voyager Resources Limited.  

·         Primavera is a large 10,000ha license located in the southeast part of the Eastern Block previously held by Glencore Xstrata.  

·         Primavera is located within close proximity to the Sossego mine 150 million tonnes at 0.79% Copper, 0.23 g/t Gold mine, and the Salobo mine 1.12 billion tonnes at 0.72% Copper, 0.38 g/t Gold*.  

·         Pursuant to the Strategic Alliance Agreement with Avanco Resources Limited, ("Avanco"), the Company will now issue 30,000,000 Voyager shares to Avanco.  


·         The process of applying for a mining license for the Khongor Copper Gold Deposit has now commenced.  

·         The application process is expected to be completed in November and then presented to Minerals Authority thereafter.  

·         The Company is actively seeking joint venture partners for its Khul Morit Copper Project and its Daltiin Ovor Copper Gold Project.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


MOU closed flat at 0.6c

Modun Resources: Mongolian Mining Summit Presentation

October 31, Modun Resources Limited (ASX:MOU) --

Link to preso


Cash at end of Q A$740K

Modun Resources: September 2013 Quarterly Report  

October 31, Modun Resources Limited (ASX:MOU) --


      Modun signs Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of coal briquettes to the Mongolian Government as part of their Clean Air Initiative to reduce air pollution in Ulaanbaatar

      The Mongolian Ministry of Mining commits to providing policy support to Modun to deliver the project

      Negotiations for the Off-take Agreement with the Mongolian Government for the supply of coal briquettes are on-going

      The independent Mongolian Feasibility Study is near completion

      The Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia (MRAM) granted approval for a Mining Licence for the Nuurst Project

      Mining Licence No MV-017349 issued covering 2,497 hectares issued for 30 years plus the potential for two 20 year extensions

      Placement to sophisticated investors at market price raising $375,000

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


GUF closed -4.76% to 10c

Guildford Coal: Quarterly Activities Report

October 31, Guildford Coal Limited (ASX:GUF) --


Guildford Coal has advanced the development of the Baruun Noyon Uul (BNU) mine of the South Gobi project in Mongolia, and is in the process of moving from explorer to operator. A new senior management team is evolving to manage this transition, and the changed emphasis and skills required by the Company.


Terra Energy LLC received Mongolian government approval to construct the 98km road connecting the BNU mine with the China border and coal distribution hub at Ceke.  

Pre-mining activities at South-Gobi continued during the quarter with a focus on the BNU mine development. This included:  

·         Commencement of a comprehensive core hole drilling program across the BNU resource.  

·         The removal of overburden by mining contractor Grand Power Mining which included continuing the transition to larger equipment.  

·         Progressive excavation of the boxcut to expose coal in preparation for mine commissioning in Q4 2013.  

·         Customer and investor visits were conducted in the Quarter along with GUF senior management visits to coking coal customers in China.  

·         Infrastructure required for the initial phase of mining was established including expansions on the current camp, installation of mine security fencing, fuel storage facilities and commencement of civil works for the workshop, ROM, customs yard and coal haulage road on the mine lease.  

·         A compliance inspection is scheduled in November prior to the commissioning of the mine and commencement of production.



Cash and Financing

 Group cash, at the end of the quarter totaled $8.7m (prior quarter $25.7m).  

 Total financing facilities available and drawn at the end of the quarter totaled US$20.0m and $39.4m (no change from prior quarter).  

The following director had acquired shares on market during the quarter;


Shares Acquired

Mr. Peter Westerhuis


Board, Personnel and Office Changes During the quarter, the following appointments and changes took place:

·         The Hon Peter Lindsay resigned as Chairman, and Non-Executive Director to assume a new role leading the Guildford Queensland Development Committee focusing on our North Queensland activities.  

·         Non-Executive Director The Hon Alan Griffiths was appointed as acting-Non-Executive Chairman.  

·         Mr Mike Chester resigned from his position of Non-Executive Director and was replaced by Mr Gary Humphrys.

Post quarter end, the following additional appointments took place:

·         Mr Peter Kane has been appointed to the Board and as interim Chief Executive Officer replacing Mr Peter Westerhuis.

·         Mr Mark Reynolds was appointed acting CFO replacing Mr Michael Wotherspoon.

Link to report


Cash at end of Q A$22.15 million. FEO last traded at 2.5c

FeOre: Quarterly Report

October 30, FeOre Limited (ASX:FEO) --

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


NRU closed flat at 0.7c. cash at end of Q A$66K


October 31 -- Newera Resources Limited (ASX: NRU) is pleased to provide the following report on its activities for the September quarter 2013:  

HIGHLIGHTS – Mongolia  

Ulaan Tolgoi Project:  

·         In early July 2013 Newera announced it had entered into a formal Joint Venture Agreement ("JVA") covering a single large exploration licence (12323X) in the South Gobi region of Mongolia. The project was designated the Ulaan Tolgoi Project.  

·         Subsequent to announcing the signing of the JVA, Newera entered into a contract with Logantek, a reputable seismic survey operator to complete 15 line kilometres of seismic data collection within the Ulaan Tolgoi licence.  

·         The intent was to use seismics in an attempt to locate potential coal bed markers under cover, within the Ulaan Tolgoi joint venture area and if successful, establish appropriate drill hole collar locations for future drilling.  

·         Subsequent to the end of the quarter, Newera announced that it had received a preliminary image of the modelled data of line B of the seismic survey which indicated that strong flat lying markers existed between 100 and 150m depth under line B. These markers will require drill testing to determine if they are indeed reflectors of coal seams or not.  

Shanagan Project:  

·         In early July Newera completed a declined bulk sample access shaft at the Shanagan East Project ("Shanagan Project") in Mongolia. The shaft was constructed to extract approximately three tonnes of coal bulk sample material which was used to undertake definitive coal quality and washability testing, under the supervision of international coal preparation specialists, Sedgman LLC.  

·         During the period Newera received the results of coal washability tests conducted on a bulk sample of coal taken from the Shanagan Project.

·         ALS Group LLC Laboratories in Mongolia had successfully concluded the detailed washability tests under a coal quality and test work plan supplied and overseen by Sedgman.  

·         Sedgman is a leading provider of mineral processing and associated infrastructure solutions to the global resources industry. Specialising in the design, construction and operation of coal handling and preparation plants, Sedgman is recognised internationally for its mineral processing and materials handling technologies.  

·         In the previous period Newera completed a third phase drilling program at the Shanagan Projectcomprising of six holes for 593 metres.  

·         Down hole coal intercept results from the phase three drilling program showed numerous thick, near surface coal intercepts in a new section, in the northern part of the licence area where the drilling was carried out. These new coal intercepts sit partly outside the current Exploration Target area and provide significant upside potential in coal tonnage for Newera.  

·         During the period, Newera received the analytical results for the coal samples taken from the phase three drilling program completed in the previous period.


HIGHLIGHTS – Australia

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


Cash at end of Q A$1.984 million. EUM last closed at 15c

Eumeralla Resources: Quarterly Activities Report

October 31, Eumeralla Resources Limited (ASX:EUM) --


·         The company has an application pending with the Myanmar Ministry of Mines for 400km2 Tin and Tungsten concession in Kayah State, Myanmar.

·         The Department of Geographic Survey and Exploration (DGSE) has informed our local partner MERG that the application is progressing on schedule.

·         Chuluun Khoroot Tungsten project licence has been extended an additional three years and geophysical survey results are pending.

·         The company continues the recruitment process for qualified and experienced personnel.


Chuluun Khoroot Tungsten Project

Eumeralla engaged a Mongolian contractor to conduct geophysical surveys in the Northern area of the Mongolian tenement. This work commenced last quarter and results are expected this quarter. The survey has completed the work program required by the Mongolian government. Eumeralla successfully extended this licence for an additional three years.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


SEO closed -12.24% to 4.3c. total cash at end of Q A$542K.


October 31, Sentosa Mining Limited (ASX:SEO) --


·         Sentosa Completes Option to Acquire Darvii Naruu Porphyry Copper Gold and Polymetalic Project in Western Mongolia.  

·         Sentosa Completes AUD $1.14min Over Subscribed Capital Raising.  

·         Drilling Commences at Darvii Naruu Project Mongolia.  

·         Ongoing Evaluation of Potential New Projects.

Link to report


SouthGobi Resources to Announce Third Quarter 2013 Financial Results on November 11, 2013

Conference call to discuss results

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - Oct. 30, 2013) - The board of directors of SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HKSE:1878) (the "Company") will meet on Monday, November 11, 2013 to consider and approve the third quarter 2013 financial results of the Company and its subsidiaries. These financial results will be released before TSX market open.

The Company will host a conference call and audio webcast to discuss third quarter 2013 financial results and provide an update on the Company's operations. Date and time of the call for various regions will be as follows:

·         Monday, November 11, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. EST / 3:00 p.m. PST

·         Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 7:00 a.m. Hong Kong Time

Link to release


Centerra Gold Reports Third Quarter Results

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 30, 2013) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX:CG) today reported a net loss for the third quarter of 2013 of $1.8 million, or $0.01 per share (basic and diluted), compared to a net loss of $33.7 million, or $0.14 per share (basic and diluted) in the comparative quarter of 2012. The year-over year change reflects higher gold sales due to higher gold production at both of the Company's operations, partially offset by the lower average realized gold price1 in the third quarter of 2013. The 2012 third quarter results were affected by the seven week mill shutdown at Kumtor and a $11.4 million charge for abnormal mining costs associated with the unplanned removal of ice and waste from the high movement area at Kumtor.

2013 Third Quarter Highlights

·         Entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic regarding a potential restructuring transaction under which Kyrgyzaltyn JSC would exchange its 32.7% equity interest in Centerra and $100 million payable to Centerra by way of adjustments to future joint venture distributions otherwise due to Kyrgyzaltyn for a 50% interest in a joint venture company that would own the Kumtor Project. On October 23, 2013 the Kyrgyz Parliament passed a decree with respect to the memorandum of understanding, in which Parliament rejected the memorandum of understanding and instructed the Government to (among other things) continue negotiations with Centerra with a view to improving the Kyrgyz Republic's position and increasing its interest in the joint venture project to no less than 67%.

·         Successfully rotated the ball mill ring gear at Kumtor during the scheduled shutdown in August 2013 after identifying a number of cracks in the ring gear teeth during an inspection in June 2013. The mill is currently operating at full capacity.

·         Produced 113,840 ounces of gold in the quarter, including 90,289 ounces at Kumtor and 23,551 ounces at Boroo, compared to 42,723 ounces (23,786 ounces and 18,938 ounces at Kumtor and Boroo, respectively) in the same period in 2012.

·         Increased revenue to $155 million in the quarter from $68.8 million in the same quarter of 2012.

·         Used $8.5 million cash in operations during the third quarter, but for the nine months ending September 30, 2013 cash provided by operations totaled $124.4 million.

·         Increased annual consolidated gold production guidance to 635,000 to 685,000 ounces, which reflects increased forecasted production at Boroo.

Link to report


Centerra Gold Announces Quarterly Dividend of Cdn$0.04 Per Share

TORONTO, CANADA--(Marketwired - Oct. 30, 2013) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX:CG) announced today its Board of Directors has authorized a dividend of Cdn$0.04 per common share (approximately US$9.0 million at the current exchange rate). The dividend of Cdn$0.04 per common share is payable on November 25, 2013 to shareholders of record on November 15, 2013. The ex-dividend date will be November 13, 2013.

The dividend is an eligible dividend for Canadian income tax purposes.

In accordance with Centerra's dividend policy, the timing and quantum of dividends are to be determined by the Board of Directors from time to time based on, among other things, the Company's operating results, cash flow and financial conditions, Centerra's current and anticipated capital requirements, and general business conditions. While Centerra currently intends to pay quarterly dividends to its shareholders, there can be no assurances in this regard.

Link to release

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Local Market

NatSec MSE Trading News, 30 October: Top 20 +2.49%, Turnover 31.2 Million

October 30 (National Securities) On the bourse, TOP-20 index rose 2.49% to 14,542.26 points. 8,964 shares in 18 JSC's were traded with a value of 31.2 million MNT. Out of 18 companies, 7 were up, 6 were down and 5 were static.

Today's biggest gainer were Monnoos (MNS) and coking coal miner, Tavantolgoi (TTL). They soared 14.80% and 11.46 % separately. On the decliners side, Hasu Mandal (HSR) was the top loser, dropping -12.65% to 1,782 MNT. Darkhan food (DHU)  was the 2ndbiggest loser and declined -12.63% to 3,451 MNT. Beverage factory, APU (APU) was the volume leader.  It's 5,972 number shares traded with a worth of 23.3 million MNT. It's market capitalization was 289.7 billion MNT and price was closed at 3,900 MNT, rising 2.63%.

Please click here to see the detailed news

Link to report



October 30 (BDSec) MSE Top 20 index advanced 2.49% to 14,542.26 points, its highest close in three months. APU (+2.63%) and Tavantolgoi (11.46%), the largest companies in terms of market capitalization, helped the index to post its biggest gain since June 18, 2013. Tavantolgoi (TTL) jumped 11.46% to close at MNT 3,900 after news that along with state owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and Mongolian Mining Corporation, TTL has signed memorandum of understanding with China's Shenhua Group, to supply 1 billion tonnes of coal in the next 20 years. 

Trading value was at MNT 31.2 million.

Top Movers 

Trading Value Leaders

Close (MNT)

Value (MNT)




Tavantolgoi (TTL)



Talkh Chikher






Top Gainers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Tavantolgoi (TTL)



Telecom Mongolia (MCH)



Makh Impex






Top Losers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Olloo (OLL)



Baganuur (BAN)



Sharyn Gol (SHG)



Link to report


NatSec MSE Trading News, 31 October: Top 20 +5.27%, Turnover 27.5 Million

October 31 (National Securities) Today, MSE TOP-20 index went up 5.27% to 15,308. Total traded share was 12,440 and total trading value was 27.5 million MNT. Out of 22 companies, 9 were up, 9 were down and 4 were un-changed.

On the  gainers side, Eurofeo Asia (SOI), which supplies fire extinguisher, soared 14.98% to 2,380 MNT.  Coking coal miner, Tavantolgoi (TTL) was listed the 2nd place, rising 8.97%. Beverage factory, APU (APU) was the 3rd biggest gainer and volume leader again.  It's 4,010 number shares traded with a value of 16.8 million MNT. It's price was closed at 4,207 MNT, rising 7.87%. Mongol shevro (MVO) and Khishig Uul (HSX) were the main losers, dropping -12.56% and -14.29% separately.

Please click here to see the detailed news

Link to report

Back to top


RESULT OF GOVERNMENT SECURITIES AUCTION: 52-Week 30 Billion Bills at 8.95%1.

October 30 (Bank of Mongolia) Regular auction for 52 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 30 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 30 billion /out of 45.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold to the banks at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 8.95%.

Link to release


Total outstanding bills drop 147.7 billion to 1.43 trillion

BoM issues 557.9 1-week bills

October 30 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 557.9 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release


BoM holds FX auction: CNY 106 million, USD 81 million swap agreements

October 31 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on October 31st, 2013 the BOM has received bid offer of USD and CNY from local commercial banks. BOM has sold 106.0 million CNY to the local commercial banks.

On October 31st, 2013, The BOM has received bid offer of USD for Swap agreement from local commercial banks and sold 81.0 million USD.

Link to release


Mortgage Program Update: ₮464.4 Billion Refinanced, ₮594.6 Billion Newly Issued at 8%

October 31 (Cover Mongolia) As of October 31, 466.4 billion (₮461.5 billion as of October 17) existing mortgages of 16,564 citizens (16,421 as of October 17) were refinanced at 8% out of 796.4 billion (795.6 as of October 17) worth requests.

Also, 594.6 billion (₮553 billion as of October 17) new mortgages of 10,256 citizens (9,598 citizens as of October 17) were issued at new rates out of 674.4 billion (₮636.9 billion as of October 17) worth requests.

Link to release (in Mongolian)


M.A.D.: Mongolia Economic Update - November 2013

October 31 (M.A.D. Investment Solutions) Mongolia's economy is currently in a critical phase of its development and the next few months will dictate Mongolia's future growth and its position in the international investment community.

With much information and misconceptions of all kind circulating wildly on the internet, we wished to bring to our clients and stakeholders our own vision, as we experience it, from the ground up, interacting on a daily basis with Mongolia's decision makers. We are by no means economists nor do we posses perfect information but this document represents our current understanding of the situation and our views of what could be done to facilitate the path forward.

I - Background on Mongolia's Economic Situation

On October 6th, 2009, after years of arduous negotiation, the Canadian public company Ivanhoe Mines and the Government of Mongolia (GoM) signed a long awaited investment agreement laying the groundwork for a US$ 4B investment into a copper and gold mine in the Gobi Desert. This was the Oyu Tolgoi mine, and it signified the beginning of Mongolia's precipitous thrust into the arena of foreign investment and economic development.

Subsequently, in 2011, Mongolia saw extraordinary economic growth. GDP grew 17.5% on the back of a 179% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI), and headlines such as "Booming Mongolia: Mine, all Mine" (The Economist, 21/01/12) and "Mining Fuels Mongolia's Wolf Economy" (CNN, 20/05/11) began appearing in world press.,

However, in the second half of 2012 Mongolia's course was altered. GDP growth dropped to 12.3% against estimates of around 15%, the fiscal deficit came in at 8.4% of GDP, inflation was in the double digits, and foreign direct investment dropped 17% from 2011. This downturn has continued well into 2013. FDI levels have dropped 43% in the first half of the year, GDP expectations continue to be revised down (the World Bank recently announced it was cutting its GDP growth projections to 12% compared to it's original forecast of 16.2% and the IMF recently cut their prediction to 11.8% from its previous growth forecast of 14% in April 2013), and the MNT has seen a tumultuous slide reaching 1,722 MNT/USD in September – a depreciation of 25% from its beginning of year rate and it's lowest level in at least 10 years. This is particularly worrying for a currency that has been relatively stable in the not so distant past and for a country that is so reliant on the USD for investment projects.

While a downturn is clearly evident in the numbers, there is a richer story to be found in the qualitative indicators. Talk to any Mongolian business owner and you'll hear that there are considerably fewer customers coming into their stores or requesting their services. High-end shopping malls built on the 2011 consumer hype are deserted and empty on the weekends. There is a discernible drop in the number of expatriates inhabiting the city centre cafes and pubs. And importantly, a bleak and pessimistic sentiment permeates the Ulaanbaatar community, no small fact for a country with such enormous untapped potential. 

II - Reasons Behind The Economic Slowdown

Throughout Mongolia's transition into a democratic free market economy, there have been a multitude of internal and external factors that have frightened foreign investors and contributed to the country's various economic slowdowns. For example, in 2006 a 68% windfall profit tax was passed in Mongolia in order to incentivise copper and gold mining companies to smelt their copper within the country rather than ship the concentrate abroad. The tax would not have applied if the copper was smelted in country. Yet, no smelter existed in Mongolia and the current mines were too small to justify making the capital investment to build one. Therefore, it essentially halted all small-mid cap copper and gold mining FDI as the tax made exporting minerals unprofitable. The windfall tax was eventually repealed in 2009, but the effect it had on the economy was real and the memory by foreign investors indelible.

Then, in 2009 the Law on the Prohibition of Minerals Exploration in Water Basins and Forested Areas (also known as the Law with the Long Name) was passed allowing the government to cancel over 200 preexisting mining and exploration licenses with no grandfather exceptions. While the attempt at environmental preservation was praiseworthy, many investors lost millions of dollars worth of investment spent obtaining and operating under those licenses. Potential investors became frightened to commit capital as the fear of government intervention into legally obtained business rights became a reality.

Lastly, in late 2012 the Draft Minerals Law was proposed which would have given the state pre-emptive rights to any mining or exploration licenses transferred from one entity to another. Again, this led to what the Financial Times called an "apoplectic response" from foreign investors, even prompting the Business Council of Mongolia to claim that the draft law "threatens to shut down the entire minerals industry of Mongolia".

While these actions were certainly significant, there were two important factors that were the proverbially straw that broke the camel's back. These were the 2012 Strategic Entities Foreign Investment Law (SEFIL) and the ongoing dispute between Rio Tinto and the GoM.

SEFIL was passed by parliament in May 2012 as a knee-jerk reaction to the proposed sale of Ivanhoe Mines' 58% stake in coal miner SouthGobi Resources to the Aluminium Corporate of China (Chalco), China's largest state-owned aluminium producer. It stipulated that all investments over $75M, or those involving state-owned companies, into strategic sectors such as mining, finance, media and telecommunications, were subject to scrutiny by a government panel if the stake put the investor at over 49% ownership. The fact that the bid was announced right before parliamentary elections resulted in a hastily and poorly written law as lawmakers wanted to prove to the public that they were strong leaders worthy of re-election. As such, important clarifications were overlooked, and investors became confused by what certain aspects of the law actually meant. While SEFIL was successful in stopping Chalco's takeover, the collateral damage it caused was calamitous. It created collective paranoia among investors and acted to substantiate the perception that the Mongolian Government was hostile towards, or at the very least extremely unstable to foreign investors.

The other major factor behind the drop in FDI and slowdown in economic growth has been the dispute between the GoM and Rio Tinto (who in 2012 acquired Ivanhoe Mines and changed the name to Turquoise Hill Resources) over the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement. Since 2012 there have been calls by Government officials to renegotiate the ownership structure (as it stands Rio Tinto controls 66% equity and the GoM 34% equity), to adjust the profit sharing arrangement, and to hold Rio Tinto accountable for cost overruns stated to be above the original agreement. These substantial disagreements have led to significant delays for the Oyu Tolgoi project, causing Rio Tinto to put on hold all work on the mine's second phase underground expansion. The delay of the more than $5 billion expansion came with the layoff of 1,700 Oyu Tolgoi mine workers as well as layoffs at mining suppliers such as Redpath and Wagner Asia.

The unfortunate result of this suspension has been the collapse of the micro economy created by Rio Tinto's investment. Not only has Mongolia lost 1,700 potential consumers, as well as their families, who could have generated disposable income and injected much needed cash into Mongolia's fledgling consumer and service markets, but it has also pushed back the tremendous spillover demand that phase two would have created for mining services and suppliers not to mention the additional $5Billion investment. The multiplier effect has been apparent as the delay has impacted every sector touched by OT. For an economy with a GDP of just over $10 billion, this impact is substantial.While the announcement on October 1, 2013 that the Mongolian government and Rio Tinto had resolved half of the OT issues during recent talks in London was a positive step, the ongoing dispute has been, and until resolved will continue to remain, a severe setback for Mongolia's economy. 

III - Digging Deeper Behind Mongolia's GDP Growth

While Mongolia's recent political instability and the accompanying economic figures might seem bleak on the surface, a little digging helps to reveal a different story. Below the bad press remains a story of strong underlying fundamentals driven by a unique and fascinating story of economic, political and social transition. In order to understand this, let's take a look at that all important and deeply telling figure by which economists and investors alike love to measure a country's economic success: Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It's easy enough to look on any of the international development agencies' websites and see that Mongolia's GDP is far below expectations. But is the concept of GDP really all that telling when analysing Mongolia's economy? In 2012 Mongolia's GDP was around $10.3 billion. To put this in perspective, we can compare this figure to similar metrics used to determine the value of a company's annual production. Stacked up against the world's largest public companies, this $10.3 billion would place Mongolia out of the top 40 companies in terms of profits, out of the top 900 in terms of sales, and out of the top 950 in terms of market capitalisation. This means that every micro level political decision has a significant effect on Mongolia's macroeconomic numbers. GDP in itself is a relevant indicator of economic health for larger economies where fluctuations signify numerous factors moving in tandem, but for a country the size of Mongolia it is not sufficient to aggregate these factors into a supposedly comprehensive figure.

This is why to truly understand the growth dynamics behind Mongolia's economy it is necessary to break GDP down into its components and analyse them individually. As a reminder, according to the expenditure method: GDP = Investment + Government Spending + Consumption + Net Exports (Exports – Imports).

Link to report


About statistics of banking sector

Ulaanbaatar, October 31 /MONTSAME/ As of today, 13 commercial banks are working around the country with their 1,404 branches and 14 thousand 217 employees.

By August of this year, the number of current account holders reached 7.9 million, increasing 0.7 million against the previous year.

In addition, the number of depositors reached 2.4 million, of loan borrowers--684.5 thousand. The size of banks assets reached 16.4 trillion MNT, going up 6.4 trillion or 64.2% against the previous year.

Moreover, the total source of banks reached 14.9 trillion MNT, increasing 6.2 trillion or 70%. It equals to 80% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

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M.Enkbold Elected as New Leader of MPP

Ulaanbaatar, October 30 /MONTSAME/ A Deputy Speaker of the State Great Khural (parliament) M.Enkhbold Tuesday was elected the chairman of the Mongolian People's Party

This happened at the 27th Congress of the MPP. Ending Tuesday's meeting, the gathered went to the polls to elect the 29th chairman of the Party. Mr Enkhbold received a majority support to be elected such.

He outvoted another candidate--member of Reform committee T.Ayursaikhan--with overwhelming 988 votes to 83 at the polls.

The Party Congress Wednesday will elect members to the Party Conference and The General Control Committee according to the party new rules, before conducting a ballot to elect new Party Secretary-General as recommended by the new leader.  

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The look of 2014 budget

October 30 (UB Post) When parliament discusses the budget, the arrangements and construction funded by the budget attract public attention. The Government of Mongolia has developed a project to boost construction with 1.1 trillion MNT from the state budget.

The government has submitted the 2014 draft budget to parliament, with an expenditure of 7.2 trillion MNT and an income of 6.8 trillion MNT. The loss is 410 billion MNT. The expenditure of the state budget is equivalent to 35.5 percent of the country's GDP. As much as the economy grows, the contribution of the state budget to GDP decreases.

The laws on budget consistency (Mogi: fiscal stability law) and the Human Resource Fund (Mogi: human development fund) should be ratified, in compliance with the budget. The draft budget completely complies with the law on the Human Resource Fund, as well as meeting the law on budget consistency, which states that budget defecit should not exceed two percent of GDP. However, the condition has risen, which breaks the provisions of the law on budget consistency, which states that the foreign debt of the government shouldn't exceed 40 percent of GDP in 2014. The Government of Mongolia issued the Chinggis Bond, loaning 1.5 billion USD from the foreign market, which brought the country's foreign debt to 60 percent of GDP. Accordingly, the government has developed draft amendments which will change the foreign debt provisions of the law on budget consistency from 40 to 60 percent. The members of the opposition party in parliament have expressed their opposition to the changes.

The government will spend 1.1 trillion MNT of its expenditure of 7.2 trillion MNT on construction for state service organizations and on the supply of equipment and facilities. In 2012, the government made an investment of 1.5 trillion MNT, while in 2013 an investment of 1.4 trillion MNT was made. It looks as if the government has short-handed the 2014 budget investment compared to previous years, but there is no doubt that construction and investment in 2014 will be more than previous years altogether with the state budget investment and the investment of the Chinggis Bond. The investment of the government has been divided into two different lines since the Chinggis Bond was presented in the international market. The right to spend the Chinggis Bond was granted to Minister of Economic Development N.Batbayar.

The other line of Chinggis Bond investment is overseen by the Development Bank of Mongolia. The government has announced that it will pursue policy focused on infrastructure and industrial projects.
The Economic Development Minister has settled negotiations to sell off the Japanese yen-dominated Samurai Bond in Japan's capital market.

The government used to finance all infrastructure and industrial construction projects with investments from the state budget before the Chinggis Bond. It used to issue more money to infrastructure projects such as the building of roads, than it did to social construction projects such as schools and kindergartens. The draft budget shows that state budget investment is now only being spent on social construction and development.

Most of the investment is to be spent on the construction of facilities in urgent demand, including schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and energy supply network buildings.

According to the 2014 draft budget, the Minister of Education and Science, L.Gantumur, will undertake the largest construction project of 197.7 billion MNT, building 155 schools, dormitories and kindergarten buildings. Some 158 billion MNT will be issued to the energy sector in 2014, 109.9 billion MNT to the health sector, 99.5 billion MNT to the road and transportation sector and an investment of 85.1 billion MNT will be spent on the culture, sports and tourism sectors, in accordance with the draft budget. The smallest investment will be made in the mining sector, which will total 4.01 billion MNT. The investment issued to the mining sector will be spent on building the exterior infrastructure of an oil processing factory and constructing a loading terminal for liquid fuel in Zamyn-Uud. Half of the state budget investment will finance the education, health, culture, sports and demography sectors. The 2014 draft state budget submitted to parliament shows that it focuses on social construction and creation.

In 2012, the investment in kindergartens was halted because the layouts of the kindergartens were not complete. Taxpayers hope that the layouts of the kindergartens are complete now, as two whole years have passed. Even though the construction projects have become more clear, it is doubtful whether we have enough financing, as the state income of Mongolia is directly dependent on the price of copper and coal in the world market.

The planning of the budget income is estimated on the basis of the stable pricing of these raw materials. In developing the 2014 draft state budget, the Finance Ministry speculated that a ton of copper will be 6,242 USD, a ton of processed coal 115.2 USD and coking coal will reach 81.6 USD in 2014. If the price of copper and coal will be less in the world market than the government's speculations, budget financing will decrease and some projects will be postponed until 2015.

The Finance Ministry speculated that a ton of copper would cost 6,328 USD, processed coal 131.1 USD, and a ton of coking coal would be 80.5 USD in 2013. However, the coal price has dropped twice, making a shortage of one trillion MNT in the state budget income. Accordingly, parliament is discussing the postponement of some investments and projects.

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Mongolia Sees Trade Boost by Using North Korean Ports

October 31 (Bloomberg) Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said his land-locked country sees North Korea as its "nearest sea outlet" for global exports and could bring in North Korean workers to deal with labor shortages.

"We do see ample opportunities of cooperation in railways, air and auto-transport and sea-ports," Elbegdorj told a group of Mongolian and North Korean businessmen in Pyongyang on Tuesday, according to the text of the speech posted on his website. "Mongolia is interested in importing highly qualified and organized workforce."

Elbegdorj has met with senior North Korean officials, including Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju since he arrived in Pyongyang on Oct. 28 to become the first head of state to visit since Kim Jong Un became supreme leader in December 2011.

Mongolia, one of Asia's fastest growing economies, adopted democracy and free elections in 1990, and moved to welcome foreign trade by offering access to its mineral riches. North Korea has been reaching out to friendly nations such as Mongolia and Indonesia as international sanctions over its nuclear arms program have limited trade and hobbled the economy. Both countries have relied heavily on their neighbor China for exports.

Tourism in North

Mongolians could travel to the North for "leisure and vacation" and help boost its tourism, Elbegdorj said. Mongolia, a nation of 2.9 million people facing land desertification, could also use North Koreans' experience in farming, agriculture, and planting trees, he said.

In September last year, after meeting with Kim Yong Nam, visiting chief of North Korea's parliament, Elbegdorj pledged to help the new North Korean leader pursue economic reform, offering his nation's experience of moving toward capitalism.

In June, HBOil JSC, an oil trading and refining company in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia said it acquired a 20 percent stake in the Sungri refinery in the North's northeastern free trade zone of Rason. Sungri has a refining capacity of 2 million tons a year and is connected to the Russian railway systems, HBOil said in a release.

North Korea and Mongolia first set up diplomatic relations in 1948, the year the North was founded. The relationship between the two countries dates back to 1939 when North Korean founder Kim Il Sung joined Mongolian-Soviet forces in fighting the Japanese, Song Byeong Gu, a professor of Mongolian studies at Dankook University outside Seoul, wrote in a paper in April.

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Sinopec signs deal to build coal gasification plant in Mongolia

October 30 (UB Post) Sinopec Limited, also known as the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Mining to build a brown coal gasification plant in Mongolia. Once the plant launches operations, Mongolia will not only be able to produce enough gas fuel to meet domestic demands, but also to export it.

The plant will have the capacity to produce 15 billion metric tons of gas fuel per year according to preliminary estimates. In order to produce the target amount of gas fuel, approximately 50 million tons of brown coal will be required, at the estimated cost of one billion USD.

Although Mongolia has abundant reserves of raw brown coal, its potential for export is limited due to its low calorific content. The gasification plant will produce environmentally friendly gas fuel, that doesn't produce waste, using common brown coal which contributes very little to Mongolia's export.

If Mongolia starts exporting gas fuel, it will help reduce the country's foreign trade deficit and contribute to the state budget.

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New Jersey Devils ink sponsorship deal with Golia Vodka

October 29 (NJBIZ) The New Jersey Devils have announced a multiyear sponsorship deal with Golia Vodka, one that includes naming rights for one of the Prudential Center's premium lounges and branding throughout the Newark arena.

The vodka, which is imported from Mongolia and was recently launched in the Northeast, already has its logo in more than 100 electronic displays around the venue, the team said today in announcing the deal. The Prudential Center also unveiled the newly branded Golia Ice Lounge for the Devils' home opener early this month.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The marketing partnership is projected to expose Golia to more than 2 million people annually during Devils home games and other events at the 6-year-old arena, which seats more than 17,000. That's not to mention the thousands who will visit the Rock next January for the Super Bowl XLVIII media day.

The deal is also one of the first new sponsorships to be announced since August, when a group led by Josh Harris and David Blitzer purchased the team and the arena. The move brought a new executive team that has made it a top priority to grow the sponsorship and marketing business for the two entities.

Golia recently became available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, according to a news release. Under the marketing deal, the brand will also receive radio commercials during every Devils game broadcast, special placement on the arena menus and ads on the Devils and Prudential Center website.

The Golia brand is owned by ReStore Asia Ltd. The company's chairman is David Solomon, who helped develop the Redbox DVD vending machine and reportedly owns a 20-store Toys R Us franchise.

The Ice Lounge was previously branded under a deal with Belvedere Vodka.

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International Pass Flights over Territory of Mongolia Increased by 8.3%

October 30 / The Department of Air Navigation Service of the Civil Aviation Authority of Mongolia accredited 63,387 international and domestic flights of 43 air carriers to conduct over the territory of Mongolia between October 30, 2013 and March 30, 2014.

Of which, 55,559 are planned as regular international pass flights and 7,828 flights are preserved as a stand-by way.

According to 2013-2014 winter schedules, the regular international pass flights are increased by 8.3% or 5,265 compare to last year's estimation.

In the list of requested air companies, "Fedex Express Corp", "Czech Airlines", "Israel Airlines", and "Philippine Airlines" were added with its 946 pass flights.

The regular international landing and taking-off flights are estimated at 2,246 by MIAT, Aeroflot, Air China, Korean Air, Hunnu Air, Aero Mongolia, and Turkish Airlines at the Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Ulaanbaatar in the period of October 30, 2013 and March 30, 2014.

As of domestic regular flights, Aero Mongolia, Eznis Airways, Hunnu Air, and Tengeriin Ulaach - New are registered to conduct 2,804 flights in the above mentioned period.

The latter company will carry out Ulaanbaatar – Tosontsengel – Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar – Baruun-Urt – Ulaanbaatar flights between October 28, 2013 and January 15, 2014.

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Mongolian Mining Summit in Australia

Ulaanbaatar, October 31 /MONSTAME/ Some twenty representatives of Mongolia are attending the Mongolian Mining Summit 2013 (MMS) that is running October 29-31 in Burswood, Australia.

MMS is an Australian event to foster a participation in some of the world's biggest undeveloped mineral reserves.

The Mongolian delegation is led by a Chairman of the Board of Directors of Oyu Tolgoi LLC G.Batsukh, a Director Department of Strategic Policy and Planning of Mining Ministry Ch.Otgochuluu, and Executive Director and CEO of Mongolian Mining Corporation G.Battsengel. They are to speak on the topics such as "History of Mining Policies in Mongolia" (G.Batsukh), "Mongolia's Minerals Future and Development" (Ch.Otgochuluu), and "Challenges around Entering One of the World's Fastest Growing Markets" (G.Battsengel).

The MMS includes insights from 14 Mongolia-based mining insiders giving real insights into how to improve government relationships, partner with local companies, and understand the investment opportunities and challenges, with some project showcases of UkhaaKhudag (UHG) Coking Coal Mine, OyuTolgoi, Ovoot Coking Coal Project TsagaanUvuljuu Project and South Gobi.

During the summit, interactive workshop sessions will also be organized, with aim to give depth insights into how to assess and advance early tenement exploration in Mongolia and to attract infrastructure investment in a challenging market.

MMS 2013 will cover a range of topics and issues, including "Investment opportunities and partnerships", "Mongolian government role in promoting and encouraging the mining industry", "Strategic alliances between Australian and Mongolian entities", "Mongolia's role in the global mining economy", "Overcoming environmental management challenges", "Working with the government to further project approvals", "Managing occupational safety and health in mining projects", and "Vocational training programs and addressing the skills shortage". 

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Central Bank Withdraws Its Price Stability Loan from Just Oil

Ulaanbaatar, October 31 /MONTSAME/ Mongolbank has withdrawn a loan of 18.7 billion MNT earlier issued to the petroleum importer "Just Oil" Co.

About it said the Petroleum Authority chairman G.Ulziiburen on Wednesday.

Mongolbank recently revealed that Just Oil misused 12 billion MNT while the 18.7 billion loan was given under the Government's medium-term program to stabilize consumer goods prices. 

Under this program, launched last year, the Government for Reforms lent a total of 192 billion MNT loan with annual interest rate of 3.8-4% to thirteen oil importing companies. The NIC Co received the largest amount of 57.4 billion.

This year, fuel stock of the country has increased two-and-half times from 33 thousand 551 ton of October 2012.  

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TDBM to Cooperate with Microsoft

October 31 / The Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia (TDBM, TDB) in collaboration with local IT "Soft Line" company have established an Agreement of Cooperation with "Microsoft" Corporation in Ulaanbaatar on October 31, 2013.

Under the Agreement, the TDB software's quality and security will be entirely improved and guaranteed on the international level.

In the scope of the cooperation, TDB enables to receive and access up to date authorized software solutions and the bank IT engineers to be trained and practiced at the "Microsoft" Office, moreover the other part will provide a regular consultative service.

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Harman's JBL and Crown Provide Sound for National Network of Cinemas Project in Mongolia

October 31 (Harman Blog) Most audio/video projects involve a single location and anything from a conference room to a domed stadium. That's a major endeavor by anyone's standards – but a project that involves equipping an entire country with a network of cinemas? That's exactly what the Mongolia Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism (MCST) is currently undertaking in conjunction with systems integrator Cinema of Sound LLC and Kinoton Korea, Inc.

In their effort to provide professional high-quality cinemas to Mongolian citizens, Cinema of Sound and Kinoton are building Standard Cinema Point theaters in Mongolia's aimags (first-level administrative subdivisions), villages and city districts. Twenty installations have been completed to date, spanning across the country's nearly 604,000 square miles. Audio for all the installations is provided by HARMAN's JBL JRX125 dual-15-inch loudspeakers and Crown DSi 2000 amplifiers, which are designed specifically for cinema applications.

"Mongolia is a country that has vast areas of scattered settlements and sparse population, so sparse that our country's most remote citizens watch movies only on television, as there are no theaters," said Jigjidsuren Khurelbaatar, CEO of Cinema of Sound LLC. "Thanks to our Standard Cinema Point project, which is part of the MCST's efforts to bring a richer cultural environment to Mongolians, people throughout Mongolia will be able to enjoy a true cinema experience with high-quality sound and projection."

Cinema of Sound LLC standardized on the JBL JRX125 loudspeakers and Crown DSi 2000 amplifiers for the Standard Cinema Point installations to achieve consistent sound, performance and reliability in every venue. "By standardizing the equipment we're using, we know we can depend on a high level of audio quality and dependable day-to-day operation no matter where the theaters are located," Chris Bae, Managing Director of Kinoton Korea, Inc.

The JRX125 incorporates features including dual 15-inch woofers with large 2.5-inch (64mm) edgewound ribbon voice coils, titanium-diaphragm compression high-frequency drivers and high-voltage crossover components to ensure exceptional performance under the most demanding conditions of day-to-day use. Crown's DSi Series amplifiers are specifically designed to meet the needs of cinema applications and feature onboard digital signal processing including crossovers, EQ filters, delay and output limiting to deliver exceptional sound quality.

Cinema of Sound and Kinoton Korea are contracted to build 50 more Standard Cinema Point theaters in the remainder of 2013, bringing the total of theaters in Mongolia to 70. Theaters are currently installed in capital city Ulaanbaatar and in locations throughout the country.

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British Home Stores Launches in Ulaanbaatar

October 31 / The British Home Stores or simply referred as BHS has opened its doors in Ulaanbaatar's MaxMall Shopping Center on October 28, 2013.

The BHS department store chain in Ulaanbaatar that primarily selling clothing and household is becoming the second location in Asia and 15th overseas.

At the launching ceremony, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Mongolia Christopher Stuart, BHS Manager Responsible for International Activities Rebecca Hays, BHS Manager Responsible for Regional Management Caroline White, Director-General of Max Group D.Tserenjigmed and other officials.

"We are truly happy to open a store here and hope Mongolian customers would satisfy with our quality and products", says BHS Manager Rebecca Hays.

The BHS Mongolia is franchised by Max Line LLC of Max Group.

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National public holiday on Monday, November 4 for Chinggis Khan's Birthday

October 30 (UB Post) The anniversary of the birth of Chinggis Khan will be celebrated on November 4, as a public holiday. Last year the anniversary was celebrated on November 14. Because the holiday is held on the first day of the first winter month according to the lunar calendar, the annual celebration of his controversial birthday changes every year.

To celebrate the holiday an award ceremony for the Chinggis Khaan Order will be held, an award honoring the most outstanding national figures who have contributed greatly to the development of Mongolia. The President of Mongolia will present the honoree with a medal. The recipient was selected earlier this year.

This year's recipient is the 14th Prime Minister of Mongolia, Dumaa Sodnom, a prominent economist, financier, former Minister of Finance, and Chairman of the Ministerial Council. He is also celebrating his 80th birthday this year.

The Chinggis Khaan Order award ceremony will take place at the Government House from 11:40 to 1:40 p.m. and will be broadcast live on local TV channels. Also considered National Pride Day, a traditional wrestling tournament featuring 128 competitors will be also organized.

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Thirty Percent of Construction Completed at Amgalan Thermal Station

Ulaanbaatar, October 31 /MONTSAME/ China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) has so far completed thirty percent of the construction of the Amgalan Thermal Power plant.

CMEC will receive its financing from the Mongolian Government once completed the construction of the power plant equipped with the latest, environment-friendly, highly efficient technologies.

The Plant is being erected on 10.8 hectares, renovating the US-15 state-owned heating furnace at the city's Bayanzurkh district. The plant will have a capacity to supply heating to some fifty thousand households in the east side of Ulaanbaatar.

Prior to the construction, the capital city authorities relocated the households and business entities around the US-15, thus relieving the land for the construction site. 

The thermal power plant will be on stream in August 2014.

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Deputy Construction Minister: Mongolia will build housing for 18.8 thousand households in 2013

October 30 (UB Post) This year, the construction sector set a record for buildings rising left and right in the capital city. We interviewed the Deputy Minister of Construction and Urban Development, G.Baigalmaa, about the ministry's operations.

-       The construction sector has completed a record number of projects this year. The year is coming to an end; how would you evaluate the work accomplished so far?

-       We all know that our country has a great amount of land but a small population. But the number of people moving into the capital has increased dramatically in recent years. In order to decrease migration to the capital city, it is crucial that we take decisive action and build in provincial areas as well as cities without prioritizing one over the other. For this reason, the reform government has appointed the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development to oversee the sector's operation and management.

Since our operations started last year we have resolved some structural and management issues, as well as numerous major projects. We have many more projects planned ahead of us. We had Government Resolution 171 approved, which concerns the development of domestic construction material production.

Within the framework of the project, the joint resolution of the Governor of the Central Bank of Mongolia and the Minister of Construction approved the Support Construction Sector and Housing Price Stabilization sub-programs. The sub-programs will grant soft loans to importers of basic construction material such as cement and reinforcement steel, on the condition that they maintain prices at a given rate for certain periods. We have managed to maintain the prices of basic construction material so far.

Furthermore, a sub-program to issue loans to contractors with incomplete projects has been issued, on the condition that they complete construction within 18 months, which will reduce the gap in supply and demand of housing, stabilize prices and accelerate the development of the sector.

-       Cement prices increased suddenly a month ago. What measures will the Ministry take to keep cement prices stable?

-       Stable prices for cement and reinforcement steel will ensure the stability of housing prices. Cement price stability has been a major concern of the Ministry since spring – prices have remained stable so far because of those programs. For instance, the price of a ton of cement was stable at 130-150 thousand MNT from April to the latter half of last month. Cement prices only rose in October. Many things contributed to the increase such as the decreasing value of MNT and the price increase at Chinese cement factories.

-       The government has planned many infrastructure and construction projects. How are they progressing so far?

-       The government and the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development have listed the construction of a housing project for 100 thousand households in each province. Ulaanbaatar will house around 75 thousand households through the project and the rest will be built in the provinces. Each province will have 1,000 household residences. To prepare for this large scale project, the state is building 56 types of infrastructure related projects. From this, 23-24 have already started, and the ger district redevelopment project has also commenced. In all, 416 billion MNT has been allocated from the state budget. Some will be completed by the end of this year and the others will be ready next year. By next year, the state will have completed all infrastructure projects, and contractors will be able to start building straight away.

-       Ulaanbaatar authorities seem to be focusing more on ger district redevelopment and decentralizations issues. What is the Ministry's policy on these issues?

-       As noted before, our goal is to decentralize and decrease migration. Infrastructure for the 17 towns are being built at Buyant Valley, New Yarmag and Buyant Ukhaa. We are working very closely with Ulaanbaatar's administration. Mayor E.Bat-Uul is actively supporting the ger district redevelopment plan.

We are talking further about giving settlements with a population of more than 15 thousand people, city status. This will help decentralize Ulaanbaatar. We want to make Darkhan and Zuunmod cities. Soon, the 100 thousand household housing projects adjacent to the under-construction Khushigt Airport will be ready. We want Baganuur district to be a youth-friendly city and develop Bagakhangai and Nalaikh, which both have railways.

We can't decentralize and redevelop the ger district without the above measures. The contribution of residents is also very important. I want everyone to understand that all we want is to build a comfortable environment for the nation.

-       There are many critics that say that although the policy is directed at ensuring price stability, prices are still high and the policies are not working?

-       We have seen 24 years since the transition to a free market economy, where businesses compete with each other. Today, the construction sector is held up by the private sector. So we can't tell them to keep prices low. The once popular land market has also contributed to the construction sector and housing prices.

Since most construction material is imported, foreign currency rates also play a vital role in the sector. The cost of infrastructure is also increasing, which is the foundation of all buildings. We also can't forget that construction worker's wages have to increase. There are many variables that affect housing and construction prices.

-       When the government loan projects first began, it was said that housing projects for around 16 thousand households would be completed in 2013. Has this goal changed?

-       Nationwide, housing for 16 thousand families were estimated to be ready within this year. This number was calculated in spring. Now the number of residences has increased. Our policy and projects were successful and managed to exceed our expectations. So far, housing projects for 7,812 households have been completed. In the remaining three months, this will increase to 18,814.

-       Housing prices greatly vary depending on location. Centrally located houses are more expensive, but the Ministry's decentralization plan is expected to make the outer city the new city center. When can we expect this?

-       The decentralization program has already commenced. We expect the program to mature in late 2014 or early 2015. The infrastructure linking Bayangol Valley, Buyang Ukhaa, and Yarmag will be completed next year. The operations of construction companies will center in those locations.

New development and infrastructure projects will be ready by 2014 and 2015. When this happens, the outskirts of the city will become the center. We have also initiated plans to develop the eastern section of the city. When US-15 Plant and Thermal Power Plant No.5 are built, the city will move out towards the east.

To see why this will happen, we have to examine why people move into the city center. It is easier to take children to school, and closer to work. At least vehicles will be used less if you live in the city center. This condition will be met around the outskirts of the city in 2015.

-       The Khutul Cement Factory's expansions are nearly complete. How will the cement price stabilization program proceed in the future?

-       Next month, the expansions of Khutul Cement Factory, which will increase the plant's capacity twofold, will be complete. Furthermore, two new cement factories will be built in Dornogobi Province which will have a combined capacity of one million tons of cement a year. This will mean that by 2015, Mongolia will be able to meet its own cement demands.

We aim to build concrete, reinforcement and granite factories in the future with the funds we are circulating at the moment. In general, our aim is to meet our domestic demand for construction material.

-       Will the Central Bank make any changes to the joint projects that will be implemented next year?

-       We will continue to work together in projects aimed at supporting the construction sector. The results of the projects will be evident by the end of this year and next year. The ministry is planning to build loading and distribution terminals for construction materials on the west and east sides of the city. This will be a unified construction material park.

This saves contractors from the seasonal inflation of construction material prices. They can gather construction parts during the winter and assemble during the summer. The Ministry also aims to introduce new technology to decrease human error and costs.

-       The construction sector worked tirelessly this year. But how much attention was directed to the integration and unification of these projects?

-       A forum was organized last year to discuss the government's direction and governance policies it will take. The forum also served the dual purpose of attracting foreign investors. This month, the Construction Mongolia 2013 International Conference and Exhibition was held. More than 60 foreign companies from 11 countries participated to introduce their goods, services and projects.

The conference also provided an opportunity for domestic companies to form relations and partnerships with foreign companies. Although the construction season is coming to an end, they agreed that they can still hold talks about next year's projects and cooperation. This will enhance the cooperation and support by all parties in upcoming projects and increase the sector's efficiency.

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No Kim Jong Un summit meeting for Mongolian President

Observers confused as to why no summit meeting took place

October 31 (NK News) Mongolia's President Tsakhia Elbegdorj left North Korea on Thursday afternoon with DPRK state media providing no confirmation as to whether an expected meeting with Kim Jong Un had taken place.

Prior to Elbegdorj's arrival South Korean media speculated that the Mongolian leader would have a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un – an encounter that would have represented the North Korean leaders' first official meeting with another head of state.

But no information of such a meeting was released by North Korean state media, suggesting that Kim Jong Un did not in fact meet the Mongolian leader. "The lack of mention of the North Korean leader meeting Elbegdorj indicates that no summit took place," an anonymous official told Yonhap News in South Korea.

Instead, on Elbegdorj's last day in North Korea, North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun led with in-depth coverage of Kim Jong Un's appearance at live-fire military drills, only mentioning the Mongolian leader on page three,  in context of him meeting Premier of the DPRK Cabinet Pak Pong Ju.

"[Kim Jong Un] is too busy with military matters to waste time on frivolities like meeting the Mongolian president. His activities, however absurd, have to be reported, and a report about him trotting around Mansu Water Park, as the poor unfortunate Mongolian delegation found himself doing, would not fit the appropriate narrative," North Korea watcher and Daily NK international editor Chris Green told NK News.

Leonid Petrov, a North Korea researcher at the Australian National University, said that Kim Jong Un's choice to attend live fire drills over meeting with Elbegdorj indicated that military-first policies remain a key priority.

"Kim Jong Un has sent the signal to the world and domestic audience in the DPRK that the era of Songun [Army First] Policy is not going to fade away; and that economic reform is of less importance for him than military build up.

"Apolitical foreign celebrities, like Dennis Rodman, attract more attention of the North Korean leader than concerned heads of states and CEOs of multinational corporations" Petrov added, pointing out that "regional security, stability and progress are clearly of low priority for Kim Jong Un and his advisors."

Antonio Fiori, a professor and North Korea watcher at the University of Bologna, said that it was "not really understandable why Kim Jong Un did not show up" to meet with the Mongolian leader, because "Mongolia is dramatically meaningful for North Korea, in terms of economic connections and diplomatic ties."

But Fiori speculated that the risk of being probed about the Japanese abduction issue could be why Kim Jong Un decided that no summit meeting should take place.

"Mongolia is willing to assist Japan in finding a solution to the abduction issue, and it seemed likely that Elbegdorj could raise this issue during his visit to Pyongyang. Maybe Kim Jong Un did not want to take the risk to be asked about the issue of the Japanese abductees".

During his trip the Mongolian leader inked economic and technology sharing agreements with North Korea and paid visits to the Kumsusan memorial palace and truce village of Pnamunjom, located in the demilitarized zone.  Elbegdorj also delivered a speech to Mongolian entrepreneurs and DPRK economic officials at the Yanggakdo International Hotel.

The Mongolian president is the first foreign leader to visit North Korea since Kim Jong Un assumed power in late 2011. The last summit meeting between Mongolia and North Korea took place in December 2004.

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Mongolian president wraps up visit to N. Korea

SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- Mongolia's President Tsakhia Elbegdorj left North Korea on Thursday with no official confirmation he held a summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, the government said.

Seoul's Ministry of Unification, citing a report carried by the Korean Central Television, said the Mongolian president left the North at 3:20 p.m. from Sunan International Airport after arriving in the country on Monday.

His visit marks the first time a foreign head of state visited the isolationist country after Kim took power following the sudden death of his father in 2011. The visit sparked speculation that a summit would mark the North Korean leader's debut onto the diplomatic stage.

"The lack of mention of the North Korean leader meeting Elbegdorj indicates that no summit took place," said an official source, who did not want to be identified. The ministry had initially predicted that a summit would take place.

Elbegdorj, meanwhile, held talks with Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, which is the country's figurehead leader, and Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju while in the North Korean capital earlier in the week.

He also visited the grave of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung and the truce village of Panmunjom.

On Monday, he signed an agreement calling for greater cooperation in cultural exchange, tourism and sports, and formalized a plan for expanding ties in information technology.

North Korea and Mongolia established formal diplomatic ties in 1948, with the top leaders of the two countries having held five separate meetings in the past. The last summit took place in December 2004 when Mongolia's president visited the North.

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North Korea sees an opportunity as Mongolia strives to be more influential

October 31 (The Asahi Shimbun) North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju met with Mongolia's President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Pyongyang apparently as part of efforts to take advantage of Mongolia, which aims to bolster its influence in the region.

"Mongolia will cooperate with every country, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), for peace and stability in Northeast Asia," Elbegdorj said.

He is the first foreign head of state to visit North Korea since Kim Jong Un assumed power last year.

North Korea is keen to strengthen its ties with Mongolia and utilize its influence on political matters in Northeast Asia.

Elbegdorj was met on his arrival Oct. 28 by the president of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam. "We will make utmost efforts to develop relations (with Mongolia)," Kim Yong Nam told the visiting Mongolian head of state.

There is no word yet on whether Elbegdorj will meet with Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the ruling Workers' Party.

His visit ends Oct. 31.

In a speech at a banquet held in the Mansudae National Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on Oct 28, Elbegdorj made a point of saying that Mongolia intends to play a greater political role in Northeast Asia.

Relations between North Korea and Mongolia soured after South Korea and Mongolia established diplomatic ties in 1990. In 2002, however, Pyongyang and Ulan Bator signed a protocol seeking greater friendship and cooperation.

Since then, the two countries have had exchanges at various levels, which included a visit by Kim Yong Nam to Mongolia.

With regard to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, China is urging a return to the negotiations. However, a wide gap exists between U.S. and South Korean demands and those made by North Korea.

Washington and Seoul have said they will only agree to resume talks if North Korea moves ahead on the issue of denuclearization. For its part, North Korea insists there be no preconditions for returning to the talks.

Japanese diplomats are also closely watching Elbegdorj's visit because Mongolia has shown a willingness to assist Japan in resolving the thorny abduction issue.

"Mongolia is interested in serving as an intermediary between Japan and North Korea," said a source with good knowledge about North Korea. "We think there is a good chance that Elbegdorj will raise the abduction issue during his visit."

In September, Elbegdorj and his prime minister, Norovyn Altankhuyag, made separate visits to Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted Elbegdorj at his private residence.

Altankhuyag also visited China last week. According to diplomatic sources in Beijing, Mongolia has urged China, which chairs the six-party talks, to make Mongolia a partner in the process.

"Those visits reflected the president's strong desire for Mongolia to have a stronger presence in the region," said a diplomatic source in Beijing.

Diplomats suggested that Elbegdorj might have gone to North Korea partially to brief the leadership on the proposal made to China.

Mongolia's warm relationship with North Korea was also reflected earlier this month when a Mongolian company submitted the highest bid in an auction of land in central Tokyo that housed the headquarters buildings of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon).

The bid triggered speculation that Mongolia is keen to exert more influence in affairs involving Japan and North Korea.

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With a keen eye, Japan watches closer ties between N. Korea and Mongolia

Japan wondering if Mongolia will act as a bridge on abductees between antagonistic Tokyo and Pyongyang

October 30 (The Hankyoreh)The Japanese press has been watching the increasingly close ties between North Korea and Mongolia with interest lately.

The main reason is the long shadow Mongolia is casting on one of the biggest issues between Pyongyang and Tokyo, that of Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea. Mongolia has also been implicated in another major North Korea issue - the auction of the headquarters for the pro-North Korea General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (known locally as "Chongryon").

On Oct. 29, some Japanese news outlets, quoting North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency, reported that Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elberdorj had visited North Korea and met with Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the presidium for North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly the previous day.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper speculated that a summit may have taken place with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, noting that Elbegdorj's visit was the first by a foreign head of state since Kim took over as leader in April 2012.

The reason for the attention from Japan's press is the hope that Elbegdorj's visit may bring progress on the Japanese abductee issue. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Mongolia back in March, and a visit by Elbegdorj to Japan followed in September. Abe has reportedly been asking Mongolia for help on resolving the abductee issue as part of its concerted push to build bilateral ties.

The Sankei Shimbun newspaper quoted an overseas diplomatic source as saying that Mongolia has long been "proactive" about playing the bridge between Tokyo and Pyongyang, adding that Elbegdorj is likely to bring up the abductee issue at his meeting with Kim Yong-nam.

Meanwhile, some are suggesting Mongolia may have served as the go-between in a possible understanding between North Korea and Japan on the auction of the Chongryon headquarters, which are currently up for auction.

The biggest bidder in the auction has been a Mongolian company, Avar Limited Liability. Japanese media reported that the firm, which was created in January, exists only on paper, with an unrelated residential address given on its registration.

Some news outlets in Japan are suggesting North Korean involvement, noting that the chairman of the company's board is a relative of Mongolian sumo champion Asashoryu Akinori, who competed in Japan and has visited North Korea in the past.

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What Do North Korea And Mongolia Have In Common?

October 30 (The Diplomat) The relationship between North Korea and Mongolia does not usually make headlines, but Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj's visit to the reclusive state this visit this week has brought this oft-overlooked East Asian bilateral relationship to the forefront. The visit also marks the very first meeting between a foreign head of state and Kim Jong-Un since his rise to power in 2011.

Elbegdorj's objectives during the visit are slightly unusual. The Wall Street Journal reports that the president "will present his country's history as an example of how to achieve sovereignty and economic development without relying on the use of force." According to the Mongolian Foreign Ministry, Elbegdorj has considered the possibility of acting as a neutral mediator between the North and the outside world. Nevertheless, his visit demonstrates a closeness to North Korea that could be an asset for Mongolia's relations with other states.

According to certain experts, Mongolia presents a compelling economic model for North Korea. It thrust itself out of communism and integrated into the global economy via an economic boom propelled largely by mining its wealth of natural resources, including rare-earth metals. North Korea is similarly endowed and could emulate the Mongolian example. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Mongolia's fledgling resource industry is by far its largest driver of growth, accounting for 85% of investments into Mongolia and 40% of state revenue. Foreign direct investment in this sector propelled Mongolia in 2011 to become the world's fastest-growing economy, according to World Bank data."

Although Mongolia has been fairly transparent in its reasons for engaging North Korea, there is considerable disagreement among experts on what the true long-term objective is for the opaque Kim regime. One expert, Andrei Lankov, has suggested that the economic model incentive is "completely unattractive" to the North given that in the Mongolian case it necessitated a democratic revolution and the end of the communist regime. Elbegdorj himself was a visible leader in the pro-democracy movement in the 1990s.

The agenda for this visit will include the issue of North Korean laborers in Mongolia. A previous bilateral agreement allows 5,000 North Korean workers to live and work in Mongolia on a temporary basis. On strategic issues, the two sides may come together to discuss what Charles Armstrong  an expert of politics on the Korean peninsula, has termed "a common concern about domination by larger countries, namely Russia and China, and retaining political independence."

Mongolia fell into the DPRK's good graces early on when it became the second country to recognize its sovereignty, after only the Soviet Union. It offered the North material support in the form of livestock during the Korean War. Kim Il-Sung visited Mongolia in 1956 to express his appreciation for Mongolia's wartime support. He visited again in 1988. The two states signed a friendship and cooperation treaty in 1986.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia transitioned into a market economy while North Korea continued to persist as a reclusive communist state. Mongolia's transition did not estrange it from the North, but the two encountered a decade of slightly strained relations. During Mongolia's transition to a market economy, it swung strategically towards South Korea; in the 1990s, its trade with the South rose as its trade with the North dropped significantly.

In 2002, North Korean Foreign Minister Park Nam-Sun made the first high-level visit to Mongolia in 14 years. Kim Yong-Nam, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly in North Korea, made another visit in 2007. Kim was also the one to receive Mongolian President Elbegdorj upon his arrival to North Korea this week.

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Tumen development body likely to be upgraded into int'l organization

SEJONG, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia are likely to upgrade the status of a regional association for the development of areas near the Tumen River, the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Officials from the four countries recently held their 14th meeting on the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where they have discussed whether to transform the regional cooperation body into an international organization.

The GTI is a regional cooperation body for development near the river border between China and North Korea. It is also an initiative supported by the United Nations Development Program.

At the meeting, the participants also reviewed cooperative projects in such fields as transportation, trade, tourism and energy.

The next meeting of the GTI is to be held in China, it added.

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October 30 (Ministry of Strategy and Finance of the Republic of Korea) The 14th Great Tumen Initiative (GTI) Consultative Commission* was held in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on October 30.  

* The GTI is a regional cooperation consultative body whose aim is to promote economic development cooperation in the Tumen River regions of the North East Asia, and the GTI projects are planned and coordinated through the annual GTI Consultative Commission. 

Representatives of the four GTI member countries, Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia, and those of related international organizations, such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the German Development Agency (GIZ), attended the annual commission.  Local governments in the region which are interested in the GTI, including Japanese local governments, also sent their representatives.  

The meeting discussed new cooperation projects, and checked on the progress of projects underway by sector*. 

* The GTI has boards of six sectors, which deal with energy, tourism, environment, transportation, trade and regional cooperation. 

The meeting reached an agreement on legal issues to further develop the GTI into an international organization which facilitates integrating Northeast Asian economies, and decided to increase support for the GTI.  One of major topics of discussion was proper utilization of the Northeast Asian Export-Import Bank, such as by having the bank carry out its own development projects.  Korea took the lead in the establishment of the bank.  

Korea proposed launching a board for the agricultural sector, regularly holding the GTI International Trade and Investment Expo and setting up a strong network among policy research institutions, all of which were supported by the member countries. 

The commission released a joint statement for sustainable regional development and cooperation. 

The 15th commission will be held in Peking, China in 2014.  

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Official Talks Run between Mongolia and South Africa

Ulaanbaatar, October 31 /MONTSAME/ The Prime Minister of Mongolia Mr N.Altankhuyag and the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa Mr Kgalema Motlanthe Wednesday held official talks.

On occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Mongolia-South Africa diplomatic relations, which will to be celebrated in 2014, an organization of measures will significantly contribute to propagandizing each other, the Premier said.

The current visit has opened a new page in the Mongolia-South Africa relations, Mr Altankhuyag emphasized an importance of opening diplomatic missions in the two countries in order to intensify the relations and cooperation.

240-250 million ton of coal is extracted a year in South Africa, Mongolia mines some 20 million ton a year, so "we want to augment this size," the Premier noted and said Mongolia is willing to learn the South African experience and policy on the mining sector, as well as its technology of producing fuel by liquefying coal and to collaborate in it.

The Premier said it is important to seek opportunities to increase the trade and investments between our countries, to activate the collaboration between private sectors and the inter-citizen ties.

He went on that South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and Mongolia wants to learn experience in organizing such big sports competitions.

In response, M rMotlanthe said his country wants Mongolian cultural and artistic people to participate in events to be organized for the 20th anniversary of the South African democracy as well as in the anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations. It is very important to boost the relations through culture and arts, he added. 

Mr Motlanthe appreciated the Mongolian side's proposal about collaborating in producing fuel by liquefying coal, saying that the "SASOL" state-owned company is engaged in it. He also said his country is ready to share experience in hosting largest sports events.

Mr Motlanthe emphasized an importance of opening the Embassies in the countries, "which will help strengthen the bilateral relations and support each other at international level".

After the official talks, Mr Altankhuyag gave a report to the media. He said the visit of the South African President and the negotiations have opened a new chapter in Mongolia's cooperation not only with South Africa, but also with other African countries.

Present at the official talks were N.Batbayar, the Minister of Economic Development; D.Gankhuyag, the Minister of Mining; also Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of Industry and Agriculture, of Culture, Sport and Tourism; and South African officials who are accompanying the Deputy President.      

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Canada, Mongolia, and the Diplomacy of Knowledge

By Dr. Julian Dierkes

Octobr 30 (Canada International Council) This past weekend, Governor General David Johnston made the first ever Canadian state visit to Mongolia. His two days in Ulaanbaatar received little attention in Canada, but the visit represents an important step in the ongoing definition of the Harper government's foreign and development policy. It also exemplified the personal stamp that Johnston is putting on his office. The integration of development aid into broader foreign policy, as well as collaboration with the private sector – most notably in the extractive sector – may emerge as one of the hallmarks of international relations under Harper. Both of these initiatives have been derided for their blatant instrumentalism and concomitant failure to uphold the internationalist instincts that have traditionally defined Canadian foreign policy. Questions about any instrumentalism and too-close collaboration with the private sector will best be answered through actions rather than on the basis of ideology.

One might have expected a state visit to Mongolia to be conducted entirely under the star of resource-related investment. Discussions during the visit however revolved around a more sophisticated understanding of Canada's strength in the resource sector, one that acknowledges it as the basis for a particularly Canadian contribution to Mongolia's economic development.

A formal state visit was an appropriate commemoration for 40 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mongolia. Prior to his appointment as Governor General by Stephen Harper in 2010, David Johnston pursued a career as an academic. It is perhaps no surprise then that he made education a theme during his visit to Mongolia. This is an example of an esteemed government official using the moral suasion of a privileged pulpit. In Mongolia, the Governor General engaged in a 'diplomacy of knowledge' in an effort to counter perceptions of Canada solely as the source of mining investments.  

While few would claim that the Canadian resource sector has developed processes that guarantee equitable interactions between all stakeholders, it is equally clear that such processes have been making progress for decades. Corporate strategies that emphasize prior and free informed consent, ongoing interactions with affected communities, as well as an acknowledgement of the need for mine plans that can evolve continuously, and which include a focus on closure and on social and community impacts, are now the norm.

The extent to which Canadians are grappling with these challenges is certainly worth bringing to the attention of policy-makers and communities in a country like Mongolia, where the mining sector is taking on the same importance it has in many Canadian jurisdictions.

This is where a Canadian 'diplomacy of knowledge' may have a real impact on Mongolia, especially as the country moves into a more advanced phase of development where its essential survival is no longer in question. Emphasizing not only the growing commitment to corporate social responsibility found in many Canadian companies, but also Canada's focus on civil service governance is smart policy. Mongolian policy-making is not only limited by a severe lack of policy-analysis capacity, but also by on-going political interference in regulatory decisions and structures, particular through frequent turnover in leadership ranks of ministries and other public institutions. It is right to point out the positive examples Canada can provide in this regard.

Former Prime Minister S Batbold's visit to Canada in September 2010 led to a particular interest in Mongolia among policy-makers in Ottawa. A bilateral development program has been initiated, though it remains – curiously and unfortunately – unannounced. Mongolia's attractiveness is based on two of its characteristics: it is that rare state in Asia that combines post-state socialist democracy with economic development almost entirely driven by natural resources. The former aspect makes it attractive on normative grounds while the latter offers a fit with Conservative aspirations for a foreign policy and foreign aid strategy that leverages Canada's resource sector strengths.

The Governor General's diplomacy of knowledge sets the stage for an intensification of non-governmental contacts and relations between Canada and Mongolia, an area that both he and Mongolian President Ts Elbegdorj, emphasized in their public and private statements during the state visit. Whether this be through the continuation of already-existing people-to-people links or through new initiatives, perhaps under the leadership of the newly-established Canadian and International Institute for Extractive Industries and Development, supporting emerging resource nations through an offering of Canadian expertise and access to Canadian experience is a worthwhile policy aim, particularly now, and should help counter one dimensional understandings of Canada among Mongolians. Here, David Johnston's state visit to Mongolia certainly struck a very constructive note, and one that hopefully sets the scene for continued and exemplary engagement with that country.

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Canada Governor General: Visit to Mongolia – Day 2

October 30 (Rideau Hall) --

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Social, Environmental and Other

The trade in stolen dinosaur fossils

Last year, a man was caught trying to sell a stolen Tyrannosaurus skeleton for $1m. But how many more illicit fossils are on the market? And where does Nicolas Cage fit in?

October 30 (The Telegraph) In the summer of 2007, at the IM Chait auction house in Beverly Hills, California, actor Nicolas Cage had his eyes on a frightening prize: the 67-million-year-old skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar, a close relative of the T. rex. It was described as a world-class specimen; the largest ever offered at auction, and its mouth, wide open, showcased razor-sharp teeth.

By the time the hammer came down on the wooden podium, Cage had outbid fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio by phone, paying $276,000 for what The Telegraph described at the time as a "ferocious-looking addition to his fossil collection". What Cage didn't know then was that the skull may have been imported into the US illegally and it would eventually be at the heart of one of the biggest cases of dinosaur smuggling the US has ever seen. Now, Cage's T. bataar could also be among several fossils that ICE, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, aims to seize as part of its investigation.

At the time of the sale, David Herskowitz, then-director of IM Chait's natural history department, told the New York Times that he obtained the specimen from a collector in Florida but didn't reveal his name. Now Herskowitz acknowledges that man was Eric Prokopi, who, six years on, faces 17 years in prison for falsifying customs documents to import illegally obtained fossils from Mongolia. In addition to Cage's dinosaur head, the specimens Prokopi imported included a huge and 75-per-cent-complete T. bataar skeleton that sold at auction in New York in 2012 for $1million (£620,000). Amid chaotic scenes, lawyers on behalf of the Mongolian president insisted the sale could not go ahead on the grounds that the dinosaur had been stolen. Our dinosaurs are part of our national heritage, the lawyers said, and the property of Mongolia; they cannot just be ripped out of the ground by avaricious fossil hunters and sold to the highest bidder.

In fact, Prokopi's fossils were the tip of a very large iceberg. Poachers have been operating in Mongolia and other dinosaur-rich countries, like China and Argentina, for years. Travelling on motorbikes and armed with crude digging tools, they wait until the coast is clear, then descend on sites often identified by legitimate palaeontologists and divest them of any bones they think valuable.

"We know they've been there," says palaeontologist Mark Norell, a veteran of more than 20 digs in Mongolia's Gobi desert, "because these sites are in the middle of nowhere and when we return to them there's trash everywhere, and chunks of fossils just discarded, along with beer cans."

The looters then sell the fossils to middle men who arrange for them to be smuggled out of the country to Europe, America, Japan and other parts of the world where they're sold at auction houses, antique fairs or fossil shows, or over the internet. Go to the auction site eBay on any given day and you will see somewhere in the region of 4,000 prehistoric fossils for sale, ranging from Oviraptor eggs and T. rex teeth to Diplodocus legs and Velociraptor claws, many of them of questionable legality. On a Thursday afternoon earlier this month, one seller on was offering the skull of a T. rex, found in the Gobi desert, for $300,000 ("or best offer"). There were precious few additional details on the listing. Such items could be bought by a museum, but more often than not, are snapped up by wealthy individuals who want to display them in their homes. Cheaper fossils also appeal to ordinary home owners who are looking for something a little different to put on the mantelpiece.

Of course, the items could be perfectly legal, but, with so much money at stake, dealers are prepared to flout international laws to sell illicit bones to wealthy customers who have no idea what the regulations are and know only the bare minimum about how fossils are collected.

From time to time, the authorities hit back. In 2005, police in Australia seized $6million worth of fossils, all illegally imported from China. And, in 2006, agents from the US Department of Homeland Security seized four tons of contraband - including fossilised crabs, pine cones and dinosaur eggs - at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in Arizona. An expert confirmed all the items were from Argentina and they were repatriated two years later.

But, before last year, nobody had had the audacity to try and sell a near-complete illicit dinosaur skeleton in full view of the public at a mainstream auction house.

If the sale had gone through, Prokopi would have made around $350,000, after other parties had taken their cut. After years of scraping a living selling anatomical fragments such as sloth claws and dinosaur ribs, and cleaning and restoring fossils for small museums and nature centres, the T. bataar was Prokopi's shot at the big time and he had spent 18 months preparing the specimen in a 5,000 sq ft workshop at the home he shared with his wife and two children in Florida.

Unfortunately for Prokopi, news of the forthcoming sale, at Heritage Auctions in New York, raised the hackles of a Mongolian palaeontologist called Bolortsetseg Minjin. Based in New York, Bolor, as she's known, had been trying for years to persuade the Mongolian government that it needed to do more to protect the country's fossils. Aside from the obvious scientific importance, she argued there was a potential economic benefit in the form of tourism; her dream was to build a natural history museum in Mongolia. But the problem of looters at excavation sites was getting worse.

When Bolor saw a report about Prokopi's specimen on a local TV news programme, she immediately picked up the phone to a politician friend back in Mongolia. "We have to do something about this," she told her. In a flurry of activity, two world experts in Mongolian dinosaurs were enlisted to write open letters condemning the auction. An online petition was signed by a collection of palaeontologists, geologists, students and Mongolians and, on the Friday before the auction, lawyers for the Mongolian government persuaded a judge to grant a temporary restraining order, forbidding Heritage from auctioning the T. bataar.

When the auction went ahead the next day, in defiance of the judge, protesters gathered outside holding banners which read, "National Heritage Is Not For Sale" and "Return Our Stolen Treasure".

Inside, Robert Painter, a Houston-based attorney representing Mongolia, tried to get the auction stopped. "I hate to interrupt this," he said, as the auctioneer called for an opening bid of $875,000, "but I have the judge on the phone." According to a report in the New Yorker magazine, Painter and Heritage's president Greg Rohan then squared off before a security guard escorted Painter to the rear of the auction floor. Finally, as a lawyer for Heritage spoke to the judge on Painter's BlackBerry, the dinosaur sold to an anonymous phone bidder for nearly $1million.

The law regarding ownership of fossils differs from country to country. In the UK, they are normally treated as "minerals" and, thus, ownership of fossils lies with the person who owns the mineral rights to the land on which the fossil is found. In America, ever since a Sioux rancher won the right to sell fossils found on his land and went on to auction a skeleton of a T. rex, in 1997, for a staggering $8.4million, fossil-hunting has become an expensive activity. Ranchers now sell the rights to any fossils that may be found on their land to the highest bidder.

As, a result, people have started looking farther afield, to countries where the law is not so rigorously applied. Mongolia prohibits the personal ownership of items of cultural significance, such as dinosaur remains, and is also a signatory to a UN convention prohibiting the "illicit import and export of cultural property". However, an area like the Gobi desert, with its vast, remote landscape, is not only difficult to police but also includes an expanse of sandstone - known as the Nemegt Formation - which is one of the top two dinosaur sites in the world, in terms of diversity of specimens. It has proved irresistible to black-market dealers.

Whether Prokopi himself ever dug for fossils in the Gobi is unclear, but, as soon as the auctioneer brought down his gavel on the $1million bid, the transaction was put on hold and a formal request was made to the American government by the president of Mongolia, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, to investigate the specimen's provenance.

In June, it was examined by three scientists who confirmed it was from Mongolia. Two weeks later it was confiscated by the Southern District of New York, on behalf of Mongolia, and detectives started building their case against Prokopi. It was established that many of the T. bataar bones, including the skull, arrived in the US in three crates weighing nearly 3,000lbs, allegedly via a dealer called Chris Moore, based on Britain's Jurassic Coast, and listing the shipment's country of origin as Great Britain.

A Mongolian palaeontologist gave a sworn police statement saying that he had helped Prokopi dig for fossils in the Gobi in June 2009. And an examination of his computer revealed numerous emails discussing the buying and selling of "Tarbos" - T. bataars - and "Mongol fossils".

Agents also discovered that, on one fossil shipment, Prokopi had changed the country of origin from Mongolia to Japan. In his only statement to the media, Prokopi denied he was a thief.

"I'm just a guy… trying to support my family, not some international bone smuggler," he said. "If I believed it wasn't legal for me to have or sell this dinosaur, why would I have offered it in such a public format? The lost sale of this dinosaur has irreparably devastated my family financially, it has cost several people their jobs, taken an emotional toll on my wife and two young children and damaged my reputation as a commercial palaeontologist. What will we tell our kids? How will we keep going? I'm headed toward total financial ruin."

But Prokopi's protestations cut little ice. On the morning of October 17 last year, more than 20 law enforcement officers descended on his house in Gainesville, Florida, and arrested him on three counts involving smuggling from both Mongolia and China. While they were there - in a bit of bad timing for Prokopi - a truck turned up with a delivery of some more fossils, an Oviraptor, from Mongolia.

Two months later, the palaeontologist pleaded guilty, admitting that he had imported fossils with "vague" and "misleading" labels. Nothing more about how the fossils had been found or removed from Mongolia was revealed.

The US attorney prosecuting the case described Prokopi as a "a one-man black market in prehistoric fossils". Prokopi's attorney, Georges Lederman, who has instructed his client not to talk to the media, says he will likely be sentenced in the spring but that the investigation is not over. It's understood that more Mongolian dinosaur fossils are due to be seized. Among them could be the skull sold by Prokopi at auction in 2007 and bought by Nicolas Cage, and a third T. bataar skeleton, thought to be at large in the UK.

Chris Moore, the British fossil hunter who allegedly sent the T. bataar bones to America, is not facing legal proceedings in the US and has surrendered all fossils in his possession that were connected with the case, for their eventual repatriation to Mongolia.

However, Moore could still be investigated by the British authorities. Chris McGowan, a British palaeontologist working in Canada, knows Moore. In his 2001 book The Dragon Seekers, about fossil hunting, he thanks local collectors in the Lyme Regis region, including Moore, and says they are "exemplary of what professional fossil collecting can and should be". "Some commercial dealers are quite unscrupulous in flaunting collecting restrictions and export regulations," he wrote. "[But] most of the Dorset collectors make every effort to sell significant fossils - those that may be new species or that are rare - to British museums."

I contacted McGowan to see what he had to say about Moore's involvement in the Prokopi case. Now retired, he said he hadn't heard anything about the T. bataar sale at the New York auction house or Moore's alleged part in it. "Sometimes the line gets blurred between what is OK and what isn't," he told me. "You may do a little bit and it is OK, so you do a bit more. But when it comes to these sorts of fossils, they get such huge amounts of money that's got to be a large part of the story."

Moore is still operating his business - Forge Fossils - in Charmouth. An Ichthyosaurus he prepared in his workshop is about to go under the hammer at an auction in the UK in November. Moore declined to speak to me for this story.

Herskowitz, the fossil broker who arranged the auction of Prokopi's T. bataar, thinks commercial palaeontology is given a rough ride. He doesn't defend the actions of looters, who hack fossils out of the ground without taking soil samples, measuring the depth at which bones are found or recording what other species are found at the same site. But he believes fossil hunters in America are doing science a huge favour.

"Every major fossil discovery in the last 100 years was through commercial palaeontology," he tells me by phone from his home in Dallas, Texas. "A lot of people who discover these things are weekend warriors; families who go out looking. And if we don't take them out of the ground they'll be destroyed anyway [by natural erosion]." But aren't museums missing out? Herskowitz says the majority of his private clients who own great specimens open their doors to the public anyway. "And the twist is this: say you're John Rockefeller and you buy a T. rex for your private study. The chances are when you pass away your family will end up donating that fossil to a museum anyway."

He also defends Prokopi. "In my view, Mongolian law still has not been defined because the Prokopi case never went to trial." Herskowitz contends that all Mongolia's existing laws went out the window in the 1990 Democratic Revolution which ended Communist rule in the country. "The whole legal system changed," he says. "And besides, it was the Mongolians themselves who were digging [fossils] and exporting them." Besides which, Herskowitz says, if you're going to sell contraband, why do it in full view of the public at a well-publicised auction in New York? "In the last 20 years, Mongolian fossils have been front and centre in the fossil industry. People haven't been selling these things in parking lots or back rooms. In my auction catalogues I've had three or four Mongolian fossils on the front cover." (Mogi: what a douche!)

I ask Herskowitz if he thinks Nicolas Cage's T. bataar skull, a fossil which he brokered, will be seized as part of the Prokopi investigation. "I have no idea," he says. "Of course there's a chance, but I consider him [Cage] an end user and it's highly unlikely."

What's more, he adds, if Cage's expensive ornament was confiscated, the actor has enough money to sue. "I always thought if Eric Prokopi could afford to retain good lawyers he'd have won, but he ran out of money. The question concerning the legality of bringing fossils out of Mongolia was never settled." Cage's publicist didn't respond to questions from The Telegraph.

Herskowitz concedes the industry is on the back foot because of the Prokopi case. "It's concerned because when the government decides to go on these witch hunts it's very intrusive." As for Prokopi, Lederman, his attorney, says the investigation has nearly destroyed his life. "He's bankrupt and he was never a wealthy man to begin with; the government seized all his inventory. He has got divorced and the stress of this case has been a factor in that. What little money he does have, and earns from creating dinosaur replicas, he uses to pay child support. But he's unable to pay most of his other bills and he faces foreclosure on his home."

The fact remains there are still fossils openly for sale in the US that were excavated and exported illegally. During the raid on Prokopi's premises, officials seized his laptop. As one palaeontologist with knowledge of the investigation put it: "Who knows what was on his hard drive?"

In May, Prokopi's T. bataar was handed back to the Mongolians by ICE director John Morton in a repatriation ceremony at a Manhattan hotel.

"This is one of the most important repatriations of fossils in recent years," he said. "We undo a great wrong by returning this priceless dinosaur skeleton to the people of Mongolia." It is now on display in a newly created national Mongolian dinosaur museum. The reaction, says Bolortsetseg Minjin, has been "sensational", with more than 500,000 visitors in just four months. "Everyone in Mongolia wanted to see it," she says. "It was a matter of great pride for the whole nation."

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Mongolia: Educators push for quality education during WTD

October 30 (Education International) The Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions (FMESU), EI's national affiliate, has organised a joint meeting under the theme, "I have a message for the government", at the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions' level. The meeting was held in conjunction with the one-year EI Unite for Quality Education initiative.

During the EI campaign, FMESU will increase its efforts to campaign for improved salaries, work conditions and pension arrangements for teachers, secure better curricular support, and improve teachers' professional development, as well as better school environments and facilities.

The union is pursuing these actions "because all of these elements contribute to better quality education", said FMESU President Jakhar Batzorig.

2013 World Teachers' Day

FMESU and its members celebrated World Teachers' Day (WTD) on 5 October at the Trade Union Palace in Ulaanbaatar, where a meeting of 300 teachers and education workers, from pre-school to university, with students' representatives, the Minister of Education, and invited officers from district and city education department was organised.

During this meeting, the Ministry of Education and Science announced a new regulation on teachers' assessment – this was opposed by the FMESU. In addition, a FMESU/City Education Department joint working group on revision of the new regulation was established. This joint working group was FMESU's main achievement linked to WTD celebrations.

There was also a national event across the media raising awareness about quality education. Batzorig was interviewed by several TV channels, such as TV 8, TV 5, Eagle TV, UB 5 and NBS. He stressed that quality of education is under attack in Mongolia due to the lack of education funding, schools and kindergartens.

Many diverse activities were held at school and kindergarten level, such as essay writing or drawing.

A debate including teachers, parents, students and policymakers on ways to support better provision of quality education was also organised.

EI: Welcome for activities by millions of educators

"I welcome the initiative of the Mongolian teachers who, like millions of other educators worldwide, are massively joining in our campaign for quality education," commented EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. "They are going on with or setting up activities aiming at ensuring that quality public education for all remains high on the post-2015 development agenda."

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