Please click Display Images or Download Pictures to properly view this newswire
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Oyu Tolgoi confident disputes can be resolved at its Mongolian mine
November 1 (ABC News, Australia) The Rio Tinto managed Oyu Tolgoi says its confident that disputes which have stalled the construction of the giant copper and gold mine in Mongolia can be resolved.
The nearly US$7 billion project in the remote Gobi Desert has been plagued by conflict between Rio and its major partner, the Mongolian Government, over project financing, cost overruns, and other issues.
Head of communications for Oyu Tolgoi, Houston Spencer, told the Mongolian Mining Summit in Perth that while there had been "challenges", the disputes were being worked through by the parties.
"Oyu Tolgoi's investors, Turquoise Hill and Rio Tinto, continue discussions with the Government of Mongolia, discussions on issues that must be overcome as part of the further development of OT's underground mine," he said.
Mr Spencer is also a Rio Tinto representative on the Oyu Tolgoi executive committee.
Oyu Tolgoi's board is made up of representatives from the Mongolian Government, Rio Tinto, and Turquoise Hill Resources, which is part-owned by Rio.
Construction work was suspended in July at the underground mine because of the ongoing disputes, resulting in 1,700 workers being laid off.
Mr Spencer says a collaborative solution is required to sort out outstanding issues so work can resume at the underground mine.
"I understand why many stakeholders want to see that day come quickly," he said.
"But speed cannot drive this process. We have to resolve these issues properly creating solutions that last," he told the conference.
Production began in July but the first delivery of copper concentrate was held up by delays at Chinese customs.
That issue has been resolved and the first deliveries to customers were made in mid October.
Oyu Tolgoi's chairman, Batsukh Galsan, played down the disputes in a presentation to the conference.
"We have faced many issues to achieve what OT is today: a world class open pit and concentrator facility with on going exports," he said.
Mr Galsan also played down a big slump in foreign investment following laws which differentiated between local and foreign investors.
That legislation has been superseded by a new investment law passed earlier this year by the Mongolian Parliament.
Mr Galsan was Mongolia's Ambassador to Australia from 2005 to 2010. (Mogi: Ambassador to Canada, 2001-2005, which is how he got involved with IVN, and Ambassador to China, 2005-2009, covering Australia as well. His bio is here)
The partners are also waiting for project financing of $US 4 - 6 billion to be finalised ahead of a December deadline.
The mine has produced more than 160,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and is forecast to produce up to 85,000 tonnes of copper by the end of the year.
Construction of the mine started in 2009 and exploration began at the site about 20 years ago.
The mine is expected to contribute to one third of Mongolia's economic development and under the investment agreement, the Mongolian government will get a majority of the profits.
More than 8,000 people are employed on the project and 90 per cent of them are Mongolians.
Turquoise Hill Completes Divestment of Inova Resources
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Nov. 1, 2013) - Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ)(NASDAQ:TRQ)(TSX:TRQ) today announced that it has completed the divestment of the entirety of its interest in Inova Resources Limited ("Inova") to Shanxi Donghui Coal Coking & Chemicals Group Co., Ltd ("Shanxi") for approximately AUD$90 million (approximately US$85 million).
On August 21, 2013, Turquoise Hill announced that it had entered into a pre-bid acceptance deed with Shanxi in respect of 108,502,084 ordinary shares representing approximately 14.9% of the issued and outstanding ordinary shares in Inova and noted Shanxi's intention to make a takeover bid for all of the issued shares in Inova at AUD$0.22 cash per share (the "Takeover Offer"). The Takeover Offer was subject to a number of conditions, including regulatory approvals and a 51% minimum acceptance condition.
On October 29, 2013, Shanxi announced that all outstanding regulatory approvals in respect of the Takeover Offer had been obtained and that it had waived all remaining conditions other than the 51% minimum acceptance condition. In accordance with the pre-bid acceptance deed and given that a superior proposal to the Takeover Offer has not emerged, Turquoise Hill has accepted the Takeover Offer in respect of all 409,488,666 ordinary shares representing approximately 56.1% of the issued and outstanding ordinary shares in Inova. As the 51% minimum acceptance condition has now been satisfied, the Takeover Offer is no longer conditional.
The Takeover Offer will remain open until 7:00 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time, on November 14, 2013, unless further extended by Shanxi.
Rio Tinto plc indirectly owns approximately a 51% interest in Turquoise Hill.
We're Seeing a Complete Change in Attitude: Entrée Gold CEO
Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) –- Entrée Gold CEO Greg Crowe discusses working with the Mongolian Government, his company's involvement in the Oyu Tolgoi Mines and gold prices with Anna Edwards and Jonathan Ferro on Bloomberg Television's "Countdown."
Prophecy Coal restarts Mongolian coal mine
TORONTO, November 4 (miningweekly.com) – Canadian coal miner and energy project developer Prophecy Coal on Monday announced that operations at its Ulaan Ovoo mine, in Mongolia, had restarted as scheduled and within budget.
Prophecy said that all the required mining, safety, and transportation staff were re-hired and all of the company's leased-out mining and transportation equipment had been recalled and had arrived on site.
With a fleet of three operating mining excavators, six dump trucks, and more than 20 owned and leased transportation trucks, the company expected to mine and transport about 30 000 t/m to 50 000 t/m of coal in November and December, if the weather allows it.
The company reported the road condition from the mine to the Sukhbaatar rail siding to be normal and coal was continuously being sold to a number of Prophecy customers.
Since 2010, the Company had invested more than $55-million at Ulaan Ovoo to build a road and a bridge, to buy mining vehicles, to build a mining camp, pre-stripping and other infrastructure and community improvement projects.
The Ulaan Ovoo thermal coal mine is strategically located 17 km from the Russian border and 120 km from both Mongolian and Russian rail links. The mine has a Canadian National Instrument 43-101-compliant resource of 174-million tons in the measured category and 34-million tons of coal in the indicated category.
The coal is bituminous with an energy content of 5 040 kcal/kg, has a low ash content at 11.3%, low sulphur at 0.40% and is suitable for export. The mine features a single massive coal seam that is 45 m to 80 m thick with an average strip ratio of 1.8:1. The first eight years of mining requires no coal washing.
Ulaan Ovoo coal mining operations were temporarily suspended owing to the stockpile of coal at the time (187 000 t) being sufficient to meet contractual supply obligations through the balance of 2012 and 2013.
Prophecy last month said it had added a third offtake partner for its Ulaan Ovoo mine, after it had struck and accord with a new customer with "substantial presence" in the region to buy 30 000 t/m.
The company's asset would also supply more than 30 000 t/m of coal to cement plants, a metallurgical plant, a heat plant, chemical plants and Russian traders, all of which signed binding agreements over the past two months.
The company had also recently executed a coal sales contract of significant quantity with a buyer in Russia, which is contingent on the ability to transport coal through the Zeltura border. Prophecy said a Mongolian government resolution had listed the border as being "under renovation", meaning it was neither open, nor closed.
Despite the company having offered to assist in renovating the associated Zeltura infrastructure, including the customs clearing facility at the mine, and road improvement from the mine to Zeltura, it could not give a definitive timeframe to start transporting coal through the border post.
The road improvement, which required a feasibility study and environmental impact assessment studies, were expected to be complete by the end of the year. The road improvement project was expected to take two to four months.
Prophecy Coal Resumes Operations at the Ulaan Ovoo Coal Mine
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Nov. 4, 2013) - Prophecy Coal Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCY)(OTCQX:PRPCF)(FRANKFURT:1P2) is pleased to announce that the Company has resumed mining operations at its Ulaan Ovoo (100% interest) coal mine in Mongolia. The mine restart plan has been on time and on budget.
The road condition from the mine to the Sukhbaatar rail siding is normal and coal is being sold on a continual basis to a number of Prophecy customers. All required mining, safety, and transportation staff have been re-hired. All of the Company's leased-out mining and transportation equipment have been recalled and arrived on site. With a fleet of 3 operating mining excavators, 6 dump trucks, and over 20 (owned and leased) transportation trucks, the company expects to mine and transport approximately 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes of coal per month inNovember and December, weather permitting.
Since 2010, the Company has invested over $55 million at Ulaan Ovoo. This includes road and bridge construction, mining vehicles, mining camp, pre-stripping, and other infrastructure and community improvement. The Ulaan Ovoo thermal coal mine is strategically located 17 km from the Russian border and 120 km from both Mongolian and Russian rail links. Wardrop Engineering (Tetra Tech) estimated 174 Mt of measured and 34 Mt of indicated coal resources in an NI 43-101 report in 2010. The coal is bituminous (5,040 kcal/kg), low ash (11.3%), low sulphur (0.40%), and suitable for export. The mine features a single massive coal seam that is 45-80 m thick with an average strip ratio of 1.8:1. The first 8 years of mining requires no coal washing.
Mogi: to further delay production of Tugrug Nuur Energy mine for a year. Formerly Mongolia Investment Group
UPDATES ON THE TNE MINE
This announcement is made by Peace Map Holding Limited (the "Company", together with its subsidiaries, the "Group") pursuant to Rule 13.09(1) of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the "Listing Rules") and the Inside Information Provisions (as defined under the Listing Rules) under Part XIVA of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Chapter 571, the Laws of Hong Kong) (the "SFO").
References are made to the circular of the Company dated 11 May 2010 (the "Circular"); the Company's announcement dated 15 November 2010 and the Company's annual results announcement dated 29 June 2012 by which the audited consolidated results of the Group for the year ended 31 March 2012 ("2012 Annual Results") are announced. Capitalised terms used herein shall have the same meanings as contained in the Circular, unless they are otherwise defined.
On 4 November 2013, the Board met to discuss the production schedule of the TNE Mine. The Board considered a report from an independent mining expert which was recently made available. Based on the report, it is recommended that a further review be conducted within the license area in order to prepare a plan for improving the production of the TNE Mine.
After discussion, the Board resolved that the Company shall engage an independent mining expert to conduct the further review as recommended in the report, and as a result, to further delay the production schedule by one year.
Shareholders of the Company and potential investors are advised to exercise caution when dealing in the shares of the Company.
NatSec MSE Trading News: Top 20 +2.72%, Turnover ₮57.4 Million
November 1 (National Securities) MSE TOP-20 index rose 2.72% to 15,552.96. 11,200 shares in 12 companies traded with a value of 57.4 million MNT. Out of 12 companies, 5 were up, 5 were down and 2 were un-changed.
The top gainer was Tsagaan tolgoi (TSA), which soared 14.93% to 7,505 MNT. Other gainers rose among 1.11% and 5.71%. On the decliners side, State Department Store (UID) was the biggest loser, dropping -5.62%. Today's volume leader was Sharyn gol (SHG), which plays on coal industry. It's 6,229 number of shares were traded with a worth of 45.4 million MNT. It presents 80% of whole trading value of today. The coal mine is located in Darkhan province. It's market capitalization was 74 billion MNT and it's price closed at 7,325 MNT, rising 1.74%.
Please click here to see the detailed news
Mongolia's ResCap Securities Live on NRI/Omnesys/GII Platform
November 1 (Waters Technology) Nomura Research Institute's Financial Technologies India (NRI FT India) division has partnered with Omnesys Technologies and Global Investment Initiative (GII) to build and modernize financial and trading infrastructure in the Mongolian marketplace via a front-to-back brokerage system.
GII is a startup integrator based in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator; India-based Omnesys provides trading software solutions, and was recently bought by Thomson Reuters; and NRI is a consultancy and systems provider.
The first client live on trio's platform is ResCap Securities, a Mongolia-based brokerage. This is the first step in a larger project to modernize the Mongolian marketplace, Hiroki Shimada, senior business development manager at NRI, tells Sell-Side Technology.
"ResCap is the first client leveraging the solution," Shimada says. "Being one of the largest by its transaction volume, and one of the few brokers to provide cross-border trade capabilities, ResCap desired to become the first in the market to implement the latest technology and innovate its services and processes."
In April, ResCap announced that it was the first Mongolian broker providing electronic trading access for clients on the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) after signing with NRI and GII. Along with Omnesys, the trio is looking to continue to streamline front-, middle- and back-office processes in the country.
"Mongolia is a promising market but still at a frontier stage," Shimada says. "That is why we needed to consider bringing the best-of-breed solutions and capabilities, fully leveraging existing assets. Therefore, rather than building local teams and front-end technology of our own, we decided to seek the best partners who could contribute quickly.
"While we were seeking to develop this business in Mongolia, NRI FT contacted Omnesys, which is one of the most successful front-end trading technology providers in India," Shimada continues. "We found it was a good fit for each firm, with regards to our back-end securities processing technology and experiences in international projects, and Omnesys' flexible and function-rich front-end technology."
The key to this agreement, Shimada says, is to move firms away from manual processes toward more automated solutions.
"To be fair, business processes of brokers in Mongolia traditionally were full of manual works—i.e., orders and execution via fax/calls, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, prints and manual reconciliation," Shimada says. "The new system, fully integrated from trading to back-office settlement, automatically connecting to the MSE and its central securities depository infrastructure, brings full automation to the processes."
BoM Exchange Rates: November 1 Close
Total outstanding falls by ₮55.4 billion to ₮1.379 trillion
BoM issues ₮452.8 billion 1-week bills
November 1 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 452.8 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
Mongolia's supercharged credit boom
October 28 (bne) One of the fastest growing economies in the world, Mongolia is also experiencing a long and stunning credit boom, with lending having boosted by 48% in the last 12 months. As Morgan Stanley pointed out this week, that risk is only made greater by the fact that the boom is now mainly being funded by the central bank.
Powered by the country's rapid development of its mineral wealth, credit in Mongolia has been expanding exponentially in recent years, peaking at 55% growth in 2011. However, as this week's chart illustrates, the inherent risk expanded even further around a year ago, as the country's banks' dependence on central bank funding began to grow. They now depend on the central bank to a greater extent than the worst of periphery Europe's basket cases.
It's a recipe for potential disaster, and will likely end in tears unless the government reigns in the white hot growth in borrowing. There are some signs that the trend has been checked in last few months, but for now country is hugely exposed to any external shocks.
While the economy continues impressive growth - GDP expansion of 12.5% in 2012 was followed by 11.5% in the first half of this year - the IMF warned in early October that expansionary fiscal and monetary policy is being used to compensate for slowing exports and FDI. That has put pressure on the balance of payments. "As a result," the IMF frets, "central bank reserves have come down considerably from record levels reached in late-2012 following Mongolia's successful first sovereign bond issuance."
Over a year ago, Fitch was already warning of the pressure these policies were putting on the countries banks. "The pace of credit growth in the Mongolian banking sector has been rapid even by comparison with other emerging markets," the ratings agency noted in March 2012. "More stringent controls are needed. Yet the authorities' efforts in controlling credit growth and maintaining adequate capital and liquidity are compromised by lax implementation."
However, it appears even rapidly disappearing central bank reserves is not enough to push Ulaanbaatar into action.
Depreciating Tugrik: Is It Deja Vu All Over Again?
By Brian White
November 3 (The Mongolist) Last week the Tugrik to US Dollar exchange rate crept back above 1,700. Unlike when it happened earlier in the autumn, this time around it hardly made the news. It is a great example of how quickly extremes can become the new normal in the public mind. But, the continuing slide of the Tugrik is a troubling sign that the Prime Minister's "Reform" government has thus far failed to reverse Mongolia's mounting economic woes. A striking illustration of this is the following time series graph plotting the monthly rate of the Tugrik against the US Dollar through October 2013.
In 2009 Mongolia faced a currency crisis which was a symptom of wider fiscal problems brought on by the world wide economic crisis. As described by the IMF, "growth was stalling, international reserves were rapidly being depleted, there was insufficient financing to meet the spending needs of the government, and the banking system was under pressure. The economy was on the verge of collapse."1 The government required a USD 232 million loan from the IMF, fiscal reforms, and the signing of the Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement to turn things around.2 A very similar situation is forming in the present day with declining foreign direct investment, under performing coal exports, untenable budget commitments, and significant off budget spending (i.e. printing money). The depreciating Tugrik represents a strong indicator that the economy is again in trouble.
It is also a sign that life is going to get tough for ordinary people if it hasn't already occurred. The exchange rate is extremely important in daily life in Mongolia, because most things people consume are imported. As a result, the strength of the Tugrik against foreign currencies is directly tied to purchasing power. The rapid depreciation of the Tugrik points to an increasing probability of spiraling price inflation in the coming weeks which will hit the country's poor particularly hard as we enter winter.
The government needs a massive infusion of foreign reserves to reverse this trend, but so far the cabinet has failed to find a way to do it. The only real option at this point is through loans, and members of the cabinet have been making trips to places like Turkey, Japan, and China to open up lines of credit. It is an unfortunate come down for a country that was riding high only a year ago.
If you're interested in learning more about the current state of the Mongolian economy, check out the recently published M.A.D. Investment Solutions Macro Report. It gives a good sense of all the factors that underlie the depreciation of the Tugrik and presents a compelling argument that the economic problems facing the government are predominantly self-inflicted.
1. Steven Barnett and Julia Bersch, "Mongolia Stages Dramatic Turnaround", International Monetary Fund, http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2010/car091410a.htm, 2010-09-13.
Hogan Lovells: Mongolia revises its regulatory framework for foreign and domestic investment
October 2013 (Hogan Lovells) Further to our recent client note on the proposed amendments to the investment regime in Mongolia, we wish to update our clients that on 3 October 2013, Parliament approved the Law of Mongolia on Investment ("Investment Law") along with other supporting amendments. The official version of the Investment Law was made available on the Mongolian Parliament's website on 30 October 2013.
The Investment Law comes into effect on 1 November 2013 and replaces the Law of Mongolia on Foreign Investment, enacted on 10 May 1993, as amended ("Foreign Investment Law") and the Law of Mongolia on the Regulation of Foreign Investment in Business Entities Operating in Sectors of Strategic Importance, enacted on 17 May 2012, as amended ("SFI Law").
As expected, the Investment Law eases the regulatory approval requirements for foreign private investment and streamlines the registration process for foreign direct investment. Further, it sets out certain legal guarantees and incentives so as to promote investment activities in Mongolia.
The key features of the Investment Law are:
· It applies to both foreign and domestic direct investments.
· It consolidates the registration process for setting up a subsidiary by stipulating that private investment from foreign sources need only register with the Legal Entities Registration Office ("LERO").
· No approval requirements are imposed on foreign private investment.
· It increases the minimum capital requirements for foreign- invested entities in Mongolia which have two or more foreign shareholders by requiring that each foreign shareholder contributes US$ 100,000 if foreign investor(s) hold a 25% or more interest therein.
· It provides the definition of a foreign state-owned legal entity ("FSOE") as "a legal entity in which a foreign state directly or indirectly holds more than 50 per cent of the entity's issued shares".
· It removes the classification of strategic economic sectors for foreign private investment, but maintains the approval requirements for certain equity investments made by FSOEs in those sectors that were regarded as strategically important under the SFI Law.
· It appoints the Ministry of Economic Development ("MED") as the approval authority for certain investments by FSOEs.
· It establishes an ad hoc board with a mandate to issue opinions on applications for tax stabilisation certificates made under the Investment Law.
· It provides legal guarantees to protect investment in Mongolia and sets out tax and non-tax incentives so as to promote investment in Mongolia.
· It offers tax stabilisation incentives in the form of "tax stabilisation certificates" and "investment agreements".
In addition to the repeal of the SFI Law and the Foreign Investment Law, 9 other laws, including the Law of Mongolia on the State Registration of Legal Entities, enacted on 23 May 2003, as amended ("Legal Entities State Registration Law"), are amended in order to implement the Investment Law. Further, the Law of Mongolia on the Implementation Procedure for the Investment Law ("Implementation Procedure") was approved to provide for application of the Investment Law to existing investment.
The Investment Law is certainly a welcome development which should assist to promote domestic and foreign investment in Mongolia. Following the tumultuous investment environment after adoption of the SFI Law, it is a positive step in streamlining the investment environment and creating more favourable investment conditions.
The Investment Law removes rather subjective and confusing approval requirements imposed on certain equity investment by foreign private investment. It further simplifies the registration process before a single body in place of the previous dual registration with FIRRD and LERO. The concept of Stabilisation Certificates and investment agreements suggests a more routine handling of significant investment. However, effective implementation is subject to further regulations to be issued by the MED and the Government, and therefore the main concern of foreign and domestic investors remains to be tested in relation to consistent application of the Investment Law and a stable operating environment.
It is not clear whether the amendment to the current regime which requires each foreign investor in a foreign-invested Mongolian entity to contribute a minimum of US$ 100,000 to the share capital of such entity is an unintended consequence of the legislative drafting process.
The approval system for investment by FSOEs is somewhat discretionary, and there is a considerable degree of subjectivity in a number of the general obligations on domestic and foreign investors.
Anthony Woolley, Senior Associate
+976 7012 8904
Solongoo Bayarsaikhan, Associate
+976 7012 8908
Mongolia's loosening of foreign investment restrictions will open up natural resources sector, says expert
Mongolia's new foreign investment law will reduce restrictions on investors, particularly in the mining sector, an expert has said.
November 1 (Pinsent Masons) Hong Kong-based projects expert Kate Terry of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the new regime was part of an increasing trend towards reducing "resource nationalism" in emerging mining jurisdictions. The regulations came into force on 1 November, and removed restrictions placed on foreign investors in the country's 'strategic' sectors, such as mining.
"The new law is a positive step," Terry said. "It will provide increased clarity and certainty for foreign investors, particularly in the natural resources sector, around the terms of their prospective investors."
The 2013 Mongolian Law on Investment (16-page / 265KB PDF) removes the distinction between foreign and domestic private investors in order to encourage investment, according to an unofficial transaction. It removes the need for government approval before private companies can invest in mining, telecommunications and banking projects, although firms with 50% or more foreign government ownership that want to hold more than 33% of the company will still need to obtain approval from a State Administrative Body in Charge of Investment Affairs.
The law also provides investors with tax stability by freezing VAT, corporate income tax, mining royalties and customs duties at the rate applicable when the investment is made for between five and 22 years, depending on the investment amount and location within the country. Investors will also be able to freely transfer profits and assets out of the country, as long as they have "properly fulfilled their tax payment obligations" in the country.
International investment in Mongolia fell by 43% in the first half of 2013, following more than a year of uncertainty over the investment rules, according to Reuters.
J. Munkhbat, Editor of Party Newspaper, Becomes Secretary-General of MPP
Ulaanbaatar, November 1 /MONTSAME/ J.Monkhbat, an editor of the party newspaper "Unen" has been elected the Secretary-General of Mongolian People 's Party (MPP) at the party's 27th Congress on Thursday.
He was one of two candidates recommended by the MPP new leader M.Enkhbold.
At the polling, a majority of the Congress members voted for J.Monkhbat over another candidate J.Sukhbaatar, incumbent Secretary-General, who was forwarded such after previous two candidates D.Tsogtbaatar and G.Zandanshatar had withdrawn the candidatures from the election.
Ministry provides update on mining plans and current statistics
November 1 (UB Post) The Ministry of Mining (MM) reported that it expects Mongolia to extract around 131.4 million tons of coal each year on average until 2032 and export 94.9 million tons of coal each year. The amendment was made at Transparent Mining press conference on October 30.
The MM said that out of the amount of income expected to be drawn into the state budge from coal exports, only 53 percent has been collected. In total, the state budget has collected a revenue of 178.2 billion MNT this year.
The MM plans to increase coal exports to 30 million tons before the end of the year. The statistics show that Mongolia has exported only around 12 million tons of coal to China this year, which means that just over a million tons of coal were exported per month. The statistics date clearly indicate that Mongolia cannot reach its target by exporting 18 million tons of coal in the remaining two months of 2013, but Minister of Mining D.Gankhuyag claimed that it was possible.
Though Mongolia's coal exports currently stand at 12 million tons, total extracted coal is around 20 million tons which means around eight million tons are ready for export. The MM officials also plan to repay the state owned coal miner, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi's 170 million USD debt to Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO) from the coal export revenue derived from the eastern tsankhi (block) of the giant Tavan Tolgoi mine.
The coal extracted from the western tsankhi of Tavan Tolgoi is exported to CHALCO at the rate of 40 USD per ton, to repay Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi's debt. At the current rate, the company cannot repay the debt by the end of this year, as planned.
Minister D.Gankhuyag also reported that Mongolia will export one billion tons of coal to China in the upcoming 20 years. He added that the ministry is not certain of the rates at which Mongolia will export coal but said that the trade transactions will be conducted on a monthly or quarterly basis. As part of the memorandum of understanding signed between Mongolia and China, Mongolia is to export 50 billion USD worth of coking coal and 20 billion USD worth of brown coal in upcoming 20 years.
Furthermore, the MM also reported a growth in the gold mining sector. Since January 1, 2013, revenue from gold extraction has exceeded estimations by 165 percent. Between January 1 and October 25, 6,985 kilograms of gold was mined in Mongolia according to MM.
D.Gankhuyag reported that the oil sector had a revenue of 116 billion MNT this year.
Mogi: Metals sphere wha? Funny how these headlines are sometimes
Metals Sphere to Be Forwarded
Ulaanbaatar, November 1 /MONTSAME/ The Ministry of Mining and Mongolia's Association of Metal producers Thursday established a cooperation memorandum.
The document was signed by this Ministry's State secretary R.Jigjid and by the Association head Kh.Enkhsaikhan. The two sides intend to fully provide the domestic market with metals.
It means that they will support the government's policy on erecting a steel industry that can satisfy Mongolia's demand and export the production, will provide this industry with iron ore and concentrate, and will in a long-term planned manner mine, enrich and process iron ore--one of the strategically important raw materials.
IFC Sets Up First Local Currency Facility in Mongolia to Help XacBank Manage Exchange Rate Risks
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, November 1, 2013 (IFC) — IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a swap agreement with XacBank, offering a $50 million facility to help Mongolia's fourth-largest lender hedge its foreign exchange risks by converting U.S. dollar-denominated borrowings into Mongolian Tugrik. The deal marks IFC's first local-currency offering in the country and will help the bank enhance its lending capacity to support micro, small and medium businesses.
IFC is one of a few financial organizations that extend long-maturity risk management products to companies in emerging markets. IFC helps firms improve their risk management and enhance their creditworthiness by helping them to access the international derivatives markets in order to hedge currency-, interest rate-, or commodity-price exposure.
"IFC's versatile services are critical for XacBank to cope with Mongolia's fast-paced growth," said XacBank Chief Executive Officer Bat-Ochir Dugersuren. "IFC helps us better manage risk so that we can concentrate on scaling up support for micro, small and medium businesses that are the backbone of Mongolia's long-term growth."
IFC began its partnership with XacBank in 1999 and advised the lender on its transformation from a microfinance provider into a commercial bank in 2001. IFC became a shareholder of XacBank's parent company, TenGer Financial Group, in 2008 and increased its equity stake earlier this year. Additionally, IFC has launched new initiatives with XacBank to support climate-friendly projects and women-focused businesses.
"IFC is stepping up its support to Mongolia during difficult times when currency fluctuation is posing challenges to stable business growth," said IFC's Country Manager for China, Mongolia, and Korea Hyun-Chan Cho. "By leveraging its credit status and global network, IFC will help XacBank and other Mongolian clients mitigate foreign-exchange risks in a timely and innovative way."
Dacheng launches into Mongolia
November 1 (The Lawyer) Dacheng has become the latest foreign firm to set up a base in Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar.
Dacheng's Ulaanbaatar office will be led by senior partner Lu Hada, who has relocated from the firm's Beijing head office to Mongolia. Lu is from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and is native in both Mandarin and Mongolian.
This is Dacheng's latest international expansion, which gives the firm a total of nine offices outside of China. Most recently, the firm became the first Chinese firm to open an office in Moscow, an initiative led by senior partner and deputy chair Xu Yongqian (19 August 2013).
A number of other Chinese firms also have an office in Ulaanbaatar, including Beijing-based Longan and Lehman Lee & Xu.
Several international firms have also entered into Mongolia, some through local association. Hogan Lovells (3 August 2010) and DLA Piper (24 March 2011) formed a local alliance in 2010 and 2011 respectively, while Australian firms Allens (10 November 2011) and Minter Ellison (1 February 2012) both have an office in the capital city.
Prime Minister's visit to China: Mongolia one step closer to sea port access
November 1 (Mongolian Economy) The Prime Minister of Mongolia Norovyn Altankhuyag paid an official visit to China last week, between October 22 and 26. Mr. Altankhuyag met Chinese President Xi Jinping and also held talks with Premier Li Keqiang during the 4-day visit.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev simultaneously visited China with Mr. Altankhuyag.
The highlight of the visit was the signing of the "Mid- and Long-Term Strategic Partnership Programme between Mongolia and China," which defined the goals and achievements of the two countries' partnership in the economy, politics, humanities and military. This marks Mr. Altankhuyag's second official visit to China as the Prime Minister. The delegation of the Prime Minister included representatives from both public and private sectors of Mongolia, which were welcomed by their Chinese counterparts. The two sides signed several MoUs (A memorandum of understanding) to further advance their partnership in their respective sectors.
Under the MoU, the two sides agreed to build a coal gasification plant in Mongolia to support domestic demand and also for exporting to China. The plant, which will process Mongolian brown coal for gasification, will be built with the partnership of China's major oil and gas company Sinopec. Officials note that the new plant will provide jobs for 20,000 people.
As part of a previous agreement, China imports crude oil from Mongolia to process it into the Mongol 93 petrol up to 10,000 tonnes, which is then exported back to Mongolia for domestic use. The above limit was in place due to the low loading capacity at the Zamyn-Uud port at the Mongolian-Chinese border. The port is being expanded and is expected to be completed by mid-November; and the two countries signed another MoU to increase this capacity to 35,000 – 40,000 tonnes per month. This would mean that the demand of fuel in Mongolia will be adequately supplied with Mongol 93, which may consequently affect its domestic retail price.
The Prime Minister visited the Chinese province of Liaoning to discuss possible partnerships. Liaoning province is the closest sea port available to the landlocked Mongolia. This partnership is crucial in Mongolia's continued search for exits to the world market.
During the Prime Minister's visit to the province, Mongolian Ambassador to China Ts.Sukhbaatar said "Out of 31 provinces of China, there is a reason that we chose Liaoning to hold a meeting in. Mongolia's closest sea port is here. With the support of available mineral resources in the area, we wish to actively develop the southeast part of Mongolia. China's Liaoning province will be our closest partner."
Complimenting this partnership, another MoU was signed to construct a railway connecting Mongolia's Gashuun-Sukhait border point to China's Gants Mod port, which is currently the largest coal transport port available between the two nations.
Mongolian president likely did not meet Kim Jong Un during visit
SEOUL, November 2 (The Asahi Shimbun) Mongolia's President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj ended a four-day visit to North Korea with no word on whether he was able to meet with its leader, Kim Jong Un.
North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency did not mention a meeting or a summit between the two in its Nov. 1 report summarizing the Mongolian president's visit.
Elbegdorj wound up his visit on Oct. 31.
"Pyongyang may have decided that, given the symbolic value of Kim's first summit talks, they should be held not with the Mongolian president but with either the leader of China or Russia," one diplomatic source said.
Observers elsewhere floated other theories as to why Kim did not meet the first foreign head of state to visit since he was anointed first secretary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in April 2012.
One source knowledgeable about North Korea said, "Pyongyang was probably less than satisfied with Mongolia's 'souvenirs.'"
Standing bilateral issues between the two nations include economic cooperation and aid, as well as how to crack down on defectors from North Korea who flee to Mongolia.
Additionally, a Mongolian company extended the highest bid in a re-auction of land and buildings in central Tokyo that house the headquarters of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). But that winning bid has yet to be finalized. That may be behind Kim's apparent failure to meet Elbegdorj, other sources said.
During his stay, Elbegdorj did meet with other high-ranking North Korean officials such as Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju. He also signed two agreements, one on industry and agriculture and the other on culture, sports and tourism.
Why Kim Jong Un Snubbed Mongolia's President
By Jeyup S Kwaak
November 1 (WSJ) Mongolia's president had a busy four days in North Korea this week, meeting various officials and zipping around to Kim Il Sung University, a Pyongyang theater, the Munsu water fun park, the border with South Korea and Kim family mausoleum, among other places.
But after Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj had jetted out of Pyongyang on Thursday it became clear that he didn't meet the one person expected to have capped it all: Kim Jong Un.
What's with the apparent snub?
Experts say it may have something to do with North Korea's ambivalent attitude towards the landlocked country to the north-west. The nomadic ancient Mongolians were considered barbarians by the Koreans, according to historians.
"North Korea doesn't see Mongolia as superior or even an equal," said Lee Yoon-geol, a North Korean refugee-turned-analyst in Seoul.
While Mongolia has been a traditional ally to North Korea it isn't the first time Pyongyang has apparently snubbed Ulaanbaatar: In 2004, the North's state media carried no mention of a meeting between North Korea's then-leader Kim Jong Il and Mongolia's then-President Natsagiin Bagabandi during the latter's visit to North Korea.
Like Mr. Bababandi, the current Mongolian president appears to have had to settle for a chat with the nominal North Korean second-in-command.
However the latest trip went, North Korean state media gave a polite account of the president's visit on Friday.
"The DPRK side congratulated the Mongolian government and people on achieving socio-political stability, keeping a high rate of economic growth depending on its rich natural resources and raising its international position by pursuing independent and multi-faceted foreign policies under the correct guidance of the Mongolian president," the state news organization reported. DPRK is the abbreviation for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea.
Various economic and cultural agreements were made at meetings this week, according to the two nations' news media accounts, but their details weren't publicized.
Chang Yong-suk, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, said North Korea is likely saving the first-summit card for China or Russia.
In July, the North Korean dictator met Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, believed to be the most senior official to speak with the North Korean leader since the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
That's unless you consider that Dennis Rodman outranks Mr. Li.
November 4 (Foreign Policy Blog) On Oct. 28, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj arrived in Pyongyang for a four day trip, the first known visit of a head of state to North Korea since Kim Jong Un took power in December 2011. But while Elbegdorj spent his days "meeting various officials and zipping around to Kim Il Sung University, a Pyongyang theater, the Munsu water fun park, the border with South Korea and Kim family mausoleum, among other places," according to The Wall Street Journal, he never met the man himself. Kim, who is not known to have left North Korea since assuming the presidency, has kept up an unbroken record of never having a meeting with another head of state. (Perhaps he's met with another head of state -- if so, the meeting has remained private.)
Becoming the first head of state to visit North Korea made sense from a Mongolian perspective, said Julian Dierkes, a Mongolia expert at the University of British Columbia. Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia heeds to a "third neighbor policy:" its trying to expand its relationship with countries outside those countries orbits, like the United States, several European nations, and Japan. There's a sense in Mongolia, Dierkes says, that the country's relatively close relationship could be valuable in its dealings with other regional powers.
Elbegdorj probably expected to meet with Kim on his visit. But then for some reason, Kim declined. Perhaps he's saving up for a higher profile target, like a (highly improbable) meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, or an even unlikelier phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama -- which Dennis Rodman, who has met with Kim twice, says the leader wants. Kim's father, the reclusive President Kim Jong I, met with world leaders including then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and Russian President Vladmir Putin, among others. Kim's grandfather, the gregarious President Kim Il Sung, met with dozens of world leaders during his 45 years in power.
But Kim appears to be the only serving head of state to never have met with another foreign leader. Mullah Omar, the titular leader of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, doesn't seem to have met with any foreign heads of state while in office, either --but I can't think of any other 20th century leaders who have done so.
Am I missing anyone? Let me know in the comments.
KCNA is DPRK's state news agency
Report on Mongolian President's Visit to DPRK
PYONGYANG, November 1 13:32 KST (KCNA) — Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj visited the DPRK from Oct. 28 to 31, Juche 102 (2013) at the invitation of Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly (SPA).
During his visit the talks between Kim Yong Nam and the Mongolian president took place and the DPRK Cabinet premier and the chairman of the SPA separately met and conversed with the Mongolian president.
At the talks and conversations they informed each other of the situations in their countries and had a candid exchange of views on the issue of boosting the DPRK-Mongolia friendly and cooperative relations with a long history and tradition and matters of mutual concern and reached a consensus of views on all issues discussed. They concluded a series of agreements.
Both sides stressed that the Mongolian president's visit to the DPRK marked an important occasion in opening a new chapter in the development of the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation provided by the preceding leaders as it took place in the significant year marking the 65th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic ties between the two countries and the 25th anniversary of President Kim Il Sung's Mongolia visit.
The DPRK side congratulated the Mongolian government and people on achieving socio-political stability, keeping a high rate of economic growth depending on its rich natural resources and raising its international position by pursuing independent and multi-faceted foreign policies under the correct guidance of the Mongolian president. It wished the Mongolian people bigger successes in their efforts to build a rich and powerful state.
The Mongolian side congratulated the Korean people on celebrating with splendor the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the diamond jubilee of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War, successfully tiding over difficulties under the wise leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un. It expressed support and solidarity for the Korean people in their struggle to achieve prosperity and independent and peaceful reunification of the country.
Both sides stressed the need to independently and steadily boost the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation in all fields including politics, economy, culture, sports and tourism on the principle of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in internal affairs and in the common interests.
Both sides appreciated that the agreements on cooperation in the fields of industry, agriculture, culture, sports and tourism signed between the governments of the two countries this time are of weighty significance in putting the bilateral cooperation on a new stage.
Both sides had an in-depth discussion on ways of extensively developing economic and trade relations and facilitating multi-faceted exchange and cooperation by making a maximum use of the close historical bonds between the two countries and the rich potential for cooperation and thereby bringing substantial benefits to the two peoples.
They decided to cooperate with each other on the basis of exchanging the successes and experience gained in the process of socio-economic development and respecting the right to choice in each other's social system and development and make positive efforts in the direction of creating a legal environment favorable for finance and investment according to domestic law and regulations and the internationally recognized principles and norms.
They recognized in union that to boost the traditional bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation with the geographical and historical commonness is in line with the desire and wishes of the two peoples and it is conducive to the peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world.
The Mongolian side explained the "Ulaanbaatar Dialogue" on security in Northeast Asia proposed by the Mongolian president and the DPRK side took note of it and said that it would respect Mongolia's status as a non-nuclear state.
It was decided that both sides would hold regular negotiations between the foreign ministers of the two countries every year and closely cooperate with each other at the UN General Assembly and other international conferences.
The Mongolian president's visit to the DPRK will give strong spurs to boosting the DPRK-Mongolia friendship with a long history and tradition and dynamically promote the multi-faceted exchange and cooperation between the two countries.
Resolutions Initiated by Mongolia Approved at UN General Assembly
Ulaanbaatar, November 1 /MONTSAME/ At its plenary meeting on Thursday, the UN General Assembly session's Social, Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee (Third Committee) approved draft resolutions initiated by Mongolia on "Education of literacy" and on "Role of co-operatives in social development" by a consensus.
By another resolution initiated by Mongolia, the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD) was announced throughout the world between 2002 and 2012, and the UN members emphasized this document significantly contributed to improving literacy rate within the term.
The new resolution on literacy shows an appeal for all to reflect in their developmental goals a clause on education of literacy. The resolution on education of literacy involved 85 countries as co-authors.
The resolution on roles of co-operatives reflects articles and clauses on intergovernmental cooperation in developing and supporting co-operatives, improving people's knowledge about co-operatives, and implementing specific programmes and policies on strengthening co-operatives. This resolution joins 77 UN members as co-authors.
New Zealand: China and Mongolia Head of Mission Fund Deadlines
The Head of Mission Funds (HOMFs) for China and Mongolia are small discretionary grants schemes managed by the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing. The HOMF is a component of the New Zealand Aid Programme, the New Zealand Government's international aid and development programme managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
Applications for the next round of China and Mongolia Head of Mission Funds should be send to the New Zealand Embassy, Beijing before Friday 6 December 2013.
Guidelines and Application forms are attached:
Middle Banner 7 (600 pixels wide)
UEFA President Michel Platini to Visit Mongolia On November 9
November 1 /www.infomongolia.com/ The President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), Michel Francois Platini is visiting Mongolia on November 09, 2013, at the invitation of President of the Mongolian Football Federation B.Ganbold.
UEFA President Michel Platini will arrive in Ulaanbaatar by his private aircraft and to stay for only one day. During his visit, Mr. Platini will be witnessing the "Deren Cup" International Junior Futsal Competition and to attend the TV Talk Show, where President Ts.Elbegdorj is invited.
UEFA President Michel Platini since 2007 is a former French legendary football player and during his professional footballing career, he played for Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus Clubs, and was a member of the French National Team that won the 1984 European Championship, best European player of 1983, 1984, and 1985.
Eighteenth Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of NEASPEC
05 November 2013 - 06 November 2013, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
The Eighteenth Senior Officials Meeting of North- East Asian Subregional Programme for Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC) will be organized by ESCAP ENEA Office as its secretariat and hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Green Development of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia on 5-6 November 2013.
The meeting will serve as a key environmental dialogue forum in North-East Asia, bringing together over 40 delegates from ENEA Office member States and international agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environmental Proramme (UNEP).
The SOM is scheduled to review progress of on-going projects and consult among member States on the development of new activities with regard to (a) transboundary air pollution, (b) nature conservation and (c) North-East Asian Marine Protected Areas Network, and adopt final decision on the way forward. The meeting is also expected to discuss potential activity areas such as dust and sandstorms and Eco-efficiency Partnership.
Benj brings the bling home
Benj Binks has shown his documentary "Mongolian Bling" at theatres around the world, but the film maker from Violet Town admits tonight's screening at nearby Swanpool Cinema will be particularly special.
November 1 (ABC Radio) "Mongolian Bling" has been a labour of love for Benj for several years - inspired by his time spent working as a tour guide on the Trans Siberian Railway, it's about modern Mongolia, as seen through the prism of the local hip hop music scene and the stories of the rappers that inhabit it.
Benj has spent much of the past 12 months travelling the world and showing "Mongolian Bling" to sell out crowds, from England to the United States, Spain to Mexico, and many places in between, including a World Premiere at Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.
It's won awards and rave reviews and Benj is looking forward to bringing it "home" to Swanpool.
"We used to frequent (Swanpool Cinema) when we were growing up, go across there for the double feature and the choc tops, so it's great to be screening there and being able to bring it to a local audience as well," Benj said.
Click on the audio player to hear our full interview with Benj, which aired yesterday.
Mogi: a shout out to Lkhagva Erdene, one of the producers
JMSC Students Nominated for Documentary Film Prize in China
November 3 (Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong) A work by four students from the Journalism and Media Studies Centre was nominated for best documentary film at the 1st China International Micro-film Exhibition held in Hangzhou October 18-20. The film was one of 48 nominees selected from over 2,000 entries.
The 14-minute film, "Death Valley 1918," tells the story of the biggest fire in Hong Kong's history, which killed over 600 people during a horse race at Happy Valley in 1918. It was the students' final project for last spring's Documentary Film Making class, which was taught by Nancy Tong, a 1989 Academy Award nominee.
Nomi Wong, one of the four producers, credited the film's theme as well as its quality for attracting the nomination.
"The film probably received attention because of the difficult subject matter," said Wong, a current Master of Journalism student who acted as the film's director and scriptwriter. "Compared to other more contemporary themes, ours was historical and involved a challenging topic, so I think it got people's attention."
The team came across the story when one of its members, Lhagva Erdene (MJ2013) from Mongolia, read about it in Wikipedia. Through research, he was able locate two of the victims' relatives, both of whom were living in the US, and interviewed them via Skype.
To get historical data and footage, Wong worked with the former chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Dr. Joseph Ting Sun-pao, and architect Ho Cham, whose grandfather designed the 1918 Happy Valley Fire Memorial. Another team member, Suzie Deng (MJ2013), visited various museums in Hong Kong to obtain archival material. Pan Xinlei (MJ2013) served as the project's cameraman, and did extensive editing. Ruby Yang, a visiting faculty member and an Academy Award winner, offered the team guidance on editing the final cut.
"The most difficult part was really the editing, which took countless hours," said Wong. "But when a snippet of our film was shown on the large screen in front of thousands of people in Hangzhou, I nearly cried."
Student Profile: Tsogtbaatar (Tsogoo) Byambaa, FHS PhD student
October 21 (Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada) Thirty-five year old Tsogoo Byambaa, with his training as medical doctor (National Medical University of Mongolia), and masters degree in health administration (Univ. of Colorado), had his sights clearly focused on what he wanted to get out of a PhD program: new approaches and new tools to promote a different paradigm and policy environment for public health in his home country of Mongolia. Unlike many of his peers who pursued graduate education abroad in biomedical and lab-based sciences, Tsogoo's passion turned towards the social and environmental dimensions of health and health care.
Born in rural Mongolia and raised in a nomadic, herding culture, Tsogoo moved to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar when his physician father was appointed to direct one of the city's hospitals. There, he saw first-hand the limited infrastructure for health care, and the consequences of the Soviet Union's collapse for the Mongolian health care system. Mongolians have experienced major changes in their health care system since the centrally planned and controlled health service delivery funded by the Soviets has been replaced by a struggling, nascent and underfunded national system. "Although, Mongolia could be one of the countries with the highest health insurance coverage, the quality of care has not been there. Extremely low insurance premiums (equivalent to approximately $.40 Cdn/per capita/per month) could be one of many reasons why. Also, there are still out-dated concepts of public health that focus heavily on hygiene and contamination control, rather than on health promotion and the social determinants of health," says Tsogoo.
Tsogoo's links to FHS and SFU dates to the beginning of the Faculty, when his former professors from the University of Colorado, Kitty Corbett and Craig Janes, moved to SFU to help start FHS. This relationship was further solidified in 2007, when Craig Janes, joined by exposure scientists Tim Takaro and Ryan Allen, conducted a scientific exchange with the Health Sciences University of Mongolia.
Tsogoo's interest in environmental health policy and the opportunity to work with Craig Janes for his PhD was timely and coincided with major social and economic changes in the country. Mongolia's market economy was being shaped by the growth of international mining activity in the country. The decision to come to SFU and Canada was "meant to be," when it coincided with the signing of a major mining contract between the Mongolian government and Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill Resources (formerly Ivanhoe Mines) to develop one of the largest copper/gold mines in the world. Mongolia's growing economy and the emerging mining industry require the country to be better prepared for the potential negative social and health impacts that they could bring.
Tsogoo has spent the last three years working on a research program to monitor and assess the health impacts of mining in Mongolia. His work has focused on the introduction and implementation of Health Impact Assessment (HIAs), which involve multi-sectoral collaboration and can provide an effective, evidence-based approach to manage any negative impacts resulting from mining activity. By the time he completes his doctoral program in 2014, he will have become a key knowledge broker and investigator in FHS global health research collaborations with Canadian and Mongolian scientists on a number of diverse population health-related research including the HIAs on mining activity, the impact of outbound medical tourism on the struggling Mongolian health system, exposure to air pollution and its role in women's reproductive health and strengthening, and the national strategy on E-health and telemedicine. He has become a passionate advocate for knowledge translation and is determined to convert the findings of his research into real-world prevention programs and policies.
As a vehicle for continuing public health-oriented policy advocacy in his native country, Tsogoo has formed a new non-governmental organization (NGO), the Health Policy Institute of Mongolia. His supervisor, Craig Janes, says "among the many Mongolian scholars I have known, mentored, and collaborated with, Tsogoo impresses me as being both the most ambitious and the most committed to improving the Mongolian health system. He is deeply committed to improving his country, and I would not be surprised at all if in a decade he is made Minister of Health."
Yes we like... Enkhjargal Tuvshinjargal: exclusive interview with the one woman rider of the Mongolia national team in Florence
November 4 (Allez Andy Blog) I spotted her for the first time duringthe Worlds TT official training session, then again during the ITT (she was 34th, http://www.toscana2013.it/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/06RES00-getObject.pdf) and this time I went to ask her an interview after the finish. I saw her again in the RR (she retired at the last laps after a quite good race) but had no time to say Ciao. I must thank her, her coach and moreover Undral Altantuya who helped me translating questions and answers.
Ilaria: Hello Enkhjargal, please introduce yourself: how old are you and when did you strat racing?
Enkhjargal: I'm 20 and I bought my first bike in 2005 just for fun.
Ilaria: Why did you start? How did you pick up this sport?
Enkhjargal: My coach Davaatogtokh suggested I do this sport and he said me: If we start training we go for a big goal. National champion isn't enough, I'd like a Worlds and Olympics winner. We met in 2012 March.
Ilaria: You told me in Florence - after the ITT race - that in Mongolia few women race by bike: has it been difficult for you to get to this level? what difficulties did you face?
Enkhjargal: In Mongolia there are few women racing by bike but now many girls and children are insterested in cycling and are about to start. It has been hard for me, of course, but one year an half it's very few to get to this leavel. I'm really happy.
Ilaria: You told me you race on the road but that in Mongolia roads are not good. How can you train? Do you train there or also abroad?
Enkhjargal: In Mongolia lroads aren't good and there is also a lot of traffic. Training is very dangerous. So I use to train far from the city. But in winter is very cold: 30 degrees and I have to use an indoor trainer.
Ilaria: Do people use bike to daily move in Mongolia?
Enkhjargal Not really but in summer riding as a sport and as a healty execise is quite popular.
Ilaria: From where in Mongolia do you come?
Enkhjargal: I live in the capital city Ulaanbaatar.
Ilaria: Is your family happy? do they support your sport activity or did you have to persuade them?
Enkhjargal: I live with my mother, when I was 6 she made me start with sport. She supported me a lot so far.
Ilaria: What ind of rider - and person - are you?
Enkhjargal: I'm very patient and also outgoing.
Ilaria: What's your 'dream race', the race you'd like to win?
Enkhjargal: I have already rode my 'dream race': that's Cycling Worlds. Also I'd like to race and win the Olympic.
Ilaria: How is a your 'typical training day'?
Enkhjargal: Sometimes my day is very busy. I wake up early to go far from the city: it takes time. I train three hours then I eat my lunch and rest for one hour. In the afternoon I train by MBK for ability or I go to the swimmingpool and do some easy exercises. After that I eat my dinner and study English. In add every night I write in my diary what I learnt and what I have to learn.
Ilaria: How did you feel taking part in Worlds?
Enkhjargal: I'm really happy because I have raced together so many good famous athletes. I wanted to know where I stand, what's my level. Now my coach and I found a criterion to set my training and we understood where I must improve.
She's Asian Champion.
Will Nicolas Cage lose his prized Tyrannosaurus skull?
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division may reclaim the auctioned skull as part of an investigation into a major fossil smuggling ring.
November 4 (Mother Nature Network) Back in 2007, Nicolas Cage made headlines for throwing down $276,000 for a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skull (a close relative of the famed T-Rex); at that time, it was the largest dinosaur skull ever auctioned. The actor, who outbid fellow thespian Leonardo DiCaprio on the skull, was apparently excited to add the huge addition to his much smaller collection of trilobite fossils.
Turns out Cage may have saved DiCaprio from a gigantic headache involving a major fossil smuggling operation and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division.
Last year, Eric Prokopi — a self-described "commercial paleontologist" — pleaded guilty to illegally importing fossils from Mongolia and China, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to 17 years. Since then, ICE has been tracking down fossils sold by Prokopi and returning them to Mongolia. Unfortunately for Cage, this includes his Tyrannosaurus skull.
"Nicolas Cage's specimen came from Prokopi," David Herskowitz, who was the director of IM Chait's natural history department at the time of the auction, told the UK Telegraph.
Prokopi likely smuggled Cage's dino skull out of the Gobi desert, one of the richest deposits of fossils in the world. Unfortunately, owing to its massive size, the desert is also notoriously difficult to police. With everyone from Hollywood heavyweights to collectors on EBay driving up the value of genuine fossils, the Gobi has become "irresistible to black-market dealers."
"By returning this dinosaur, we right a great wrong," John Morton, director of ICE, said of a separate incident involving nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton reclaimed from Prokopi. "This dinosaur skeleton belongs in Mongolia, not on the black market."
In an interview with the Telegraph, Herskowitz said that while there's a chance Cage's dino skull might be seized by ICE, he does not think it likely. And there's always the likely lawsuit that would follow if the government did become involved.
"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," he said.
Unfortunately, the black market for dinosaur bones will continue to grow as long as there's demand. Case in point, an auction later this month for a complete 55-feet long, 19-feet tall Diplodocus skeleton that's expected to fetch more than $1 million.
"There are probably about six of these in the great museums of the world, including in Pittsburgh and Washington," natural history expert and author Errol Fuller told the UK Metro. "You are talking about a very rare item indeed."
Despite this one being a legit dino fossil sourced from the U.S., expect Nicolas Cage to take a pass.
Nests of Big-Clawed Dinosaurs Found in Mongolia
LOS ANGELES, November 2 (Live Science) — A nursery of bizarre-looking dinosaurs known as therizinosaurs has been found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
The nesting colony contained at least 17 clutches of eggs
"Not only is this the largest colony of nonavian theropods, but this is the best documented site," said study co-author Yoshitsugu Kobayashi, a vertebrate paleontologist at Hokkaido University in Japan, who presented the findings here at the 73rd annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference.
The finding suggests the odd little creatures were social animals.
Therizinosaurs, which lived about 70 million years ago, sported huge, round guts; stumpy legs; a long neck; and a turtlelike head and beak.
Despite being members of the carnivorous group known as theropods — which includes the deadly king of the predators Tyrannosaurus rex— the waddling dinosaurs were herbivores. They also had enormous Edward Scissorhands-like, three-digit claws that may have been used to grasp branches and scrape up plant material, similar to the way bamboo-eating pandas do today.
Kobayashi and his colleagues discovered the nest while in southeastern Mongolia in 2011. On the last day of their trip, they decided to leave the area they were excavating known for therizinosaur bones to instead examine another bone bed nearby.
"There aren't many bones from this formation, so we didn't expect to find anything good," Kobayashi told LiveScience.
As the sun was setting, a guide pointed out an eggshell, and the team soon found one nest site right next to their car. Further investigation revealed four more nest sites. The following year, they returned and excavated a total of 17 clutches, for a total of about 75 eggs.
The eggs were round, with about a 5-inch (13 centimeters) diameter and rough outer shells. Based on size analysis and the species found in nearby areas, the team concluded that therizinosaurs laid the eggs. The animals would have been about 220 lbs. (99 kilograms) when full-grown.
None of the eggs harbored dinosaur embryos. However, many of them had holes with eggshells inside, as if a baby dinosaur had poked a hole in the top of the egg and the broken shells had fallen back inside. The presence of eggshells inside the eggs suggested that most of the baby dinosaurs had hatched.
That finding, in turn, indicated the adults must have guarded the eggs to protect them from predators, Kobayashi said.
The finding bolsters the notion that therizinosaurs were social animals that hung out together.
"We have some very intriguing evidence of mass congregation in therizinosaurs," said Lindsay Zanno, director of the paleontology and geology research laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
"We have several mass-death quarries," said Zanno, who was not involved in the study. "So the question for us is, what does that represent in terms of their ecology? Did they live in herds, or were they gathering periodically?"
The new finding suggests the animals at least gathered together for nesting, Zanno told LiveScience.
Transgender woman Ana finally living a life that is true to herself
Transgender woman Ana came to Hong Kong from Mongolia to seek refuge from persecution and violence and to make a bid for asylum
November 3 (South China Morning Post) All her life, Ana was forced to live a lie until a trip to Hong Kong three years ago set her free.
Born a boy in Mongolia, Ana (not her real name) knew from an early age that she wanted to be a girl, but her choice meant years of physical and verbal abuse from family and society.
"My childhood was spent surrounded by violence and discrimination," Ana said.
Now 25 and living in the Netherlands after her bid for asylum was granted by the UNHCR in Hong Kong, she no longer fears for her life and freely lives as a woman.
Ana's successful asylum bid is one of four known cases where a transgender person has come to Hong Kong to seek safe refuge from persecution and violence.
"Everyone has the right to live and to be free, to feel safe here," she said.
Throughout her childhood, she struggled with her gender identity, until one day, when she was 20, she went out in public dressed as a woman. "It was wonderful to be seen as a woman; that was the true me," she said.
However, after a series of violent attacks which led to a local newspaper publishing photos of her as a man and as a woman, she fled to Hong Kong in 2010. She was 22 at the time.
"Hong Kong was the nearest and most safe place," Ana said.
"I had thought of going to Beijing and seeking asylum there, but there are a lot of Mongolian people studying and working there which meant it would be more difficult to keep my privacy."
Five days after she arrived in Hong Kong, Ana handed her application for asylum to the UNHCR. "Emotionally, I felt really down because I had left everything I had and was asking for refugee status which was really painful," she said. "But on the other hand, I was trying to see my transition, my new life, where I could finally live as who I want to be."
UNHCR staff warned her that the application could take years. "At first, they told me it would take a long time to assess, but luckily, after eight months, my case was approved," Ana said.
"I cried my heart out. I was super happy and couldn't believe that they gave me an opportunity to go on living."
The UNHCR, which can fast track cases where sexual or gender-related violence is key to an asylum bid, sent her to the Netherlands because it would provide a safe haven for her.
"Discrimination is everywhere and even though I've had bad experiences here, too, I feel safe and I have legal rights," she said.
"If someone hurts me, I can go to the police and tell them what happened. In Mongolia, I can't go to police and complain, even if someone has tried to kill me."
She has struggled to find a job but does some part-time modelling. "They pay me a small amount of money which is really useful for my daily life, but in the modelling industry, I also face discrimination because I am transgender woman," she said.
Ana's family no longer talks to her, but she hopes this will change one day. "They need time to accept me. I have to have a lot of patience," she said.
Adventurous Karen from Sutton takes on Mongolia
November 2 (Sutton Coldfield Observer) CAREER-breaker Karen Nolan has gained invaluable experience while volunteering in Mongolia.
The 43-year-old from Sutton Coldfield had always wanted to volunteer abroad - after working in the tourism industry for fifteen years in various roles, Karen decided to give something back.
"I've gained a wide range of experience in my working life and wanted to be able to share some of this," she said.
"I wanted to be able to spend a good amount of time and I finally had the opportunity to take 3 months off work to do this."
As she had always been fascinated by its rich history, unique identity and nomad life style for a long time, Karen chose to travel to Mongolia and was placed at the Project's Abroad Teaching Project for two and a half months.
Karen's placement was at the School #13, a state school which provides education to children in the western part of the city including the 'ger' district of this area.
As a volunteer, Karen had full responsibility for planning and teaching the lessons and for monitoring the progress of the students.
Her duties consisted of preparing and planning lessons on a wide variety of topics, including grammar and conversation, teaching classes from Grades five to 11 and also a class of English teachers from the district and from other parts of the city and encouraging students to participate fully in the classes.
"I feel that the students have made good progress with their English and hope that they will use the things that I have taught them. As I have been here for two and a half months, I have seen the students make real progress. Although, the classes are of mixed ability, it's great to see the students gain in confidence," she said.
Once a week, Karen also taught English in Bayangol Mother and Child Hospital. She taught two sessions - one of the classes consisted of doctors, scientists and statisticians and the other computer programmers, midwives and nurses.
Karen says the most rewarding experience was seeing the students growing in confidence and making real improvements, particularly with their conversational English. "Some of them are really shy, a Mongolian trait, and it took a while to coax them into participating fully in the lessons, but with their perseverance and mine, they have really come out of their shells."
On a more personal note, Karen has learnt a huge amount about Mongolia, teaching and also about herself
"As I have never worked as a teacher, I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. However, one of the reasons for coming here was to challenge myself and I feel I have gained in confidence and gained some new skills during the time I have been here," she said.
Aside from her volunteering work, Karen enjoyed living with a Mongolian host family and experiencing Mongolian culture. "Comparing life in the UK with life in Mongolia has been eye-opening. I think living with a family gives you an insight into 'real life' in Mongolia and a much better experience than travelling as a tourist and staying in hotels," she said.
At the end of her project, Karen said that there are tremendous benefits for the volunteers and for the community.
"As a more mature volunteer, I feel that I have been able to make good use of some of the work experience and life skills I have gained and hopefully this has made a difference to the students I have been teaching and also to some of the other volunteers. I would advise future volunteers to say 'yes' to everything they are asked to do. I think one of the reasons people want to volunteer is because they want to be out of their comfort zone. If you have taken the step to do that, I think it's important to stretch yourself and to try as many new experiences as possible. I have been asked to do some things which I wouldn't have done otherwise and it has been eye-opening at times."
After her two-and-a-half months' stay in Mongolia, Karen is planning a change of career and taking a break in her career has proven invaluable - she is interested in looking at the possibility of becoming a teacher when she returns to the UK as it has been such a positive experience.
Karen completed her two and half months' Teaching Project with much to share.
"Some Mongolian customs which particularly stick in my mind are that if you kick someone's foot, the custom is to shake their hand and apologise immediately. Also, if you put your bag on the floor, it's considered disrespectful to the things inside it. There are also lots of customs when visiting someone's home, which are hard to remember. However, most people appear to be very tolerant of foreigners' ignorance of these matters and don't take it badly if you forget something or get it wrong. Mongolia has a unique culture and it's been fascinating to learn about this," she said.
For more details about the volunteering group, visit www.projects-abroad.co.uk.
The Girl in the Red Sweater
November 1 (Samaritan's Purse) Through God's provision, a young girl in Mongolia received heart surgery through Children's Heart Project. Since then, she has been part of a Christian awakening around her home. Three people who work with Children's Heart Project have taken turns sharing her story.
By Cindy Bonsall, a physician assistant and the director of Children's Heart Project who visited Mongolia in 2005 to help a boy receive heart surgery
Here is the true "God story" of how we found Amartuvshin (Amaraa) and what happened.
In the fall of 2005, I went to Durgunn, Mongolia, with a video crew from Samaritan's Purse. We were planning to do a new video for Children's Heart Project and chose a child named Bilguun as one of the children to be featured on the video. Children's Heart Project had never been to Durguun, and we knew that Bilguun's parents were nomadic herdsmen who came into Durguun for the winter.
When we arrived in Durguun, it was spiritually dark. You could feel the darkness. There was a large land on the hill with a Buddhist temple. It was barren. Bilguun's family told us no one went to the temple because the lady there requested "alms" that were a lot of money.
Saraa, our Children's Heart Project coordinator at the time said, "Do you realize salvation in Jesus Christ is free?" The seed was planted.
As we walked through the village, everyone knew we were coming for "the sick boy," as they called him. A group of children surrounded me and followed me as I walked through town. One little girl in a red sweater stood out to me.
At first, I didn't realize that God was trying to get my attention and that I was in a Holy Moment. She continued to stand out in my mind all afternoon as she followed me around, even though there were many children crowding me and surrounding me.
As we walked a little further, someone from the village said, "Did you know she also has a heart defect?" All of a sudden I stopped, realizing God was speaking and had been trying to get my attention. I knelt down and listened to her chest with my ear. (I had not brought a stethoscope since I hadn't planned to see other patients.)
Her murmur was so loud I could hear it with my ear on her chest. I scooped her up in my arms and said, "Saraa, we have to bring her back with us to UB." That very week, a doctor from America was bringing the first surgical mending team to do surgeries in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city in Mongolia.
We found out our flight in Khovd was completely booked. However, I knew that we could not leave without her. Because we were so remote, the likelihood of her family getting to Ulaanbaatar was almost impossible, and I had the sense (from the Lord) that her window to be operated on was small.
Saraa continued to check with the airlines, but there were no tickets. After spending a couple days with Bilguun and his family and Amartuvshin and her family, we in faith brought her and her mom with us to the airport. Two seats opened up at the last minute.
When we got to another province for a fuel stop, another child in that airport walked up to us after seeing our Children's Heart Project shirts. She recognized our shirts. She said, "I have a heart defect, and I am going to UB to see the doctors coming from America. Can you help me?"
So by the time we got to Ulaanbaatar, I had two more children with me along with the video crew.
When we got to Ulaanbaatar, we went straight to the hospital where the doctor was holding a screening. There were literally hundreds of children lining the hall. I picked up little Amartuvshin and brought her to the doctor. I told him the story, and he echoed her.
She had a very large PDA and was almost inoperable. Her window of operability was very, very small, and we would not have had time to bring her to the USA. Yet her defect was simple enough to fix that the visiting team was able to operate on her that week as well as the other girl that had shown up at the airport.
By Enkhtuya D., the Children's Heart Project Ministry Coordinator and Camp Director in Mongolia
Before Amaraa's surgery, Children's Heart Project staff, doctors, and nurses all prayed for her with her family and explained to the family about the operation procedure and their faith in God.
The most important thing that caused Amaraa to believe in Jesus besides God's saving grace was that these people, Children's Heart Project staff, doctors, and nurses, treated her as if they were her family. She still treasures this memory of them. She remembers that day, not only because of her surgery, but also because on that day she accepted the Lord as her Savior and the Lord of her life.
By Cindy Bonsall
Amartuvshin's mom went back to Durguun and testified. She said many people say they are going to help, but the Christians said they would and immediately took action. She testified throughout the village. Then three months later, Bilguun traveled to Minnesota for surgery, and his mom accepted Christ.
Previously, Bilguun's home had been spiritually dark to the point that it was almost hard to visit. But through these two surgeries, seven of Bilguun's uncles and Amartuvshin's parents accepted Christ. Our staff went back for follow up with a pastor from Khovd, and more and more people accepted Christ.
As we marveled and also agonized over the new church forming and what to do about it, the Holy Spirit already had it covered! A young couple from the Khovd pastor's church had been praying about being missionaries in their own country and had been called to go somewhere for five years. They agreed to go to Durguun and set up the church in Bilguun's yard.
They are still there in 2013! There is a children's church, and our Amartuvshin, our girl in the red sweater, is a leader amongst the children.
By the Children's Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator
Amaraa's deep passion to learn more about Christ and share Him with others has given her the desire to pour into her small church and see its faith grow stronger.
We recently learned that she took it upon herself to visit the families of all the children who attend her new Sunday school class. She took them all Christian literature and shared the Gospel with the families. This is the first Sunday school opportunity for the children of the town. Amaraa's passion is changing lives.
By Enkhtuya D.
Since 2011, Amaraa has attended Heart Camp, a place for former Children's Heart Project patients to come together and fellowship for a week, and she has learned many new things about God. Since that time, she has had a burning desire to teach other children about God.
She was happy for the opportunity to be involved as a teacher in Heart Camp this summer. She was enthusiastic to teach children, and in the meantime, she learned many things at the camp from other Sunday school teachers and from the Children's Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator.
By the Children's Heart Project Discipleship Coordinator
I first met Amaraa in the province of Khovd in 2011. At the time, she was young in her faith. She grew significantly as the Heart Camp staff walked the children through "The Greatest Journey" lessons put out by Operation Christmas Child. Amaraa was thrilled to receive her shoebox, and she soaked in every lesson taught at that very first Heart Camp.
I did not meet Amaraa again until this summer. I was amazed by her growth in her faith. Amaraa had a choice. She could have joined the older girls group and simply soaked in the lessons all week. However, Amaraa decided that she wanted to help teach. This desire was genuine, and the thought excited her. Amaraa joined Zula, the counselor over the youngest girls, and took on the challenge of mentoring them throughout the week.
I have sought to teach the staff the importance of every moment at camp—not only the lesson times but also the loud and crazy times along with the quiet moments. Every second can be used to model and share truth and to disciple.
Jesus' disciples followed Him through His everyday life. Learning happens in the small moments. Often it is when you least expect it that a child will come to truly grasp a truth.
Amaraa's love for the Lord was evident as she cared for her girls during meal times, rest times, game times, and lesson times. She put her girls first as she sought to help them understand the God who loved them and made them. Amaraa gave her all to the youngest girls and sought to take what she had learned home to her church.
By Enkhtuya D.
Amaraa wants to be a pharmacist, and she prays that her dream will come true.
She feels greatly indebted to everyone involved in her heart operation, and she said that more than this, she is thankful for God's love in her life. She wants to be someone who can help others.
Crossing the Mongolian steppe
The last leg of a London to Ulan Bator road trip is as unpredictable as it is wonderful. Words and pictures by Robin Ewing
November 3 (South China Morning Post) Ablond border guard wearing long braids waves us out of Russia - and the road immediately turns to dirt. Our van shudders through a barren no-man's-land deep in the rocky Altai Mountains, but on our arrival, we find that the gate to Mongolia is locked.
The country is closed for lunch.
Thirty-nine days and 14,500 kilometres after having left London as a participant in the Mongolia Charity Rally, our once shiny, finely-tuned van is covered in mud and sounding like the automotive equivalent of a 90-year-old smoker. There are still another 1,800 kilometres to go to our destination, the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, across some of the harshest and least-populated land in the world. I'm worried our van isn't going to make it - but first, someone needs to unlock the gate.
The remote Tashanta-Tsagaannuur border lies in the region where Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia converge. The highway on the Russian side of the border rises steadily to this point, the pine trees and wooden farmhouses of Siberia giving way to the golden grassland of the mountain steppe. It's Mongolia's only western border with Russia, and cars are lining up behind us.
At 2pm, the gates open. Importing a car into Mongolia takes a lot of paperwork. I've heard it can take five days, so we stocked up on vodka in the only store in Tashanta. But just after 6pm, a border guard beckons us over and accepts US$10. We're in.
The far western Bayan-Olgii province is majestic, high and cold, the vast steppe stretching to glacier-topped mountains that rise like jagged shark teeth. Skittish goats and shaggy baby yaks wobble past. Men and women in traditional deel, worn like thick bathrobes, bounce by on motorbikes. Massive golden eagles, their wingspan up to 2½ metres, perch like sentinels, some on rocks, some on the road and others - those owned by people - chained to posts or tyres. As Genghis Khan did before them, the eagle hunters of Mongolia train their birds to hunt wolves.
We pull over and make camp on the steppe. There are no fences; the land is owned by the state and used by the nomads. Their small horses and white gers (tents) dot the horizon. The sweeping expanse and the tiny funnels of smoke drifting from the tents' domes are disorienting; it feels as though there are more than 360 degrees here.
As dusk falls, other travellers join our camp; some Mongolians roar over on motorbikes, the vodka comes out and suddenly it's a party. The Mongolians challenge us to an impromptu wrestling match - the first to touch the ground loses. Of course, the locals win; wrestling has been a national sport here for 2,000 years. Eventually, the Mongolians roar off across the dark steppe, back to warm, felt-linedgers.
It's August and night temperatures drop to about nine degrees Celsius. In winter, though, they regularly fall to minus-30. And then there are the dzuds, winter storms so brutal they each decimate millions of head of livestock and leave entire families destitute. The nomads, who have lived here for thousands of years, are supernaturally tough.
The next morning we head into the provincial capital, Olgii. Low-rise brick buildings and ramshackle concrete structures line dirt roads filled with motorbikes, old Russian 4x4s and plastic bottles. Two boys in shower slippers walk a calf down the middle of the road.
Having a small airport, Olgii sees a trickle of tourists, mostly in summer and during October's Golden Eagle Festival. Many head for glacier valleys high in the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, where thousands of prehistoric petroglyphs depict 12,000 years of hunting and herding, and include representations of mammoths, rhinoceros and ostriches. The park is only 180 kilometres from Olgii, but that's a full day's drive.
The roads are tough. Sand becomes dirt becomes mud becomes rock. Multiple tracks all go in roughly the same direction. We use the compass and look for tiny dust clouds on the horizon: evidence of a road. Often, a track goes straight into a river.
Nevertheless, there is immense freedom driving on your own out here among all this wild beauty.
Unfortunately, our van is sounding worse by the minute. A few hours outside of Olgii, we bottom out hard and the van gives up altogether.
We are given a tow by another rally team into the little Kazakh settlement of Tolbo. It's a high and lonely place, near the large Tolbo Lake, with a single dirt road running past the only store, a few houses and a blue-domed mosque. I pay a woman named Janis, who runs the store, to park my van in her backyard until a mechanic from Ulan Bator can come and rescue it (the van will be donated to the charity Go Help once it has been taken back to the capital). It will be safe here from the drunks, she says. Almost on cue, a man lurches past, moaning.
"Drunk," Janis says, looking at me knowingly.
We hitch a ride out with the other rally team. The night is cold and clear. I've never seen so many stars. One shot across the black sky while we were in Janis' backyard. Mongolians say it's not good to see a shooting star; it means someone is dying. I, however, couldn't have felt more fortunate.
It takes six more days to cross Mongolia. We camp in places so stunningly beautiful they seem unreal, get lost (apparently, there are four towns named Altay), nibble on hard cheese made from dried sour milk, pay a dollar to hold a huge golden eagle and play card games by flashlight in a muttony ger.
Driving into Ulan Bator is anticlimactic. On the fringes sprawl the ger districts, low-income areas in which most of the city's population live. In the centre, the money pouring in from the mining boom is obvious. Expensive cars plug streets lined with Irish pubs, European bakeries and pizza joints. There is even a North Korean restaurant. A 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton stands in the main square, next to a statue of Genghis Khan. Ulan Bator is an odd but intriguing city.
On my last night, I go out for Mongolian dumplings and farewell margaritas. If someone were to give me a car to drive back, I would gladly do it all again. I would, though, take Mongolia at a much slower pace.
The next day, 51 days after leaving London, I fly to Hong Kong. It takes less than five hours to get home. Driving is a lot more fun.
Munkhdul Badral Bontoi
Founder & CEO
Mobile: +976 9999 6779
P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.