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Friday, January 24, 2014
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Coal Mongolia 2014
Coal Mongolia 2014: Stabilization of legal and regulatory environment pertinent to the mining sector
The year 2013 was a challenging year for the mining sector of Mongolia. The setbacks in the mining sector have caused certain turbulence in the wide economy, however, to mitigate these negative implications, the Government has taken some first bold measures toward improvement of the legal and regulatory environment.
The example is the ratification of the widely anticipated and watched Investment Law, which has provided investors and the business community in general with explicit answers to some contentious issues and has provided an impetus for further stability and long-term sustainability of the investment and business climate of the mining sector.
It should be noted that specific provisions of the Investment Law that safeguard investor interests against any sovereign risks and allow sufficiently long mining tenures to investor in the resource sector have been met with warm welcome of the business community.
The implications of such provisions are that any long-term serious investor will enjoy favorable tax regime and conducive in every other way business environment.
Moreover, on January 16 the Parliament of Mongolia adopted, through 86.8 percent approval vote, the National Minerals Policy. This landmark document, in the words of the head of the working group that formulated the draft of the law adopting the policy, stipulates that "mineral resource deposits of strategic importance"are deposits producing annually 5 or more percent of GDP.
The newly adopted National Policy provides for the establishment of an inclusive Policy Council represented by not only the public sector but also investors, professional associations and civil society, that is mandated with providing practical guidelines and effective support to the implementation of the national minerals policy.
It also contains such important provisions as a provision on phased-out systematic implementation of privatization of state owned enterprises through public offering of equity shares, or alignment of environmental rehabilitation and mine closure activities with best international standards.
The formalization of the national policy in the mineral sector is the condition precedent for adequate framework in which Mongolia's resource sector can operate going forward, in the views of Ministry of Mining of Mongolia.
These are specifics of the moment at which "Coal Mongolia-2014", the fourth international conference of coal investors, will be taking place when it is organized on February 20-21, 2014. The conference will provide insight into such critical issues as favorable changes in the legal and regulatory environment, perspectives of attracting investors into the sector, and ways to strengthen the competitiveness of Mongolia's coal products.
Mogi: another firm joins in on the fun. TRQ closed +0.28% to US$3.61
Lieff Cabraser Announces Class Action Litigation Against Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. - TRQ
SAN FRANCISCO, January 23--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP announces that class action litigation has been brought on behalf of all purchasers of the common stock of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill" or the "Company") (NYSE: TRQ) between May 14, 2010 and November 8, 2013, inclusive (the "Class Period").
If you purchased the common stock of Turquoise Hill during the Class Period, you may move the Court for appointment as lead plaintiff by no later than February 11, 2014. A lead plaintiff is a representative party who acts on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation. Your share of any recovery in the action will not be affected by your decision of whether to seek appointment as lead plaintiff. You may retain Lieff Cabraser, or other attorneys, as your counsel in the action.
Turquoise Hill investors who wish to learn more about the action and how to seek appointment as lead plaintiff should click here or contact Sharon M. Lee of Lieff Cabraser toll-free at 1-800-541-7358.
Background on the Turquoise Hill Securities Class Litigation
The action charges Turquoise Hill and certain of its officers and directors with violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Turquoise Hill is an international mineral exploration and development company with headquarters in Vancouver, Canada.
The action alleges that during the Class Period, defendants issued materially false and misleading statements regarding Turquoise Hill's financial performance and business prospects and overstated the Company's reported revenue, specifically for its SouthGobi Resources Ltd. ("SouthGobi") subsidiary, which produces coal at the Ovoot Tolgoi mine in Mongolia. As a result of defendants' false and misleading statements, the Company's stock traded at artificially inflated prices during the Class Period.
On November 8, 2013, Turquoise Hill announced that the Company would be restating its consolidated financial results for the years ended December 31, 2010, 2011, 2012 and the affected quarters, including 2013, due to errors related to the Company's timing of revenue recognition from sales to certain distributors as a result of SouthGobi's decision to change the way it recognizes revenue. The Company further disclosed that some sales were booked after delivery to the customers' stockpiles at the Ovoot Tolgoi mine, rather than upon customer collection. Turquoise Hill additionally disclosed that the financial statements for the periods listed above should no longer be relied upon. On this news, the Company's stock price declined approximately 3%.
On November 14, 2013, Turquoise Hill disclosed the filing of restated consolidated financial statements for year 2012. Specifically, the Company disclosed that the restatement "reflects a correction in the point of revenue recognition from the delivery of coal to the customer's stockpile to loading the coal onto the customer's trucks at the time of collection." On this news, Turquoise Hill stock price declined $0.32 per share, or 7%, from a closing price of $4.41 on November 13, 2013, to close at $4.09 per share on November 14, 2013.
Then, on December 4, 2013, after the Company announced a rights offering doubling the number of shares outstanding, Turquoise Hill's stock price fell to $3.41 per share.
About Lieff Cabraser
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Nashville, is a nationally recognized law firm committed to advancing the rights of investors and promoting corporate responsibility.
Since 2003, the National Law Journal has selected Lieff Cabraser as one of the top plaintiffs' law firms in the nation. In compiling the list, the National Law Journal examined recent verdicts and settlements in addition to overall track records. Lieff Cabraser is one of only two plaintiffs' law firms in the United States to receive this honor for the last ten consecutive years.
For more information about Lieff Cabraser and the firm's representation of investors, please visit http://www.lieffcabraser.com.
Mogi: just to recap all the other comrades:
SHAREHOLDER ALERT: Brower Piven Encourages Investors With More Than $100,000 in Losses from Investment in Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. to Contact Brower Piven Before the February 11, 2014 Lead Plaintiff Deadline - Brower Piven, January 6
Levi & Korsinsky, LLP Reminds Investors of Class Action Against Turquoise Hill Resources, Ltd. and Its Board of Directors and a Lead Plaintiff Deadline of February 11, 2014 – TRQ - Levi & Korsinsky, LLP, January 6
The Rosen Law Firm Announces Filing of Securities Fraud Class Action Against Turquoise Hill Resources – TRQ - The Rosen Law Firm, P.A., January 2
Law Offices of Curtis V. Trinko, LLP Files Class Action Suit Against Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. - Curtis V. Trinko, LLP, December 17
Bernstein Liebhard LLP Announces That A Securities Class Action Has Been Filed Against Turquoise Hill Resources, Ltd. - Bernstein Liebhard LLP, December 17
ROBBINS GELLER RUDMAN & DOWD LLP FILES CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST TURQUOISE HILL RESOURCES LTD. - Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, December 13
Investigations announced that could lead to a suit:
Wolf Haldenstein Commences Turquoise Hill Resources, Ltd. Investigation - Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, December 19
Recover Losses: Ademi & O'Reilly, LLP Investigates Possible Securities Fraud of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. - Ademi & O'Reilly, LLP, December 4
Glancy Binkow & Goldberg LLP Announces Investigation of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. - Glancy Binkow & Goldberg LLP, November 22
Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC Announces Investigation of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. - Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC, November 15
A separate lawsuit against SouthGobi directly:
HAR, VOR closed flat on Thursday at 6.5c and 0.4c
Haranga Resources & Voyager Resources replace Aaron Bertolatti with Scott Funston as Company Secretary
MSE News for January 23: Top 20 +0.11%, Turnover ₮40 Million
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Thursday, a total of 254 thousand and 305 shares of 23 JSCs were traded costing MNT 40 million 035 thousand and 463.00.
"Genco tour bureau" /186 thousand and 637 units/, "Khokh gan" /47 thousand and 762 units/, "E-trans logistics" /7,617 units/, "BDSec" 3,959 units/ and "Remikon" /2,823 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Genco tour bureau" (MNT 15 million 866 thousand and 735), "BDSec" (MNT nine million 617 thousand and 370), "Khokh gan" (MNT five million 731 and 433), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT four million 309 thousand and 900) and "State Department Store" (MNT 916 thousand and 450).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 576 billion 470 million 500 thousand and 958. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 15,396.00, increasing by MNT 17.19 or 0.11% against the previous day.
Newly Listed Merex JSC to Raise 2.6 Billion MNT on Mongolian Stock Exchange
January 23 (infomongolia.com) On January 22, 2014, the CEO of "Merex" JSC (MSE:MRX) M.Munkhzolboo announced to raise 2.6 billion MNT via IPO on Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) by offering the company's 40% of total shares, which is equal to 26 million shares within the first quarter of this year.
The company was recently listed at the MSE following the Financial Regulatory Commission's Decree No.514 from December 18, 2013.
The "Merex" JSC publicly to offer 26 million common shares with face value of 100 MNT (Tugrug) to Mongolian Stock Exchange securities listing, where "Standard Investment" LLC is working as an underwriter for the company.
"Merex" JSC was established in 2012 to operate in foreign trade and construction materials field, and it is building a concrete mix factory with a mark of TW-2500, which was manufactured in South Korea and with a capacity of producing 150 cubic meters concrete per hour in Songinokhairkhan District, Ulaanbaatar.
The funds will be used to smoothen its production and fully implement its business plan in the future and to successfully execute the company's operation, say officials.
Mogi: ₮2.4 billion just increase capacity by 500Kt per year?
Baganuur Mine Upgrades Coal Crushing Capacity by 500Kt per Year
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) The Baganuur Joint Stock Company opened an extension of its coal crushing and carrying construction on Wednesday.
The conveyer's 500-meter extension has been created by domestic "Monnichikon Trade" and Japanese "Glibel Japan" companies with 2.4 billion togrog fund. Now the Baganuur company has become able to crush 600 tons of coal an hour and to increase its yearly production by 500 thousand tons.
The Baganuur Joint Stock Company maintains one of the biggest open coal mines in Mongolia, which is equipped with the world's leading machinery and technology and satisfies 40% of Mongolia's total coal demand.
BoM MNT Rates: January 23 Close
January MNT Chart:
Mongolia Forex Reserves Fall 45.5% Y/Y to $2.248b
By Michael Kohn
Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Foreign-exchange reserves fell to $2.248b at the end of December, down 2.7% from the previous month and a drop of 45.5% y/y, the Bank of Mongolia said on its website.
* Mongolia CPI rose 1.3 percent in Dec. from the previous month and 12.5% y/y: Bank of Mongolia
BoM FX Auction: US$12 million & RMB53 million sold at undisclosed rates, accepts US$75 million USD swap offer
January 23 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on January 23rd, 2014 the BOM has received from local commercial banks bid offer of USD and CNY. The BOM has sold 12 million USD and 53 million CNY.
On January 23rd, 2014, The BOM has received USD Swap agreement offer of 71.5 million USD from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.
Mogi: heavy price to pay for a guarantee no? looks like we know now how it was managed
Mongolia pays one-time guarantee fee of ¥5.7 billion to JBIC from ¥30 billion 30. bonds
January 23 (infomongolia.com) The regular "30 Minutes with Prime Minister" meeting was organized today on January 23, and during the meeting with journalists Premier N.Altankhuyag gave comprehensive information regarding the Chinggis Bonds expenditure and the Samurai Bonds.
Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag clarified that the New Government for Changes received a total of 1,151 project proposals in the period of December 23, 2013 and January 17, 2014, whereas 381 projects are estimated under 500 million MNT of finance, 728 projects ranges between 500 million and 50 billion MNT, and 30 projects are estimated over 50 billion MNT (Tugrug). The least valued project is at 8.2 million and the most at 650 billion MNT, besides fund volume for 12 projects are not estimated yet.
The Government announced to spend 1 trillion MNT for industrialized projects, but proposals for such projects are estimated at 9.8 trillion MNT, which is 10-time greater than expected. If to categorize, 899 projects are aimed to replace import products, 77 to support export, and 175 projects are rather than directed. The proposed projects are referred to construction, mining, agriculture and industrialized sectors.
About 50% of total projects are new to start, 25% to expand and the rest 25% have already started that require an additional finance. The working group established under Prime Minister's ordinance has been conducting preliminary estimations and studies, and process of project selection will be informed regularly, said Premier N.Altankhuyag.
Journalists forwarded questions about Samurai Bonds released following the negotiations established between the Governments of Japan and Mongolia, where Executive Director of Development Bank of Mongolia N. Munkhbat said, "Mongolia released Samurai Bonds amounted at 30 billion Japanese Yen (JPY) with a 10-year maturity at 1.52% coupon, whereas 24.3 billion JPY had been transferred into the Development Bank account on January 06, 2014. We paid the rest 5.7 billion JPY to Japan Bank for International Cooperation as guarantee fee, which is a one-time fee for 10-year period and further Mongolian Government will pay only interest fees. Compare to other financial sources like Chinggis Bond, the Samurai Bonds' interest fee is less as to pay only 4.4 million USD per year and the principal money of 30 billion JPY will be paid after 10 years altogether".
National Tourism Center to Calculate How Much Mongolian Tourists Spent Abroad in 2013
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 /MONTSAME/ The National tourism center has launched cooperation with Mongolbank and Tourism Authority of the capital city.
Accordingly, the sides will conduct a joint survey to calculate how much money a Mongolian tourists spent for traveling in a foreign world in 2013. The survey includes tour operators who organize program for Mongolian nationals, and Mongolians who travel independently.
After running an official meeting to establish a trilateral agreement, a survey team is now developing its action plan and the survey questionnaire.
Scenarios for Mongolia: Diversification and Engagement Key to Mongolian Development, WEF Report Finds
· Mongolia's future dependent on successful development of mineral sector, diversification and engagement with neighbours
· Country has the potential to play central role in regional renaissance but also faces threat of over-exposure to mining sector
· Sustained economic growth must be underscored by efforts to diversify the economy and build further trade and investment relationships
· More information about the Scenarios is available here
Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January 2014 (World Economic Forum) Mongolia, the hub of one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions, is the focus of a World Economic Forum report that is published on Thursday.
The report, Scenarios for Mongolia, has been produced to map out potential long-term economic outcomes of the country's recent period of double-digit growth, which to date has been generated largely on the back of rapid development of its resources sector.
The three scenarios identified for the country's future are:
Regional Renaissance: Where Mongolia finds itself at the heart of a dynamic economic area comprising Northern China and Eastern Russia, combined with an integrated, open North Korea. In this scenario, Vladivostok is a thriving seaport benefitting from an opening of Arctic sea lanes, and the free movement of goods and people across borders is commonplace.
China Greening: Envisages a future where China has become a world leader in green technology and the circular economy. This precipitates diversification in Mongolia towards solar and wind-power generation and high-end organic food products.
Resource Tensions: An opposite outcome to Regional Renaissance, where nationalist sentiments lead to territorial disputes, and natural resources are used for political leverage. This makes it difficult for Mongolia to sell its main minerals and to diversify
The aim of these scenarios is to help the Mongolian Government take the strategic decisions that will guide the country towards long-term sustainable and diversified growth. The urgency to address this has been underscored by discoveries that bring the country's natural resource endowment to an estimated US$ 3 trillion. In a country the size of Europe and a population of just 3 million, this has brought significant development challenges.
"Mongolia's long-term economic success depends significantly on how well it is able to develop its mining industry and manage its revenues, but also on its ability to diversify and build trade and investment relationships with its neighbours," said Kristel van der Elst, Senior Director, Head of Strategic Foresight, World Economic Forum.
Common policy responses identified in the scenarios include:
· Improving the investment and business climate for both minerals and other sectors
· Designing a sovereign wealth fund able to operate as an investment or development fund
· Forging strong political and economic relationships with its neighbours
Scenarios for Mongolia, which was produced in collaboration with the Mongolian Government, will form the basis of dialogue in a number of sessions during the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting, in which a high-level government delegation from the country, including the president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, will be participating.
The 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is taking place from 22 to 25 January 2014 under the theme The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. More than 2,500 participants from 100 countries are taking part in the Meeting. Participants include more than 30 heads of state or government and 1,500 business leaders from the Forum's 1,000 member companies, as well as Social Entrepreneurs, Global Shapers, Young Global Leaders and representatives from civil society, media, academia and the arts.
The Co-Chairs of the Annual Meeting 2014 are: Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Nigeria; Kris Gopalakrishnan, President, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); Vice-Chairman, Infosys, India; Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Board, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, People's Republic of China; Joseph Jimenez, Chief Executive Officer, Novartis, Switzerland; Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Total, France; Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer, Yahoo, USA; and Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation, USA.
Parliament Discusses Amendment to Law on Minerals
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) A parliamentary session on Thursday morning ran a first discussion on amendments to the law on minerals.
D.Ganbat MP, a head of relevant working group, introduced a summary of preliminary discussions on the amendment bill at a meeting of the Standing committee on Economics, where its members had advised to make the bill come into force since the date it passes.
Mr Ganbat said his group had developed the bill based on experiences of other countries and noted the amendment bill is expected to open an opportunity to build up national gold reserves of over 20 thousand tons, excluding that from Oyu Tolgoi LLC. Furthermore, the gold reserves will help strengthen the rate of the national togrog against foreign currencies, thus improving purchasing power of Mongolians, he said.
President Submits Bill on Glass Account as Part of Smart Government Initiative
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) An advisor to the President on human rights and legal policy Ch.Onorbayar Wednesday submitted a draft law on glass account to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold.
The bill has been worked out by the President Ts.Elbegdorj based on a recommendation of the National Security Council (NSC) about implementing the President's initiative called "From big state to smart state".
The bill has an aim to improve a procedure of reporting budget income and expenditure, credit and debt guarantees, to refine activities of related officials and a monitoring, to expand the people's knowledge about budget, and to ensure a civil participation in the budgetary actions, Onorbayar said.
Women MPs Appeals Against Gifting Vodka, Cigarettes During Tsagaan Sar
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME)The women members' group of parliament Thursday announced their appeal to stop gifting vodka or cigarettes amid the upcoming Lunar New Year.
The Mongolian Pupils' Union and the Youth Federation have joined this call.
Giving vodka or tobacco as a present might trigger a desire to drink or smoke, the MPs fear (Mogi: haha, apparently we don't have much of a self will). Then, also warned about alcohol over-consumption and its "contribution" to crimes and criminal victimization.
Mogi: agree this is an issue that should be discussed, but not sure a law on babysitting is the right method.
Public Discussion to Be Held on Elbegdorj Initiated Bill on Babysitting Services
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) A public discussion will run January 28 in the Civil Hall to consider a draft law on introducing babysitting services in Mongolia.
The bill has been initiated by the President Ts.Elbegdorj.
According to a survey, three out of ten children aged 2-5 years are left home alone due to lack of kindergartens. It puts them in a high risk in terms of safety, so the bill aims to set up standards for care service for 1.6-3 years kids.
If this draft is adopted, babysitters will care for 60 thousand "home-alone" children.
People Back Extraction of Oil Shale Says Ministry Poll
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) Results of a public opinion survey on minerals have been released.
The Mining Ministry conducted it to learn about Mongolians' understanding of and attitudes toward the mineral industry.
Most people have no knowledge about the State policy on Mineral sector for 2014-2015 that was approved by the State Great Khural (parliament) a week ago. However, 56% of 609 people involved believe that the mineral industry is important for the Mongolian economy. Most of them also backed an extraction of oil shale and establishment of an oil plant in Mongolia.
8 Mongolian prosecutors visit Maui courts to learn about United States judicial system
WAILUKU, Hawaii, January 23 (AP) — Eight prosecutors from Mongolia are using Hawaii courts to learn about the U.S. judicial system.
The group arrived on Maui on Saturday, where they visited the beach for the first time (Mogi: straight to the beach, sure, but for the first time, perhaps) before learning about elements of the court system that are commonly known in the United States but are foreign concepts to the prosecutors from the isolated, landlocked Asian country.
The visit comes as Mongolian officials are working to reform the country's judicial system, said Assistant Prosecutor General Ganzorig Gombosuren of the Office of the Prosecutor General in Mongolia. The office is roughly equivalent to the attorney general's office in the United States (Mogi: mmmm, not exactly, an Attorney General would be a mixture of Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor's office no?).
"It's an exciting time in Mongolia," Ganzorig said. "We're writing a new history of Mongolia."
They attended a seminar by Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John D. Kim and observed court hearings. They learned about court matters such as Miranda rights and why finding of guilt and sentencing are often done at separate hearings, the Maui News (http://ow.ly/sSIGh) reported.
"I think in America, everybody knows what is the Miranda rule," Ganzorig said. "But in Mongolia, that's not the case. Not many people would know they have constitutional rights when they first meet a policeman. So we have to explain the rights."
He said the visitors want to incorporate some of the U.S. court system into Mongolian law, such as establishing a public defender's office for those who can't afford to hire a lawyer.
The visit was inspired by a friendship between Ganzorig and retired 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Shackley Raffetto, who is hosting the group. Raffetto has traveled to Mongolia and got to know Ganzorig in the 1990s when he came to Maui to observe Raffetto's courtroom as part of a training program for Mongolian judges and government officials. Ganzorig was a judge on the Supreme Court of Mongolia at the time.
"We have remained in contact, and we have been good friends," Raffetto said.
The group was expected to travel to Honolulu on Thursday to meet with state Attorney General David Louie and Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.
Mogi: historic as it's the first time DP won there
Results of Historic DP Victory in Gobi-Altai Local Elections Submitted to GEC
Ulaanbaatar (MONTSAME) The election committee of Gobi-Altai aimag Wednesday submitted to the General Election Commission (GEC) official results of the re-election of the Citizens' Representative Khural of the province, and related to it other documents.
A voting took place this January 19, in which participated 19 thousand 199 people out of 35 thousand 187 registered electors.
18 candidates from the Democratic Party (DP), Mongolian People's Party (MPP) and Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), and three independent candidates stood for the re-election.
The election ran in both majority and proportional systems, and candidates from the DP G.Khurtsgerel, D.Chinzorig, D.Davaadorj, R.Lhagvadorj and B.Altangerel have been elected the Citizens' Representative Khural of Gobi-Altai. By the proportional system, the DP got 49.41% of votes, MPP--36.75% and MPRP--13.18%, meaning the democrats have won six seats, MPP--four and MPRP--two.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the aimag's election committee discussed the election's results and issued a resolution on approving them.
Mogi: the story getting some traction overseas. Although just Malaysian national news agency so far.
Award Winning Mongolian Environmental Activist Jailed For Over 21 Years
ULAN BATOR, Jan 23 (Bernama) -- Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, a prominent environmental activist in Mongolia, was sentenced to 21 and a half years' in jail for using firearms against government officials and threatening government and mining companies.
Munkhbayar is a well-known environmental activist and former herder who won the prestigious international environmental Goldman Prize award in 2007.
After two days of a court trial that continued late into Tuesday night, Munkhbayar and four other members of the "Fire Nation" environmental movement were given various jail terms ranging from two to over 21 years.
Munkhbayar and seven fellow activists were arrested in possession of weapons outside the Mongolian government house in September last year, Xinhua news agency reported.
The activist said he had intended to warn the authorities against the government's planned revision of the law that bans mining activity along river basins and forest areas.
Police said Munkhbayar and other activists had blackmailed mining companies and attempted to use firearms and explosives against the authorities.
Munkhbayar said at the closing of the trial that he did not commit a crime to deserve his sentence.
"I have simply fulfilled my duty as a citizen to protect my motherland," he said.
Tserenkhand, a coordinator of the Confederation of Mongolian River Movements, an umbrella environmental organisation of which Munkhbayar was part of, said the group will appeal against the court's sentence.
Mongolian Ministers to Attend Mongolian Investment Summit in London
LONDON, January 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As Mongolia's double digit growth continues and government policy becomes increasingly foreign investor friendly, the attention of Western investors has once again turned to the resource rich country. Its vast untapped mineral potential is well documented and Mongolia's booming mining industry is now driving growth across the wider economy. From real estate and infrastructure, to energy, power and finance the opportunities for investment are diverse and growing.
Senior experts across various industries including mining, energy, real estate, infrastructure, power and finance will be gathering this May in London at the 2nd Annual Mongolia Investment Summit. They will be joined by Mongolian government representatives including:
· Bayarsaikhan Tsevelmaa, Minister for Construction and Urban Development, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, Mongolia
· Ochirbat Chuluunbat, Vice Minister for Economic Development, Ministry of Economic Development, Mongolia
· Naidansuren Zoljargal, Governor Central Bank of Mongolia, Mongolia
· Dorjpurev Dulamsuren, Vice Minister for Energy, Ministry of Energy, Mongolia
· Otgochuluu Chuluuntseren, Director, Department of Strategic Policy and Planning, Ministry of Mining, Mongolia
Bringing Mongolia's diverse opportunities directly to the Londoninvestment community the Mongolia Investment Summit London 2014 will build on the resounding success of the 2013 event; the 2014 summit will bring more investors and an expanded programme to guarantee an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Mongolia's vast investment potential. - Robert Wilson, Event Director.
What did the attendees say last year?
"The conference was uplifting for Mongolia……. at a difficult patch in what we believe will beMongolia's ultimate huge success." - Jim Dwyer, Business Council of Mongolia
For more information, visit http://www.mongoliainvestmentsummit.com/london or call: +44(0)207-216-6056.
Official supporters and partners include: Mines and Money, Business Council of Mongolia, Mining Magazine, Mining Journal and Ministry of Economic Development.
Resourceful Events is a leading organiser of market leading industry conferences, investment summits and training courses. From its offices in the City of London the company researches and puts together events that provide crucial market information and networking opportunities to many business sectors including mining, tunnelling and investment.
The clown isn't Ronald in Mongolian story on McDonald's
Terrence Edwards in Ulaanbaatar
January 23 (bne) When reports emerged on December 10 that McDonald's would open its first branch in Mongolia, the media and the internet were abuzz with speculation the US fast food franchise would be serving "McMutton burgers" and "goat milkshakes". The only problem: Ronald McDonald wasn't actually coming and neither were his burgers.
In fact, the "news" about McDonald's was a publicity stunt by one of Mongolia's newest TV news broadcasters, Mongol TV, to highlight how easily corporations and politicians can pay to have stories published that, among other things, are used to cast aspersions on controversial mining projects such as Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi or Centerra Gold's Boroo.
Erdene Lkhavga, an executive producer at Mongol TV who took part in the ruse, says the main intent of the fictitious press release was to catch reporters and news groups in the act of compromising ethics for financial gain. "[Reporters] come with different packages for their approach, with some writing business proposals where they say they will cover you and your campaign. Some even approach businessmen, politicians and teachers to scare them. I call them racketeers. They're blackmailing them for work," Lkhavga says.
Lkhagva explains he phoned nine of Mongolia's major news outlets in television broadcasting and print to push the story, paying out between about $115 and $350 to get it covered. Then on December 11 Mongol TV confessed live on its 9 o'clock news programme that the story was a prank and named every print newspaper and broadcaster that had run the story, including the Mongolian National Broadcaster. (bne did not cover the story, though last year it did report correctly on how another fast food franchise KFC plans to open up in Ulaanbaatar.)
The response from those news groups was fierce. "Some journalists wrote hate [mail] to us and our reporters," sighs Lkhagva.
"The major problem is the reliability of information in Mongolia," complains Davaasuren Bat-oktyabri, head of news at competing television broadcaster C1 Television.
Bat-oktyabri says little editorial oversight in newsrooms and a lack of fact checking are responsible for the dissemination of false information. Part of the problem is the lack of professionalism and low pay. "If you look at the media business model now, it's not correct in the sense that people don't earn enough," he says. "The price [for advertising] is so low that most businesses shouldn't work. In recent months, many of the local TV stations are laying off hundreds of people."
Foreign companies are particularly vulnerable when facing large local conglomerates with ties to the Mongolian media. Rio Tinto's Oyu Tolgoi – a $6 billion-plus project that has been the centre of arguments over foreign investor influence in the economy and so a magnet for bad press – came under fire after announcing innocently that some of the gold in the 2012 Olympic medals was sourced from Oyu Tolgoi.
However, an evening news report by local television network TV9 falsely claimed around the time of the start of the Olympics that the gold samples used for the medals were in actuality eight tonnes of gold smuggled out of the country, without any royalties or tax paid to the country.
On Oyu Tolgoi's website that claim is refuted, saying most of the metal used came from Rio's Kennecott Utah Copper mine. "The small portion of the ore provided from our newest mine at Oyu Tolgoi comes from core samples taken during exploration," it says.
Betina Infante, managing director of Breakthrough PR, which has in the past done work for Oyu Tolgoi, says any inaccurate reporting for such a high-profile project that is constantly in the headlines is a huge blow and has to be corrected immediately. She says setting the record straight, although not without obstacles in Mongolia, is paramount.
In addition to building strong relationships with media groups such as Unuudur newspaper or the Mongolian National Broadcaster, social media has become a viable option for engaging with the public. "There's close to 600,000-plus on Facebook, and that's growing quite a bit," Infante says. That number is nearly a fifth of the Mongolian population.
Learning by example
The entrance of US media groups into the market could also be a positive influence. Sponsored by the locally owned Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia, Bloomberg opened an affiliate television network in Ulaanbaatar in 2012. More recently, CNN entered into a partnership agreement with Eagle TV – one of the companies that reported the false McDonald's story. The CNN partnership will include training for the Mongolian staff. "Having that kind of competition is great for a media market. Raising the bar means everyone's going up," says Infante.
Meanwhile, Lkhagva has vowed that the Mongolian-owned Mongol TV will continue to expose bad practices in the media, while trying to set a good example of how responsible media should act. "I think as a young reporter, working in a newsroom is an easy way to grow corrupt, ideologically or by accepting payments for stories," Lkhagva says. "The pay is low and the pressure is high, and there are lots of people trying to feed you stories."
Mogi: the James Passin sponsored DC rappers who shot a video in DPRK, release one that was in shot in Mongolia
Pacman and Peso – Balling (Official Video)
Missouri-based company, Gastineau Log Homes, increases international presence to Mongolia
January 23 (The Fulton Sun) A company located in New Bloomfield, Missouri has expanded its international market and will soon distribute its goods to Mongolia.
Gastineau Log Homes, located on Old Highway 54 in New Bloomfield, will send 25 of its home kits to Mongolia's capitol, Ulaanbaatar, and will double that number by next year, said Lynn Gastineau, the company's president.
Gastineau finished hosting Mongolian business leaders and potential customers Wednesday, which included a distributor, mining company executive, president of a technical college and an architect with the country's department of economic development. She said Mongolians have an interest in log homes because of their easy construction, strength, energy efficiency and external and internal appeal.
Mongolian homes, she said, are typically made from concrete and have a frame construction because of the country's lack of trees. All the timber for the homes will be imported. Gastineau will send a trainer to help the buyers build the homes.
The homes that will be built in Ulaanbaatar will be used for residential and commercial purposes. Gastineau said she knows of a doctor's office, music hall and school potentially being housed inside one of her company's log homes.
The deal helps ensure job security for Gastineau's 27 employees at the New Bloomfield site. Gastineau said the U.S. housing market didn't bounce back like many had hoped, so finding business in international markets has become vital. This year Gastineau Log Homes exports 25 percent of its business, but with the international expansion, that number will increase to 50 percent.
'Hot Cities' tour takes business students to Mongolia
January 22 (The Economic Voice) More than 40 students and alumni from the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University are visiting Mongolia this March, to help them understand the realities of doing business in a fledgling emerging market.
The Bachelor of Commerce students will travel to the deprived districts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, as part of the 'Hot Cities' tour, a revolutionary initiative led by students which aims to bring them out of the classroom and into emerging commercial markets.
By sharing their experience through social media and blogs at http://payitforward.mcgill.ca, they aim to raise $20,000 for the Veloo Foundation, a charity that provides safety and education for children affected by urban poverty. Students will also have the opportunity to visit local companies and meet business leaders at the centre of one of the world's fastest growing economies.
New for this year is a consulting component. Students will work with Julie Veloo, the founder of the Veloo Foundation, to develop a permanent and workable marketing solution to enhance the visibility of the charity.
Mia Bernhardt, a student organiser for the trip, said:
"As the tour is designed for management students, they'll see what macro influences encourage people to do business the way they do in an economy like Mongolia's which has seen vast change in the past decade. It's a chance to see first-hand how businesses work with the cultural component while giving back and engaging with a charity on a sustainable, long-term level."
Professor Karl Moore, who runs the course at Desautels, says:
"Too often people of my generation flew business class, lectured emerging economies about the theory of markets and then flew back home. This generation is doing it better; they fly in the back of the plane with only their knapsacks, show up in the country they want to learn about, roll up their sleeves and ask: 'How can we help?'"
Students will spend three days in Mongolia before moving on to South Korea, where they will meet with local businesses, and connect with alumni.
Mongolia firm unable to buy Chongryon HQ
January 23 (Kyodo) The Tokyo District Court said Thursday it has rejected a Mongolian bidder's offer to buy out the headquarters and land in downtown Tokyo of a pro-Pyongyang Korean residents' group.
In October, the Mongolian firm, identified as Avar Limited Liability Co., offered the highest bid of ¥5.01 billion to buy the property of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon). The group acts as North Korea's de facto embassy in Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
The court said the auction result was invalid as some of the documents submitted by the firm were copies rather than originals. A third round of bidding will be held, court officials said.
Earlier reports said the Ulan Bator address the little-known firm provided did not exist.
In 2012, the court decided to auction Chongryon's headquarters as demanded by the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corp., which is owed about ¥62.7 billion by Chongryon following the collapse of financial institutions in Japan for pro-North Korean residents.
In the first round, held last March, Saifuku Temple in Kagoshima Prefecture won the bidding to acquire Chongryon's 10-story head office with two basement floors and its 2,387-sq.-meter tract of land in central Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.
But the temple, whose chief priest, Ekan Ikeguchi, is known to maintain close ties with senior officials of the North Korean government and Chongryon, failed to pay the bid price by the deadline and was eliminated in the second round of auction.
Avar Limited Liability was one of the two bidders that filed bids in the second round in October, court officials said.
Avar head Chuvaamed Erdenebat said at the time the bid was a purely business decision (Mogi: he's the older brother of the wife of Sumiyabazar, Asashoryu's older brother).
Elbegdorj Meets Shinzo Abe, UNDP Administrator and President of Guinea during 2014 WEF in Davos
January 23 (infomongolia.com) During his attendance in the 44th World Economic Forum being held in Switzerland, President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj met with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on the first day of the Annual Meeting (Mogi: phone buddies).
At the meeting, parties discussed bilateral partnership issues, in particular on enhancing economic cooperation; moreover President Ts.Elbegdorj met with the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Elizabeth Clark.
On the same day, as part of the Forum, President attended "The Future of Extractives" Session along with the Head of State of Guinea Alpha Conde.
Mongolia experienced to host the World Economic Forum: Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar and the "Future of Extractives" looks at how the resource industry can drive growth despite rising concerns about environmental deprivation and scarcity.
Kuwaiti ambassador discusses ties with leading Mongolian lawmaker
KUWAIT, Jan 23 (KUNA) -- The State of Kuwait's Ambassador to Mongolia, Khaled Al-Fadhli, has held talks with the Mongolian legislator, Luvsantseren Enkh-Amgalan, on means of enhancing ties between Kuwait and Mongolia.
The Kuwaiti embassy in Mongolia said in a statement, released on Thursday, that the discussions between the two sides, held in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, dealt with humanitarian activities by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development in Mongolia, namely its contributions to construction of a building for the Mongolian parliament.
Enkh-Amgalan is also the head of the Mongolian side in the Kuwaiti-Mongolian Friendship Committee. Saud Al-Hraiji is the chairman of the Kuwaiti representatives in the joint commission.
The embassy statement added that Al-Fadhli and Enkha-Amgalan also pondered means of encouraging reciprocal visits by Kuwaiti and Mongolian lawmakers to the two countries.
Honorary Consul of Serbia in Mongolia Receives Exequatur
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) On Wednesday, the Deputy Foreign Minister D.Gankhuyag gave an exequatur to B.Zorigt, the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Serbia in Mongolia.
Mr Gankhuyag wished him successes in fostering the cooperation in politics, economy, culture and humanity fields between the two countries.
Mongolia Pushes for Ulaanbaatar Talks on Northeast Asian Security at SCO Meeting in Moscow
Ulaanbaatar, January 23 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mr O.Dambiinyam took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's (SCO) Deputy Ministers Consultation Meeting on Regional security on January 21-22 in Moscow, Russia.
The Ambassador expressed his country's position towards several issues, stressing that Mongolia's government has been maintaining a policy on ensuring the security and economic and political stability in Asia. One of the evidences of this that the Mongolian troops have been taking part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for supporting security of Afghanistan, he emphasized.
Mr Dambiinyam also said Mongolia's President has put forward a proposal on running the Ulaanbaatar Talks on Northeast Asian matters, and urged the countries gathered to collaborate in realizing this mechanism.
Speeches were also given by Mongolia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia Sh.Altangerel, and by the deputy director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at the National Security Council (NSC) Ch.Chuluunbaatar.
Foreign Ministry of Mongolia Issues Travel Warning for Thailand
January 23 (infomongolia.com) Due to a 60-day state of emergency declared from January 22nd by the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand in its capital city and surrounding regions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia released a warning to its citizens to defer all non-essential travel to the country.
Also, Mongolian nationals residing in Thailand are advised not to go the gathered places or nearby the administrative organs and follow the regulations issued by the local legislative bodies.
To receive a consultation or information concerning assistance in emergency situations, please contact Mongolian Embassy in the Kingdom of Thailand at (+66) 2-381-1400, (+66) 2-392-1011, or mail to: email@example.com.
Embassy of Mongolia,
100/3 SoiEkkamai 22,
Sukhumvit 63 Road,
German Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology (GMIT) trains new generation of engineers in Mongolia
January 15 (UB Post) The German Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology (GMIT) recently began training a new generation of engineers and technology experts here in Mongolia. The Institute aims to promote the professional and personal development of its students, while imparting pertinent expertise, a spirit of research, creativity and leadership skills in an ever-changing environment. GMIT also aims to transfer international expertise and cutting-edge standards to Mongolia in support of sustainable economic growth.
The UB Post recently conducted this interview with program director Dr. Peter (Mogi: hmmm, just Peter?), programme director at the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ),to discuss recent developments at the Institute, its concept and educational opportunities for Mongolian students hoping to develop their skills in the mining and technology sector. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
GMIT: The Concept
"The concept of our Institute (German Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology) was conceived of in 2011, in discussions between our Chancellor Mrs. Merkel and the Mongolian President, T. Elbegdorj. They came up with the idea of setting up a higher education institute for mining. This idea has since been developed further throughout the past two years; only in the beginning of 2013 was there an official political decision made by the two governments, that the German Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology should be founded. Therefore we began in September, with our first academic year involving some forty students. So the institute has begun, with quite ambitious plans."
A new style of education
"What you might know about higher education in Mongolia is that the curricula is very traditional, very theoretical and textbook-based. The first thing we want to bring about at GMIT is that, from the very beginning, curriculum is very practice- oriented. We've already begun collaborating with firms in Mongolia from the mining and technology sector. They influence the curriculum themselves, as they outline what they need from students, from graduates, to be able to work in their firms.
We also integrate into the curricula very large amounts of practice, at the companies themselves. I think this is a very big difference to normal higher education in Mongolia.
Prior to September we conducted a survey with eighty companies here in Mongolia, and asked them what they needed in terms of competencies of graduates. The response was very nice – we learnt what they consider the most important areas of study. This is why we will start with a bachelor program in mineral resources engineering and mechanical engineering. They also told us that it would make more sense to educate students in English, rather than German, as the graduates working here in the mining and technology sector should be able to speak in English, because of the international context.
German is offered as option, as it's a very good link to our partner universities who offer very good professional expertise to designing the curricula from an academic point of view. German competence in engineering is quite well-known, worldwide – this is the other special feature of GMIT. We bring German expertise in engineering to Mongolia, in regards to designing curricula and creating strong ties with German partner universities. We already have two partner universities in Germany who specialize in the mining and technology sector.
At the end of January we will have a workshop in Germany, where we meet with professors of these universities, and make a first draft of the curricula of the two bachelor programs that will start in September 2014.
From September onwards, we will also have German teachers, coming to Mongolia teaching parts of the bachelor programs."
Mongolia and Germany: a long-standing relationship
"There certainly is a special relationship between Germany and Mongolia. There are really close diplomatic ties – this year we have our 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries. We have many Mongolians studying in Germany and then returning home to Mongolia, before becoming some of the elite in the economic and political sphere. Since 2011, there is a bilateral agreement on co-operation in the mineral resources sphere – the first bilateral agreement of its kind that Germany has ever undertaken. This certainly is a two-way road: Germany helping Mongolia to develop its own expertise and infrastructure to make sustainable use its mineral resources, on the other hand there's an interest of the German government to secure its own economic interest in the mineral resources sector, to bring German companies into the mining and technology sector. Also, to guarantee the import of needed mineral resources to Germany, such as rare earths. I am pleased that there is a genuine interest from both sides – it is a mutual agreement."
Competent and capable students
"So far, the students are very happy as they talk to their colleagues from other universities, and they already see that the difference between what is done at traditional Mongolian universities, and what is done here. We've already taken them to several study excursions, such as to the Baganuur Coal Mining Site and Clean Energy Park nearby. We have invited experts in geology to give them an overview of what you can find beneath the ground, in Mongolia. We have tried from the very beginning to give our students an idea of what they will need as upcoming engineers – not only textbook knowledge, but communicating with companies, and how these companies work.
What is also very different about our institute is that we had three orientation days and we invited nine companies to take part, such as Anglo American and Energy Resources. We have a special relationship with Oyu Tolgoi as they built our new campus. We want to have a value-added relationship with the companies, for the students, to get them in direct contact with the companies that they will be working with."
"The curricula concept has foreseen a preparatory course for students only having finished secondary school. This kind of one-year program is called 'Basic Engineering', and during this year we teach the students across four basic areas: mathematics, physics, chemistry and English. These are the basics for being able to start a bachelor program which is designed to German and European standards. We want to bring the quality standards of Germany and Europe to Mongolia, but we have to bridge this with the competencies of our students.
Then the bachelor program will take four years to complete, as we'd like to integrate large practice phases into the programs. Of the four years altogether, the students will spend at least four months in companies, in practice phases. That is what the sector actually needs. Overall, for an average student, finishing middle school, it will take five years to become an engineer or technology expert who will then be able to start a career in the sector."
Right now we have a second round of recruitment for the summer semester, which is quite unusual in Mongolia. We are very optimistic that we will recruit 20 to 30 talented students to the ongoing, basic engineering program. At the end of the first academic year we would like to have at least 60 students all together that will be able to begin the bachelor programs. We will move to our new campus in summer, and the new academic year will begin there. It is the first real campus university in Mongolia, as we have our own dorms on campus."
"There are some scholarship opportunities available. Scholarships have been awarded by the Ministry of Education and Science for the best students. These are scholarships with regard to performance of the students. We also think of introducing scholarships rewarding social engagement of students. And there is another possibility as to how students can be supported financially. In our first class, in the basic program, we have six students from mining companies in Mongolia, who have already been working for these companies and have been selected to come to our Institute. Their education will be paid for by the companies."
Continued Mongolian and German co-operation
"I am very optimistic because what I have seen so far is a very good co-operation between the German and Mongolian sides. I have been working in such projects all over the world, and this cannot be taken for granted. You often face problems in this regard, in projects where two governments have decided to form an institute such as this. However, in this case co-operation has been working very well. I am looking forward to seeing how the institute develops throughout this year."
Why study at GMIT?
- learn within the Institute's worldwide renown study programs, in accordance with internationally recognized standards – become practically skilled thanks to GMIT's co-operation with the industry – be individually coached by GMIT's Mongolian and international teachers
- acquire comprehensive and sound language skills in English and German – train professional key competencies and develop your soft skills – become prepared for your professional future with GMIT's Career Services – profit by GMIT's agreeable learning environment within it's new modern campus
Study Programs at GMIT
Beginning autumn 2014: B.Sc. in Mineral Resources Engineering (with an emphasis on mineral processing) and B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering Beginning autumn 2015: B.Sc. in Environmental Engineering
Basic Engineering Program A one-year preparatory program for the Bachelor of Science studies successfully began in September 2013. It is an intensive program enabling students to study in engineering program at an international level. Basic subjects include mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer application. Languages: English, German (optional) Practical training: Apprenticeships and training in laboratories Key competences: Problem-oriented scientific work, project management, presentation and communication skills, other soft skills.
For further information
Social Policy Standing Committee Approves Mutual Pension Scheme
January 23 (news.mn) The Standing Committee on social policy, education, culture and science discussed several draft bills including a Pension Sharing law, the Protection of Cultural Heritage law and issue surrounding the increase of salaries and pensions during Wednesday`s meeting.
The Standing Committee voted for the Protection of Cultural Heritage law to be discussed in the Parliamentary session meeting.
The Standing Committee on social policy, education, culture and science discussed a Pension Sharing law. The Pension Sharing law allows a person who is the legal spouse or common-law partner of a deceased contributor of social insurance to be paid the pension after their spouses' death, in the case that both halves of the couple should have paid social insurance for at least 20 years uninterruptedly and have been married for at least 10 years.
If the Pension Sharing law is passed, over 76,000 pensioners may be eligible for benefits in Mongolia. When the law will become effective is to be finalized during the discussion.
Putting maternal health to the test
By Michelle Borok
January 24 (UB Post) January Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health announced that 2014 would be the Year of Maternal and Children's Health. While, undoubtedly, this was good news for nurses, doctors, administrators and advocates in the health sector, the challenges to making tangible improvements to the nation's health care industry are tremendous.
The issues facing public health are many. Increased attention to the harmful effects of growing air pollution on residents in the capital (home to the majority of Mongolia's population) will hopefully be a driving force in the changes that need to made on a large scale, but the issues of infrastructure (access to clean water and heat), health education, nutritional education, and simple access to medical resources all need to be addressed.
Few people look forward to having to engage the health care system here. The costs at private clinics are feasible for only the privileged few, and the majority are left with the long lines, limited information, and slapdash diagnoses offered at public hospitals. With rapidly growing populations in the nation's cities and province centers, the systems in place are under serious strain.
I had no plans to truly put the Mongolian public health care system to the test, but last week I was taken to a Darkhan emergency room for surgery. Living in a small town has benefits, one of which is being able to call your OBGYN for an emergency house call when you are six months pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. She wasn't able to make a diagnosis, and neither was the doctor who arrived with the ambulance, but the general consensus was to head straight to the hospital.
We opted for the front seat of a friend's car parked in front of the apartment instead of the Russian Jeep-made-ambulance parked in a neighboring parking lot, and ended up beating the ambulance to the hospital. Somehow, I also luckily beat the emergency room rush, and was able to receive the attention of two of the doctors on staff. Without MRI machines or an ultrasound, as my described symptoms were translated to the doctors conducting an external physical examination, it was determined that I was most likely experiencing appendicitis. Immediate surgery would be required.
While it's never easy to face the reality of required and complex medical procedures, I've come to find it even more challenging to face when communication with your health care practitioners is stunted by language barriers. As I did when I first encountered the Mongolian health care system for the birth of my first child, I resolved to trust in my doctors, family and support network, and to remember that everyone wanted the best possible outcome for me.
Darkhan's general hospital was built in the early 1960s, and like most major public service centers in Mongolia, its seen piecemeal improvements over the decades, but never a full blown restoration. It is mostly equipped with second-hand and donated resources from South Korea, Russia and the U.S. Although the hospital's cleaning staff is fastidious, the non-restricted areas of the hospital are fairly open to everyone and show the wear and tear of heavy use by Darkhan residents and residents of neighboring soums. Shoe covers and paper capes are given to people accompanying patients onto surgical floors, but few other measures are taken to maintain a sterile environment.
I tried to forget all of these things as I lay on the operating table. Two of the hospital's top surgeons had been called in to perform the operation, and my OBGYN was on hand to monitor (by sight and intuition honed over nearly 30 years in practice) my unborn child. I set aside any last psychic grasps for control, and trusted in trained professionals who had no doubt saved countless lives before mine.
The surgeons asked curious questions about their foreign patient, and my OBGYN did her best to fill them in and translate their inquiries. It was the perfect distraction. About a third of the way through, my OBGYN leaned over to join a discussion with the surgeons. It turned out that the possible ruptured appendix was actually an ovarian cyst. Without missing a beat, it was carefully removed, and I was sewn back up and sent off to recovery.
I spent my first night in the general hospital. While I was in surgery my husband raced home to collect bed sheets, toiletries, clothes and other supplies for what would end up being a five day hospital stay. The public hospitals provide limited bedding to patients, and when they are overcrowded, sometimes they aren't even able to provide beds. The nurses laid out the sheets from home, and stashed the rest of my belongings in the wooden bedside table next to elevated, hand-cranked Korean hospital bed I was transferred to from the surgical room's gurney. I had a fitful night's sleep, but I spent a lot of time reflecting on how lucky I was to have the attention and care of my doctors, something that small town life allows. But I spent as much time imagining how different the experience would have been in a modern hospital in Los Angeles.
The next morning, after paying our emergency room bill in full (just a little over 135,000 MNT) a nurse helped my husband and I pack up and I crept down three flights of stairs to be driven to the maternity hospital located behind the general hospital. I spent the rest of my recovery there for monitoring of my baby.
There's an efficiency to Mongolian character that I, personally, have always appreciated. It comes from a practicality and sense of purpose that I sometimes feel is lacking in other cultures. My maternity hospital nurses all displayed this trait with varying degrees of softer bedside manner.
They were a bit thrown off by the wounded foreigner on their floor, but news spread quickly that I could understand a little bit of Mongolian, but not much. They were all incredibly organized, informed and prepared to care for me during the recovery process, and the least shy of them would strike up conversation. My favorite nurse, learning that I was also an English teacher, had me chat on the phone with her fourteen year old daughter as she listened on speakerphone.
There's a sense of community that's created on hospital room floors. Thankfully, there was no overcrowding in the maternity hospital. All patients had their own beds, but no one had a private room. According to a head doctor at the adjoining children's hospital, the rooms were completely full. The children's hospital has 40 beds, but during the winter, gurneys, thin mattresses and bedrolls line the hallways to treat the tidal wave of children brought in with severe flu and pneumonia. During my stay, there were over 80 in-patient children being looked after by the children's hospital staff.
Only the smallest of meals are offered by the hospital. Milk tea and rice porridge were brought down the halls each day, but patients rely on family or friends to deliver food to the hospital throughout the day. There's a steady stream of full and empty food storage containers that move up and down the hallway, as visitors are seldom allowed to go directly to rooms. Men are even less welcome beyond the waiting room of the maternity hospital, but exceptions are sometimes made. When a new hot meal arrives, patients share and serve their hospital roommates before eating, and many set aside food to share with the nurses. Roommates share mobile phone minutes, power strips, toilet paper, electric kettles, and whatever else other women might be without. It's a beautiful thing.
Of course, it's also a reminder that all of these things are only available to those who can provide for themselves. The hospitals can't feed, clothe, provide clean blankets and pillows, or even a steady supply of painkillers to patients. I'm eternally grateful for the resourcefulness of Mongolians, and for their innate need to take care of one another, but I'd still rather see the health sector receive the attention and resources it needs to take more holistic care of its patients.
Back at home, and still on the mend, I checked in with Andy Mayer, an Australian childbirth educator who has spent her time in Mongolia working hands-on with maternity hospitals and staff through the Maternal Health Training Project. When asked for her thoughts on the Ministry of Health's start of the year pronouncement, Mayer said, "It is a great thing that the ministry is focused on improving maternal and infant health. It would be beneficial to invest heavily in antenatal education and post natal education at hospitals to enable more mothers to learn skills that prevent poor outcomes. Now there are over 100 maternal healthcare workers trained in antenatal education practices the implementation of patient education classes should be easy to facilitate." The work of the Maternal Health Training Project will continue because the Mongolian health care providers who participated in the program are eager for change, whether or not the "Year of Maternal and Children's Health" ever gets off the ground.
I can't vote in this country, but I'm going to raise children who were born into the Mongolian health care system, and will someday – hopefully – motivate their elected officials to make good on their public promises. Improved maternal and children's health in Mongolia will take more than a year to treat thoroughly, but now is as good a time as any to take a close look at the changes that need to be made.
Khuvsgul Lake prohibited from entering as lake not frozen completely due to warm winter
January 23 (news.mn) Travel on the surface of the frozen Khuvsgul lake has been temporally prohibited until February 5th, on an order by the Governor of Khuvsgul province, with the purpose to prevent any possible danger of accident. The water of the lake seems to be not yet to be frozen completely.
Mongolia has experienced a relatively warm winter this year, meaning the frozen surface of Khuvsgul Lake is only 25-30 cm thick. This poses a possible risk of ice breakage to travelers on Khuvsgul Lake using any mode of transport. Therefore travelling to Khankh and the Darkhad valley on the lake has been prohibited for a delayed period.
Mogi: why not
"Chinggis Khaan" comics available on mobile devices
January 23 (news.mn) The "Chinggis Khaan" and "Zaan Zaluudai" comics are now available on mobile applications for the iPhone and iPad.
The first volume of the Chinggis Khaan comic, the first ever in Mongolia, was released in September 2005. The 20 comic books of the novel "Chinggis Khaan", which is based on the Mongolian secret history, was originally written by Sky Power Media LLC and published by Interpress Printing and Publishing Company on the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mongolian Empire by Chinggis Khaan, in 2006.
The novel tells a story of the great Chinggis Khaan, from his birth to his death featuring his childhood, conquests and the establishment of the Mongolian Empire through the unifying of many Mongolian tribes. Chinggis Khaan is the key figure in Asian history, with many great achievements of the Ancient Oriental Civilization and the Renaissance. The release of the Chinggis Khaan comic book was a great success that many children read and greatly enjoyed.
There are four comic books of "Zaan Zaluudai" is an amazing adventure in prehistoric ancient times. Children are fascinated with the stories of ancient people, how they lived and how they fought to survive in ancient times with no modern conveniences such as houses or cars.
Bird enthusiast talks bird watching in Mongolia
January 22 (Daily Sun News) Isabelline Shrike, Demoiselle Crane, Ruddy Shelduck - the names sound like fictional characters from a soap opera or prime time drama.
However, Isabelline, Demoiselle and Ruddy are very real. They're not human, though. They're just a few of the uncommon bird species found in Mongolia's Gobi Desert.
The Sunnyside-based Nouvella women's club heard about these and plenty of other feathered friends during a luncheon presentation last week by Yakima Valley bird enthusiast Andy Stepniewski.
He has published a book about the birds of Yakima County.
Stepniewski has also travelled with his wife to Mongolia on a three-week expedition that featured extensive bird watching in the steppe and mountain areas of the Gobi Desert. He recounted how change is gradually coming to this remote area, such as primitive gerts (tent-like structures) equipped with satellite dishes, or farmers riding motorcycles to herd their animals.
But it's still a rough terrain lacking many travel conveniences, such as reliable roads and vehicles. Stepniewski recounted how the tour group would wait hours sometimes for their Soviet-era rig's radiator to cool. At other times, their driver would essentially create his own roads along the way.
Stepniewski said his group took the hurdles in stride. The focus of the expedition, after all, was to photograph the unusual terrain and wildlife that call the Gobi home.
To that end, he excitedly discussed with the Nouvella Club the sighting of a Bar-Headed Goose, famed for its migration at elevations so high they soar over Mt. Everest.
Stepniewski noted that most of the birds found in Mongolia are uncommon to North America, giving their sightings even more meaning to avid bird watchers.
He also praised the hospitality and friendliness of the Mongolian people that overcame language barriers.
Whether it was cooking for the party or offering the traditional travel blessing of milk poured on their vehicle's tires, Stepniewski said he enjoyed the people of Mongolia.
He noted their group camped in the gerts and even found gert "motels," where several of the round tent-like buildings were placed together to accommodate travelers passing through.
"It was a grand experience," he smiled.
Water to aid Mongolia
January 23 (ABC North Queensland) Cairns based organisation, MongoliAid wants 400 schools across the country to raise $500 each, to help build wells in Mongolia's Gobi desert region.
The organisation's Barry Jiggins says it is all about getting fresh water into the country's schools.
"I have been going to Mongolia for the better part of 10 years now and on many occasions I have visited villages and seen schools that really struggle with clean water," he said.
"Many of the schools still rely on scooping up water from local streams."
Mr Jiggins says the water projects they have completed are in need of funds for maintenance.
"It is one thing to build these water projects but you need to maintain them; these communities have to endure -40 degree temperatures in the winter," he said.
"So from time to time, the pipes for instance can freeze, or the generators break down."
Mr Jiggins says this is where the students in Australia can help.
"This project is an idea to get young people from around Australia to help us put money aside for a term deposit, so that, into the future, we can use that interest to pay for the maintenance and improvement of existing water projects and also to build new projects," he said.
"The paydirt (sic) for all of those kids raising money around Australia, is a live webcast connecting each of those 400 classrooms to the Bayangovi school grounds.
"So the kids in Australia can actually see and hear the Mongolian kids that they have helped ... and so they become part of the story and not just read about the story."
Travel: Outer Mongolia
January 22 (The Scotsman) The nomads of Outer Mongolia (Mogi: just Mongolia was too confusing I guess) live much as their Bronze Age forebears did, with one or two modern innovations, finds David Robinson. (Mogi: solar panels, cell phones, motorcycles, televisions, radios, … that's 5 already)
When we got back to the city, we all met again for a meal. Someone had a map of the country, and our guide drew where we'd been on it.
"Is that it?" I asked, disappointed. "Is that all we've seen?"
On the table in front of me, where the map of Outer Mongolia was spread out, it didn't look like much: a blue Biro mark that headed to the right of Ulaanbaatar for half an inch, then moved north for the same distance, and swung back to the city again.
Below the blue circle, the Gobi desert: untouched, unseen. Far above it, Lake Baikal, over the border in Siberia, which those girls at the ger camp had raved about and wanted to go back to: let's face it, I'll probably never get there now. The same goes for Hovd, a thousand kilometres to the west, where our guide Tudevee came from, where he told us he'll be carried up to some peak the day after he dies and left to the vultures. I'll never see those mountains either. It was meant to be a celebratory meal, but I was starting to feel maudlin.
"It's a big country," consoled Harry, a young Englishman who'd fixed up our holiday with the nomads of Outer Mongolia. "You can't see everything in a week."
I had arrived in Ulaanbaatar (Mogi: bravo) almost deliberately ignorant about the country. Yes, I knew Outer Mongolia was big: the world's second biggest landlocked country, the size of eight Frances, and with just over 2 million people living there, one of the least populated. But staying with nomads would be strange enough, I reckoned, without trying to find out everything I could about them. I'd take them as I found them, and they'd have to do the same with me. And that turned out to be a good move. Because that Biro'd blue circle on the map was the most weirdly magical journey I've ever been on.
Weird? OK, try this. You're upstairs in the Scottish pub in Ulaanbaatar, drinking Chingghis lager, watching a small crowd of enthusiastic Mongolians Stripping the Willow and doing the Gay Gordons. A Scot setting up the country's computerised tax system (how do nomads pay tax?) has taught them Scottish country dancing, and they love it. All of which is weird enough, but doesn't compare with seeing the door open and a friend from Edinburgh walk into the room, at which point an already great night tips over into an unforgettable one.
You won't want to stay long in Ulaanbaatar, though, and you shouldn't. It's a Mad Max sort of place: unfinished bypasses crazily crammed with manic traffic in a city surrounded by thousands of tents. This time of the year, it's the world's coldest capital, with temperatures plunging to minus 40C.
It is also so polluted that breathing its air for a day is reckoned to be the equivalent of smoking four packs of cigarettes. Official figures show that one in ten deaths are caused by pollution, unofficial estimates push that figure up to one in five. Traffic is atrocious, buildings from the Soviet era charmlessly concrete, seemingly unplanned and barely insulated.
A wild eastern variety of capitalism doesn't seem to be doing the country any favours either: instead of hospitals and universities, all the Mongolians seem to be getting in exchange for their lucrative mineral rights are ludicrous projects like a distant airport and plans for an enormous Buddha bigger than the Statue of Liberty in the middle of an unappealing development sponsored by the hated Chinese. Corruption is in the air almost as clearly as pollution.
Why then do I persist in thinking that Outer Mongolia is a place of wonder? Because when you drive even just ten miles out of Ulaanbaatar, out on to the wide open steppe, you're in a different country.
How different? Try this. You're staying with a family of nomads in a beautiful river valley which, apart from the absence of fences, walls, roads or any sign of human habitation, could almost be the Scottish Borders. You've got your own ger, the brilliantly economical circular felt-covered tents which only take 20 minutes to put up (Mogi: 20 minutes is a stretch from couple of hours more) and which are unchanged since Ghenghis's day. No electricity, no toilets, but there's a stove in middle to burn larch logs from the copse across the river (or, for less heat, birch or dried animal dung).
Naraa and his wife Bujenlkham live with their three-year-old daughter in a ger 20 yards away. From the outside, it's the same as mine, though inside, they have had a solar-powered television, which they mainly watch to pass the long winter nights because there's just too much for a herdsman to do in the summer. Apart from that, we could be back in the Bronze Age. Life is hard, and the biting winds make Naraa and Bujenlkham both look older than their 33 years. It's also elemental in every sense: the only thing keeping the wolves from the sheep-pen door in the -40C darkness is Naraa's attentiveness and horsemanship.
My stay was far too short and I don't want to over-romanticise the nomadic life. All the same, I came back changed from meeting them. In the thousands of years of our civilisation, we can hardly imagine a country where land isn't owned and where you are free to move your ger wherever or whenever you want. Maybe the taxman will get them one day, but they seem free enough to me.
So while they're as friendly and as interested in strangers as people in remote communities everywhere, and while they are deeply hospitable to strangers in a way that we have mostly forgotten, they are not overawed by westerners. "You can't have a laugh with them as easily," explains Naraa. "They take us so seriously. If we said it was a thousand kilometres to the nearest garage, they'd just nod sympathetically."
Earlier, we'd stayed at a nomad camp by the Kherlen River, where the nomads had gathered for a mini-Naadam, the Mongolian equivalent to a Highland Games, celebrating the "three manly arts" of wrestling, archery and horseracing, as well as competing to tame wild horses and put up gers in the shortest time. The women had their own event - dried animal s**t-collecting.
In the evening, everyone put on their finest robes and sang songs about brave men, horses and their love for their mothers. The children danced, and in the back of the room, their mothers did what stage mothers do everywhere, drawing semicircles under their faces so their children remember to smile.
I'd already heard the country's finest throat singers singing chords (chords!) whose top notes flew off round the room like a bird, I'd already seen their finest dancers fling themselves around the stage re-enacting their oldest myths. But as I sat back and watched the children eagerly sing, even though their music was strange to me, I felt as though I half understood it. In this circle of warmth and light, two weeks from winter, I realised that this music and dance wasn't just for tourists but for the nomads themselves, a celebration of hope and happiness.
They're not my people, but I felt as proud of them as if they were. Which is another way of saying that they made me feel proud of being human. On the darkening steppe of Outer Mongolia, I felt a moment of transcendence, as though I'd had a brief glimpse of the best of us.
GETTING THERE AND WHERE TO STAY
David Robinson flew to Ulaanbaatar from Edinburgh with Turkish Airlines - all other routes involve one or more changes of airline. Turkish Airlines also provides free overnight accommodation in Istanbul if the flight involves a stopover or a free city tour. See www.turkishairlines.com
In Outer Mongolia, he was a guest of Panoramic Journeys, who specialise in tailor-made and group tours of
Outer Mongolia. A two-week Nomad Encounters holiday costs £2,740 excluding flights from UK. For that and other holidays there (and in Bhutan and Burma) see www.panoramicjourneys.com, or phone 01608 676821 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For accommodation in Ulaanbaatar, the five-star Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace is at the top end of the range, and provides free mobile phones for the duration of your stay (www.kepminski.com), although the Edelweiss Hotel (www.edelweiss.mn) might suit those on a budget. A cultural tour of the city is a must - especially a visit to the theatre to catch an incredible performance of throat-singing and traditional song and dance (see www.juulchinworld.mn). The Modern Nomads restaurant chain in the city offer lighter versions of traditional Mongolian classics and are also recommended.
SUMO/ Hakuho, Kakuryu win, Endo dealt third loss on Day 12
January 23 (The Asahi Shimbun) Hakuho and Kakuryu dominated the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament for another day on Jan. 23, with the yokozuna staying unbeaten and the ozeki trailing the leader with only one loss.
Hakuho burned more calories than usual in the process, but tossed sekiwake Goeido (5-7) onto his backside after a heated fight for the belt. The yokozuna was a tad off-center at the face-off but saved himself by grabbing Goeido's mawashi with his right hand. He used that to reel in the sekiwake and then take him down with an uwate-nage, or overarm throw.
Kakuryu, who will likely be taking on Hakuho in the tournament's finale, slapped and thrust No. 5 maegashira Shohozan (8-4) off-balance while holding his ground at center court. When Shohozan leaned in for an assault, Kakuryu reached around and pulled the rank-and-filer down by pushing on the back of his neck.
Fighting possibly his best-ever tournament, Kakuryu hasn't lost since his opening day match against top maegashira Okinoumi (5-7). He hasn't been flashy about it but has been surprisingly consistent and on target, giving his challengers little room to maneuver.
His time in the spotlight has, of course, been aided by the absence of yokozuna Harumafuji and komusubi Myogiryu. But Kakuryu deserves credit for what has been an impressive run at the title.
Kotoshogiku showed No. 10 maegashira Endo who's boss with an uneventful grappling drive. The ozeki hit Endo hard, got his arms in position and crushed the newcomer backward until he was out. Kotoshogiku now has the eight wins he needs to keep his rank.
Endo is so new to the top ranks that he still doesn't have long enough hair to tie in a top knot. He was paired against the ozeki because he had gone 9-2 in his earlier matches against the bottom half of the rank-and-file. With three losses, he is no longer a dark horse, but he is without a doubt a rising star.
Kisenosato, meanwhile, fought his way out of trouble after sekiwake Kotooshu tricked him with a sidestep at the face-off, then forced the two into a grappling duel, which he should have won. But once again, the ozeki proved brittle.
He allowed the big Bulgarian to get a firm belt hold then came out on the bottom when they both moved to execute throws.
The loss is Kisenosato's fifth, which is dismal considering hopes were high that he might prove himself worthy of promotion to yokozuna. Kotooshu, who is getting used to life after demotion from ozeki, also has a 7-5 scorecard.
Komusubi Tochiozan, who is trying to work his way back up to the sekiwake standing he held in November, got his eighth win by sending No. 4 maegashira Takekaze (5-7) into a mid-ring belly-flop.
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