Tuesday, February 11, 2014

[MNT on post-Tsagaan Sar decline, trade deficit narrows as imports fall, exports rise, and Mongolia wants a slice of the Antarctica]

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original


Overseas Market

Mogi: managed to approve Chandgana power plant as a concession project in Jan. 2014 it says. PCY closed -0.5c to 9c.

Prophecy Coal Reports Preliminary Fourth Quarter Coal Production and Operation Update

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 10, 2014) - Prophecy Coal Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCY)(OTCQX:PRPCF)(FRANKFURT:1P2) is pleased to follow up its announcement of November 4, 2013, and report its preliminary figures on coal production and sales volumes from its 100% owned Ulaan Ovoo mine ("Ulaan Ovoo") in Mongolia for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2013:

October 31,

November 30,

December 31,





Coal Production






Coal Sales






Weighted Average Strip Ratio (m3/tonne)


Stockpile Opening Balance (tonnes)


Stockpile Ending Balance (tonnes)


In early November 2013, the Company resumed mining operations at Ulaan Ovoo. Mining and road conditions to the Sukhbaatar rail siding ("Sukhbaatar") are currently normal and coal is being sold on a continual basis to a number of Prophecy customers. The Company is pleased with coal production and sales volumes.


In 2014, the Company sold and successfully delivered a coal shipment from Sukhbaatar to a Russian customer. The coal was approximately 5,300kcal/kg GCV, 0.5% Sulphur, and 5% ash. Management recently visited a number of Russian coal end users with the goal of establishing continuous shipments to Russia in 2014.

In addition, the Mongolia Ministry of Road and Transportation recently issued the terms of reference ("TOR") for the Zeltura Road feasibility study. After the TOR were issued, Prophecy started the feasibility study on upgrading the road from Ulaan Ovoo mine to Zeltura border.

Given that the mine is just 17km from the Zeltura border (as opposed to approximately 120km from the mine to Sukhbaatar), re-opening of the Zeltura border would reduce the transportation cost and potentially further increase coal sales to Russia. After the study is complete (target May 2014) and if accepted by the Ministry of Road and Transportation, the road upgrade can begin and is expected to take up to four months based on preliminary tenders received. The Company will advise when feasibility is completed and if accepted.

Concurrently, the Company is working with the Ministry of Finance on creating a customs clearing zone at Ulaan Ovoo for Russian exports. While the Company is pleased with the overall progress and appreciates the support from the Mongolian and Russian authorities, it cannot offer certainty or a definitive time frame to start transporting coal through Zeltura.


In July 2013, the Company applied for a concession with the Ministry of Economic Development (MOED) for the 600MW Chandgana mine mouth power project. Already with the power plant land use right, construction license, and coal mining license, Chandgana is an advanced green-field project designed to supply much needed electricity to a rapidly growing domestic Mongolia market. After extensive document submissions and discussions, the Mongolian Cabinet approved Chandgana as a concession project in January 2014. Subject to negotiations, a concession project may be entitled to stable tax rates, favorable VAT and customs duties, as well as other forms of government subsidies, endorsement and support; all of which can enhance bankability and lead to better financing options for the project. While the Company is pleased with the overall progress and appreciated support from various Mongolian authorities, it cannot offer certainty or a definitive time frame to conclude the Concession Agreement with MOED, or the Power Purchase Agreement with the Ministry of Energy.

As Prophecy's results of operations for the 2013 fiscal year have not yet been finalized, the preliminary results included in this press release are subject to change as a result of the period-end closing process and the audit of Prophecy's financial statements by its independent registered public accounting firm. Please see "Caution Concerning Preliminary Financial Results" below. Management and the Board of Directors look forward to providing further detail once the 2013 fiscal year figures are finalized.

Link to report


XAM acquiring Kharmagtai from TRQ. TRQ closed +1.76% to US$3.46 on Monday

Xanadu Mines Presentation: Kharmagtai Copper-Gold Project

Kharmagtai is one of the most advanced, undeveloped copper projects in Mongolia      

February 11, Xanadu Mines Ltd. (ASX:XAM) --

 Advanced copper-gold project with excellent potential for new discoveries

Porphyry district

·         High-grade, gold-rich porphyry copper mineralisation 

·         Significant prospects defined by extensive exploration

Exploration Target1

·         250-400Mt @ Cu & Au

·         50-80Mt @ Cu & Au 

New discoveries

·         Numerous drill-ready targets

·         Large licence only partially explored 

Strategic location

·         South Gobi power and rail infrastructure

·         Adjacent to key Chinese copper market

Value proposition

·         Low cost, high impact exploration program

·         Aspirations to be next Asian mid-tier copper operator

Link to preso


Mogi: million shares would be worth A$65,000 as of Monday. XAM closed -0.5c to 6.5c on low volume on Monday

Xanadu Mines: Release of 1,000,000 shares from voluntary escrow on 25 February

February 10, Xanadu Mines Ltd. (ASX:XAM) - Pursuant to Listing Rule 3.10A, the Company advises that 1,000,000 fully paid ordinary shares held voluntarily under escrow will be released from escrow on 25 February 2014.  

These shares are already quoted on the Australian Securities Exchange Limited.

Link to release


Khan Investment Management Mongolia Update

February 9 -- 30 Jan 2014, Sky Business Australia, Interview with Travis Hamilton

Link to video

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Local Market

MSE Weekly Review, February 3-7: Top 20 +5.63%, Turnover 88.6 Million

Ulaanbaatar, February 9 (MONTSAME) Four stock trades were held at Mongolia's Stock Exchange on February 3-7, 2014.

In overall, 182 thousand and 236 shares were sold of 117 joint-stock companies totaling MNT 88 million 615 thousand and 229.81.

"Remikon" /100 thousand and 364 units/, "Khokh gan" /38 thousand and 990 units/, "Moninjbar" /12 thousand and 942 units/, "Hai Bi Oil" /4,342 units/ and "Mongolia Development" /4,285 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Tavantolgoi" (MNT 16 million 866 thousand and 960), "Remikon" (MNT 15 million 395 thousand and 273), "Darkhan nekhii" /MNT five million and 733/, "Gazar suljmel" /MNT five million 696 thousand and 300/ and "Baganuur" (MNT four million 775 thousand and 875).

Link to article

Link to MSE Weekly Report


MSE News for February 10: Top 20 -0.97%, Turnover 27.7 Million

Ulaanbaatar, February 10 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Monday, a total of 6,446 shares of 25 JSCs were traded costing MNT 27 million 688 thousand and 220.00.

"Hai Bi Oil" /1,831 units/, "Mongolia Development"  /1,200 units/, "APU" /1,078 units/, "Hermes center" /397 units/ and "Moninjbar" /300 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Atar orgoo" (MNT 13 million 637 thousand and 750), "APU" (MNT four million 526 thousand and 751), "Gazar suljmel" (MNT two million and 117 thousand), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT one million 368 thousand and 775) and "Gutal" (MNT one million 126 thousand and 650).

The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 693 billion 212 million 235 thousand and 435. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 16,750.20, decreasing by MNT 163.32 or 0.97% against the previous day.

Link to article

Link to MSE Daily Report

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Mogi: steep climb up, excepts its really down, but maybe with exports rising and imports falling, it's not such a bad thing?

BoM MNT Rates: February 10 Close





































January MNT Chart:


Link to rates


BoM issues 334 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +13.3% to 998.9 billion

February 10 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 334 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release


Mogi: just an occasional phenomenon?

Mongolia January Trade Deficit Narrows 93% Y/y

By Michael Kohn

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Trade deficit $15.9m in January vs $216.5m deficit yr earlier, the National Statistical Office says today in a statement.

* Imports fell 32% to $337.1m vs $498.1m yr earlier

* Exports rose 14% to $321.2m vs $281.6m yr earlier

* Mongolia Jan. coal exports were 1.265m tons vs 1.284m tons yr earlier

* Jan. copper concentrate exports rise 33% to 63,500 tons y/y

* Non-performing loans in the banking sector rose to 581.9b tugrik in Jan. vs 307.2b tugrik yr earlier

* Total expenditures and net lending from the general government budget increased 55% to 413.1b tugrik in Jan. vs 267.2b tugrik yr ago

(Bloomberg First Word)

Related: Download NSO reports from -> Database File (Mogi: couldn't link with bad web design)

8% Mortgage Program Update: ₮482.4 Billion Refinanced, ₮845.8 Billion Newly Issued for 31,920 Citizens

February 10 (Cover Mongolia) As of February 10, 482.4 billion (₮482.4 billion as of February 7) existing mortgages of 17,105 citizens (17,105 as of February 7) were refinanced at 8% out of 844.3 billion (844.3 billion as of February 7) worth requests. (Mogi: application for refinancing seems to have halted. The application does require minimum 1 year employment at same organization, 30% down payment so perhaps we'll see a few increases along the way)

Also, 845.8 billion (₮842.5 billion as of February 7) new mortgages of 14,815 citizens (14,745 citizens as of February 7) were issued at new rates out of 916.1 billion (₮914.7 billion as of February 7) worth requests.

Link to release (in Mongolian)


Prof Klaus Schwab Speech at Mongolia Night, Davos 2014

February 4 (Elbegdorj Tsakhia) --

Link to video


Research Project: Economics of Climate Change: Coping with Shocks in Mongolia – Vulnerability, Assets and Migration (Shocks Mongolia)

-- DIW Berlin (German Institute for Economic Research) --

Department(s)/ Research Infrastructure: Development and Security

Project Status: Current Project

Project Duration: since/from 2012 to 2015

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), BMBF-No.: 01LA1126A

In Cooperation with: National Statistical Office of Mongolia (NSO) (

Project Manager: Kati Schindler


Aim of the project

This project analyzes the impact of climate shocks on the livelihoods and welfare of households in Mongolia. Our analysis particularly focuses on extreme weather events, locally called dzud disasters (see box below). As a consequence of climate change and global warming, it is very likely that climate shocks, such as dzud, will occur more frequently and with greater intensity. As part of the project, we will conduct a unique household panel survey in western Mongolia. Using micro econometric techniques, the project explores the strategies of households to cope with climate shocks and the effects of climate shocks on inequality. Understanding how households at the micro-level are affected by and cope with climate shocks is an important prerequisite for formulating policies that strengthen household-level resilience and prevent distress migration.

Dzud disasters are severe winter conditions with onsets of cold and snow that escalate livestock mortality. In Mongolia, severe dzuds have been occurring with an average frequency of every eight years since the beginning of meteorological recording in the 1950s. Since the late 1990s, the frequency of zuds has increased, with devastating consequences. Dzuds reduced the national livestock population by almost 30 percent during consecutive dzuds occurring between 1999 and 2002. During the winter of 2009/2010, more than 8 million livestock died, about 17 percent of the national livestock population. The increased frequency and intensity of dzuds in Mongolia is often attributed to climate change, although the exact causal relationship between individual weather events and global climatic trends cannot be proven by definition.

Link to project page


DIW Berlin Job Opening: Two Student Research Assistants for Project for Households Coping with Climate Shocks in Mongolia

to provide support for a research project on households coping with climate shocks in Mongolia ( The project conducts and analyses a household panel survey in Western Mongolia.


The student will assist in project management tasks and in communications with our Mongolian partner. This involves translating documents from English to Mongolian and vice versa, assisting with organizing workshops in Berlin and Ulan Bator, and supporting the project in administrative tasks. He/she may also be required to search for and review existing literature.


·         fluency in spoken and written Mongolian

·         fluency in spoken and written English

·         knowledge of German would be an advantage

·         excellent working knowledge of standard office software

·         interest in development economics

·         at least two years of completed university coursework

·         relevant work experience

·         ability to work independently.

Link to post

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Mongolian Immigration Agency implements reforms to ease entrances

February 10 ( The Mongolian Immigration Agency announced today, Monday February 10th about several changes to procedures at ports of entry due to the implementation of a new Law on Border Checkpoints in Mongolia.

The technical reforms to the Agency include online versions of visa, invitation certificate and residence permission application forms. In addition the Agency is considering to introduce fingerprint checks at borders with frequent traffic such as Buyant-Ukhaa and Zamyn-Uud for Mongolian citizens this year.

Officials say now it takes only 15 seconds per passenger at the border for an entry; once it used to take two minutes. Introducing fingerprint checks at the larger border points will reduce the time even more and prevent long queues that are frequently created at the border checkpoints.

Link to article


Wanderlust Travel Awards 2014: WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Who was your top tour-operator? Which airline soared above the rest? And where was crowned your top travel destination? You nominated in your thousands, so read on to find out…

At the end of 2013, we asked you – the Wanderlust readers – to tell us about your year in travel. We wanted to know where you'd been, who with, what equipment brands you had used, and what you thought of them all. The results are in!

In many categories we asked you to list up to four entries (eg countries visited) and score each one on its merits. The final positions were based on an average score for the entry (converted to a percentage) – so the results are based on satisfaction rather than the number of votes. In categories where no percentage is shown (eg travel gear; TV shows) the results were simply based on number of votes cast.

Thanks to Páramo for offering entrants the chance to win a cool £250 worth of travel gear. Thanks also to everyone who took the time to share their travel highs and lows with us, to give us a true picture of what travellers really think.

Top Emerging Destination: Mongolia

1. Mongolia 96.67%

=2. Tajikistan 95.15

=2. Venezuela 95.15

4. Taiwan 94.28

5. Georgia 94

Big skies and huge expanses of near-empty land epitomise Mongolia. There are few roads, and nomadic herders still roam the steppe as they have for centuries. In this busy, increasingly homogenised world, it's easy to see why it's your Top Emerging Destination 2013.

Link to release


Mongolia Announces 20 Billion Wool Subsidy for Herders in 2014

Ulaanbaatar, February 10 (MONTSAME) This year, the Government has projected 20 billion togrog as wool bonus money to be given to herders who supply the raw material to domestic manufacturers.

In order to support the domestic production and to put some restriction in export of home-harvested raw materials, the Government has been implementing this wool bonus money program that gives the wool suppliers an additional 2,000 togrog per kg, since 2012.

This year, the Government is planning MNT 20 billion not to individual herders but to cooperatives that have been formed under agreement among herders/herder families. The bonus money will be transferred to the herder's bank account directly from the Central bank, not transiting provincial public funds as before.   

Link to article


Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York Fall 2014: Katya Zol

Link to runway video

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Здравствуйте!: Why It's Not about -Stans

By Brandon Miliate

February 9 (Mongolia Focus) I recently came across an article in The Atlantic, which reported that Kazakhstani President  Nursultan Nazarbayev had suggested that perhaps the suffix –stan was responsible for Kazakhstan's supposedly low global profile. He mentioned Mongolia, as a country that continues to attract international attention despite its small economy and population. Perhaps a name change would help Kazakhstan develop a stronger international profile, he mused.

There is really only one good Russian response to this: Здравствуйте! ('hello' or in this case more like a saracastic 'good morning'). On the one hand this could just have been a interesting idea that the President was playing around with, which has no serious implications for the future of the country or his perception of its position in world affairs. On the other hand, it could point to some serious misconceptions on Nazarbayev's part.

Let's start with the statement that Mongolia has somehow benefited as a result of not being called something like Mongolistan. For every available economic indicator, Kazakhstan greatly outperforms Mongolia. This is, naturally, to be expected. Kazakhstan is a oil exporting state, has a much larger population, and was more developed at the dissolution of the Soviet Union, giving it a stronger starting point. Just looking at FDI, Kazakhstan hosts a huge figure at $111.5 billion, while Mongolia stands at just $4.5 billion! Anecdotally, it is more that clear enough that many more businessmen, students, policy makers, and analysts take a direct interest in Kazakhstan than in Mongolia when it comes to current affairs (naturally, I would suspect that Mongolia can command more than its fair share of historians). While it is beyond the scope of this casual blog post to offer a full comparison, I feel confident in saying that Kazakhstan's international profile is significantly more pronounced than Mongolia's.

That said, I would suspect that Nazarbayev was more concerned with a different kind of indicator, namely something more related to soft power. (I detailed Mongolia's «small power» here). In this case, Mongolia is certainly outperforming Kazakhstan, and it has nothing to do with a little Perso-Turkic suffix. Mongolia is a proven democracy, and has consistently shown its committment to engaging with the international community and improving its own democratic credentials. While Mongolia has eshewed further deepening its relationship with the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan is part of the Eurasian Custom's Union and CIS, tieing it to the Russian Federation. While Mongolia has sought to further its relationship with the European Union and North America, Kazakhstan remains a difficult partner because of its authoritarian political system and continued abuses of basic civil/human rights. Even with these limitations, Kazakhstan does enjoy good relations with the E.U. and the United States, but the relationship remains limited, largely as a result of Kazakhstan's own domestic and foreign policy choices. While Mongolia has sought to rise above its own geographical position, Kazakhstan's leadership continues to avoid a more balanced relationship with the Russian Federation, to the direct detriment of its other foreign policy goals. (In fact, Kazakhstan's political system is also a key reason for the underdeveloped nature of Kazakhstan-Mongolian relations, outlined here).

At the end of the day, Kazakhstan's economy is stronger and its economic ties to North America and Europe outperform Mongolia on most indicators. If Kazakhstan has any lessons to learn from Mongolia it is that democratization is not only beneficial as a domestic policy, but also as a lever for diplomatic relations. Democracy matters, names and suffixs don't. 

Link to article


Mongolia pushing North Korean ties

February 10 (bne) Mongolia on February 7 ratified a raft of deals to increase economic ties with North Korea. The agreement is part of an ongoing push by Ulaanbataar's to boost cooperation with the isolated state. 

Under the agreement given approval by the Mongolian government, the two countries will increase their economic ties, with a focus on industry and agriculture, state news agency Montsame reports. Mongolia will help North Korea develop livestock husbandry, while Pyongyang will offer assistance in setting up industries utiltising Mongolia's raw materials, such as wool and coal. 

The deal was initially signed during Mongolia Industry and Agriculture Minister Battulga Khaltmaa's visit to Pyongyang in October. The Central Asian state eyes its reclusive neighbour as an aid to improving energy security and diversifying market reach for its growing mining output. 

According to the Mongolian presidential website, agreements were signed on cooperation in the roads and transport sector, as well as culture, sport and tourism. A 2013-15 cooperation plan between the Postal Authority of Mongolia and the North Korean Computer and ICT Centre was also agreed. 

Mongolia has relatively good relations with the pariah state, given the two countries' shared communist history, and Mongolia has often supplied food aid to North Korea in recent years. Meanwhile, somewhat ironically, it's the potential access to international markets that cooperation with the closed-off country could offer that is enticing Ulaanbataar. 

Mongolia, which is increasing production of coal, copper and other commodities, has expressed an interest in gaining access to North Korea's ports. The two countries are already linked by a rail line connecting Mongolia to the port of Rason. 

Last year, Mongolian oil trading and processing company HBOil acquired a 20% stake in the operator of North Korea's Sungri refinery. HBOil will supply crude oil to the refinery for processing, then re-import the products. 

Officials involved in the HBOil deal told bne in July that access to international shipping lanes via North Korea could soon expand. That would offer Mongolia's growing minerals output reach to new markets. Currently China consumes more than 90% of the country's mineral exports, but with the Asian giant's growth slowing, access to Japan, South Korea and India would hedge Mongolia's risks. 

Therefore, alongside growing ties to the North, Ulaanbataar is also looking to build its relations with South Korea. Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold plans to pay an official visit to Seoul on February 12-14. 

Link to article


Mogi: don't want to left out of the piñata party of the future

Mongolia Wants to Join Antarctic Community

February 10 ( At the Cabinet meeting held on Friday, February 07, it was discussed the issue on Mongolia to join the Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System, afterwards resolved to submit at the affiliate Standing Committee of the State Great Khural (Parliament).

Cabinet Ministers agreed to join the Antarctic Treaty in the era of globalization and strengthen international relations and partnerships, besides it aims to share the human universal property and catch up with future competitiveness.

In the scope of entering the Treaty, Mongolia enables to send its expedition, engaged in research work and set up a study center. In this continent, experts founded minerals such as coal, uranium, oil and iron.

The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica that is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. The Treaty officially entered into force on June 23, 1961, where the original signatories were the 12 countries active in Antarctica and currently having 50 signatory nations.

Mongolia first sent its experts to involve in international team to study Antarctica in 1972-1974 and since then has been participating and contributing in researches for global climate changes and weather forecasts.

The latter research expedition to the Antarctica was conducted by Professor and Leader of Mongolia's Antarctica Research Association Lkhamsuren DUGERJAV; in the meantime he held negotiations with authorities to accede Mongolia into the Antarctic Treaty.   

Link to article

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Social, Environmental and Other

Does the World Bank still want to destroy Selenge River? Ask the US Government…

February 6 (Rivers without Boundaries) Rivers without Boundaries is thrilled to report that "Power for People" campaign we participate in has important new support from unexpected ally – the US Government!!!

Now we hope that the biggest WB donor will object to ill-concieved Mining Infrastructure Support Project (MINIS) in Mongolia that supports feasibility studies for several dams in Selenge River basin that threaten well-being of local people and ecosystem health of Selenge River and Lake Baikal. Giant Shuren Hydropower dam – an ancient idea of Soviet engineers to block the main stem of the Baikal's main tributary is of [particular concern to NGOs, scientists and Russian Government. Right now some sort of per-feasibility study is performed by German firm Kleinwasserkraft GmBH.

RwB expects that US Director of the World Bank will officially object to ocontinuation of this project that contradicts new policies of the US Government, see exerpts from Washington Post below:

The United States is demanding stricter oversight of World Bank projects amid concern that the bank has slipped in how closely it guards against violence, forced resettlement and other conflict associated with the hydropower dams that it funds. 

In a blow to plans set by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the United States approved in mid-January 2014 an appropriations bill that orders the bank's U.S. board member to vote against any major hydroelectric project — a type of development that has been a source of local land conflicts and controversies through­out the bank's history. The measure also demands that the organization undertake "independent outside evaluations" of all of its lending. 

The demand coincides with a spate of disputes between the World Bank, civil society groups and the United States over past bank-funded projects that have been linked to killings of villagers and forcing people from their land.

Link to article


Four Soums in Sukhbaatar Aimag under Quarantine Due to Outbreak of Foot-And-Mouth Disease

February 10 ( Due to outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in Sukhbaatar Aimag, the Government discussed the prompt measures being carried out introduced by Minister for Industry and Agriculture Kh.Battulga, which was held at the Cabinet meeting on February 07, 2014.

It was first registered the cases of foot-and-mouth disease in Ongon Sum of Sukhbaatar Aimag on January 27 and the diagnose was approved on January 30, where 109 cattle were destroyed in Ongon Sum, 22 in Naran, 7 in Bayandelger, and 5 in Dariganga Sum of the Aimag that estimates a total of 143 heads destroyed to date.

Currently, in 6 quarantine origins inhabit 183 residents of 47 households breeding 21,568 heads of livestock and in order to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, affiliated organs taking several urgent actions such as involving 293 servants and 64 vehicles at sanitary posts for disinfection of vehicles, cargoes and travelers on the key transport routes, moreover vaccinating over 35 thousand animals.

Affiliated Emergency Management Agency and veterinary organs have issued a ban to local residents to refrain from going outside except for students and specially permitted individuals after the Lunar New Year Holiday, moreover annulled any winter horse racing competitions, besides anyone is forbidden to travel the Shiliin Bogd and Altan Ovoo mountains in Sukhbaatar.

The foot-and-mouth disease is a viral disease mostly affecting cloven-hooved animals, like cows, its symptoms are usually made manifest in two or three days of fever, blisters in the mouth and later on lameness. Cases of humans contracting the disease are extremely rare.

Link to article


What can Sochi teach us?


February 9 (UB Post) For a brief moment, the success and splendor of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony took the spotlight off the widely broadcast failures of Sochi. Last week, as journalists and athletes began making their way to the Olympic Village and hotel accommodations, photos and stories of blunders began flooding social media, following years of stories of corruption, and recently, much more passionate worldwide response to recent laws affecting the Russian lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. Even with sports and competition now in full swing, the behind the scenes stories continue to take the lead.

Mongolia got some positive time in the international Olympic media spotlight for being one of the first countries to arrive at the Olympic Village, joined by New Zealand, a fringe benefit of being a next-door neighbor. Two cross-country skiers, B.Byambadorj and Ch.Otgontsetseg, are representing Mongolia for its 13th bid for Winter Olympics glory – or at the very least, an effort towards winning Mongolia's first Winter Olympics medal. Mongolia was not only among the most prompt to arrive in Sochi, but our athletes also made the top 10 best-dressed list with cozy team designs from Goyo Cashmere.

The Sochi Olympics have already gone down in history as the most expensive games in history. Original figures put the projected costs at 12 billion USD, but the final costs have exceeded 51 billion USD – reportedly more money spent than on every previous Winter Olympics combined. According to a CNN roundup of Sochi statistics, only an estimated 6.4 billion USD of the 51 billion price tag was sports-related spending. The bulk was spent on infrastructure related to the games. In recent decades, host nations have often seen their Olympics spending costs triple from initial estimates, but what's been truly under fire is the hidden cost of Sochi spending.

The Sochi Games are meant to be a showpiece for the "New Russia," a flashy, over-the-top, and top-of-the-line display of what post-Soviet Russia has to offer the world – plans in the works since 2007. But what's being taken away by most of the global audience is a familiar sense of Soviet era corruption and obfuscation. Even Vladimir Putin's response to the criticism around Sochi scandals has an air of the past, being broadly labeled as Western attempts to discredit him personally and Russia generally, and nothing more.

Over 1,500 families in Sochi, a city with a population of 350,000, were evicted (some at gunpoint) from their homes to clear the way for the building of the Sochi-Adler highway. The highway and accompanying rail line cuts through Sochinsky National Park. The national park is Russia's second oldest and home to many endangered native species and sub-species of plants and animals, but is now also home to an Olympic waste dump. Most of the displaced families were offered compensation or new apartment housing, but many evicted households felt that what they were offered wasn't fair value for their land and homes. A recent Los Angeles Times piece tells the story of families living in homes that were deemed as not up to code. The residents and owners didn't receive any compensation and were forcefully evicted and left homeless. Some were even fined with demolition costs for the homes they were forced from.

For the last several years, Ulaanbaatar's ger district residents have been relocated to make way for new apartment complexes. In 2010, J. Aldarjavkhlan, Executive Director of Residential Apartment Financing Corporation pushed for compulsory relocation to new apartments versus financial compensation for land. While many khashaas (plots of residential land) have been cleared for construction projects that may not be complete for another two years, many families are still waiting for the completion of their new apartments. Plots of 0.07 hectares have been deemed equivalent to one newly built two room (one-bedroom) apartment, an exchange that not all families believe is a fair trade. Now the push for relocating ger district families is also being fueled by efforts to cut Ulaanbaatar's air pollution, as studies have shown the damaging effects of coal burning to heat ger district homes. Relocation has taken priority over providing required infrastructure to areas without access to the city's water, heat and power grids.

Building up the site for the Sochi Games was problematic from the start. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about the start of the troubles. Located on a remote floodplain and replete with underground streams, there have been construction challenges, landslides, flooding, damaged equipment and expensive delays in the delivery of materials. Unregistered laborers hired from across Central Asia and Russia were only partially paid for their work, or did not receive any salary at all following completion of their unofficial labor contracts. Companies hired for Olympic projects have had criminal cases opened against them for fraud and corruption, and many have been reported to have extremely close ties to Putin and his administration. These companies have been responsible for billions of dollars in spending authorized by the state on roads, bridges and pipelines to make the Winter Olympics possible. Bloomberg's report on spending found that, on average, 70 percent of the spending on Sochi projects has been provided through Vnesheconombank, a state development bank whose supervisory board is led by the Prime Minister. That position was held by Putin at the time most of the loans for Olympic projects were being handled.

New hotels, condominiums and apartments have been built to house the estimated 2,800 athletes, their coaches, 3,000 performers for the opening and closing ceremonies, 37,000 Russian police officers being brought in to patrol the games, and the far fewer than expected foreign journalists, spectators and supporters attending the games. Getting to Sochi is expensive, and many have found that once you arrive you may not even have a functioning place to stay. As journalists and athletes began to check in, social media site Twitter exploded with "#Sochi" tweets sharing traveler woes such as hotels without lobbies, water outages, guests trapped in malfunctioning elevators, faulty plumbing, missing manhole covers, unfinished sidewalks, and showers without shower curtains. A Twitter account dedicated to sharing these tweets quickly gained 325,000 followers, while the official account of the Winter Olympics has only recently cleared 200,000 followers.

The overspending and last minute fixes before Olympic Games aren't uncommon, and for anyone who has spent any length of time in Mongolia, the inconveniences of insufficient hotel amenities aren't all that shocking when you live in a city that faces ongoing infrastructure challenges year round. The games will continue, despite the promise of continued protests of the Kremlin's recently introduced anti-gay policies and despite the fears of more terrorist attacks in the area. At some point, the media will eventually start to cover the stories of the actual athletes competing in the shadow of Sochi's scandals. While investigations of the underbelly of the games progress, preparations for Rio de Janeiro's Summer Olympics will likely fall under greater scrutiny.

For now, we can focus on rooting for our respective teams. In recent years Mongolia has acted like a nation with something to prove, but hopefully it will learn from the mistakes of its northern neighbor. National pride should come from something much deeper than the quarries emptied to build roads.

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Mongolia visit to see World Vision sponsor child

February 10 (Port Macquarie News) PICTURE a small Mongolian boy holding a blue scarf and a cup of milk as a welcome gesture.

That was the scene which greeted Bonny Hills resident Lesley O'Mara when she met her World Vision sponsor child Munkherdene in Mongolia after years of corresponding through letters.

Munkherdene's brother, grandmother and World Vision staff were also there to greet Mrs O'Mara and her friend Janice Ogilvie.

It was an unforgettable moment.

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Mongolian Actor Wins Role in Netflix' Upcoming Marco Polo Series

Ulaanbaatar, February 10 (MONTSAME) Mongolian actor B.Amarsaikhan might take a role in a Hollywood drama series that is expected to premier in late 2014.

After successfully overcoming several selection steps, B.Amarsaikhan has concluded an acting contract for the role of Mongolian fighter Arga Bokh, with Netflix Inc, an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media available to viewers in North and South America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe.

Created by John Fusco, 'Marco Polo', a nine-episode series, focuses on the famed explorer's journey, which takes him to the center of a brutal war in 13th century China--a world replete with martial arts, intrigue, political skullduggery and battles.

"Kon-Tiki" directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg will direct alongside Dan Minahan.  

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Genghis Khan, Founder of Mongol Empire: Facts & Biography

February 10 (LiveScience) Genghis Khan was a 13th-century warrior in central Asia who founded the Mongol Empire, one of the largest empires in history. By the time he died, the empire controlled a vast amount of territory in China and central Asia, and its armies had ventured as far west as Kiev in modern-day Ukraine. The successors of Genghis Khan would go on to control kingdoms with territories in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Despite his great achievements, and ferocious reputation, there is much about Genghis Khan that we don't know. For instance, there is not a single authentic portrait of the man that survives to present day, writes Jean-Paul Raux, a professor emeritus at the Ecole du Louvre, in his book "Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire" (Thames & Hudson 2003). All of the images of him that exist were created after his death or by people who otherwise never met him.

Additionally, until Genghis Khan gained control over the Uyghur people, the Mongolians did not have a writing system. As such many of the records that survive of him were written by foreigners. An important Mongolian record that survives is called the "Secret History of the Mongols," but was written anonymously (as its name suggests) apparently sometime after Genghis Khan's death.

From what modern-day historians can gather he was born sometime around A.D. 1160 (the exact year is uncertain) and died in August 1227, apparently of natural causes, while in the process of waging a punitive campaign against the Tangut people (who were slaughtered after Genghis Khan died).

Early life

Genghis Khan was born with the name Temujin (also spelled Temuchin). At the time, Mongolia was ruled by different clans and tribal groups. His father, named Yesukai, "was lord and leader of 40,000 tents or families. Even his brothers, including those senior to him, acknowledged him as their leader and head of the Borjigin clan," writes the late Syed Anwarul Haque Haqqi, who was a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, in his book "Chingiz Khan: The Life and Legacy of an Empire Builder" (Primus Books, 2010).

Temujin's mother, Hoelun, had been captured by his father's clan and forced to become Yesukai's wife (something that was common in Mongolia at the time). The boy was named Temujin to celebrate his father's triumph over an enemy, also named Temujin, writes Haqqi, who notes that naming a newborn child after an auspicious event was a common practice.

We know nothing of his early life "but it is reasonable to suppose that as the years rolled by and childhood turned into youth (he) was brought up in the hard and harsh atmosphere of nomadic life, in which the tribal lords and chiefs fought, drank, and duelled, married and slept with their weapons underneath them — a rigorous life in which chiefs shared the miseries, hungers and privations of their people," writes Haqqi.

Around the age of 9, Temujin was betrothed to Börte, the 10-year-old daughter of Dai Sechen, the leader of the Jungirat tribe (there are different spellings of these names). Haqqi believed that Temujin lived for some time with his father in-law, although this is a source of debate among scholars.

At some point Temujin's father, Yesukai, died (apparently poisoned) and Temujin returned home to find his father dead. The family's power faded as many of his father's followers deserted them.

Temujin, his family and remaining followers were forced to eke out a living on marginal pasturelands, contending with thieves and old rivals of Yesukai hoping to kill his family. Around the age of 14, Temujin is said to have murdered his half brother Bektor. 

Rise to power

After a few years, Temujin felt that he was strong enough to return to Dai Sechen and take Borte's hand in marriage. He overestimated his own strength, and Borte was kidnapped in a raid by a tribe called the Merkit. Temujin had to seek out the help of his friends Jamuqa and Toghrul (also called the Ong Khan or Wang Khan) to free her (they were both glad to help, as they hated the Merkit).

Chinese historical sources say that at some point Temujin was captured by the Jin Dynasty (who controlled part of China) and was held there for a number of years. Whether this is accurate or not is unknown.

The records do show that around 1200 Temujin had allied himself with Toghrul and would launch a campaign against the Tatars, which they defeated in 1202. The two would later have a falling out, and Toghrul was killed after his forces were defeated by Temujin. Temujin also had a falling out with Jamuqa and eventually had him killed also.

In 1206, Temujin had conquered most of Mongolia and the remaining tribes were forced to acknowledge him as their leader. He took the name Genghis Khan (also spelled Chingiz Khan or Tchingis Qaghan). The name has different translations, one of them being "oceanic sovereign," writes Raux.

Building an empire

In the years after taking over Mongolia, Genghis Khan would launch a successful campaign against the Jin Dynasty, taking their capital Zhongdu (near modern-day Beijing) in 1215. He then turned his attention to the west, moving deeper and deeper into central Asia. In 1219, he launched a successful campaign against the shah of Khwarezm (based in modern-day Iran) reportedly with an army of up to 200,000 men.

Why Genghis Khan felt compelled to launch these campaigns is a matter of debate among scholars. Morris Rossabi of Columbia University writes in a section of the book "Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire" (University of Washington Press, 2009) that several ideas have been put forward. It's possible that the wars in Mongolia had exhausted the country's supply of animals and Genghis Khan needed to raid other countries to prevent starvation. Another idea is that a period of dry weather in Mongolia led to Genghis Khan decision to seize new lands for his people. Yet another idea is that Genghis Khan felt he had a divine right to conquer the world. [Related: Wet Climate May Have Fueled Mongol Invasion]

Whatever his reasons, his rapid conquests stunned the medieval world, Rossabi notes. While his tactics — the use of the composite bow, cavalry and feigned retreats — were not new, and he had to seek foreign help in order to learn how to conduct siege warfare, Genghis Khan made innovations in the form of government and organization. He transformed Mongolian society from one based on tribes to one capable of conquering and running an empire.

"Once he had conquered territories beyond Mongolia, he instituted a more sophisticated administrative structure and a regular system of taxation," Rossabi writes. "Recruiting captured Turks, Chinese and others, he began to devise a more stable system that could contribute to a more orderly government, with specialized official positions."

He devised a system of laws and regulations to run this new empire of his. "In accordance and agreement with his own mind he established a rule for every occasion and a regulation for every circumstance; while for every crime he fixed a penalty," wrote the Persian writer Ata-Malik Juvayni, who lived in the 13th century, in his book "History of the World Conqueror" (Translated by John Andrew Boyle in 1958).

Genghis Khan said that plunder from his campaigns must be shared among his troops and insisted they follow a vigorous training routine focused on hunting. This was "not for the sake of the game alone, but also in order that they may become accustomed and inured to hunting and familiarized with the handling of the bow and the endurance of hardships," Juvayni wrote.

Policies like these helped keep his army together, even when they were a long way from home. They are a "peasantry in the guise of an army, all of them, great and small, noble and base, in time of battle becoming swordsmen, archers and lancers and advancing in whatever manner the occasion requires," wrote Juvayni.

While Genghis Khan was known for his brutality, he often ordered his troops not to harm artisans and to leave clerics alone, respecting holy men of other faiths. Khan himself followed a system of beliefs that revolved around Mongolian shamanism.

Genghis Khan's death

Genghis Khan sought out Daoist priests, whom he believed knew the secret to eternal life. However, in the midst of a campaign against the Tangut people (whom he said had broken their word to him) he died, apparently of natural causes. His body was returned to Mongolia and his tomb was said to have been relatively modest for a ruler of his stature, although its location is unknown today.

After his death his son, Ogedai, succeeded him until his own death in 1241. Rossabi notes that future successions were contested, leading to disputes, wars and eventually the empire breaking into different states. "Such conflicts and the ensuing disunity would be prime factors in the collapse of the Mongol empire," he writes.

To the people who became subjects of the empire, the rise of Genghis Khan was stunning and, to some, almost divine.

"Before the appearance of (Genghis Khan) they had no chief or ruler. Each tribe or two tribes lived separately; they were not united with one another, and there was constant fighting and hostility between them," Juvayni wrote.

But when "the phoenix of prosperity wishes to make the roof of one man its abode, and the owl of misfortune to haunt the threshold of another … neither scarcity of equipment nor feebleness of condition prevents the fortunate man from attaining his goal …"

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