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Friday, March 21, 2014

[OT on spring SGK agenda, BoM to double China currency swap, Tony Blair's back, and deal signed for Mongolia's tallest building]

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Friday, March 21, 2014

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Mineral Roundup 2014

Mongolia Mineral Exploration Roundup 2014 Runs

March 20 (infomongolia.com) Mongolian Geological Society in association with the Ministry of Mining is organizing the 2014 Mongolia Mineral Exploration Roundup at the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Ulaanbaatar on March 20-21, 2014.

The meeting is aimed to discuss and summarize works completed in past in the sectors of Mongolian geology and mineral resources; exchange information on studies and researches, and introduce projects to implement by involving state policies and to attract investments.

During the exhibits, "Explorer" magazine in Mongolian language and "Mongolian Geoscientist" magazine in English will be presented, besides best reports will be announced.

The Roundup is opened by Minister of Mining D.Gankhuyag, where presentations will be delivered on topics such as "Preliminary studies on ore deposition and alteration in the Erdenetiin Ovoo porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit, Northern Mongolia", "Correct analytical method choice for various mineral deposits", "Innovation and tradition in the study of the mineral resource base of uranium in the implementation strategy, Rosatom", "Detailed exploration on Ukhaa Khudag coal deposit and its comparison to other coal deposits", "Mongolian deposits of tungsten, studies and prospects" and "Current geo-metallurgical studies on Oyu Tolgoi deposit".

Link to article

 

Overseas Market

UPDATE 1-Mongolia says seeks to end Oyu Tolgoi impasse at parliament session

* Mongolia looks to resolution over Oyu Tolgoi dispute

* Official says will be a topic when parliament session starts April 5

* Deadline for key financing expires March 31 (Adds details)

SYDNEY, March 20 (Reuters) - Mongolia will seek to resolve an impasse with mining group Rio Tinto over the $6 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project during a parliamentary session starting next month, a senior government official said on Thursday.

The three-month session begins on April 5, five days after Rio Tinto has warned that lender commitments on existing project finance arrangements expire.

"It will all come together then," Mongolia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Bold Luvsanvandan said in Sydney, when asked if the impasse was slated for discussion during the session.

Rio Tinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The company has warned the finance agreement is due to expire March 31, after having been extended last year by lenders, which include International Finance Corp and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

A major hurdle to getting Mongolia's largest foreign investment project back on track has been $4 billion in financing

There is also disagreement over compensation for cost overruns from an earlier stage of development.

Rio Tinto booked a $1.49 billion writedown post-tax on Oyu Tolgoi in its 2013 results, largely due to the delay in expanding the mine underground.

It has also warned investors to brace for a further $800 million writedown unless development work resumes after being halted in August.

Rio Tinto holds majority control of Oyu Tolgoi via its 50.8 percent interest in Canada's Turquoise Hill, which in turns owns 66 percent of Oyu Tolgoi. The Mongolian government holds the remaining 34 percent stake.

The Parliamentary session is scheduled to run from April 5 to early July, according to the minister.

Link to article

 

HSBC upgrades Mongolian Mining to "overweight", raises target price to HK$1.1

[ET Net News Agency, 12 March 2014] HSBC Research raised its target price for Mongolian Mining Corp (MMC)(00975) to HK$1.1 from HK$0.89, and upgraded the stock to "overweight" from "neutral". 

The research house said MMC's 2013 results were hurt by weaker prices and higher finance costs, but revealed effective cost management.

HBSC lowered its net loss estimates for 2014 by US$48m to a net loss of US$50m, and raised its 2015 earnings estimate from a loss of US$16m to a gain of US$16m to primarily factor in lower cost of sale, partially offset by lower coking coal prices.

Link to article

 

JP Morgan lowers Mongolian Mining (00975) to HK$1, maintains "neutral" rating

[ET Net News Agency, 12 March 2014] JP Morgan lowered its target price for Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC)(00975to HK$1 from HK$1.5, and maintained its "neutral" call. 

The research house said MMC's FY2013 net loss (-US$58m) was wider than expected, driven by weak coal prices and high finance costs. While the company has made some headway with cost reduction and debt restructuring, depressed coking coal markets will likely keep net gearing elevated. 

JPM sees limited downside risk with MMC trading at 0.7x P/B, but a challenging market outlook warrants a caution.

Link to article

 

Haranga Resources Annual Report 2013

March 19, Haranga Resources Ltd. (ASX:HAR) --

Link to report

 

Haranga Resources Issues 3.7 Million ESOP Options for 10 Cents

March 19 --

Link to release

 

Winsway (01733) tips material rise in annual loss

[ET Net News Agency, 20 March 2014] Winsway Coking Coal (01733) said it expects to record a materially increased consolidated loss for the financial year ended 31 December 2013 as compared to the loss in the previous financial year.

Such loss is primarily attributable to on 1 January 2013, the Group adopted the new IFRIC interpretation - IFRIC 20, Stripping costs in the production phase of a surface mine. This change in accounting policy has resulted in profit and loss figures for the year ended 31 December 2012 having been restated, which has also led to lower comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2013; the price of coking coal falling to and remaining at recent historical lows in Winsway's principal market, the People's Republic of China, resulting from continuous weakness in demand for coking coal from steel mills and coke plants in the PRC under sluggish economic conditions; and the one-off impairment charges in respect of the company's interest in its material asset, its 60% owned subsidiary, Grande Cache Coal Corporation.

Although there was a further fall in the price of coking coal in Winsway's major market during 2013, it has made very significant progress in effecting cost reductions in both the GCC sector and commodity logistical and trading business sector. 

Link to article

Link to Winsway release

 

Mogi: well written one, accurate, except saying that Democratic Party is the "democratic" one over MPP

Mongolia: Eyes on the future

March 18 (Mining Journal) Mongolia is vast, sparsely populated, exceptionally mineral-rich and has a land mass largely unworkable for agriculture – an ideal mix for the mining industry. The country has the opportunity to use mining to drive significant economic growth but it is locked in a fierce battle against its own inexperience.

Mongolia only swapped its one-party Soviet-style system for a parliamentary and more capitalist way of life in 1990. Thirteen short years later, there were almost 20 exploration rigs working on the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) copper-gold project and Mongolia was on centre stage for the biggest commodities boom since the industrial revolution. 

An undermanned minerals department was inundated with exploration applications and parliament was under immense pressure to ensure the country's wide range of resources returned the maximum value to Mongolians, without scaring away investment. Even experienced mining nations can mismanage resource investment (see Australia's Mineral Resources Rent Tax) so it isn't surprising that Mongolia has largely got it wrong.

The first murmurings that things may go pear-shaped came with a 68% Windfall Profits Tax on copper and gold concentrates in 2006, which targeted the massive OT development. Though the tax was repealed in 2009, well before OT shipped its first copper last year, it was a sign of things to come.

The Mongolian government has continued to battle with its investment legislation, the bureaucracy surrounding its mining industry, and specifically the investment agreement with miner Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd that is managing the development of OT. The situation came to a head last year, when private-sector contribution to GDP collapsed from more than 80% to less than 50%, FDI came back at pre-OT levels, and the Mongolian Tughrik sunk at historical lows (lower than when the IMF last bailed out the government).

But changes are afoot and recently the government has been on a charm offensive in a bid to convince the private sector that Mongolia has learnt its lessons and, more importantly, to highlight the work being done to improve the regulatory environment around its burgeoning mining industry. 

Minerals and geology

Mongolia is in the top three producers in the world of both acid and metallurgical-grade fluorspar but is most famous for its coal, copper and gold potential, according to the US Geological Survey. Mineralised systems hosting molybdenum, tin and tungsten occurrences are also common.

As of 2008, it was estimated that granitoids intruded into some 30% of near-surface rocks, most of which have greisens and vein mineralisation associated with calc-alkaline magmas. The central region of Mongolia is characterised by complex folded structures and basins that are regularly mineralised. The South Gobi desert, meanwhile, plays host to the country's large and extensive coal deposits. Petroleum is produced in the east.

Projects

Existing mines in Mongolia include a handful of privately held operations but the open-pit, underground OT development co-owned by majority-held Rio Tinto subsidiary Turquoise Hill Resources (66%) and the Mongolian government (34%) remains the most important symbol of the government's ability and willingness to partner with miners in the develop­ment of its resources sector.

Turquoise Hill expects to produce 150,000-175,000t of copper and 700,000-750,000oz of gold in concentrates in 2014, making OT one of the world's largest operations. However, a US$4 billion investment needed for the underground development has been put on hold until Rio can nut out its differences with the government.

The deadline for take-up of the underground finance package was extended last year and now expires at the end of this month, by which time Rio and the government are meant to agree on a number of issues, namely: the prefeasibility study for the underground development, water rights and usage, royalties, finance terms, licences adjoining OT, and an audit on the first-phase open-pit development. 

Back office contracts such as catering for the project were signed off at the start of this year, indicating a level of assumption on the part of Rio, which is managing the development, that agreement would be reached. Mining Journal sources on the ground in Mongolia have also suggested that the finance deadline would be met and, even if it wasn't, the banking syndicate would be willing to extend the deadline within reason until the joint venture was ready.

The other major project that flirted with a public-private partnership is the massive Tavan Tolgoi (TT) coal mine in the south. The government has been toying with various structures to take advantage of TT's potential 7,000Mt coking and thermal coal reserves since 2007 by using a combination of nationalisation and public-private partnership. The most recent plan in 2011 was to float almost 30% of TT's state-owned holding company across several major exchanges to fund half the project, with the other half to be sold to a consortium of major mining groups. That has proved too ambitious and, together with a falling coal price, means that TT remains relatively undeveloped.

TSX-listed Centerra Gold Inc is one of the very few private mining companies to fully own a producing mine. The company's Boroo gold mine is Mongolia's largest hard-rock gold mine and produced 85,000oz last year. Mongolrostsvetmet LLC operates the Dzuntsagaan Del fluorspar mine, while state mining company Erdenet Mining Corp has a handful of joint ventures, mainly with the Russians and the Chinese, principally covering coal and copper mining operations.

The junior end of the market that threatened to overrun Mongolia mid-last decade is under-represented because of a moratorium on exploration licences that has so far lasted three-and-a-half years. What's more, the government has rescinded 106 exploration licences issued by a former government as part of a corruption investigation.

Policy

Mongolia would not consider withdrawing 100-plus licences in the fight against corruption a mistake. It has, however, acknowledged publicly that its Strategic Entities Foreign Investment Law (SEFIL) introduced in the lead-up to the 2012 elections was a faux pas on an epic scale.

Neil Ashdown, from the Mongolia desk at inter­national risk consultancy IHS, told Mining Journal SEFIL was "as nationalistic a piece of legislation as you could imagine". He said it was poorly drafted to boot and supporting legislation was delayed, making an already offensive piece of legislation both confusing and messy, too. Shortly after SEFIL was introduced, a new and unhelpful Mining Policy was also published. 

This questionable legislation was presented against a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding OT as talks with Rio reached breaking point, and a US$300 million lawsuit against the government was pursued relating to an expropriated exploration licence from 2009.

The good news is that the resulting economic capitulation of Mongolia, combined with leadership from the more pragmatic Democratic Party (Mogi: trying hard not to LOL), has resulted in a tangible turnaround in attitudes. 

The SEFIL was replaced last year by the Investment Law, a far better piece of legislation and covers both Mongolian and foreign investments. The Mining Policy, re-released late last year after industry consultation, will form the basis of a more suitable Mining Law in the near future, which is also likely to lead to an end to the moratorium on exploration. Gold royalty legislation has already been amended to bring down rates from 10% to 2.5% for gold sold to the central bank as Mongolia looks to boost national bullion reserves. 

This effort to undo the damage done in the years leading up to the 2012 elections in Mongolia has been matched by a concerted push to have the new-look Mongolian government acknowledged in the mining world. Ministers have been touring Australia and the PDAC conference in Canada, and the government has improved its use of global news services to send a more positive, unified message.

"The main message is we are giving more advantages to the private sector," Mining Ministry head of strategic policy and planning, Ch Otgochuluu, told Bloomberg recently. "If there is too much state involvement, it's not good. Last year was the best lesson."

The past decade has been a learning curve for Mongolia. First-world mining nations such as Canada or Australia would struggle to manage the influx of explorers that descended on Mongolia last decade, without having to establish a framework from scratch for the development of world-class operations. In this context, though far from a flawless performance, Mongolia has done well.

"You would struggle to find someone who knows Mongolia that doesn't think the government is improving its understanding and its capacity to facilitate investment and enterprise," Ashdown said.

Risks

Still, there remain several clear risks to investment in the Mongolian mining sector. An obvious concern in such a large, undeveloped country is a lack of infrastructure, which generally means high capital expenditure bills, particularly for bulk-commodity developments such as coal mines. Most of the risks, however, are political.

Mongolian bureaucrats have a reputation for sluggish administration (read: slow permitting) but more worrying is the historic overlap between business and politics, which leads to a problematic level of corruption. One reason for the stop-start nature of the OT development is related to change in government bringing with it the need to have companies run by newly elected politicians incorporated into the project.

The primary concern for miners should be political longevity. Just as many of the major mistakes that have been made preceded the 2012 elections, there is the potential for a similar round of crowd-pleasing paperwork to be rolled out at the next round of elections in 2016.

"Since the Democratic Party came to power, we've seen a shake-up," Ashdown said. "It's been a move from the legacy of a State-Soviet leadership to a democratic party." (Mogi: better to say just Democratic Party, not A democratic party) 

"[At the] next elections, the question will be politically whether the DP is in a position to consolidate its leadership or whether a return to the MPP [Mongolian People's Party] looks likely, or even possible. If it does, then you're going to see an increased occurrence of resource nationalistic politics."

Investment

Current presiding wisdom suggests a decision on OT will immediately release the next wave of FDI into Mongolian mining, but this seems unlikely. While there are some companies that will move on the back of OT, a larger group is likely to wait for the Mining Law and other supporting legislation to be established before committing time and money. The presumption that OT is the 'on-off' switch for mining in Mongolia also discounts the effect a declining coal price and poorer commodity prices in general have had on FDI. A changed government outlook to mining cannot counter commodity risk.

But the fact remains that there are thousands of miners and professional investors watching Mongolia and they all want a piece of the undeniably rich Mongolian minerals pie. Miners feel that they can manage political risk but not geological risk, and in this light a near-virgin, resource-rich nation with a government that is trying is exceptionally attractive. Investment may come back slowly and in stages, but it will definitely return.  

Fast facts: Mongolia

      Location: landlocked between Russia and China (46 00 N, 105 00 E)

      Population: 2.9 million

      Area: 1.56 million km2

      Land use: arable – 0.4%, permanent crops – 0%, other – 99.6%

      Natural resources: oil, coal, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron

      Government: parliamentary

      Population below poverty line: 30%

      GDP: US$11.4 billion

      GDP growth: 11.8%

      Export partners: China (89%), Canada (4%) Source: CIA World Factbook

      Fraser Institute policy perception ranking: 100th (of 112)

Link to article

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Local Market

BDSec Daily Market Update, March 19: Top 20 +0.78%, Turnover 14.15 Million

March 19 (BDSec) Mongolia stocks rebounded on Wednesday as seven stocks advanced against five stocks that dropped. Makh Impex (MMX) bounced back to MNT 3,199, up 6.35%, followed by Telecom Mongolia (+2.92%). APU (APU), the largest company on the MSE which constitutes over 30% of the MSE Top 20 index alone, gained 2.60% to close at MNT 4,105.

Today 2013 financials of Baganuur (BAN), Mogoin Gol (BDL), and Remicon (RMC) were published on the MSE website. According to the financial reports, Baganuur's revenue grew over 16% to MNT 86 billion, but due to government regulated thermal coal pricing the company's losses for the year amounted to MNT 9 billion compared to MNT 5 billion losses in 2012. The stock closed at MNT 4,200.

Results for Mogoin Gol, which is a thermal coal miner located in the Northern Mongolia, were similar to the previous year. Sales and earnings for FY13 were MNT 1.1 billion (-0.8%) and MNT 33.6 million (-0.7%), respectively.

Concrete manufacturer Remicon (RMC) had sales revenue of MNT 15.8 billion in 2013, 18% lower than the year before. Earnings came down to MNT 24.6 million in 2013 from MNT 2.9 billion in 2012. The stock is trading at MNT 154.

TOP MOVERS

Trading Value Leaders

Close (MNT)

Value (MNT)

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

36,320

3,632,000

Tavantolgoi (TTL)

5,305

3,319,035

Shivee Ovoo (SHV)

7,300

1,482,350

 

 

 

Top Gainers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Makh Impex (MMX)

3,199

+6.35%

Telecom Mongolia (MCH)

1,550

+2.92%

APU (APU)

4,105

+2.60%

 

 

 

Top Losers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

36,320

-6.87%

Sharyn Gol (SHG)

8,350

-1.76%

State Department Store (UID)

580

-1.65%

Link to update

 

BDSec Daily Market Update, March 20: Top 20 +0.07%, Turnover 24.2 Million

March 20 (BDSec) MSE stocks edged higher on Thursday with the benchmark index advancing 0.07% to 16,601.01 points. Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK), a construction materials producer, saw its stock up 10.13% to MNT 40,000 after losing 6.87% on yesterday's trading session.

Telecom Mongolia (MCH) climbed 2.90% to close at MNT 1,595, following 2.92% gain of Wednesday. Sharyn Gol (SHG) weakened 2.87% to finish at MNT 8,110 after dropping 1.76% yesterday.

Trading turnover for Thursday was MNT 24.2 million.

TOP MOVERS

Trading Value Leaders

Close (MNT)

Value (MNT)

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

40,000

14,800,000

Berkh Uul (BEU)

3,655

1,739,780

Gazar Suljmel (SUL)

41,000

1,176,000

 

 

 

Top Gainers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

40,000

+10.13%

Aduunchuluun (ADL)

1,999

+4.55%

Telecom Mongolia (MCH)

1,595

+2.90%

 

 

 

Top Losers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Makh Impex (MMX)

3,000

-6.22%

Mongol Savkhi (UYN)

953.98

-4.23%

Sharyn Gol (SHG)

8,110

-2.87%

Link to update

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Economy

BoM MNT Rates: March 20 Close

 

3/20

3/19

3/18

3/17

3/14

USD

1,773.96

1,769.87

1,768.81

1,767.93

1,764.80

EUR

2,454.89

2,464.37

2,461.83

2,454.06

2,446.81

CNY

284.86

285.48

285.95

286.42

286.93

GBP

2,936.26

2,937.63

2,938.17

2,940.95

2,931.86

RUB

49.04

49.04

48.47

48.20

48.12

March MNT Chart:

 

Link to rates

 

BoM FX auction: US$10m sold at 1,774, US$31m MNT, CNY20m CNY swap bids accepted

March 20 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on March 20th, 2014 the BOM has received from local commercial banks bid offer of 38 million USD and 47.5 million CNY. The BOM has sold 10.0 million USD as closing rate of MNT 1774.00.

On March 20th, 2014, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement offer in equivalent to 31.0 million USD and CNY Swap agreement offer of 20.0 million CNY from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.

      FX Auction Statistics

Link to release

 

BoM issues 461.4 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +24.2% to 843.1 billion

March 19 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 461.4 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

GoM Bond Auction: 45 Billion 3-Year Bills Sold at Premium with 13.62% from 50 Billion Announced

March 20 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 3 years maturity Government Bond was announced at face value of 50 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 45.0 billion /out of 45.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold to the banks at premium price and with weighted average yield of 13.62%.

Link to release

 

GoM Treasury Auction: Announced ₮50 Billion 12-Week Bills Sold at Average 10.65% with ₮85 Billion Bids

March 19 (Bank of Mongolia) Regular auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 50.0 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 50.0 billion /out of 85.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold to the banks at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 10.65%.

Link to release

 

Mongolia's Central Bank Plans to Double Currency Swap With China

By Michael Kohn

March 20 (Bloomberg News) Mongolia's central bank said it intends to extend a bilateral local currency-swap line with the People's Bank of China for three years and double its size to 20 billion yuan.

"This will clearly increase confidence in the foreign-exchange market and strengthen the off-balance" reserves buffer, Bank of Mongolia Chief Economist Bold Sandagdorj said in an e-mail yesterday. The three-year period will begin in May, he wrote.

The nation's foreign reserves have fallen amid lower prices for copper and coal, its main exports. Currency holdings stood at $2.44 billion at the end of January, according to the central bank's website, and were 40 percent lower than a year earlier. Mongolia's tugrik has declined 20 percent in the past 12 months to 1,767.50 per dollar, the sixth worst performance among more than 100 exchange rates tracked by Bloomberg.

The currency-swap line with China will give Mongolia "an adequate reserve buffer to maintain overall macro balance," he said. The authority expects a substantial decline in Mongolia's trade- and current-account deficits this year, which will reduce demand for foreign exchange, according to Bold.

In the first two months of 2014, Mongolia's exports rose almost 18 percent to $594.6 million, while imports fell about 24 percent to $613.9 million, according to the National Statistics Office. The trade deficit of $19.3 million was 94 percent lower than a year earlier.

The deficit has narrowed due to "recovered exports and adjustments of the flexible exchange rate," Bold said.

Link to article

 

BDSec Report: Longer Duration GoM MNT Denominated Bond Auctions a "Capital" Idea

March 20 (BDSec) Article 9 of the 2014 Budget Law allows the GOM to issue up to 1,400.0B MNT (~$792M USD) in MNT denominated bonds, with durations ranging from 12 weeks to 10 years. The Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Mongolia will introduce a Primary Dealer System designed to support these auctions, which will be the basis for the beginning of a true government bond market. While the GOM conducted regular auctions in 2013, duration was limited to 1 year and participants were almost always the banks themselves buying on their own behalf. Of the up to 1,400.0B MNT in bonds the GOM intends to auction in 2014, 400B MNT will be used for maturities, leaving 1,000.0B MNT of "new money" which needs to be found to support the GOM's plans.

Terms and Amounts of MGB's to be Auctioned in 1Q 2014:

MGB term

Amount (MNT)

12 week

240,000,000,000.00

28 week

160,000,000,000.00

52 week

60,000,000,000.00

3 year

70,000,000,000.00

5 year

60,000,000,000.00

10 year

10,000,000,000.00

Total

600,000,000,000.00

What should be clear to all, the GOM, like every other developed and emerging economy, will need capital in 2014. Capital is equity and debt, denominated in MNT, USD, CNY, or other currencies. Debt can be floating or fixed rate, bonds or bilateral loan and potential lenders can of course be local or foreign. Foreign bond buyers can come in several forms, from passive retail buying into a fixed income fund holding GOM bonds, to sophisticated High Net Worth investors, hedge funds, banks and Sovereign Wealth or supranational funds. Tenors can go from weeks to 50+ years, depending on the buyer's appetite, since those who possess the capital will ultimately dictate the terms for fledgling sellers in need of funding. To manage its economy and growth effectively, Mongolia has to diversify its sources of capital and seek sustainable inflows of investment, vs. "one off" loans from friendly sovereigns, which may have strings attached. 12 month notes in USD do not afford the GOM the ability to plan long term, as they have to almost immediately consider currency and rollover risk, leaving little time for underlying projects to deliver the intended benefits.

Given the current negative sentiment around Mongolia's economy and currency, many are asking why would foreign investors take the duration risk with 10 year MNT denominated bond, when they can buy a 1 year CD at a local bank?

      GOM bonds, or MNT denominated time deposits would both have the investor assume the full risk of further MNT depreciation. Investors then ask themselves when is the risk of further MNT depreciation the highest, in the coming months, or 1.5-2 years? If MNT stabilizes in in 2014, then perhaps something sustainable has been put into place structurally. In the long run, few dispute the idea that Mongolia will be running large budget surpluses for years to come, as more mines come online, generating significant royalty income. So for the same accepted risk of depreciation, foreign investors could lock in higher return with GOM MNT bonds vs. short term bank deposits.

      As commodity exports grow and those markets improve, the Mongolian Tugrik may not only stabilize, but appreciate, which will eventually allow Mongolia to be an exporter of capital. Long term interest rates would also drop as Mongolia's finances improve, all of which is quite beneficial to holders of longer term MNT GOM bonds.

      Investors focused on a 12 month time deposit rollover strategy are fully exposed to reinvestment risk. What will interest rates be in 1 year? What will the YTM on a 9 year bond be one year hence, if FDI is once again flowing to Mongolia?

      With MNT time deposits, investors are also fully exposed to the credit risk of the bank they choose, as well as the systematic risk inherent in the Mongolian Banking System, given how small the market is. With MNT GOM bonds, investors avoid both systematic and individual company risk.

What are the benefits to the GOM? Quite a few actually.

Link to full report

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Politics

Tony Blair meets Prime Minister Altankhuyag

March 20 (news.mn) Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, has arrived in Mongolia. During his last visit to Mongolia Mr. Blair said he would be working with the Mongolian Government helping it to deliver their reform program. Mr. Blair, who offered technical assistance to the Cabinet Secretary for his delivery unit concept, met Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag for individual talks. Mr. Blair also has arranged talks with members of the opposition Mongolian People`s Party (MPP).

The agreement of technical assistance to the Government of Mongolia was expected to be signed during the office of the former Prime Minister S.Batbold.

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair paid a visit to Mongolia last year during the Kazakh Holiday of Nauriz.

Link to article

 

Schlong, nutsack, lickspittle, and other words banned from the Mongolian internet

March 19 (Tech in Asia) South Park's Eric Cartman could learn a thing or two from the Mongolians. Mongolian news site Shuum earlier this week posted the Mongolian telecommunications regulatory commission's list of 774 words prohibited from local websites (hat-tip to Lisa Gardner for spotting). Below is just a taste. Check out the full list here.

The list contains words in Mongolian, Russian, and English. Websites must remove all instances of the words or face suspension. "Fuck" is the third word on the list, followed by "sex" in fourth. Many of the words in the list just seem to be compounds of other words (fuckass, cumdumpster, shitdick, cuntslut), some are quite mild and look like they might have been added by mistake (muddle, clumsy, bad breath, drunk, bugs), and others are almost certainly made up or at the very least lifted from Urban Dictionary (cockburger, twatlips, thundercunt, douchewaffle).

Lisa Gardner notes on Twitter there's a separate list of banned Chinese words, along with possibly several more such lists. In all seriousness … well … it's very difficult to take this seriously. Tech in Asia does not support censorship, but this list will keep you entertained for the better half of an afternoon.

Link to article

 

Mogi: a bit old but worth a read

In dialogue with Mongolian media

A list of forbidden words; newspapers influenced by politicians; and in the capital Ulan Bator, Mongolian journalists refrain from criticizing their colleagues because all journalists know each other.

October 29, 2013 (DW Ademie) At a recent DW Akademie Media Dialogue in Berlin, a group of visiting journalists, editors and media experts from Mongolia gave an insight into media development in their country.

German journalists attending were keen to find out about press freedom in Mongolia; who exactly owns private media; and, what progress is being made towards press industry self regulation.

It was also another opportunity for the visiting Mongolian journalists to compare journalistic practices and media regulation between Germany and Mongolia.

Following the end of the Soviet era, Mongolia introduced a number of laws to make reforms in public broadcasting, freedom of information and to prevent media censorship.

In 2010, Reporters without Borders ranked Mongolia in its Press Freedom Index at 76. This year Mongolia was ranked 98.

One topic that generated a lot of discussion was the so-called "list of forbidden words". Journalists explained how Mongolia's Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) is under strong political pressure to make media organizations use software to filter or hide "forbidden words" in online reader comments that are critical of government or insulting.

To explore how Mongolia's media is developing, onMedia spoke with Munkhmandakh Myagmar, Executive Director of the Mongolian Press Institute; and, Tserenjav Demberel, Executive Director of Transparency Foundation Mongolia, and a blogger on media issues.

Can you describe for us the political influence in Mongolia's media?

MM: Not all the media, but the majority of Mongolian media are strongly influenced by politicians. In a way that politicians invest in media not for business purposes but for manipulating the public to propagate their own interests. In Mongolia, I think the media are for this reason detached from the market. The development is not going based on market principles because the media does not survive on revenues from advertising or sales, instead the media exists based on financial support or subsidies from politicians. In turn they are obliged to provide information that is wanted by politicians. This makes journalism in Mongolia extremely unhealthy. Media literacy is also not so high. Citizens can not distinguish between advertising and journalistic stories, and they are not in a situation to critically discuss journalistic stories.

Self regulation of the press – is that Mongolian media wants?

MM: Some of the media are becoming aware that self responsibility is one of the ways to survive because your credibility and reputation are at stake. Media credibility is decreasing and if you want credibility you need to be responsible. But this is the beginning, and for this reason in the last couple of years there are strong discussions about the need for media regulation and ways to establish it.

What does the government want? Do they wish to maintain influence or control over the media?

MM: I have an impression that the politicians do not have a will to really develop a strong, democratic, pluralistic, independent media. They still have an interest to use the media as their own propaganda tools. For example, there was a draft law on media freedom in Mongolia discussed last Spring in parliament. Many members of parliament own media and those media owners do not want to loose their tools of propaganda. The draft law had a provision about editorial independence of media. The provision said media owners can not interfere in daily editorial work. MPs sitting and discussing this law protested against this provision. So I would say there is no political will to really develop independent media. There are some progressive members of parliament, a few, but not all of them.

What changes do you think are necessary for more openness and transparency in Mongolian media?

TD: I think Mongolia's media is developing in its natural way. But in order to support this development I think we have to see the media as a business. And like other businesses we have to make it transparent. For example: who owns the media? What are the revenues? How many copies are sold? If we make it transparent, the media will develop according to market economy principles.

Why is it not so clear in Mongolian media as to who owns what?

TD: It's not only in the media sector, but in general in the Mongolian economy, all businesses are in a closed environment. In other countries you can learn who is doing what business, who owns what, who invested how much money, annual revenue and so on. There is also a conviction that the media is not an ordinary business, but something outside of the business world.

Mongolia is rich in minerals such as copper, coal and gold. What role and influence are foreign mining companies playing in Mongolian media?

TD: There are two kinds of influences upon the media. Mining companies on the one hand provide sponsorship to the media to a great extent. On the other hand, mining companies bring a culture of professional communication with the media.

Is that good?

TD: It's good in that it brings a culture where all international companies communicate with the media on a professional level. But, because the media are not ready for this kind of communication with organizations such as mining companies, the whole relationship between the media and the mining companies turns into something that can be called 'irresponsible media'. For example, the media takes money from a mining company and instead of publishing [material] as advertisements, they produce hidden advertisements – like a mixture of journalistic stories and advertisements.

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NEW IRI MANUAL HELPS LOCAL OFFICIALS IN MONGOLIA ENGAGE CITIZENS

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March 19 (The International Republican Institute) – A new manual Improving Citizen Participation and Feedback in Your Bagh: a Manual on Town Halls, by IRI, provides local (bagh) elected and government officials with practical guidance on constituent outreach and the best ways to organize and conduct town-hall meetings.  The manual will help bagh-level officials improve citizen participation and engagement and help them in their critical role as a representative of constituents. 

The manual provides background on the importance of constituent outreach, the range of different approaches, variety of formats for town hall meetings along with advice on the most important considerations when organizing and hosting a town hall meeting. This includes a set of easy to use tools to plan the various stages of the meeting. 

The manual is part of IRI's democratic governance work in Mongolia.  The program, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, improves local government responsiveness to citizen priorities, brings local government official and citizens together to address community concerns and helps citizens play a more effective role in the policy-making process at the local level. 

The Institute's program comes at an important time in Mongolia.  The 2011 budget law, which came into effect in early 2013, calls for increased decentralization and citizen participation in the budgeting process.  Through workshops and consultations, IRI is helping bagh official engage citizens in the budgeting process.  IRI has also helped to form community taskforces around the country, of baghofficials and citizens, to address community concerns.

IRI has supported Mongolia's democratic transition since 1992.  A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the Institute advances freedom and democracy worldwide by helping political parties to become more issue-based and responsive, assisting citizens to participate in government planning, and working to increase the role of marginalized groups in the political process – including women and youth.

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Business

Deal Signed to Design Mongolia's Tallest Building, to be Managed by Ritz-Carlton, Marriot and Nikken Sekkei

March 20 (infomongolia.com) On March 11, 2014, Mongolia's Mon Uran LLC has signed a Letter of Agreement with Japanese architect Nikken Sekkei Group during the MIPIM international real estate show held in Cannes, France that takes place annually in March.

The document signing ceremony was attended by Chairman of Nikken Sekkei Group Mr. Mitsuo Nakamura, CEO of Mon Uran LLC Mrs. Batsukh OYUNCHIMEG and MP Mr. Batsukh NARANKHUU and the Agreement requires Nikken Sekkei to design a mixed-use ambitious project namely Tower.

In the scope of the Tower Project, Mongolia's first ever a 68-story building will be built in the center of Ulaanbaatar city. According to project blueprint, the high raise building will be situated in 1.1 ha south to Children's Palace with a built up area of 110,000 square meters.

The tower will reach about 250 meters over 68 floors with earthquake resistant technology and will feature Observatory Deck on top floors, Residential Area for sale, Serviced Apartments, 5-Star Hotel, Offices, Commercial Area, Indoor & Outdoor Parking to be constructed with World Standard Development under Best Management Team involving the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Marriot Executive Apartments and Nikken Sekkei Group that completed more than 20,000 projects in some 40 countries.

The Project is to start in 2014 and pledges to be completed by December 2018.

Commenting at the signing ceremony, CEO of Mon Uran LLC B.Oyunchimeg said, "We agreed that MIPIM would be an ideal international platform for us to sign our agreement and we intend to showcase the project here next year. However the actual contract execution ceremony will take place later this month in Ulaanbaatar. We choose Nikken Sekkei because this project requires high quality and vision and we believe that they have the right credentials to deliver such a design".

Chairman of Nikken Sekkei Group M.Nakamura added: "This is not our first project in Mongolia, so we do have experience of balancing modern corporate design culture with cultural design expectations. This tower is to be a symbol of economic growth in Mongolia, so smart building technologies and sustainability will be critical to our overall design philosophy".

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South Africa's Sasol Mining Expresses Interest in Cooperating with Mongolia Government

March 20 (infomongolia.com) On March 19, 2014, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia D.Gankhuyag received South African delegation led by Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Godfrey Oliphant, who is on working visit to Mongolia.

Mr. D.Gankhuyag said that South Africa is the main partner of Mongolia in Africa and the bridge linking to other states of the region and welcomed the intensification of bilateral cooperation in the mining industry giving start to the realization of agreements reached during the official visit of Deputy President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe to Mongolia in November 2013.

Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant mentioned that the South African "Sasol Mining" company is interested in cultivating cooperation with the Mongolian side and informed that he plans to meet representatives of corresponding ministries and state-owned companies to discuss cooperation issues, reports the Foreign Ministry of Mongolia.

Mongolia and the Republic of South Africa have established the diplomatic relations on May 25, 1994.

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"One to one" meeting to be held between Mongolia, South Korea businessmen

Ulaanbaatar, March 19 (MONTSAME) A meeting called "One to one" for businessmen of Mongolia and South Korea will run on April 11, 2014 in the "Chinggis Khaan" hotel, Ulaanbaatar, the infomongolia.com website has reported.

It is co-organized by the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The delegates from S.Korean side are expected to introduce their businesses engaged in several categories including blood diagnostic device (glucose tester in blood), skin care products, LED lighting and module, elevator, sand and stone classifiers and others.

As we informed before, the KOTRA opened its business center in Ulaanbaatar on July 26, 2013, with aims to fortify the bilateral economic cooperation.   

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Checkpoints to Shift into New Organizational Structure

Ulaanbaatar, March 19 (MONTSAME) The Cabinet Office organized "Reforms in border checkpoints" consultative meeting on Wednesday.

At the meeting, the Government's actions to eliminate bureaucracy in the checkpoints activities were presented and ways to correlate actions of the affiliated agencies were explored.

At his opening speech, the Chairman of the Cabinet Office Ch.Saikhanbileg read out a letter sent from a citizen who experienced a great burden amid importing goods through one of these ports. In order to pass freight priced at 14 thousand USD through the port, the importer spent six thousand USD, a quarter of which went to pockets of corrupt officers, the letter says.

In order to reform activities and to abolish these kinds of corruption, the Government has been making great efforts, Mr Saikhanbileg noted. Cooperation treaties recently were concluded with relevant authorities of neighboring countries, and technological advancements were introduced to the dry ports--main export gates, he said.

Mr Saikhanbileg announced that the border checkpoints authorities will shift into a new organizational structure on this April 1.

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Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia in a Day

March 18 (Style Hi Club) I can't imagine what you are doing in Ulaanbaatar. It's an extremely random place to find yourself. I can only imagine you're stopping off on the Trans-Siberian Railway. You probably know already that Lonely Planet describes Ulaanbaatar as "an ugly scar on an otherwise lovely country." Sadly, this is pretty accurate. Ulaanbaatar is the surplus store of cities. The Salvation Army of country capitals. Everything you see appears to be left over from somewhere else – nothing quite matches. Cars are just as likely to have their steering wheels on the left or right side. Sidewalks are non-existent and the buildings have a certain dilapidated charm that only a Soviet history can inspire. But fear not! This place can still be worth your time. You just need to set your expectations properly and keep an open mind.

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Diplomacy

Australian and Mongolian governments announce Mongolian mining partnership program

March 20 (Ferret.com.au) Australia and Mongolia's governments have announced a new five year program focused on the sustainable development of mining in Mongolia.

The $20 million program, dubbed The Australia-Mongolia Extractives Program will use Australian mining expertise to spread the benefits of the industry across the nation's population.

Commenting on the new partnership, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said "releasing Mongolia's fledgling mining industry from a failed mining tax has greatly benefited the economy.

"Australia is pledging to support the Mongolian Government with financial assistance and expertise that will improve governance in the mining sector, opening their economy up to international investment and development opportunities.

"The program will also improve access to technical and vocational education and training in disadvantaged communities in Mongolia so they are better equipped to gain employment in the mining industry."

This is not the first time the Australian government has strengthened its mining ties with Mongolia via the mining industry.

In 2011 former prime minister Julie Gillard welcomed Mongolian prime minister S├╝khbaataryn Batbold to the country.

At the time Batbold noted the increased interest of the Australian mining industry and its involvement in the nation, in particular its provision of expertise in geological, drilling, mining software, environmental management, financial, legal and training sectors to develop Mongolia's minerals and energy sector.

The two heads of state (Mogi: "heads of state" is wrong term for both countries) participated in a number of memorandums to expand Australia's mining presence in the country, in particular a Memorandum of Understanding on vocational education co-operation designed at helping Mongolia build its mining work force.

They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Academy of Science and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences to promote the exchange of ideas and the review of studies in common interest areas, such as geology.

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Link to Minister Julie Bishop statement

 

Bishop's Mongolian mining howler: talk about your sovereign risk

March 19 (Crikey.com.au) Do Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's advisers ever bother reading the business pages? Does the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the department paid to advise her?

That they don't is the only explanation for a truly bizarre moment in question time yesterday when Bishop was asked a Dorothy Dixer about the attractions of investing of mining in Mongolia. Here's some of what she had to say:

"I give the example of Rio Tinto, which is now in a joint venture with the Mongolian government in a gold and copper mine. A number of other Australian mining companies are investing. And why wouldn't they? Because, as the foreign minister of Mongolia said today, 'Our new model for foreign direct investment is very much designed for Australian businesses--we're offering stability, openness and lower tax.' That is not something that the Labor government could ever offer Australian businesses. They could not offer them stability, openness or lower taxes … So Mongolia understands what the Australian government understands, what internationally competitive economies understand and what the Labor Party refuses to understand, and that is: unnecessary mining taxes are bad for jobs, bad for the Western Australian economy and bad for internationally competitive economies."

But far from being a haven for mining investment and for Rio Tinto, Mongolia has proven another addition to the company's long list of dud offshore investments--specifically, its big mine called Oyu Tolgoi.

Rio got the open-cut part of the mine built and producing last year, but it has yet to reach agreement for finance for a huge underground expansion of the mine. The finance deadline (the latest of at least four) is March 31--otherwise, the project will lapse (Mogi: ummmm, really? The whole project?). The underground phase will cost $5.5 billion or more. As Fairfax's Peter Ker pointed out today, Australian taxpayers are (inexplicably) contributing to the finance package via our bizarre, secretive business welfare agency, Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.

As Crikey has reported before, the Mongolian government twice deliberately stopped the open-cut mine from starting to export copper and gold last year because of the dispute with Rio Tinto. The project is split 66/34 between Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd, a Canadian outfit 50.8% owned by Rio, and the Mongolian government. According to the mining agreement, Mongolia will not see a cent of Oyu Tolgoi's profit until Turquoise Hill recovers its costs (Mogi: what about the taxes that GoM is getting?). The Mongolians were thus deeply unhappy when the underground mine costs rose by an $US2 billion without satisfactory explanation, delaying the point at which the mine will provide a return for Mongolia.  The government's opposition forced Rio to put the underground expansion on hold last July.

However, the underground expansion is vital because 80% of the mine's value lays in ore than can only be exploited this way. Last month Turquoise Hill warned that further delays were likely to occur "if outstanding shareholder issues, including project finance, are not resolved before the expiration of lender commitments on existing project finance arrangements". The Mongolians have demanded assurances from Rio that what it calls "investment inflation" won't appear in the costs once the underground expansion phase is underway.

Remember all that whining from the miners and the Coalition here about "sovereign risk"? In Mongolia, Rio Tinto has been experiencing the real thing. The company warned that if the latest financing deadline is missed, then it will have to cop a write-down of nearly $900 million.

Around this time last year, US mining investment analyst Behre Dohlbear released its annual assessment of the best places to invest in mining around the world. How did Mongolia fare? It was 19th, having fallen 5 points since 2012. Why? Uncertainty, Behre Dohlbear said. Specifically:

"The past delays at the Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia present a clear example of how such uncertainty delays mining developments."

Oops.

Oh, and Australia was ranked first, despite the mining tax. But maybe Bishop is hoping when Beare Dohlbear releases its 2014 rankings in the next few days, Australia will have fallen 18 places.

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China's CPC, Mongolia's MPP vow to cement party-to-party exchanges

BEIJING, March 20 (Xinhua) -- A senior leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Liu Yunshan vowed on Thursday to beef up party-to-party exchanges with Mongolia.

Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the pledge during his meeting with a Mongolian delegation led by Chairman Miegombyn Enkhbold of the Mongolian People's Party, also vice chairman of the State Great Hural, Mongolia's parliament.

Liu said China expected to strengthen political trust with Mongolia, facilitate exchanges between ruling parties, governments and parliaments, and enhance cooperation in such areas as mineral resources and infrastructure building. (Mogi: ummm, CPC does know that MPP is not the ruling party now right?)

He said China was committed to deepening reforms, in order to push forward greater development of the country, improve people's livelihood and contribute to world peace and development.

Enkhbold said he was happy to be visiting China at a time of the 65th anniversary of Mongolia-China diplomatic ties. He said he had witnessed China's development achievements during his visit, which will also take him to south China's Guangdong Province.

He hopes to further boost party-to-party exchanges and pragmatic cooperation between both countries through his visit.

Enkhbold is visiting China from March 17-21 at the invitation of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee.

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Rosneft offers bitumen, oil exploration in Mongolia

March 19 (news.mn) President of Russian oil giant, Rosneft Oil Company and Chairman of the Management Board, Igor Sechin, had a three-hour stay in Mongolia on March 17th. Igor Sechin was believed to come to Mongolia to make further moves into Mongolia`s oil market. 

In his three hours stay in Ulaanbaatar, Mr. Sechin managed to meet President Ts.Elbegdorj, Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag and Minister of Mining D.Gankhuyag

According to the official website of Rosneft, Mr. Sechin discussed with government officials of Mongolia about cooperation to increase petroleum supply and delivery of packed bitumen products from Angarsk Petrochemical Refinery to Mongolia and the possible cooperation on oil exploration.  Also the website states that parties negotiated to create both task forces to formulate and complete the project. 

Last year, Rosneft delivered 700,000 tons of petroleum, or 54 percent of Mongolia`s total consumption of petroleum products for a year

According to the official website of the Ministry of Mining Mongolia, Mr. Sechin is quoted as saying: "As shipping oil by rail is expensive, Russia is ready to sign a long-term agreement on supplying oil products via a pipeline from Russia to Mongolia."

It also reports that both sides exchanged information reciprocally on the issue and agreed to study the proposal. 

Mongolia has import petroleum from Rosneft for over a decade. There was even a time when Mongolia was 100 percent dependent on petroleum imports from Rosneft. Rosneft also provides 80 percent of the diesel needed by Ulaanbaatar railway and airlines. 

With 1.3 million tons of petroleum consumed, Mongolia has the ambition to build its own oil refinery plant. The proposed oil refinery plant will have the capacity to process 20 million tons of oil per year. The plans for the refinery are to import crude oil from Tamsag deposit in Mongolia as well as Angarsk in Russia.

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Mogi: Well, using this same argument, Mongolians can claim the same for the entire central Asia to eastern Europe

My Missing Mongolia

Some Chinese see uncomfortable parallels between the Crimean referendum and their own history.

BY BETHANY ALLEN

March 19 (Foreign Policy) Beijing has very cautiously supported Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Some have compared Russia's move to Adolf Hitler's 1938 annexation of Sudetenland -- a part of pre-war Czechoslovakia -- via plebiscite, as well as to Hitler's annexation of Austria that same year via "Anschluss," or a "union," one also consecrated by (biased) ballot. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has reportedly likened the Crimean referendum to Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in February 2008.

Yet some Chinese are keeping the discussion to their own history -- specifically, to that time a Soviet-backed referendum cost China more than 600,000 square miles of what it considered its own territory. A map of China, with the independent country of Mongolia on China's northern border highlighted in red, has been retweeted more than 15,000 times since it was first posted on China's massive, Twitter-like Weibo platform on March 16. A satirist who goes by the online moniker Cui Chenghao posted the map to his 2 million-plus followers, captioned with the charge: "Crimea has broken away from Ukraine through a referendum, and there are still some among you who applaud this? Or don't you know? In October 1945, the Soviet Union also encouraged northern Mongolia to hold a referendum, and with less than 50,000 voting participants, ripped away 15 percent of China's sovereign territory." (China exercised de facto control over Mongolia until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911; it soon after fell under Russia's sway, and became independent only after the collapse of the Soviet Union.) (Mogi: well, technically no but basically, in a way, yeah)

Cui's charge resonated widely, garnering more than 9,000 comments. Some questioned China's current partnership with Russia, which is how the two sides currently characterize their relationship, one that has included joint naval exercises and frequent meetings between top leaders. One commenter wrote, "Russia is the country who stands to gain the most from an invasion of China, yet Chinese people call this thief 'father.'" Another user wrote, "Return Mongolia to us, and then we'll support the Crimean referendum." And, referring to China's volatile western region of Xinjiang that has a very small number of ethnic Russians, one user added, "The Soviet Union once supported independence for Xinjiang, so go ahead, applaud."  

But beneath the anger toward Russia runs a deeper acknowledgement of realpolitik. One commenter replied, "Outer Mongolia in 1945, Kosovo after 1950, Crimea in 2014. The relationship between these three is their economies and militaries were backward, so they got trampled on. There is no such thing as justice or democracy," the user concluded, "only naked interest." Eschewing any discussion of legal processes, another user angrily demanded, "When will the Chinese government be able to get Mongolia back?" While governments may continue to debate the Crimean referendum for months or even years to come, the takeaway for China's populace may be much simpler: Grow stronger.

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Social, Environmental and Other

Liver cancer among Mongolians among highest in the world: Is alcohol to blame?

March 19 (UB Post) Mongolians have one of the highest rates of liver cancer in the world, with health officials saying that alcohol dependency emerges as a leading contributing factor.

Mongolian adults drink an average of three liters of pure spirits (such as vodka, both locally produced and imported) each year, despite heavy alcohol consumption being associated with a variety of adverse health and social consequences. These include cirrhosis, mental illness, several types of cancer, pancreatitis, and damage to the fetus among pregnant women.

Among the most dangerous of these is liver cancer. The liver acts to filter harmful substances from the blood, while making enzymes and bile that help the body digest food. It also converts food into substances needed for life and growth.

In our bodies, alcohol is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. It can cause cancer by damaging DNA and stopping our cells from repairing this damage. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified acetaldehyde formed as a result of drinking alcohol as being a cause of cancer, along with alcohol itself.

Acetaldehyde also causes liver cells to grow faster than normal. These regenerating cells are more likely to pick up changes in their genes that could lead to cancer. Mainly the liver breaks down ethanol and other cell types. Alcohol acts to manage these cells.

Therefore, having more than two drinks of alcohol each day can dramatically increase the risk of liver and other cancers. The risk of further illness steadily increases with the amount of alcohol that a person drinks.

Widespread access to alcohol

According to 2012 statistics released by the World Cancer Research Fund, Mongolia has the world's highest rate of liver cancer per head of population. While men are statistically more likely to be affected, disturbingly, liver cancer remains the most common cause of death in both genders.

In 2006, Mongolia's Ministry of Health, along with the World Health Organization and Center of Mental Health and Narcology conducted a joint survey under the theme, "Epidemiological study on prevalence of alcohol consumption, alcohol drinking patterns and alcohol related harms in Mongolia."

According to the survey, Mongolia produces an average 4.9 million liters of spirits, 9.4 million liters of vodka, and 3.3 million liters of beer each year. An additional fifteen million liters of alcoholic beverages were imported into the country. Per capita consumption in Mongolia is estimated to be 9.03 liters of absolute alcohol per year.

In 2013, per capita consumption in Mongolia increased to 28 liters per year. Which means that Mongolians are at a high risk for alcoholism.

More recent surveys of alcohol production and sales in the country are hard to come by. Yet a 2004 report showed that there were 12 spirits factories, 173 vodka factories and 29 beer factories operating across Mongolia. Each province had at least one alcohol production factory, many of which produce some of Mongolia's more traditional alcoholic beverages, such as fermented horse milk (airag) and distilled milk vodka (nermel).

Alcohol was available for sale at over five thousand outlets nationally (48 wholesale markets, 3,482 shops, 338 restaurants and 1,297 bars.) These statistics see alcohol availability (per capita) among the highest in the world.

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Alcoholism: Mongolia's silent epidemic

- What we see in the street is just the tip of the iceberg -

Alcoholism: Is 'self-development' the best approach?

March 19 (UB Post) To learn more about the progress of current anti-alcohol movements in Mongolia, The UB Post spoke with J.Tsogtsugar, president of the Mongolia Association for Men's Development and the unofficial spokesperson of the movements against alcoholism.

J.Tsogtsugar, whose work in the field has been well-known for more than a decade, confided that his approach to the issue has been labeled controversial, as he focuses more on "self-development" rather than alcohol addiction itself.

"We work with the brain and the mind. We don't work with alcohol," said J.Tsogtsugar. "By instilling specific knowledge and developing people from within, we believe we can eradicate the alcohol epidemic. We don't use anti-alcohol pills and other remedies. We inspire people to love and hope. We give them a mental energy, a desire to protect their children and love their nation. Changing someone's mind is not easy, and there is no pill that can do it. We want to change the Mongolian way of thinking about alcohol, this is our main campaign."

J.Tsogtsugar added, "This is a relatively new method of fighting alcoholism because previously, people resorted to all sorts of methods such as pills, tongue piercing and shamans and so forth."
During our interview at his office, he received numerous calls from people seeking his expertise on alcohol treatment.

Yet some requests were more unreasonable than others. For instance, an older man asked him to treat a relative of his who is not willing to apply for treatment himself. J.Tsogtsugar replied, "We cannot go to his home and forcefully treat him. At least convince him to come here and we will make him realize that he is sick and needs to change his habits."

Alcohol addiction in Mongolian society: Stereotypes abound

"Addicts are viewed as somebody who has no job, no home and someone who spends his days drinking with similar people in dark alleys and street corners. But these are only some of the severe cases that have a one in 100 chance of recovering," said J.Tsogtsugar. "There are also what we call, the 'white collar' addicts. These are those who have regular jobs in the private sector, or even have higher positions – even in the parliament – but drink heavily. They are regular, upstanding members of society during the day, but are alcohol addicts by night. They put on their white shirt and tie in the morning to look smart on the outside, but on the inside, they are sick."

Some of the projects that J.Tsogtsugar and his organization do are totally unconventional and new. For instance, they asked the President of Mongolia, Ts.Elbegdorj, to support the campaign by toasting with a cup of milk rather than champagne on New Year's Eve, and they have established the first alcohol-free night club with the help of the Ministry of Health and the Prime Minister.

"Before we established the club, some health experts kept asking me one thing, 'From where among the world's countries can you find a disco or club that doesn't sell alcoholic products?' I told them, why must we always learn from foreigners, why can't the world learn some things from us instead?" he said.

J.Tsogtsugar also noted that people's criteria for success are off-target, especially when concerning anti-alcohol movements.

"The second thing they asked me was how will the club profit? Wealthy Mongolians view profit as one thing: money. But our club sees profit differently. Isn't it profitable when young people refuse alcohol? If a healthy Mongolian man is developed, thousands of mothers will be happy, thousands and thousands of families and children will live better. When people are healthy and working productively, isn't this profit? Since this is how we see profit, we believe that the club is profitable. Maybe we can't pay our rent on time but if we lead a couple of hundred young people into a lifestyle without alcohol, this is profit for us."
Surveys suggest Mongolian men are far more likely to suffer from alcohol addiction. In this, J.Tsogtsugar has his own theory. "For the past 30 or so years, our government has been focused on women's and children's development. But nobody talks about developing a healthy Mongolian man. When faced with social difficulties, men have few places they can go to for consultation. The Ministry of Population Development has a whole department devoted to women but none for men," he said.

In conclusion, J.Tsogtsugar said the best way to eradicate alcoholism is through what he calls "mental energy," a development of the mind.

"There are many reasons people become addicts. Conflict, fear, stress, frustration, difficult relations and such are factors to this issue. A lot people have only a basic understanding of the impact of alcohol on their life. There are some who don't think that my approach is right, but there are many who understand. In my recent visit to the provinces, a crowd sat and listened to me talk about mental energy for three hours and nobody left the room… The minds of the nation are hungry, but there is no one to feed them."

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Made in Mongolia: so much more than Genghis Khan

March 18 (Amy Wilson-Chapman) As many international journalists continue to write: Mongolia is the Land of the Blue Sky. It's also home to the ever-so-famous Chinggis Khan and the beautiful gers (or yurts as people tend to call them).

The international media has also written about Mongolia's anti-foreigner sentiment, the mean poor people who attack the rich miners (who are ever so polite, right?), the Neo-Nazi group… the list goes on.

I get it. I'm a journalist, it's all here, it all happens.

In the six months I've been here I think about three taxi drivers, who are just civilian drivers that will pick you up from the side of the road, have ripped me off and got narky about it.

Probably once a week a drunken bafoon yells some random insult at me as I wander home from work. (And I've got quite used to the stares…)

At least once a day, a busy Mongolian bumps into me, my bag, my arm or something else – despite there being an entire footpath for us to share.

But, we have all that in Australia. Even those pesky pick-pockets, who most recently stole a phone from a Mongolian friend of mine, can be found in most capital cities.

(Don't get me wrong: I am vigilant and a few friends have had much worse luck… I'm by no means suggesting it doesn't happen. It does and that sucks.)

However, the over-zealous rich miners, the dickheads, the idiots and the people with no sense of space: they are everywhere.

We even have the erratic, often mad drivers that Mongolia has… and sometimes the traffic jams too!

However, what you hear less about from Mongolia is the passionate, caring, motivated people who don't think 'making a difference' is an ironic hashtag that should label what most Western Governments (pathetically) call 'foreign aid' these days.

In between the 'Oh Mongolia' moments – that could so easily be 'Oh Perth' moments except instead of paying $6 for a coffee, your paying $3 for a taxi ride that should have cost $1.50 – there is a whole other world.

Ulaanbaatar is not just the capital city of a mineral-rich country, potentially about to skyrocket out of this world with riches, it's home to beautiful, creative people.

Take the last two weeks, for example, which have been filled with lovely events including…

·         The Opera

·         Swan Lake Ballet

·         Amazing game of basketball with a wildly passionate crowd

·         Wrestling

·         Women's Day Celebrations and more!

It occurred to me while discussing Ulaanbaatar's water problems, after weeks of thinking about the air pollution, that I spend most of my weeks looking at the negative parts of Mongolia.

But that all changed on the weekend!

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DC Environmental Film Festival: SINGER FROM THE TAIGA

Time: MARCH 23, 5:15 PM

Directed by: Batbileg Zoljargal

Presented with: the Arts Council of Mongolia

Venue: Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington D.C.

SINGER FROM THE TAIGA (Mongolia, 2011, 32 min.)

Stories from Mongolia

Presented in partnership with the Arts Council of Mongolia, this film series features stunning landscapes and traditional ways of life closely tied to nature.

Thanks to the Trust for Mutual Understanding for their support of this program.

Program introduced by Andy Finch, Member of the Board of Directors, Arts Council of Mongolia - US. Films introduced by the filmmakers.

Washington, D.C. Premiere: Follow folk artist Tsogbadrakh as he struggles to preserve the disappearing throat-singing culture of the Darkhad people, by searching for native elders who may be the last with knowledge of these songs. Journeying through the scenic and remote northern Mongolian taiga, he discovers music that is deeply connected to the natural world. Directed by Batbileg Zoljargal.

Discussion with filmmakers Bayar Banzragch and Batbileg Zoljargal follows program.

Ticket/Reservation Info: FREE. No reservations required.

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Related:

U.S. PREMIERE: GIVE THE WORLD A CHANCE by Bayar Banzragch

U.S. PREMIERE: HORSE TRAINER by Bayar Banzragch

 

Visually ingenious outdoor installations: "Wolf Within" in Ulan Bator, Mongolia

By Tanya Wilson, co-owner of Kult3D where she creates new ways of consumer engagement and develops Kult's own branded properties.

March 17 (Campaign Asia-Pacific) These days, we are bombarded with advertising messages when we walk down the street, so it makes a refreshing and rare change to come across a sculpture orinstallation that isn't overly commercial, something we can truly relate to and feel compelled to photograph and blog about.

For a brand, the major benefit of outdoor installations is obviously the sheer number of views. both on-ground and online. The amount of online buzz created is a testament to how visually ingenious the sculpture is, as is the number of physical sites that it tours to.

This is a territory most embraced by independent artists and NGOs to highlight a cause, but I have seen some brands successfully commission sculptures by working with artists. The most effective, and the ones that get blogged about the most. are when the sculpture is inspired by a brand message or idea, rather than an overt representation of the product.

Some examples of outdoor art (some commissioned by brands, some independent but with huge potential for brands):

'Wolf Within' commissioned by Tiger Beer in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Conceptualised by NYC artists Faile and realised by a Mongolian sculptor, the permanent 5m structure alludes to maintaning a balance between traditional culture and economic growth in Mongolia. This piece received widespread online PR globally and Tiger was credited each time. The success from this project stems from the fact the beer brand collaborated with experts both locally and internationally and worked with the Mongolian Arts Council to secure a prominent spot in the new Ulan Bator National Park.

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NatGeo Photo of the Day: Spring Herd

March 19 (National Geographic) "I traveled to the Altay Mountains in Mongolia to photograph the Kazakh nomads known for their eagle-hunting traditions," says Your Shot contributor Tariq Sawyer, whose picture was recently discussed in Your Shot's new Weekly Wrap feature.

"This photo was taken on the first morning I spent with the nomads. Waking up to experience a harsh spring blizzard, I respected the family's resilience to the subzero temperatures and freezing winds as they continued their daily routine.

"After completing the morning chores, the family went to tend their herd. As the nomad opened the gate of the pen I saw the sheep forming an orderly charge toward the mountains on the horizon. I went ahead to frame the shot and waited for the nomad, who was frantically herding the sheep, to come into the frame. Just as he appeared the sheep had aligned with the landscape and it all came together."

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