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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

[Firebird fluorspar RTO falls through, Sharyn Gol loans $10m from EBRD, Firebird, and Elbegdorj meets Xi, meeting Putin today]

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Overseas Market

TRQ closed +1.57% to US$3.88

 

CNSV last traded US$0.54 on May 12

Consolidation Services Inc Recruits Emerging Market and Mongolia Investments Specialist Jorge Ramiro Monroy to its Advisory Board

Jorge Ramiro Monroy joins the Advisory Board of Consolidation Services to assist with the deployment of the Company's Hertz Equipment Rental franchise operations throughout Mongolia.

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (PRWEB) May 19, 2014 -- Consolidation Services Inc (the "Company") (OTCQB: CNSV) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Mongolia Equipment Rental Corporation, announced that the Company has appointed current Managing Director of Emerging Markets Capital Jorge Ramiro Monroy to its Advisory Board.

Mr. Ramiro is also an advisor to and a shareholder of the Mongolian investment firm Standard Capital, which has twelve subsidiaries and five joint venture companies in the fields of finance, agriculture, construction, road building, information technology, trade and other services. Standard Capital is also a shareholder in 60 companies in a variety of other sectors.

Previously, Mr. Ramiro worked for Frontier Securities, a Mongolia-based investment advisory and securities brokerage, where he was part of the Special Investments team in the natural resources division. In this capacity, he participated in the funding of Mongolian companies by Hong Kong investors.

Mr. Ramiro holds a Bachelor's degree from the State University of New York and an MBA in Finance from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Hindi and Portuguese and speaks conversational Cantonese.

Company Board Member Roy Tashi, OAM stated: "Considering his emerging market finance experience and deep relationships in the Mongolian market, Jorge Ramiro will make a tremendous addition to the team during this exciting period of our Company's expansion into one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Mongolia"

Link to release

 

Mogi: doesn't say why it broke down but perhaps because Prima couldn't raise the $6m? tough times to raise $ on Mongolia assets. PF last traded at C$0.10 on August 28

Prima Fluorspar stopped negotiations on acquisition of fluorspar assets in Mongolia

May 19 (Industrial Minerals) By terminating the non-binding letter of intent entered with New-York based Firebird in August last year, , the Canadian junior company will not purchase Berkh Uul (MSE:BEU)'s fluorspar project in Mongolia and could miss the opportunity to expand its fluorspar assets and diversify its future market.

Canadian junior company, Prima Fluorspar (TSXV:PF), has terminated further negotiations to acquire a 99.8% ownership stake in Mongolia-based Berkh Uul's Delgerkhaan fluorspar project.

The negotiations regarded a non-binding letter of intent (LOI), which Prima entered with an affiliate of New York-based investment company, Firebird Management, on 31 August 2013.

According to the LOI, Firebird, which controls 99.8% ownership in Berkh Uul JSC's Delgerkhaan fluorspar mine in Khentii Province, Mongolia, would have acquired a controlling stake in Prima.

Prima's stock halted from trading on the TSX-V exchange since the announcement of the LOI in early September 2013.

Conditions for the transaction were indicative evaluations of Berkh Uul's and Prima's fluorspar project and Prima's placement of issue shares for the Mongolian fluorspar assets.

Additionally, Prima was required to raise a minimum of $6m to fund the Berkh Uul's project.

The transaction would have allowed Prima to reinforce its position as future global fluorspar producer, especially in the Asian market.

"As a result of a disciplined sourcing approach, we identified the Berkh Uul as an ideal acquisition target," said Prima's CEO, Robert Bick, in a statement in September 2013.

"This transaction provides the potential for Prima to become a near-term producer. The consolidation of the Delgerkhan mine in Mongolia with our Liard fluorspar property in Canada will position Prima as a potential global fluorspar producer and supplier," he added.

Berkh Uul's Delgerkhan fluorspar mine

In 2012, Micromine Proprietary Ltd completed a drilling programme at Delgerkhan, showing indicated resources of 6.6m tonnes ore at 33.7% fluorite (CaF2) and additional inferred resources of 3m tonnes at 33.7% CaF2.

The Delgerkhan mine was actively exploited from 1980s to 2008, with a production capacity of about 540,000 tpa between 1988 and 1999, according to Berkh Uul's chief operating officer (COO), Jimmie Wilde.

Berkh Uul is planning to restart production in 2014, targeting an initial capacity of 120,000tpa acidspar.

Speaking at the 2013 Fluorspar conference in London, last year, Wilde said that the infrastructure at the mine need to be partially refurbished and estimated resources of 9m tonnes ore and a life mine of 13 years.

Wilde explained that the main refurbishing operations consisted of mine dewatering and construction of the flotation plant, for a total period of 18 months.

According to Wilde, Mongolia's government has recently ease its grip on mining assets, with a new law more open to foreign investments.

Prima's fluorspar assets in Canada

Prima is also developing its Liard fluorspar project along the Alaska Highway, at Fort Nelson, in British Columbia, Canada.

The project, which extends over an area of 22,588 ha (0.23 km2), is at advanced stage exploration.

Historical explorations by Conwest Exploration Company estimated 3.2m tonnes resources averaging 32% CaF2, with mineralisation close to surface.

The Canadian company believes it can expand resources at depth and along strike for several kilometres. Historical metallurgical testing of bulk samples indicated the ability to produce high-quality acid-grade product at 97% CaF2.

Preliminary explorations indicated additional mineralisation, including calcite (CaCO3), quartz (SiO2) and barite (BaSO4).

Link to article

Link to PF press release, May 15

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Local Market

BDSec Trading Update, May 19: Top 20 +0.05%, Turnover 80 Million

May 19 (BDSec) Mongolian shares edged higher on Monday. The MSE Top 20 index added +0.05% to sit at 15,505.96 points. Bayangol Hotel (BNG) gained +5.1% to end the session at MNT 54,650 on a traded volume of 1,000 shares. Bayangol Hotel is the second longest serving hotel in the country after Ulaanbaatar Hotel. BNG reported sales and earnings of MNT 7.4 billion (-14.6% yoy) and 3.4 billion (-10.9%) respectively. The stock is trading at 6.7 times earnings on today's close.

Material Impex (MIE) lost as much as -12.8% to MNT 15,000 on 70 shares. Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK) once again fell -12.0% to close at MNT 35,900 after losing -12.3% last Friday.

This afternoon, Sharyn Gol (SHG) announced drawdown of $5 million from the EBRD Non-Convertible Loan Facility and execution of $5M convertible loan agreement with Firebird. The stock did not trade today and its last closing price is at MNT 7,810.

Trading turnover recovered on Monday to reach at MNT 80 million.

TOP MOVERS 

Trading Value Leaders

Close (MNT)

Value (MNT)

Bayangol Hotel (BNG)

54,650

54,638,000

Remicon (RMC)

150

17,002,839

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

35,900

2,692,000

 

 

 

Top Gainers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Bayangol Hotel (BNG)

54,650

+5.10%

Genco Tour Bureau (JTB)

87

+2.35%

Merex (MRX)

113

+0.86%

 

 

 

Top Losers

Close (MNT)

% Change

Material Impex (MIE)

15,000

-12.79%

Ulaanbaatar BUK (BUK)

35,900

-12.01%

E-Trans Logistics (ETR)

110

-8.33%

Please visit the link for MSE stock quotes: http://www.bdsec.mn/mseIndex.php?lang=&Itemid=

Link to update

 

SHARYN GOL JSC ANNOUNCES DRAWDOWN OF $5 MILLION FROM EBRD LOAN FACILITY AND EXECUTION OF $5M CONVERTIBLE LOAN AGREEMENT WITH FIREBIRD

May 19 (BDSec) Sharyn Gol JSC (MSE: SHG; "Sharyn Gol") is pleased to announce that it has drawn down $5 million under the terms of its $10 million debt financing package with the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development ("EBRD"), the multilateral development bank based in London. The proceeds of the drawdown will be used to finance expenses related to the acquisition and installation of a coal washing plant and improvements to a smokeless fuel processing facility. The coal washing plant, which will be operational by September, will supply washed coal to Sharyn Gol's subsidiary Naco Fuels JSC (MSE: NKT), which produces smokeless fuel for the domestic market; the washing plant will also allow Sharyn Gol to produce export quality coal for trial shipments through the Russian rail system, as well as premium coal for a range of domestic customers in Mongolia. The investment will reduce emissions by allowing the production of higher quality coal, as well as to provide additional environmental benefits through the expansion of smokeless fuel production capacity.

Sharyn Gol is also pleased to announce that it has executed a $5 million Convertible Loan Agreement with SHG Investments Pte. Ltd., an entity controlled by an affiliate of Firebird Management LLC, Sharyn Gol's controlling shareholder. Sharyn Gol will use the proceeds of the convertible loan facility for general working capital purposes and for the continued upgrading of mining equipment in order to execute its objective to grow annualized production to 2.5 million tons per year.

Graham Chapman, Sharyn Gol's CEO, commented: "We are honored to work with the EBRD to improve Sharyn Gol's ability to generate cash in order to create additional returns for stakeholders, while making a positive impact on air quality in Ulaanbaatar through the reduction in air pollution resulting from the substitution of raw coal with Naco Fuel's environmentally friendly smokeless fuel. In addition, we are grateful for the continued support from Firebird, our company's largest shareholder."

Link to release

 

HBOIL JSC ANNOUNCES OPENING OF DATA ROOM IN PYONGYANG, RECRUITS EXPERIENCED EXPLORATION CONSULTANT

May 16 (BDSec) HBOil JSC (MSE: HBO; Bloomberg Code: HBO MO), a specialty oil recycling company (hereinafter referred to as "HBO") is pleased to announce that its wholly owned subsidiary; HBOil (L) Berhad, has opened its data room in Pyongyang, DPRK. HBO's Pyongyang data room has commenced operations as part of the company's joint venture with Korea Oil Exploration Corporation ("KOEC"), which operates as KOEC International, Inc. ("KOECII"); initially, focusing on exploration for hydrocarbons onshore DPRK.

The new data room is located in Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, and has been equipped successfully with the necessary hardware and software to translate, amalgamate, digitize, and catalogue all of the available geological, geophysical, and technical data relating to oil and gas exploration previously conducted onshore DPRK.

In addition, HBO has formally retained the expertise of Mr. Quentin Rigby as its Exploration & Development Consultant to assist its DPRK business unit. Mr. Rigby's credentials may be summarized as follows:

Mr. Rigby graduated from Queens' College at Cambridge University with an MA in Geology, before completing his MSc (Dunelm) in Geophysics at Durham University.  Mr. Rigby has over 30 years of experience working in the E&P and energy industry across; NW Europe, Africa, and, Asia. He has held Geologist and Geophysicist roles with Shell (South Africa and London), British Petroleum (London), and Hess (London); during which time, he developed and lead successful exploration portfolios in the UK North Sea and South East Asia.  Additionally, over the past 15 years, Mr. Rigby has held several Business Development roles from creation of new start-up companies to leading existing companies into operating roles in Australia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand.

HBOil expects to complete its cataloguing and digitizing work for the onshore DPRK G&G data, during the coming months and aims to have a comprehensive technical data-room established; by the year-end. Thereafter, HBO shall continue with this exploration process, by organizing an international tender on behalf of KOECII, for the onshore hydrocarbon basins of DPRK.

Link to release

 

Darkhan Impex JSC Delisted from MSE

May 19 (MSE) Based on Financial Regulatory Commission Resolution No.:113, dated on 9 April 2014, clause No.:58, 59.1 of "Listing Rule" of MSE, Listing report made by a request of "Darkhan-Impex" JSC, dated on 23 April 2014, respectively, "Darkhan-Impex" JSC's securities has been delisted by the decree No.:65 of CEO of MSE on 9 May 2014. 

Please click here to view the decree No.:65 of CEO of the MSE. 

Link to release

 

5 More MSE Stocks Announce Dividends, Now Totalling 10.4 Billion

May 19 (MSE) To Mongolian Stock Exchange, "Khurd", "Atar-Urguu", "Gan Kherlen", "Eermel" and "Ulaanbaatar Hotel" joint stock companies were submitted their decision of dividends. As of 15 May 2014, 19 joint stock companies declared to distribute dividends total of 10.4 billion MNT. 

Please click here to view more  

JSC's name

Dividend per share /MNT/

 Sum of dividend /MNT/

 Khurd

253.00

  34,222,298.00

 Gan Kherlen

300.00

 52,240,800.00

 Eermel

63.10

 219,545,092.00

 Ulaanbaatar Hotel

330.00

  110,648,010.00

 Atar-Urguu

300.00

 52,240,800.00

Link to release

 

APS Weekly Stock Recommendation: Olloo JSC - HOLD

May 19 (APIP) --

Executive Overview

Olloo (OLL) was established in 2004 as an online news provider based at www.olloo.mn. Currently the web site receives around 150'000 visitors each day, which is 5% of total population of Mongolia, with 20% of visitors accessing the site from overseas. The main operation of the company is to provide news in digital form as well as provide online advertisements through its web site. During their 10 years in operation, they have gained a good reputation in the market and have become the leading online news provider in the country.

Ownership

There are three major shareholders of the company that hold a total of 62.4% of shares:

-       Entrepreneur Ts. Enkhtsetseg owns 26.1 percent

-       Director of Nomin Holding Sh. Enkhbayar owns 17.8 percent.

-       Asia Pacific Securities owns 18.5 percent.

Financial Review

By the end of 2013, total revenue reached MNT 134.9 million representing 17.4% growth compared to the previous year. Although revenue grew, due to high operating expenses the company experienced a loss for a consecutive two years. A major part of this loss came from the direct labor cost, with advertisement income insufficient. Therefore, Olloo is planning to increase its income by selling online content and increasing its page visits.

Business Development

In 2013, the company worked extensively on its web site appearance, information availability and quality of contents, but more importantly they updated all software and changed the font from Cyrillic (Windows-1251) to Unicode (UTF-8). All major operating systems support Unicode Character Standard and it is much simpler to use and read. On May 1 2014 they replaced and updated the web design entirely in celebration of their 10th anniversary, and making it more user-friendly.

Future developments are aiming to adopt digital content and entertainment news in order to expand its operation into Mongolian digital music, video and publishing. Mongolia is following the digital movement of the world market, and introducing a digital content section will certainly benefit the company by creating a secondary financial source. Furthermore, they are building Olloo applications for the Android Market and App Store to attract more visitors and readers.

Share Price Performance

From 2008 to 2014, Olloo shares traded between MNT 50 to MNT 325 and since November 2010, the price hasn't dropped below MNT 100. In December 2011 share price rocketed from MNT 135 to MNT 325, by 241% within one month, to its historical high. This success came from Olloo's investments in Mongolia's first ever GPS navigation system, and licensing a brand name "Olloo" to Olloo TV. However, a year later the stock price plunged, mainly due to the programming team of the GPS navigation system leaving the company.

APS Recommendation

Asia Pacific Securities (APS) currently rates the stock of Olloo (OLL) as "Hold".

The 52 week range standard deviation of the share price is 17.9. Today market price is around MNT 140 and although it has experienced certain volatility since the beginning of 2014, based on a WACC of 14.4%, terminal growth rate of 2.8%, regression analysis correlation of 0.04, fundamental analysis, and expected development program APS values it at MNT 160.

Link to update

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Economy

BoM MNT Rates: Monday, May 19 Close

 

5/19

5/16

5/15

5/14

5/13

USD

1,812.51

1,816.40

1,818.55

1,813.99

1,810.68

EUR

2,486.31

2,492.01

2,486.50

2,488.07

2,493.22

CNY

290.38

291.41

291.98

291.03

290.64

GBP

3,049.73

3,051.19

3,043.98

3,058.84

3,052.35

RUB

52.18

52.22

52.49

52.24

51.96

May MNT Chart:

 

Link to rates

 

Mogi: BoM failed to report there was an auction on Friday it seems, showing 1-week bills rose 2.5% from 826.4 billion, which was the lowest it has been since March 17.

BoM issues 215.1 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +1.3% to ₮858.1 billion

May 19 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 215.1 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

BoM Monthly Statistical Bulletin, April 2014

May 19 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Link to report

 

BoM: Consolidated Balance Sheet of Commercial Banks, April 2014

May 19 (Bank of Mongolia)

/In millions of togrogs/

Assets

4/30/2013

12/31/2013

3/31/2014

4/30/2014

Bank reserves

1,976,554.3

2,769,813.1

2,577,682.2

2,007,403.1

Central bank bills

390,891.3

1,626,606.3

1,102,311.1

1,439,480.3

Foreign assets

655,448.6

812,646.8

1,019,760.1

1,027,911.7

Government securities

908,173.9

1,778,007.7

2,058,340.2

2,118,160.6

Other securities

198,613.8

471,105.7

232,454.2

242,446.5

Loans

7,716,801.6

10,715,632.7

11,332,387.3

11,689,209.3

   In domestic currency

5,208,211.6

7,785,230.7

8,199,695.7

8,469,000.4

   In foreign currency

2,508,590.0

2,930,402.0

3,132,691.6

3,220,208.9

Non-performing loans

309,410.8

564,260.4

592,915.4

614,610.9

Total Assets

13,331,683.5

20,883,711.1

20,708,468.5

21,213,291.1

 

 

 

 

 

Liabilities

4/30/2013

12/31/2013

3/31/2014

4/30/2014

Current Accounts

1,953,468.3

2,485,412.5

2,216,978.9

2,419,182.5

   In domestic currency

1,136,774.6

1,511,167.7

1,187,506.3

1,254,333.7

   In foreign currency

816,693.6

974,244.7

1,029,472.6

1,164,848.8

Deposits

4,662,748.5

6,355,003.8

7,150,158.4

7,160,275.5

   In domestic currency

3,643,841.5

4,892,672.6

5,157,391.3

5,713,450.6

   In foreign currency

1,018,763.7

1,461,719.2

1,990,887.0

1,444,920.7

Foreign liabilities

1,501,094.2

1,654,551.7

2,034,147.1

2,049,302.6

Government deposits

1,015,200.7

1,186,170.0

1,535,041.1

1,656,528.8

Capital

1,052,979.02

1,381,214.72

1,536,510.23

1,600,981.97

   Profit/loss of current year

57,900.1

229,741.1

63,125.1

85,614.7

Link to report

 

Mogi: little late no?

BoM Publishes Annual Report 2012

May 19 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Link to report

 

Economic Council Says to Focus on Doubling GDP to $20 Billion at First Weekly Meeting

May 19 (Montsame) Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ The Economic Council will focus on raising the national GDP to USD 20 by paying attention to the property right and tax matters, its secretary B.Byambasaikhan (Mogi: BCM Chairman) said during a press conference on Monday.

Chaired by the Prime Minister, the Economic Council has been set up with 30 members, and 18 of them are from the private sector and business field. This council will give a report every Monday in frames of the 100-day works for intensifying the economy, Byambasaikhan said.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday, the council will meet to discuss new ideas and innovations, and related recommendations will be submitted to the Premier. As of today, the country's GDP is about 10 billion USD dollars. In the first turn, the council intends to touch upon the tax issue, which is the basis of economy, and the '11 11' center has begun to receive views on this matter from the public," Byambasaikhan said.

During the press conference, the Economic Council also made a presentation about the Khotol-based "Cement-lime" company which was put into use last week. This factory will produce one million tons of cement which is equivalent to 50% of the total consumption of Mongolia.

Link to article

 

EBRD's Alexander Plekhanov will present "Stuck in Transition" at Nat'l University of #Mongolia

May 19 (Economic Research Institute) This week Prof. Dr. Alexander Plekhanov will give a talk titled "Stuck in Transition" followed by Q&A session.

The seminar will be held on Thursday May 22nd in Suite 407 of Building 4 of National University of Mongolia at 15:40 pm.

Link to release

Back to top

Politics

Cabinet Meeting Resolutions in Brief: Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 19 (infomongolia.com) The regular Cabinet meeting of the Government was held on Saturday, May 17 and the following issues were discussed and some were resolved.

- Cabinet members agreed to submit to the State Great Khural (Parliament) the renewed draft bill on the Law on Petroleum, amendments made on the Law on Minerals and annulling of the existing Law on Petroleum. A working group was established earlier and revised the renewed draft bill on the Law on Petroleum repeatedly at the affiliated Standing Committee meetings and submitted to the Parliament, but was not supported and was rejected at the latter plenary session of the Parliament. Thus, by reflecting some Parliamentarians' proposals, the new draft bill is to be re-submitted.

- It was agreed to submit to the Parliament the renewed version of the Law on Air and amendments to the Law to Reduce Air Pollution in the Capital City, which was first ratified in 2011.

- New regulation of internal control and its procedures to follow for food related operators was approved. Accordingly, Deputy Prime Minister D.Terbishdagva is entrusted to introduce the new regulation to food business runners and monitor the implementation on organizational measures.

- On April 28, 2014, officials representing the Governments of the Republic of Estonia and Mongolia signed an intergovernmental document in Tallin on "To mutually liberalize from visa requirements holders of Diplomatic e-passports".

Accordingly, at the Cabinet meeting held on Saturday, May 17, members affirmed the document.

Link to article

Related:

Cabinet Meeting in BriefMontsame, May 18

 

Premier updates parliament on '100-day action plan on economy'

Ulaanbaatar, May 19 (MONTSAME) Mongolia's Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag informed in the parliament last Friday on the 100-day sprint plan to revive the economy of the nation.

Developed by the Cabinet, this plan was approved by the parliament last week, which then assigned the Cabinet, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulatory Commission to implement the plan in its due time.

All actions planned will be realized in due time, with great results stimulating the economy, said the Prime Minister. Effective measures will be taken to improve foreign exchange flows, to save 20% of the budget operational expenditure, to boost the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, to reduce tax burdens for entities, as well as to increase mining exploration in the nation, he added.

Link to article

 

Government of Mongolia Approves New State Policy to on Science and Technology for Parliament Submission

May 19 (infomongolia.com) At the Cabinet meeting held on May 17, 2014, the state policy to adhere on science and technology was reviewed and agreed to submit to the State Great Khural (Parliament).

The country's economic and social developments' tendencies have been changing and in the scope of the new policy to adhere, the country's economic development should not rely on its minerals wealth and mining, instead should develop based on knowledge.

In the state policy ratified in 1988, it was emphasized maintaining the capacity of science and technology sectors to transfer into a market economy following the economic transition, so the new policy focused to fully utilize the power and resources that have been already generated and provide with creative and comprehensive maintenance goals.

The new policy also underlines to provide Mongolian national sustainable development and security, to improve competitiveness and increase the role of science in order to expand economic sectors based on knowledge.

In the frameworks, science and technology cluster, parks and a town will be erected, also it includes to establish technological exchanges and integrated database that would meet current requirements.

In addition, to increase the number of qualified research personnel and engage scientists and researchers working abroad, create a system of supporting young scientists by providing grants and scholarships.

If the draft bill is approved, the science and technology sector would meet market needs, and demands of society and the economy, consistent with competitive bidding would reach a new stage of development, and existing legal documents would be amended in accordance with the policy legal opportunity. By establishing a science park, high technology and product innovation would be increased in the gross domestic product.

Link to article

Related:

Cabinet discusses science and technology policyMontsame, May 19

 

Mongolian Anti-Corruption TV Series "Water Flows Up" Premieres in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar, April 30, 2014 (The Asia Foundation) On Thursday, April 24, anti-corruption TV series "Water Flows Up" premiered at Tengis Cinema in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  The 28-episode series is based on fictional characters, institutions, and events. The series has been produced by the Foundation through the USAID-funded Strengthening Transparency and Governance in Mongolia (STAGE) in partnership with the Zorig Foundation, Globe International, and NTV to provide messages to the public on the negative effects of corruption, money laundering, and conflict of interest. The series aired on NTV beginning on April 28.

The Foundation in Mongolia is committed to its work to improve lives, expand opportunities, and help societies flourish within a dynamic and developing Mongolia and across the region.

Link to release

 

HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION BEFORE MONGOLIAN PARLIAMENT: A THREAT TO FREE SPEECH?

By Lisa Gardner

May 19 -- Mongolia's government has embarked upon a series of sweeping revisions to the country's legal codes, an overhaul to include provisions which aim to prevent crimes of hate, bigotry and discrimination.

Among the proposals includes an ambitious review of the country's anti- discrimination laws, with civil rights groups calling for the inclusion of provisions which include hated-based motivations as an aggravating factor in criminal sentencing.

Led by country's beleaguered Justice Minister Kh. Temuujin, the government has embarked upon an ambitious legal reform agenda. One which places particular focus upon human rights and improved transparency from the country's law enforcement agencies, in step with international legal conventions.

Yet among some of the draft law's most ardent supporters have concerns emerged that the law may yet overreach, serving instead to criminalize all forms of criticism, including offensive, pernicious or legitimate difference of opinion.

Others have expressed concern that these inclusions could further threaten press freedom, with journalists already privy to sweeping anti- discrimination measures said, in some cases, to stifle legitimate critique.

'Hate crimes' had emerged as a serious issue in Mongolia, rising to international prominence in 2011 when nationalist groups - many of whom draw from neo-Nazi ideology and paraphernalia - were found responsible for numerous attacks against the country's minority LGBT and foreign communities.

At present, no measures exist to further penalize perpetrators for suspected bias-motivated violence, nor are law enforcement agencies required to outline suspected intent.

While it is not yet clear what these draft measures would deploy as additional penalties for those found guilty of hate-motivated acts, the law would require training of law enforcement agencies to recognize and report cases of suspected hate.

An initial draft, produced by a working group made up of rights groups and the Justice Ministry officials, included in its recommendations specific provisions for crimes of 'hate bias'. Provisions which would, in a similarly unprecedented move, establish penalties and reparation which would recognize psychological, as well as physical, damages caused by such crimes.

However the Ministry of Justice, responsible for submission of the draft to Parliament, has since removed hate-oriented provisions, replacing these with generalized references to 'discrimination'.

Discrimination in Mongolia

"Anti-discrimination provisions are included to some extent in the laws of every sector; for instance, under labor and family laws," explains Bataa Bayaraa, member of the working group and head of the Mongolian National Human Rights Commission's Complaints and Inquiry Division.

The Commission lent its support to the inclusion of hate-based provisions in light of numerous complaints it received which found that, in such circumstances, "motivations are special and not like that of any other similar crimes," says Bayaraa.

Many had hoped that the country's anti-discrimination laws would be extended to include restriction to offend, insult or humiliate people due to their sexual identity and/or sexual orientation.

Instead, "they had intended to draft hate crimes into law," explains Anaraa Nyamdorj, executive director of the country's LGBT Center. "Instead they've codified discrimination, drafting it in a such a way - so broad, that it will be very difficult to bring down to an implementation level. It means that Mongolia could very well be one of the first countries in the world to criminalize the very concept of discrimination almost entirely."

Yet he acknowledges that as it stands, the far-reaching law risks encouraging greater discrimination, veiled as a perceived threat to free speech. "It runs the risk of being seen in a negative light - people can't even say what they want to, because then it will be considered discrimination," Anaraa says. "Then if it's discrimination, it's a crime, so I can't even fully express myself."

Hate crimes in Mongolia

It remains difficult to assess just how many 'crimes of hate' take place in Mongolia each year. No statistical analysis are readily available, and while contention remains as to what determines a 'hate-motivated' crime, a task made especially difficult given there is no common-use equivalent term in Mongolian defining parameters for either 'hate crimes' or 'hate speech'.

Yet discrimination, seen as a possible precursor to hate crimes, remains prominent. In 2013 Mongolia's National Human Rights Commission released is annual rights report that found that in 2012, almost eighty percent of people surveyed who identify as LGBT had experienced some form of human rights abuse in the previous three year period. Almost three-quarters had considered suicide one or more times, "due to society's intolerance and failure to understand them."

Etched in recent memory as one of the country's recent and inexplicable acts of hate-motivated violence. In September 2009, three transgendered women were kidnapped at one of the city's most vibrant promenades, in broad daylight, by a local hyper-nationalist group.

In a 2011 documentary entitled 'Lies of Liberty', one of the victims testified that the group then drove them to a cemetery on the city's outskirts. "Nine men were there," she explains, "and were beating us in different ways."

The report then outlines how the women were brutally beaten and sexual assaulted before being forced to conduct sexual acts upon their perpetrators.

The women believe they were targeted due to their sexual identity, with the men describing the vicious assaults as a 'warning' to "their kind", the victim explained.

"And we are live human beings," she said. "I just felt so sad about having to die at the hands of an uneducated bunch, without a chance to explain myself." The women later received UN asylum, in recognition of both an ongoing threat of persecution and the gravity of crimes suffered.

Politics: the Minister for Justice

The country's legal reform agenda is further complicated by recent efforts to remove the 'reformist' Minister for Justice, who has recently come under fire, facing allegations of drug-use and salacious behavior. In recent days local MPs lodged parliamentary petitions calling for his removal. Yet Kh. Temuujin, denying the claims, has since managed to maintain his position as the country's Justice Minister.

Some, like one of the country's leading political commentators, described the moves against the Justice Minister as "a plot devised by a political- business group that intentions to use legal means to remove from a position of power."

"Mongolians want a legal system where the law applies the same to everyone regardless of reputation, wealth, power, and connections," he wrote. "The legislature has to be an organization that serves rather than enforces."

A polarizing figure, Temuujin enjoys broad, continued support among the country's civil society groups. Many had feared that should he be removed, these legal reforms would be indefinitely postponed.

"Temuujin is a young politician, and one who is trying to transform the law," says Altanchimeg Delegchoimbol, head of UNAIDS Mongolia. "Mongolia's parliament is filled with many long-standing lawyers, who feel that the original criminal code - the one that they drafted - is the best. As a result, the criminal code of Mongolia has always been a law that is extremely difficult to amend."

Yet Bataa believes the draft law, though likely to face substantive amendments throughout the course of parliamentary sessions, is likely to be passed. "Those who hold power in the government are the majority Mongolian Democratic Party (MDP). This party has been away from the power in the government for quite a long time, so that we can see that MDP is in rush to make changes."

Others express uncertainty as to whether hate crimes legislation should be a priority, given its provisions serve for the protection of minorities. "I have two children, and I feel that even they are likely to experience serious, violent crimes in their life(times)," she says. "In some ways, we are all vulnerable."

Yet for others, the changes cannot come soon enough. "An issue like this can no longer be ignored; it is a 'must'," says Anaraa.

"We cannot wait for this constitutional amendments to be passed. We need to take whatever we can, whatever we can use and run with it. Right now, lives are being affected irreversibly."

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Arrested developments in Mongolia

Terrence Edwards in Ulaanbaatar, May 19 (bne) Mongolia's vast natural resources have enticed foreign investors to what is still very much a frontier market. Politicians' re-writing of investment rules has been one major risk for intrepid investors, but another more worrying hazard is emerging: arrest and travel bans.

Since the 1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia, the country has established itself as a beacon of democracy that outshines the authoritarian neighbours of Russia and China that it is sandwiched between. However, the Mongolian authorities' increasingly liberal use of travel bans on expats is starting to concern many investors and long-time residents of the country.

Take the case of Justin Kapla, a veteran in Mongolia's mining industry with a Mongolian family. Kapla had held the post of president at SouthGobi Sands, the license holder for the Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi desert, for just six months when prosecutors raided his offices on May 8, 2012, investigating illegal dealings with a former head bureaucrat at the Mineral Resources Authority, who was charged and later convicted of corruption. Kapla was banned from leaving the country, though this ban was lifted about a month later, on June 20. However, he received a second travel ban after investigators decided that after looking at SouthGobi's books the company was suspected of evading taxes and laundering billions of dollars

Kapla denies the accusations, citing as proof internal audits as well as external audits from the "Big Four" accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. He also questions the methodology of the investigators. "All they've done is shown sums of findings in reports," he says. "They've never presented us with materials that show how they've come up with those numbers."

Kapla didn't actually learn about his second travel ban until a colleague, SouthGobi's legal advisor Sarah Armstrong, was stopped at the airport in October 2012 when flying home to Australia. Armstrong was allowed to return home in time for Christmas that year, but she left behind three colleagues from SouthGobi who are still subject to travel bans but have yet been formally charged of any crime.

Then there's a banking consultant for Standard Bank, Chris Bradley, who received a travel ban from November to December last year for what many regarded as only tenuous links to fraudulent documents submitted by Just Group to take out a loan from the bank. Just Group defaulted on its debt following its 2013 implosion, which brought down with it Mongolia's fourth largest bank at the time, Khadgalamj Bank. (Mogi: Savings Bank)

While Bloomberg has reported that there are about 50 expats prohibited from leaving Mongolia because of alleged connections to open investigations, Kapla reckons there's tens more. Says Allyson Algeo, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar: "We continue to raise our serious concerns regarding [Kapla's] case with Mongolian authorities and to urge them to resolve any outstanding issues through a fair and transparent process, conducted in an expeditious manner."

The reason for this worrying trend is manifold, say observers. Mongolia's police are gung-ho about rooting out graft due to the strong anti-corruption stance taken by Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj since he was elected in 2009. Some expats attribute their problems to political motives, as many of the alleged crimes occurred during the notoriously corrupt government of former prime minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, who led the Mongolian People's Party from 2009 to 2012. Many corruption cases that involve foreign companies are related to officials who were in power during that time, as was the case for SouthGobi. There is also a fair bit of mistrust among some Mongolians toward foreign investors due to the widening wealth disparity that occurred during Mongolia's mining boom, as well a general perception that foreigners are plundering Mongolia's natural resources.

Then there are suspicions that the travel bans are being used as leverage in contract disputes. "We are concerned by reports that the Mongolian exit visa system is being misused to pressure foreign investors to settle civil and investment disputes," says Algeo of the US embassy. "Such concerns could have a chilling effect on international investors considering whether Mongolia is a viable destination for foreign direct investment."

Shaky foundations

Certainly, in many cases bne has looked into the evidence doesn't warrant such drastic action as the imposition of travel bans, lending weight to the idea that other considerations are at play here.

Nearly two years after Kapla was first prohibited from leaving Mongolia, a judge on May 12 rejected the case against SouthGobi for tax evasion, arguing it was too weak to proceed, according to a statement from the company accompanying its first-quarter results for the year.

From the start, claims Kapla, the authorities have been bending the law to reach a specific goal — proving some kind of wrongdoing by SouthGobi's management. "Basically, all tax cases must originate from the Mongolian Tax Authority's audits," says Kapla. "In this case, it doesn't."

The figures don't add up either. SouthGobi was accused of selling twice as much coal as it reported in 2012, according to Kapla's legal defence, when it reported a loss to shareholders. They also claimed it laundered over $4.5bn during the year, or over a third of Mongolia's 2012 GDP.

But there is still the possibility of civil action (Mogi: civil action against SouthGobi, not the three former employees), and the travel bans for Kapla and two of his former co-workers remain in place. Meanwhile, Kapla worries about the health of his father-in-law back home and whether or not he'll ever be able to see his grandfather again. "My grandfather is going to be 102. At 102, there aren't many birthdays on the horizon for him," he says.

Australian Didi Anandakalika says she too has faced the situation of Mongolian authorities rushing to judgment against foreign residents after groundless accusations have been made. Having lived in Mongolia for 21 years – enough time to see the wild deer that once roamed the streets of Mongolia's capital pushed out by luxury Hummers and BMWs – Anandkalika has been denied an exit visa since the beginning of this year due to accusations that she embezzled funds from the orphanage to which she has dedicated her life. She denies the charges made against her by colleagues, saying she suspects the intent is a land grab against the orphanage. "I was surprised how many things I can be accused of" without any evidence from the accusers, says Anandakalika. "People can make all kinds of complaints. You have to prove yourself innocent," she says, noting how little was required to make such a serious claim against her

Mongolian authorities' actions also appear to be in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Mongolia signed in 1968 and ratified six years later. It states: "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own," unless there are "exceptional circumstances".

Mongolia's justice minister has publicly acknowledged the circumstances surrounding the stranded foreign residents in an interview with a local Bloomberg television affiliate in Mongolia, adding that there are also many Mongolians under such restrictions. On May 13, it emerged that a former Mongolian bureaucrat involved with the petroleum sector had died in custody without him ever being charged.

Temuujin told Bloomberg his ministry is looking into the issue of travel bans, and the matter would likely be discussed during the fall session of parliament, later this year.

Backlash

According to one investor from Australia who regularly travels to Mongolia, some of his peers refuse even to make the trip on the chance that they too will be prohibited from leaving. Thus this increasing use of travel bans is inevitably taking its toll on foreign investment  – something the Mongolian government is bending over backwards to attract again after inflows began drying up two years ago following some high-profile cases of foreign investors being discriminated against.

SouthGobi played a prominent role in that process. In 2012, the government blocked a proposed acquisition by state-owned Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco, to purchase a majority interest in SouthGobi Resources, the parent company of Kapla's organisation. The deal went sour largely because Mongolia remains wary of China exerting political or economic power over its smaller neighbour after centuries of warring between them.

Mongolian politicians responded to the Chalco bid by rushing though the notorious Strategic Entities Foreign Investment Law (SEFIL), which drastically limited the size of interest in Mongolia's mines, among other strategic assets, that foreign private and state-owned entities could buy without seeking government approval. Foreign investment in 2013 was nearly half as much as the prior year, and Mongolia has not come close to the jaw-dropping 17.5% economic growth it achieved in 2011.

Mongolia has since repealed that controversial investment law, and the authorities are now being given a second chance with SouthGobi to show it is open to foreign investment, with Turquoise Hill Resources confirming it is again considering bids for its 56% share in the miner. One person familiar with the company suggests the starting price will value the whole company at around $235m, which would make it the largest deal since SEFIL was passed two years prior.

But while the government's moves to repeal unfriendly laws and create an environment more conducive to foreign investment are welcome steps, none of it will do much good if investors are too afraid to visit their investments.

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Trade Mission Network Announces Mongolia Business Trade Mission for September 2-7, 2014

Business leaders attending the TMN Conference will pursue specific, pre-defined opportunities with decision makers at local and international companies in Mongolia and with relevant government officials. TMN has an exclusive partnership with the Business Council of Mongolia (BCM) and its 230+ members in various sectors that will enable this synergy.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) May 19, 2014 -- Trade Mission Network (TMN) has announced its first business conference in Mongolia for September 2-7, 2014 and which is centered on the country's annual Discover Mongolia Forum held this year in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar on September 4-5.

TMN builds on the experiences of founders Steve Powell and Al Hamman, who have worked on business transactions and trade missions in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia over the last two decades.

"After working in Mongolia for several years, we decided to introduce new clients to our business and political connections in this booming economy and help everyone capitalize on new opportunities," said Powell.

Business leaders attending the TMN Conference will pursue specific, pre-defined opportunities with decision makers at local and international companies in Mongolia and with relevant government officials. TMN has an exclusive partnership with the Business Council of Mongolia (BCM) and its 230+ members in various sectors that will enable this synergy.

"The Business Council of Mongolia is pleased to be working with TMN and we all expect great results between their guests, our members and the Mongolian government," said Jim Dwyer, Executive Director of BCM.

Discover Mongolia, a tourism company, and the Invest Mongolia Government Agency are also working with Trade Mission Network to maximize the TMN Conference results and effectiveness.

"I've worked on many projects worldwide that are similar to what we've now organized here in Mongolia," said Hamman. "But Mongolia represents some extraordinary opportunities for those interested in establishing a foothold in this rich mining environment. We're confident of success here in Mongolia and expect to sell out the limited places at our Conference."

Beyond personalized meetings between TMN Conference attendees, BCM Members and relevant government officials and related seminars, TMN guests will have full access to the Discover Mongolia Forum and its sponsors, participants and guests. City and countryside tours, social events, trips to the Gobi Desert and visits to businesses, logistics and infrastructure systems, mining sites (such as Oyu Tolgoi) outside of Ulaanbaatar are also planned by TMN.

In addition to their TMN partnership, Steve Powell is Managing Director of SinoPowell Capital (http://www.SinoPowell.com), an investment bank that has worked on mining, energy, logistics and finance transactions in over 30 countries over the last 15 years, while Al Hamman operates Hamman Marketing Associates (http://www.HammanMarketing.com), a marketing communications consultancy that focuses on international development opportunities for individual companies, foreign governments, trade associations and NGOs.

Visit http://www.TradeMissionNetwork.com for more details.

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16 Firms to Represent India at 2014 SME International Trade Fair in Ulaanbaatar, June 12-15

May 19 (InfoMongolia) Within an aim to broadening the economy, trade and business ties between Mongolia and the Republic of India, Mongolia-India Business Forum is to take place at the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) in Ulaanbaatar on June 12, 2014.

Representing India, about 16 companies specialized in hand crafts, textile, medicine, engineering, agriculture, steel, construction, cosmetics, information technology and oil sectors will be attending in the Business Forum scheduled in the MNCCI, and promoting its products and services during 2014 Small and Medium Enterprises International Trade and Fair to take place in the Misheel Expo Center in Ulaanbaatar on June 12-15, 2014.

Indian Companies to participate in the 2014 Small and Medium Enterprises International Trade and Fair

1.    Malmo Exports - Textile

2.    Central Himalayan - Woolen

3.    Swiss Pharma - Pharmaceuticals

4.    Swipha Exports Pvt Ltd - Pharmaceuticals

5.    Hind Pharma - Pharmaceuticals

6.    ICON Engineering - Engineering

7.    Thermax - Engineering

8.    Bow Avenue Engineering Services - Engineering

9.    Bengal Engineering - Engineering & Agro

10.  IMG Hydro Pneumatics - Engineering & Agro

11.  MACKEIL - Steel and Forging

12.  MTABDT Limited - Constructions

13.  Maushumi's Wellness - Beauty Products

14.  Aryan IT Aolutions - Information Technology for Mines

15.  Kanbho Packaging - Hand Crafts, Home Linen

16.  Bharat Petroleum Corporation (state-owned company) – Petroleum

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China's Xi meets Mongolian president in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, May 19 (Xinhua) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Mongolian counterpart Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Shanghai on Monday.

Elbegdorj was here to attend the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Shanghai.

Xi called on both countries to be good neighbors, good friends and good partners, and support each other on issues of core interest and major concern.

China respects Mongolia's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and respects the development path that Mongolia has chosen for itself in accordance with its national conditions, Xi said.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of China-Mongolia diplomatic ties as well as the Year of China-Mongolia Friendly Exchanges. Both sides held celebrations that received warm responses from the two peoples, Xi said, hailing the sound momentum of bilateral ties.

"I care very much about China-Mongolia ties and assign great importance to them," Xi said.

He proposed both sides keep close contacts and strategic communication between top leaders and step up exchanges among legislatures, parties and armed forces.

Noting the two economies are highly complementary, Xi said China sticks to the principles of win-win cooperation and mutual benefits in developing economic ties with Mongolia.

China will consider mining, infrastructure construction and finance cooperation with Mongolia as one issue of three aspects and plan their advancement accordingly, Xi said.

He called on both sides to take the construction of a Silk Road economic belt as an opportunity to expand cooperation.

China will encourage companies to invest in Mongolia, Xi said, vowing support for Mongoliain global and regional affairs.

"We are willing to enhance cooperation with Mongolia in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Xi added.

Elbegdorj said China's policies in developing ties with neighboring countries put forward by Xi have offered important guidance and opportunity for enhancing Mongolia-China ties as well as regional cooperation.

The Mongolian side is committed to working with China to make Mongolia-China ties an example for country-to-country relations in the region, he said.

Elbegdorj invited Xi to pay a state visit to Mongolia at an early date.

He praised China's support for Mongolia, vowing to firmly back China on issues regarding Taiwan and Tibet.

Mongolia will implement bilateral agreements in good faith and beef up cooperation with China in such areas as minerals, power and infrastructure building, he said.

Elbegdorj also vowed closer coordination with China in global and regional affairs.

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Mongolian President to Hold Talks with Russian Counterpart at CICA Summit in Shanghai

May 19 (infomongolia.com) President of Mongolia, Mr. Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ will be attending the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) to be convened in Shanghai, the People's Republic of China on May 20-21, 2014.

The President of Mongolia plans to address the Summit on the position and policy of Mongolia for cooperation with CICA and its member states and regional cooperation as well as to hold bilateral meetings with the President of the PR of China, Mr. Xi Jinping, President of the Russian Federeation, Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and other heads of state.

The Fourth Summit is expected to finalize the Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations among the CICA Member States submitted during the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the CICA held in Astana, Kazakhstan on September 12, 2012. In the scope of the Document, Mongolia's declaration on its nuclear-weapon-free status;

Mongolia's initiative on "Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on the Northeast Asian Security"; establishment of International Research Center in Mongolia with participation of developing land-locked countries, and call for speedy accession of Central Asian countries to the Multilateral Agreement on this International Think Tank for LLDCs will be processed to include in the Final Declaration.

Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) is a multi-national forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. A member-state hosting the regular meeting of the Heads of State and/or Government is chairing the CICA Summit until the next regular Meeting, where Kazakhstan held the CICA Chairmanship in 2002-2010, Turkey assumed CICA Chairmanship in 2010- 2014, and the People's Republic of China is holding the CICA Chairmanship for the period 2014-2016.

Main CICA meetings:

First Ministerial Meeting - September 1999

First Summit - June 2002

Second Ministerial Meeting - October 2004

Second Summit - June 2006

Third Ministerial Meeting - August 2008

Third Summit - June 2010

Fourth Ministerial Meeting - September, 2012

Fourth Summit - May, 2014

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Putin in China to hold talks with Chinese head, Mongolia, Iraq, Afghan leaders, UN chief

Russian President is arriving in China on a two-day official visit

MOSCOW, May 20 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is arriving in China on a two-day official visit. RF presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that the president would hold talks in Shanghai on Tuesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and on Wednesday would attend a summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

During the visit Putin will also hold separate bilateral meetings with some summit participants, in particular, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

A separate meeting of Putin with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also planned. "The sides intend to exchange views on all important international issues, including on the situation in Ukraine," RF presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told Itar-Tass.

In addition, Putin will talk to the former President of the People's Republic of China Jiang Zemin, "whom Vladimir Vladimirovich knows very well," Ushakov added.

The visit programme will begin with the official welcoming ceremony for the Russian leader. After that Putin and Xi Jinping will hold a meeting in the narrow and then expanded format. Ushakov noted that the Russian delegation comprises a large number of ministers, as well as heads of regions. The visit programme also includes the signing of bilateral documents. Then the sides will make a stamen for the press, after which the two heads of state will meet representatives of the business community. The Chinese president will also give an official reception in honour of the Russian president, after which they will attend the opening of the Naval Interaction 2014 exercise.

In the evening, a gala concert and an official lunch in honour of the heads of the delegations, participating in the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia will be given. Its working meetings will be held on May 21.

Ushakov recalled that the current meeting between the heads of Russia and China is the second this year. They had previously met at the opening of the Sochi Olympics in February. According to Ushakov, the two heads of state plan to discuss important issues of the development of relations in various spheres, including interaction in the international arena. The side will pay major attention, in particular, to the work within the framework of the United Nations, BRICS group (bringing together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and a number of regional structures, he said. On the talks' results, the sides are expected to adopt a statement on a new stage in Russian-Chinese relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.

Ushakov also said that the package of documents that is planned to be signed in Shanghai would break a record in terms of the volume. "The package consists of 40 - 43 documents. The package that we have now is perhaps a record-breaking," Ushakov said. He noted, in particular, that the sides continued the preparation of the contract between Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The RF presidential aide said that part of the agreements might be signed in Shanghai on May 20 on the results of Russian-Chinese summit talks. Another part of the documents that have the nature of inter-corporate agreements is likely to be signed in the presence of the presidents of the two countries during their meeting with Russian and Chinese business leaders.

Ushakov said that the heads of Russia's largest companies would take part in the forthcoming talks and meetings in Shanghai during Putin's visit. According to him, the Russian business will be represented by a total of 46 leaders, including Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller, head of the oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin, as well as the major businessmen Gennady Timchenko and Oleg Deripaska.

The RF presidential aide noted that China is Russia's main trade partner. In 2013, the bilateral trade reached a record high level of 88.8 billion U.S. dollars (1.7-percent increase from the 2012 level). In the first quarter of 2014, the growth of this indicator continued and reached 2.2% In the view of Ushakov, if this trend persists, the sides may reach by 2015 the level of 100 billion U.S. dollars, and by 2020 - 200 billion U.S. dollars.

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MPP secretary-general on week-long visit to North Korea

Ulaanbaatar, May 19 (MONTSAME) A delegation headed by J.Monkhbat, the secretary-general of the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) started an official visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

In frames of the visit, the MPP delegation will be received by Mr Kim Yong-nam, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea. In addition, they will meet with Kang Sok-ju, a politburo member of the North Korea's Labour Party and the secretary of the Central Committee of the party.

The visit will continue until May 24.

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Sukhbaatar province signs MOU on cooperation with Inner Mongolia's Khulunbuir city

Ulaanbaatar, May 19 (MONTSAME) An eastern Sukhbaatar province and Khulunbuir city of Inner Mongolia have established a memorandum on cooperation and mutual understanding.

Last week, this document was inked by a deputy governor of province D.Khosbayar and his counterpart Mr Nyu Jengsheng.

The sides intend to bring bilateral cooperation to newer level in spheres of society, economy, culture and art, tourism and trade.

At the meeting, the officials talked about ways of further cooperation in business, mining and construction sectors.

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Ancient musical instrument becomes symbol of Mongolia, Germany ties

Ulaanbaatar, May 19 /MONTSAME/ A ceremony of celebrating the 1400-year old Altai zither musical instrument was held at the ASA circus in UB city, on May 16.

This musical instrument has been recognized as a symbol of the Mongolia-Germany cultural ties and was officially announced by L.Bold, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Gerhard Thiedemann, the Ambassador of Germany to Mongolia at the event.

The first public performance of this ancient musical instrument which was found in the Mongolian Altai basin, was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Mongolia-Germany diplomatic relations which is being marked this and the unique artifact was restored in Germany within the Mongolia-Germany archeological cooperation.

The Altai zither is the first musical instrument that was found in Mongolia in 2008 from a burial cavern in Jargalant Mountains on the territory of Mankhan soum (county) of Khovd aimag. The burial belongs to VII century or Turkic period. 

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Social, Environmental and Other

Food Research Institute established at MUST with 4.3 billion state funding

May 19 (news.mn) The School of Food Engineering and Biotechnology of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology has established a Food Research Institute working in food safety, diet and health, and food materials and ingredients.

The Institute, financed with 4.3 billion MNT from the state budget, will conduct research on studies of chemical formation, molecule, biology, genetics, immune, and food harmonization.

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Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming to visit Mongolia in summer as part of youth delegation

Ulaanbaatar, May 16 (MONTSAME) A former professional basketball player of the China's national team Yao Ming, who played for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), will visit Mongolia, the China's side has officially reported.

The famous basketball player has been included in 100 top youths of China to participate in a meeting to be organized by the Union of Mongolian Youths (UMY) August through September of this year in Ulaanbaatar.

The UMY has been implementing the Mongolia-China intergovernmental exchange programme for youths since 2010 together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In frames of this programme, Mongolian top youths toured last year Beijing and Shandong cities. This year, the delegation of China including famous athletes and artistic workers will visit Mongolia.

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Umnugovi Aimag to Host Yak Festival 2014 on May 24

May 19 (infomongolia.com) Within an aim to increase the number of Yak heads in its territory, the Governing Administration of Umnugovi Aimag is organizing a Yak Festival 2014 on May 24, 2014.

The event is purposed to prevent these animals from extinction danger in their desert areas, also animal blood reselection and improve the breed quality, as well as promote benefits of the animals and products.

During the Festival, trade and fair, consultations, and sports competitions such as lasso, parade of herders riding yaks and many other relevant contestants will be organized. This is the third Festival and will take place in Yolyn Am near Zuun Saikhan Mt. of Dalanzadgad Sum of the aimag.

According to Umnugovi Aimag statistics, about 3,000-4,000 yaks were counted in 1990 and the number decreased up to 2,147 heads in 2000, further endangered only 199 yaks in 2004. Therefore, the Aimag authorities with an aim to save the animals are organizing the 2014 Yak Festival in its territory for consecutive third year.

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Carl Zeiss Lenses: "Mongol Uls" Documentary by Kai Gundacker

May 14 -- "Mongol Uls" means "Mongolian State" and is a documentary film from my personal point of view about the daily life and struggle of mongolian people trying to find their appropriate place in a rapidly changing social and economical environment as well as a tribute to the wild and untouched mongolian wild life and nature.

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Mogi: chose Kazakhstan over China and Mongolia. Hmmm, something for our gov. to think over before Season 2.

Weinstein brothers finish filming Marco Polo TV series in Kazakhstan

Filming of Marco Polo TV series produced by Weinstein brothers has finished in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports citing the line producer and representative of ADIGUL family films Akhat Ibrayev.

It took 22 days to prepare and film the material for the historical fantasy TV series that will premier on Netflix. In 17 days the filming crew shot scenes in the sand dunes near Woods lake region in Charyn Canyon. The battle scenes were filmed near Aksai village. In Alasa village, the filmmakers recreated an aul (settlement) of Kublai Khan. According to Ibrayev, it took a lot of hard work to finish all preparations for such a large-scale project in just one month.

"The group consisted of 135 foreigners and 400 Kazakhstanis. It was difficult in all aspects: transportation, visa applications and even dealing with different personalities. Logistics among other things was the most difficult part. Especially, if you consider that there were a lot of participants who lived in different hotels. Organizing transportation to different filming locations was not easy. It is a historical project with costumes, decorations and a great number of staff members. Usually, such projects require a year of preparations. We finished the job in one month. Everything worked out in the end," Ibrayev shared.

Kazakhstani crew was ready to meet the demands and requirements of their foreign counterparts. But due to translation issues, there were situations when things got lost in translation and had to be explained in gestures.

"We were warned beforehand and we were ready. For example, some people wanted to have coke, strawberries, chocolate and nuts everyday on the set. And mind you, that was in the steppes. In the very beginning we were not physically capable to react to all of the demands. But as we got into swing of things, everything turned out nicely. We do not have enough English speaking members. There were times when someone would come up to me and ask to find three lightning cameramen for the next day. They need them, end of story. We found the professionals and then the filmmakers had to explain everything through gestures," Ibrayev added.

Kazakhstan was chosen for filming of Marco Polo because of its unusual nature and low costs of filming. The filming company considered a number of other countries such as China and Mongolia. But the former did not have the needed landscape and the later did not have a developed enough infrastructure and highly skilled cinematographers. Visa problems and equipment shipment also contributed to their choice. Kazakhstani government helped arrange visas for the foreign filmmakers and the Almaty Oblast Akimat (Municipal authorities) helped with the filming locations. In addition, over 20 Kazakhstani actors and 10 stuntmen took part in Marco Polo. The Kazakhstani group departed with the filmmakers to Malaysia to finish the project.

"It started in a flash and finished so fast. Filming was very successful and thanks to weather conditions there were incredibly beautiful sunsets. The filmmakers liked working in our locations a lot. We hope that since the TV series plan to expand into several seasons, they will return to Kazakhstan to film and we would be more than happy to help," Ibrayev said

The TV series produced by Weinstein Company will premier on Netflix. The story takes place in the 13th century China, where a young traveller and writer Marco Polo spends several years. According to Harvey Weinstein, the TV series will be a great mixture of political intrigue, large-scale battle scenes and love stories.

Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy plays Marco Polo. Benedict Wong (Prometheus), Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen), Tom Wu (Skyfall) and Remy Hii (Treading Water) take part in the historical TV series. Kazahstani actors Daulet Abdygaparov (Myn Bala), Erden Telemisov, Dinmukhamed Akhimov and Tolepbergen Baisakalov also participate in Marco Polo.

Harvey Weinstein is the executive producer of the drama along with the creator of the series John Fusco. Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones, True Blood) directed the first two episodes along with Oscar nominated Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki).

Marco Polo will premier in the end of 2014 on Netflix.

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UNM graduate student to spend summer in Mongolia studying ancient horses                                                    

Taylor looking for keys to an ancient culture that left little behind

May 19 (University of New Mexico) Anthropology graduate student William Taylor is spending his summer field season in Mongolia searching for information about how early inhabitants interacted with horses. Taylor is interested in people of the "Deer Stone-Khirigsuur" culture, who lived on the Mongolian steppes about 3,000 years ago. Little is known about these ancient people, who are named for the elaborate stone obelisks carved with images of flying deer they left behind. It is not clear why, but people of this culture also ritually buried the heads of horses in groups around their stone monuments.

With so few clues to the culture, anthropologists have to use every means they can imagine to try to learn more. Taylor hopes to learn if these horses were ridden, or used to pull chariots, and is seeking clues from the skulls of horses found in ritual burials.

"For the last year or so, I've been doing a comparative project where I examine North American feral horses on the Navajo reservation, and on the east coast, where they have a famous population called the Chincoteague ponies," he said. "These are horses that we know have never been ridden or subjected to the stresses of human use." 

He's compared those horses with those he knows have been put to particular use, such as farm horses, or military horses. Using a 3D scanner, Taylor has sought a quantitative signal he could use to distinguish between wild horses and ridden horses.

Now, he has packed his portable 3D scanner and is traveling to Mongolia to examine horse skulls. "There's been some scientific debate about how these ancient horses were used," he says. "Were they just wild horses?  If they were domestic, were they riding them or just keeping them for food, or what was going on?" 

He hopes comparing the scans he already has of horse skulls with those in Mongolian museums will yield some answers. Western anthropologists have only been able to travel and work in Mongolia for the last few decades. Taylor says that many projects are ongoing in the country, but for anthropologists that isn't a long time. "There are easily several lifetimes of work for whoever wants to work there," he said.

Taylor first became interested in Mongolian horses when he worked with Dr. William Fitzhugh, an anthropologist who has worked with the Smithsonian and who is the leading U.S. expert on the ancient "deer stone" culture. He traveled to Mongolia with Fitzhugh in 2011, excavating burial sites and felt an instant connection between the people he met there and the culture he knew back home in Montana. He says the landscape is about the same, and he found cultural similarities between Montanans and Mongolians.

Taylor looked at UNM when he was ready for graduate school since his mother and grandfather are both former students. He found a mentor in  E. James Dixon, director of the Maxwell Museum who is also an expert in arctic cultures. Over the last several years, Taylor has studied under Dixon and co-chair Dr. Emily Lena Jones, an archaezoologist who specializes in the study of ancient animal remains.

This summer he will be working with the National Museum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. His research will be funded by the American Institute for Mongolian Studies, the UNM Department of Anthropology and the UNM Graduate and Professional Students Association. William's research has been awarded the Patrick Orion Mullen Award in Archaeological Science from the University of Wyoming's Frison Institute, as well as the R.E. Taylor Award from the Society for Archeological Sciences.   

Taylor will be back at UNM in the fall to continue to work toward his doctorate, and he hopes to have mountains of new data to analyze.

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