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Monday, April 27, 2015
Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
SouthGobi Resources Announces Successful Closing of Novel Sunrise Transactions, Issues Select First Quarter 2015 Operating Results
Resumption of Trading
HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - April 24, 2015) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HKSE:1878) (the "Company" or "SouthGobi") today announces the closing of the Novel Sunrise Investments Limited ("Novel Sunrise") private placement and the closing of the sale and purchase agreement between Novel Sunrise and Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill") ("Novel SPA") (together the "Novel Sunrise transactions"). In addition, the Company issues select first quarter 2015 operating results. All figures are in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise stated.
Closing of Novel Sunrise Transactions
The Company has been advised that the Novel SPA, as initially announced on February 24, 2015, closed on April 23, 2015 after receiving all necessary regulatory approvals. Pursuant to the Novel SPA, Novel Sunrise has purchased approximately 48.7 million common shares of the Company (each, a "Common Share") from Turquoise Hill.
As also announced on February 24, 2015, the Company entered into a private placement with Novel Sunrise for the issuance of approximately 21.7 million Common Shares for gross proceeds of approximately $7.5 million (the "Private Placement"). On March 3, 2015 the Company successfully closed the initial tranche of the Private Placement raising $3.5 million for the issuance of approximately 10.1 million mandatory convertible units of the Company, each unit convertible on a one for one basis for Common Shares of the Company (the "Mandatory Convertible Units"). Upon closing of the Novel SPA, the Mandatory Convertible Units automatically converted into Common Shares in accordance with their terms.
On April 23, 2015 the Company successfully closed the second tranche of the Private Placement for gross proceeds of approximately $4.0 million through the issuance of approximately 11.6 million Common Shares. The Common Shares are subject to a four month hold period from the date of issuance.
As a result of the closing of the Novel SPA and the Private Placement, Novel Sunrise now has a shareholding of approximately 70.5 million Common Shares, representing approximately 29.3 percent of the Company's share capital. Turquoise Hill's shareholding has been reduced to approximately 56.1 million Common Shares or 23.3 percent of the Company's share capital.
In accordance with the terms of the second and final tranche of the Private Placement, Novel Sunrise holds the right to nominate two directors, in addition to the director previously nominated pursuant to the first tranche, to the Company's board of directors. Novel Sunrise has advised the Company that it plans to exercise this right at a later date.
Select Operating Results
The Company's select operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2015, including comparative periods, are summarized in the table below:
Premium semi-soft coking coal
Standard semi-soft coking coal
In the first quarter of 2015, market conditions remained difficult and coal prices weakened further in China. The Company sold coal from its existing stockpile in order to preserve its liquidity.
Cash Position and Liquidity
The Company's cash position (excluding restricted cash) as at March 31, 2015, including comparative periods, is summarized in the table below. Amounts are presented in millions of U.S. Dollars.
In accordance with the China Investment Corporation ("CIC") convertible debenture, there was no cash interest payment due or paid by the Company in the first quarter of 2015. The next cash interest payment on the CIC convertible of approximately $7.9 million is due on May 19, 2015.
At April 23, 2015 the Company had a cash balance of $5.9 million. This includes the $4.0 million received in respect of the second tranche of the Novel Sunrise private placement, and excludes $1.2 million of restricted cash held in Mongolia.
The Company is implementing a funding plan, as previously announced on February 24, 2015, with the assistance of Novel Sunrise which includes actively seeking additional sources of financing to continue funding its operations and meeting its objectives.
The Company remains subject to a remedial delisting review following its application to the Toronto Stock Exchange ("TSX") pursuant to the "financial hardship" provisions of section 604(e) of the TSX Company Manual for an exemption from the requirement to obtain shareholder approval for the Private Placement.
For further detail in respect of the Company's ability to be able to continue as a going concern, please refer to the Management's Discussion and Analysis for the year ended December 31, 2014, available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com, and, in particular, section 6 "Liquidity and Capital Resources" and section 14 "Risk Factors" thereof.
Resumption of Trading
Pending the issuance of this announcement, trading of the shares of the Company on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited was halted with effect from 9:00 am Hong Kong Time on Friday, April 24, 2015.
An application has been made by the Company to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited for the resumption of trading in the shares of the Company with effect from 1:00 pm Hong Kong Time on Friday, April 24, 2015.
KRI closed flat Friday at C$0.55
An untimely death in Mongolia as miner seeks to recoup funds
April 24 (The Globe and Mail) Jim Doak was braced to play hardball when he flew to Mongolia last weekend to nail down a multimillion payment from the government.
The prominent Toronto fund manager and chairman of Canadian junior miner Khan Resources Inc. had been waging a high-stakes international legal battle against Mongolia since 2009, when the company claimed the Asian country had illegally seized its uranium mining project.
Khan Resource's luck turned in March when an international arbitration tribunal ordered Mongolia to pay more than $100-million in compensation for a mine that was later acquired by a state-owned Russian company.
When discussions with Mongolian representatives failed to produce a payment several weeks ago, Mr. Doak and Khan's chief executive officer Grant Edey accepted an invitation to fly to the country's capital, Ulan Bator, this week for another round of talks.
Mr. Doak was not optimistic about the outcome. In an interview with a Globe and Mail reporter days before he travelled to Mongolia, he said the company had taken steps to enforce its right to compensation. Khan Resources, he said, had hired an unidentified company that specialized in collecting delinquent government debts by seizing assets, such as airplanes or ships temporarily located outside the country.
"These are experienced people, we will get our money," he said.
Mr. Doak correctly predicted that Mongolian negotiations would founder. After two days of what company insiders described as difficult and unproductive discussions, Khan Resources issued a terse press release Thursday stating it had demanded "full and prompt payment" from Mongolia and it had "retained the services of specialists" to collect the unpaid compensation award.
Whether Khan's forceful tactics deliver results will never be known by Mr. Doak. According to one person who declined to be identified, Mr. Doak became ill hours after talks broke off in Ulan Bator Wednesday. He cancelled a planned dinner with Mr. Edey and returned to his hotel room to rest before an early morning flight back to Canada the next day. When Mr. Doak did not reply to text messages on his smartphone, hotel staff were alerted and he was found without vital signs.
The timing of Mr. Doak's death so soon after negotiations broke down was initially perceived as suspicious by some company officials and investors. But, by late Friday, some friends and family were reaching the conclusion that Mr. Doak, a diabetic, may have died from natural causes.
"This is a very difficult and emotional situation for everyone and we have yet to get all of the answers. But, at this time, Jim's death does appear to have been a result of natural causes," said David McAusland, a Khan Resources director and long-term friend of Mr. Doak's.
People familiar with the case said that an autopsy was conducted on Mr. Doak at the request of Mongolian police and results are expected Monday. Mr. Edey has remained in Mongolia and plans to return with Mr. Doak's remains next week.
Julian Dierkes, professor at the Institute for Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said that, although the timing of Mr. Doaks death is "eerie," he does not suspect foul play. "There isn't a history of targeted violence in Mongolia, neither domestically, nor towards foreigners."
Khan Resources director Marc Henderson said the company will continue with its "protracted" efforts to claim an award that would not have been possible without Mr. Doak's determination.
"Jim is probably one of the more principled guys you would ever meet in business and he was part of the fire that got us this far," he said. "A lot of companies, confronted with the situation we found ourselves in would not have taken it where it's ultimately gone obviously with success."
Khan Resources: Khan Chairman Jim Doak Passes Away – Khan Resources, April 24
Canadian finance figure died in Mongolia of illness: police – Reuters, April 24
Mining Exec Found Dead After Legal Tangles With Mongolia – RTT News, April 24
Canadian Businessman Found Dead in Hotel in Mongolia – AP, April 24
Jim Doak, Canadian Investor, Mining Executive, Dies in Mongolia – Bloomberg, April 24
Guest Post: Assessing Khan Resources Arbitration
By Matthew Levine, Canadian lawyer, fellow at University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
April 23 (Mongolia Focus) Following expropriation of Dornod uranium investment, Khan Resources announces conclusion of arbitration with Mongolian government
Khan, a mining company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange's venture board, its holding company, and its erstwhile joint-venture partner, recently announced victory in arbitration with Mongolia. Khan has apparently been awarded a base amount of US$80 million plus interest as compensation for Mongolia's expropriation of its investment in the Dornod uranium deposit.
There is still a great deal about the arbitration that remains unknown: the information in Khan's press release provides an outline while leaving the details blank, and the award itself has not yet been made public. Non-lawyer colleagues likely have questions about Khan's apparent victory. Some of these questions – for instance, how was the expropriated investment valued, we do not know whether the tribunal used a discount cash flow analysis or some other method to value the Dornod deposit – will only be answered once the award is made public. Other questions though, about for instance the basis for arbitration between Khan and Mongolia as well as the arbitration's procedure, can be answered based on past experience with investor-state arbitration.
Readers of this blog may be aware that Khan began investing in the Dornod project in the mid 1990s as Ulaanbaatar was undergoing post-Soviet reforms. And that, after some years Khan released a feasibility study in 2009 showing commercial viability, which prompted a takeover bid from China National Nuclear Corporation in February 2010. Subsequently, to simplify a complicated chain of events, the Mongolian government expropriated a majority interest in Dornod without compensation, suspending and then cancelling Khan's mining licenses.
Readers may also be aware that Canada and Mongolia have started negotiating a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). FIPAs like other International Investment Agreements (IIAs) contain both substantive obligations – standards of treatment – and dispute settlement provisions that aim to protect foreign investors from discriminatory or otherwise expropriatory conduct by the host state. In the case of Khan, this would have potentially meant an obligation for Mongolia to pay compensation and access to international tribunal with Mongolia whereby Khan could enforce the compensation obligation judicially. However, while negotiations towards a FIPA started in 2009, progress appears to have stalled and there is to date no treaty.
Given the lack of a FIPA between Canada and Mongolia, it only makes sense to question the basis on which Khan filed for arbitration. A complete answer will have to wait for the award, but some details emerge from Khan's 10 January 2011 Notice of Arbitration (Notice). In the Notice, Khan cites a series of legal instruments as the basis for arbitration with Mongolia, i.e.: the Energy Charter Treaty, the Mongolian Foreign Investment Law, the CAUC Founding Agreement, and the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.
The key point to understand here is that each part of Khan's 'corporate family' or 'corporate structure' relied on different instruments to bring arbitration against Mongolia. For example, Khan's offshore holding company – Khan Resources BV – was able to rely on the Energy Charter Treaty. (The Energy Charter Treaty, or ECT, was one of the most ambitious agreements arising from the collapse of European communism. Among other objectives, it aimed to bring western European capital to oil-rich former-Soviet spaces through the inclusion of an IIA. Mongolia is a signatory to the ECT as is the Netherlands.) Khan Resources BV as a company incorporated in the Netherlands is an investor for the purposes of the ECT and was thus able to claim its protections, including arbitration, against Mongolia.
Dutch holding companies such as Khan Resources BV are routinely used for tax planning but sophisticated solicitors are recognizing that the ECT – not to mention the Netherlands extensive network of bilateral IIAs – provides for investment protection advantages as well. The result is referred to as 'treaty structuring' by sympathetic observers and as 'treaty shopping' by critics.
The Mongolian Foreign Investment Law is also noteworthy. Khan's Notice refers to Article 25 as providing that "the settlement of disputes may be resolved pursuant to the provisions of 'international treaties to which Mongolia is a party or by any contract between the parties'". The Notice concludes that this provides an "additional basis of consent" beyond the ECT. Mongolia undertook major revisions to this statute, which also dates to the post-Soviet period, in 2013.
I have been asked whether the arbitration's procedure was impacted by the fact that the Canada – Mongolia FIPA has not been concluded. One useful way of approaching this question is to note the fourth legal instrument relied on in Khan's Notice, i.e. the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (commonly referred to as UNCITRAL) first adopted arbitration rules in 1976. A major revision exercise was completed in 2010. Canada's FIPAs always include the option of using the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.
The UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules are today one of the two leading sets of procedural rules for investor-state arbitrations. The other being the arbitration rules of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which is a branch of the World Bank. There are a range of differences between ICSID and UNCITRAL procedure, but it cannot be said that one or other systematically advantages claimants as opposed to defendants, or investors as opposed to governments.
I hope that this albeit short blog post helps non-specialists to better understand Khan's investor-state arbitration claim against Mongolia. As we have seen, Khan relied on multiple arbitration agreements and each member of Khan's corporate family was involved in 'treaty structuring'. Also, the procedure of the arbitration took place according to the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules rather than the arbitration rules of ICSID. These developments fit the pattern found in many other cases where a developing country government expropriates a lucrative natural resource investment. According to the World Bank, for instance, more than one third of ICSID arbitrations initiated in 2014 involved oil, gas, or mining investments.
Exxon-Mobil's claim against Venezuela for expropriation of two major assets is a relatively well known case featuring facts not dissimilar to the Dornod expropriation. First off, Exxon-Mobil's claim was brought by five parts of Exxon's corporate structure including an offshore holding company and various local operating companies. Although the arbitration was not brought under the Energy Charter Treaty, it again involved the Netherlands and took place under an IIA between the Netherlands & Venezuela. The arbitration used the ICSID Arbitration Rules. As it happens, I have prepared a somewhat more detailed summary that can be accessed here, http://www.iisd.org/itn/2015/02/19/awards-and-decisions-18/.
In addition to treaty shopping and the choice of ICSID over UNCITRAL procedure, the Exxon-Mobil award sheds light on how arbitration tribunals approach the valuation of expropriated assets. On the one hand, the tribunal used a discounted cash flow analysis (DCF) for one of the two assets on the basis that it was already at the production stage. On the other hand, the second asset was not yet at the production stage and the tribunal found it more appropriate to consider the claimants' sunk investment, rather than DCF. As mentioned in the intro to this blog post, we do not know how the Khan tribunal approached valuation: certainly the Dornod project had not advanced to production; but investor-state tribunals are not bound by precedent instead interpreting the specific treaty being invoked, i.e. the ECT in this case.
About Matthew Levine
Matthew Levine is a Canadian lawyer and a fellow at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. Matthew began his legal career as an articled student and associate with the International Trade and Arbitration group of a national firm. His practice with mining companies and entrepreneurs includes corporate, securities, and tax law advice as well as arbitration-related work. His international experience includes stints in Geneva and Singapore. Matthew is a graduate of the University of British Columbia (JD, MA) and McGill University (BA).
AKM closed -4.55% Friday to A$0.021
Aspire Mining: Trading Halt Pending Proposed Capital Raising
April 24 -- The Directors of Aspire Mining Limited (ASX:AKM) hereby request a trading halt of the Company's securities from commencement of trade on Monday 27 April 2015.
The reason for the request is due to a proposed capital raising.
The trading halt is requested until the announcement on the capital raising is made to the market, which is expected to be made prior to the opening of trading on Wednesday 29 April 2015.
The Company is not aware of any reason why the trading halt should not be granted.
FMG Mongolia Fund lost 8.4% in the 1st Quarter
April 22 (FMG Funds) The MSE Top 20 index drifted southward on lackluster volumes. Most of the losses were attributed to a depreciating currency but, at the end of the quarter, we noted an encouraging stabilization of the Mongolian Tugrik.
Offshore listed companies were largely flat, but at the time of this writing they staged a huge rally in anticipation of positive news in the mining sector. The market should also take some comfort in rebounding copper prices, clocking a 10% rise since the lows in January. The commodity has been hammered over the past four years due to an oversupply, but the dynamics are looking to change.
Since 2011, the economy has suffered numerous setbacks. The newly elected Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg has however been very proactive since taking office last November and has vowed to revive the economy. While in Davos in January he declared that the government was open to talking about the issues relating to the expansion of Turquoise Hill Resources' (TRQ) Oyu Tolgoi (OT) mine, and indicated that a mid-2015 opening was possible.
In March, a delegation representing TRQ went to Ulan Bator for negotiations. Shortly after Prime Minister Saikhanbileg announced that an agreement had been reached to develop the second phase of the OT mine. TRQ have not issued any official statement yet, nonetheless, TRQ had at the time of this writing staged a strong rally and the stock remains a core holding in the fund. If an announcement from TRQ is imminent we will likely see strong gains across the board for Mongolian assets and a strengthening of the Tugrik. The OT mine is the largest ongoing investment in Mongolia and is considered a barometer of the country's business climate.
Peace Map Holding: Annual Report 2014
April 24, Peace Map Holding Ltd. (HKEx:402) --
Mining and Exploration Business in Mongolia
The Group currently holds four coal mining licences covering a 1,114-hectare coal mine at Tugrug Valley (the "TNE Mine"). Based on a report from an independent technical advisor issued in 2010, the TNE Mine has approximately 64.0 million tonnes of measured and indicated resources and an additional 27.9 million tonnes of inferred resources as set out in the below table.
64.0 million tones
27.9 million tones
During the year, there was no material change in the amount of resources in the TNE Mine, compared with that of last year. Besides, the Group also holds three exploration licences in respect of coal deposits in DundGobi (14,087 hectares) located in Mongolia.
As a result of the expected market selling price of coal and the additional risks resulting from the recent developments in laws and regulations in Mongolia relating to the mining industry, an impairment loss approximately amounting to HK$133.0 million on the mining licences was made by the Group for the year ended 31 December 2014. As at 31 December 2014, all of the carrying value of the mining licences of the TNE Mine has been impaired.
Taking into consideration the market price of coal, the cost of production of the TNE Mine and the continuous recession of foreign investment in Mongolia, the Group did not commence production during the year 2014.
Peabody Sells Winsway Shares on Market, Reduces Stake Below 5%
April 24 (Cover Mongolia) A Corporate Substantial Shareholder Notice published yesterday reveals that Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE:BTU) had sold 13,596,000 shares in Winsway Enterprises Holdings Ltd. (HKEx:1733), reducing its stake from 5.12% to below the 5% disclosure threshold to 4.76%.
Prices sold at ranged between HK$0.292 to HK$0.305.
CNNC Int'l: Annual Report 2014
April 21, CNNC International Ltd. (HKEx:2302) --
Management Discussion and Analysis
The Group has made progress in the application of mining license for its Mongolian uranium mining project. During the Year, the Mongolian project obtained the approval of the relevant department of the Mongolian Government on the feasibility study report of the project. All exploration works of the Mongolian project have been completed and negotiations with the Mongolian Government to develop the Mongolian project have been taken place so as to form a joint venture company for developing the project together according to the law of Mongolia. Based on advice from Mongolian Government officials, the principal remaining conditions for the granting of the license are: (i) approval of the environmental report, which was submitted by the Group in late 2014, by the Mongolian Government, and (ii) the setting up of the joint-venture company with the Mongolian Government.
HAR last traded A$0.012 on 23 April
Haranga Resources: Notice of Annual General Meeting, 29 May
April 24, Haranga Resources Ltd. (ASX:HAR) --
MSE Weekly Review: Top 20 -2.56% to 12,807.90, Turnover ₮75.5 Million, T-Bills ₮20.2 Billion
Ulaanbaatar, April 24 /MONTSAME/ Five stock trades were held at Mongolia's Stock Exchange on April 20-24, 2015. In overall, 338 thousand and 225 units of 44 JSCs were traded costing MNT 20 billion 283 million 450 thousand and 794.10.
"Remikon" /46 thousand and 434 units/, "Hermes center" /26 thousand and 400 units/, "Merex" /24 thousand and 018 units/, "Olloo" /10 thousand and 040 units/ and "APU" /8,172 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value were "APU" (MNT 28 million 934 thousand and 400), "Sharyn gol" (MNT 12 million 068 thousand and 588), "Remikon" (MNT three million 482 thousand and 050), "Hermes center" (MNT three million 432 thousand and 030) and "Darkhan nekhii" (MNT three million 252 thousand and 400).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 280 billion 871 million 013 thousand and 705. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 12,807.90, and the MSE all index was 941.82.
Mogi: seems yield on 5-year bonds are not too far off from a 1 year bond. Another failed bond auction coming I guess
MSE Primary Offer: ₮85.6 Billion 52-Week T-Bills at 16%, ₮97.97 Billion 5-Year Bonds at 16.75%, Closing 4/28
April 22 (MSE) --
1. The issuer's name: Mongolian Ministry of Finance
2. The purpose of the issuance of bond: State treasury cash management
3. Offering scope of securities: Offering to the public
4. Type of securities: Government securities
5. Face value: MNT 100,000
6. Discounted price:
7. Total amounts issued: 856,786 Units
8. Short-term securities performance:
Government Securities name
Value /billion MNT/
Form of Interest payment
Interest rate (percent)
Starting date of the order
Closing date of the trading
9. Long-Term securities performance:
Government Securities name
Value /billion MNT/
Form of Interest payment
Interest rate (percent)
Starting date of the order
Closing date of the trading
10. Coupon payment of long-term government retail bonds will be paid on 2015.08.15, 2016.02.15, 2016.08.15, 2017.02.15, 2017.08.15, 2018.02.15, 2018.08.15, 2019.02.15, 2019.08.15, 2020.02.15, 2020.04.28.
11. Rate of interest: interest rate of the Government Securities, which will be issued weekly, will be based on auction results of Central Bank basis State Government Securities weighted average interest rate. If the Central Bank's weekly trading cancelled, the interest rate will be set based on the previous trading of Government Securities weighted average interest rate.
12. Order deadline: The Mongolian Stock Exchange will take orders 6 days and the trading will close on the 6th day at 14.00 PM and information on total orders will be delivered to the securities issuer.
13. Trading period: Total registered orders distribution of MSE trading system will be determined based on the Ministry of Finance votes.
MSE: Government Securities Available for Trading on Secondary Market
April 24 (MSE) The secondary market Government securities trading became available to public for awhile. As of 24 April 2015, buy and sell order of Government securities on secondary market shows on following charts:
12 week Government securities
28 weeks Government securities
52 Weeks Government securities
Return on Government Securities Traded on MSE Reaches ₮7.5 Billion
April 23 (MSE) Since November 2014, Government securities trading has been organized at Mongolian Stock Exchange and total of 2.04 million government securities traded successfully through 25 trading sessions.
During that time, total of 221 international and domestic investors invested on government securities worth MNT197.3 billion and expected to get return of MNT7.5 billion.
Interest rate of Government securities which traded through MSE is same as weighted average interest rate of Government securities which traded through Mongol Bank. In past period, Mongolian government has been saving approximately MNT107.6 million because of selling its government securities worth MNT197.3 billion with weighted average interest rate through Mongolian Stock Exchange.
Return Amount /by percent/
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, April 24 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM issues ₮119 billion 1-week bills at 13%, total outstanding +3.1% to ₮300.2 billion
April 24 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 119 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
The Sales Managers' Index, April 2015: Mongolia
Slowdown in economic activity continues, despite a clear improvement in sentiment
· Business confidence improves substantially in anticipation of higher activity in the mining sector
· Sales and market growth indexes remain very low
· Employment levels continue to decline
April 24 (World Economics) The Headline Sales Managers' Index for Mongolia rose from 33.9 in March to 36.3 in April, indicating the second consecutive month of increases in business conditions across the economy. An index above 50 indicates growth, while an index below 50 indicates contraction. Positive influences on the Index were sharper improvements in business confidence, market growth and product sales, while prices charged and staffing levels continued to contract.
The Business Confidence Index registered 37.9 in April, up sharply from 32.2 in March, signalling the second straight month-on-month gain. Nevertheless, latest reading remained well below the 50 (no-change) mark that separates growth from contraction. Panellists reported that the recent Oyu Tolgoi agreement between the government and Rio Tinto is expected to increase activity in the mining sector over the next few months.
The Market Growth Index came in at 31.7 in April, up from 28.5 in March, indicating an improvement from the previous month but that growth in the marketplace continued to contract at a fast pace. That said, the current index represented the second successive month of improvements.
The Product Sales Index stood at 29.3 in April, up from 25.6 in March. This indicated the first month-on-month gain since September 2014 but suggested that surveyed businesses continued to experience a strong deceleration in overall level of monthly sales. Panellists commented that stagnant wages continued to undermine overall levels of sales growth.
The Prices Charged Index fell to 44.4 from 44.8 in April, indicating that sales managers continued to lower prices in an effort to accelerate domestic demand. The slowdown in prices, can also be attributed to the continuous fall in global commodity prices, in particular, those of gold, copper and coal.
The Staffing Index fell to 38.1, from 38.3 in March, indicating only a marginal decline but an ongoing weakness in labour market conditions across the country. The majority of surveyed companies reported job cuts due to low demand.
World Economics Chief Executive Ed Jones commented:
"Despite an evident turnaround in sentiment shown by the SMI, latest data continued to point to a deterioration in overall business activity in Mongolia. The improvement in the headline index was mostly driven by increases in business confidence, market growth and product sales.
Panellists commented on the government's recent agreement reached with Rio Tinto over the OT mine as one of the main reasons for the increase in general levels of optimism across the country.
However, though the OT agreement should bring much needed foreign investment into the economy, the continuing decline in global commodity prices will weigh heavily on Mongolia's finances during the next few months."
Bill submitted on ratifying ADB financing for Ulaanbaatar transportation development
Ulaanbaatar, April 24 (MONTSAME) Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government S.Bayartsogt MP Friday submitted to parliament a draft law on ratifying a general agreement on financing.
The agreement on financing for a program on developing the public transport of Ulaanbaatar city was signed on August 23 of 2012 by Ch.Ulaan, the Minister of Finance, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The program lays down a general plan for developing the capital city's transportation until 2020 and its developmental tendencies until 2030 by a way of improving the public transport's quality and adequacy and reducing traffic jams and obstacles.
The program will be implemented within 6-8 years in three phases and is expected to result in upgrading the capital city's infrastructure, introducing new services, techniques and technologies, renovating the vehicles.
Amendment bill submitted to restructure former Economic Development Ministry functions
Ulaanbaatar, April 24 (MONTSAME) Head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government S.Bayartsogt Friday submitted to the Speaker a draft amendment to the law on investment.
The amendments has been needed due to adopted by parliament amendments to the laws on government and on the governmental structure and composition, made last year for forming the new cabinet, according to which a general policy on investments and on the regulation of foreign investment affairs were passed to the Prime Minister and functions of the former Ministry of Economic Development--to related administrative body at the Premier, he explained.
The draft amendment with six amended articles will make clear the functions of the administrative body who is to manage the law implementation, but quotas of staffers and budget's volume will not change, Bayartsogt said.
President works in wildfire hit Bayan-Uul soum of Dornod aimag
April 24 (GoGo Mongolia) President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj is visiting on site of the fire that have sparked in three Eastern aimags starting from April 23th. He met with the residents, fire fighters, local government, military staff working on the fire site.
Fire has covered one third of Dornod aimag and over 50 percent of Bayan-Uul soum. The fire was caused by the fire expansion from Russian Federation territory.
President will leave for Khentii and Sukhbaatar aimags next.
Mongolian MPs UNiTE for Orange Day
April 24 (gogo.mn) MPs of State Great Khural are wearing orange ties and scarves. The United Nations Secretary-General's Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women has proclaimed the 25th of each month as 'Orange Day', a day to raise awareness and take action against violence against women and girls. As a bright and optimistic colour, orange represents a future free from violence against women and girls, for the UNiTE Campaign.
Orange Day in Mongolia commenced last year with the campaign initiated by the UNFPA starting the February of 2014. This year's activities involve the MPs to unite against the violence and provided the MPs with orange ties and scarves.
PM Announces Program to Bring Greater Access to Information for Rural Citizens
April 26 (UB Post) Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg participated in "Civil Rights to Know", a meeting with 100 journalists, which was held at the Citizens' Hall of the State House last Friday.
The Prime Minister announced the approval of a program to increase information access for people in the provinces, gathering radio, television and newspaper journalists from 21 provinces, board directors of the sub-council of the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists, and staff from media and public relations departments of provincial governor's offices. He also expressed his interest in cooperating with journalists on the implementation of this program.
Mongolian press and media organizations will also be cooperating on providing technical opportunities for broadcasting Ulaanbaatar radio and television channels in provinces, broadcasting some provincial radio and television channels in Ulaanbaatar, providing legal and technical skills for nationwide sharing of breaking news from provinces, transferring the postal operations of soums to soum administration under the control of locals, as well as intensifying postal delivery services.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg stated that he would support the operations of provincial press and media organizations and staff to ensure transparency and public disclosure.
De Fact: Mongolia's Abstract Budget and the IMF
By Jargalsaikhan Dambadarjaa
April 26 (UB Post) The public budget is a mirror that reflects how well a government is running the country. It has been 15 years since the capabilities of Mongolian governments were weakened due to unqualified individuals sneaking into the government and repeatedly making significant changes to an approved budget using the fancy word "amendment".
Led by their greed to become a minister, our lawmakers "amended" the constitution in 2000, which resulted in Mongolia having not one, but 76 ministers of finance who started indulging in a habit of changing the public budget twice a year.
Starting from this year, their habit has become their character. It looks like Ch.Saikhanbileg's cabinet, ministers who all wear a "double deel", will set a new record by making three amendments to the public budget within six months. The newly appointed finance minister claimed that there was no other way, during the Mongolia Economic Forum.
It is time to analyze why the public budget is made abstract, what consequences it bears, and how it could be turned into something concrete. When doing so, we need to have a wider discussion where we all can take on an active role instead of looking at the budget through the eyes of politicians who are ready to do anything to get re-elected.
CURRENT VIEW AND SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK
Both demand and prices for commodities such as coal and copper were high in 2013. During that time, Mongolia's economy grew by 11.5 percent in 2013, and by 7.7 percent in 2014. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently predicted that the growth of our economy is likely to go down to four percent due to decreased demand and reduced prices.
Loans are likely to be restricted as commercial banks have fewer demands and an increased amount of bad and expired loans.
The trade deficit is growing, while the exchange rate reached 2,000 MNT for one USD. For these reasons, inflation is likely to increase and Mongol Bank's foreign-exchange reserves are to be reduced. The budget deficit still remains huge.
Having taken account of the Development Bank's loan, including commercial loans, it was expected that the budget deficit would be around eight percent of GDP. However, the actual deficit has already grown larger. That is why the Minister of Finance is proposing another amendment.
The government issued a guarantee for the repayment of Development Bank's loan. Therefore, international norms should be followed and all risks must be regarded as budget expenditure.
The government is continuing its current macroeconomic policy. The future remains uncertain for the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi projects. Coal and copper prices are still low. Also, some difficulties could arise for some huge loans in the private sector to be repaid. If you take these factors into account, it looks like Mongolia's balance of payments deficit is likely to increase, and potentially continue growing to equal the current reserves of Mongol Bank.
If Mongolia's trade deficit equals the current reserves of our central bank, Mongol Bank will have to increase the size of its swap agreement with the central bank of China. Or, the mega mining projects need to be started. If any of the mega projects start, a small economy like ours would significantly improve.
However, the negotiations around moving the long-delayed Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi projects forward have not been finalized. The likelihood of substantial positive changes occurring for Mongolia's economy is low, as China's economic growth decreases and the global financial market remains unstable.
WOULD A RESERVE PARACHUTE BE DEPLOYED?
The government is implementing policies to reduce the budget deficit by recognizing the external and internal situations, restrict price stabilization programs from Mongol Bank, support exports, reduce imports, and mitigate the pressure being exerted on vulnerable social groups.
The government's external and internal debts are increasing. Mongol Bank set a requirement that commercial banks must have a minimum owner's equity of 50 billion MNT by the end of 2017. Nevertheless, in order to slow down the economic decline and make sure the landing is smooth, there is a need to further tighten macroeconomic policy.
If a government loses its liquidity and no longer has turnover capital to provide salaries to doctors, teachers, and police officers, they will have to go to the IMF for an emergency loan.
This move is considered the "reserve parachute" because it is a last resort measure that requires great discipline, as the money will be taken out of taxes paid by other countries.
According to Article IV of Mongolia's agreement with the IMF, the IMF exercises surveillance over the exchange rate policies of its member countries and support them in conducting their budgetary policy by providing technical assistance and emergency loans when required. Every member country has a special drawing right, which has its valuation.
Mongolia joined the IMF in 1991. Last week, the parliament approved the decision from the government to increase Mongolia's quota in the IMF from 51.1 million USD to 72.3 million USD. In order to do that, Mongolia will have to pay eight million USD to the IMF.
However, there have not been any negotiations yet about Mongolia exercising this right and acquiring another loan with special conditions just like we did in 2008. During the 2015 spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington D.C. last week, I had an opportunity to speak about this with Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF.
The IMF currently supports Mongolia in conducting a policy for higher growth and greater benefits to people by improving its investment environment, supporting competitiveness, and diversifying the economy. In a recent report, the IMF emphasized that smart management of natural resources is especially important for Mongolia's economy to grow.
For a country like Mongolia, where abstract budgets are developed first and amended later, an IMF loan that requires great discipline, and that has tough conditions, would produce the best outcomes in ensuring that our economy is landed smoothly and goes in the right course in the future.
Mongolian business community voices frustration over stalled mega projects, asks for economic 'green light'
April 24 (news.mn) Today the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce gave a press conference calling for a "green light" for the nation's economy, stating frustration with delayed projects.
The business sector representatives have appealed politician to launch Tavan Tolgoi project, which has been discussed for years, and taking the Oyu Tolgoi project out of deadlock by meeting all national interests. They also asked the government to take appropriate measures for economic growth, such as allocating financing from the mining sector in order to rehabilitate the Mongolian economy.
By resolving issues with Tavan Tolgoi and Oyu Tolgoi the representatives believe that the economic opportunities for many small and medium enterprises will grow, a large number of jobs will be created, and steady circulation in the economy will be fostered.
One of the biggest Mongolian unions in the business sector, the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce has appealed to politicians to avoid politicizing decisions on these projects, thereby prolonging the economic crisis.
Mongolia's Top 100 Companies of 2014 Contributed 30% of State Budget
April 24 (Mongolian Economy) The names on Mongolia's Top 100 Enterprises contributing to the country's society, economy and business sector have been revealed. The event was conducted for the fourteenth time this year. In previous years, enterprises sent their materials to be evaluated and selected as a potential top enterprise. This year however, the selection criteria have been changed: the selection is now based on official information and reports from relevant government agencies. The Government of Mongolia organises the event in collaboration with the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI).
Ninety five thousand entities, 400 thousand herdsmen and 50 thousand farmers are operating nationwide and creating wealth. Of these entities, top 100 enterprises' total sales amounted to MNT 17 trillion and accounted for MNT 2.5 trillion of the total state budget, meaning they generated up to 70-80 percent of GDP. Together these companies make up 30 percent of the state budget and employ over 50 thousand people out of the 140 thousand employed nationwide. During the awards ceremony, Chairman and CEO of the MNCCI, B.Lkhagvajav, remarked that profits of top enterprises are five times less than how much they pay in taxes. During this time, our magazine conducted a few interviews with representatives from the top enterprises.
- G.Boldbaatar /CFO of "Monos Pharma Trade, LLC/:
- Our company has been operating since 1997, and has become one of the leading companies in the market in provision of medicine. Medicines and medical instruments used domestically make up 45 percent of total imports. We buy our products from the world's leading pharmaceutical manufacturers such as those in the US and UK. We have three wholesale centers in the capital, and our branches are operating in 21 provinces. An average of 10 million units of medicine and medical instruments are supplied per year. Most companies are cutting back on employees due to the current economic situation; we, on the other hand, are planning to add to our staff. Our company employs over 300 people.
-J.Tumen-Ayush /CEO of Hasu Megawatt, LLC/:
-We have been receiving this award since 2009. As for this year, the selection was based on reports from the General Department of Taxation and State Social Security Insurance General Office. Our company has been continuously increasing our number of employees and currently we employ over 600 people. Our main operations are energy and mining services. We established an electrical equipment factory in cooperation with Germany last year. I would like to mention several highlights such as our company providing 12 employees' families with an apartment, building a sports complex for our employees and establishing a trade council in the company. Our company has two factories with a capacity to manufacture over 1,000 tons of equipment. Unfortunately, the factory's operation has stopped for the moment during these difficult economic conditions.
Sumitomo Corp Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Mongolian Scholarship Program
April 24 (gogo.mn) This year is the 50th Anniversary of establishment of the Sumitomo Corp., Japan. The company started the scholarship program back in 1996 in order to prepare and support future professionals in Asian Region. As of Scholarship activities in Mongolia Sumitomo Corp., is celebrating its 20th anniversary of starting its scholarship program in Mongolia by supporting the students of NUM and 5th year anniversary of supporting students of MUST.
Scholarship program targets students from poor families with proven excellence in their studies. Over 378 students of NUM and 90 students of MUST have received the scholarships throughout the years in Mongolia. The celebration of the event was attended by the officials from Sumitomo Corp., Directors of NUM and MUST, Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary Ambassador of Japan in Mongolia T.Shimizu and the students who received the scholarship.
HIROTO FUJIWARA: WE ARE TO CONTINUE THE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Director of Sumitomo Corporation Ulaanbaatar Office Hiroto Fujiwara: Sumitomo Scholarship was launched in Mongolia in 1996 and the first recipients of the scholarships were students of NUM and we added students of MUST in 2011.
The successful implementation of the scholarship program is tightly related with the support of the management of these two universities. We are to continue the scholarship program to support the future professional and skilled human resources of Mongolia. I want to say that our students are the best of the best.
It is important to proceed with the same mindset of winning and dedication to the studies. Future of Mongolia is hugely related with your success. I believe that Sumitomo Scholarship will have significant impact on development of the skilled professionals to lead the development of Mongolia.
T.SHIMIZU: JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HIGHLY APPRECIATES SUMITOMO SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
-What are your thoughts on this scholarship?
-I am very pleased that I have been invited to this celebration of 20th anniversary of Sumitomo Scholarship. It is the global culture that business entities and corporations show their social responsibility through various programs targeting the society. Sumitomo Scholarship Program is one of those initiatives to give back to the society. Japanese government highly appreciates this initiative.
-We all know that Japanese Government is committed to supporting the Education sector in Mongolia and it is very pleasing that even the business entities are supporting with their programs?
-Indeed. One of the Government supports held in education sector in Mongolia from the Government of Japan is the Grass Root Aid to promote the human safety.
The aid is directed at refurbishing the school buildings in Mongolia and currently the program covered over 300 schools. Another initiative of the Government of Japan started recently is the 1000 Engineer Program to advance the engineering and technology education in Mongolia and covers the students of NUM and MUST.
Another long term program is the Japanese Government Scholarship that covers over 1300 students studying in Japan. Over 20 students are accepted at the Master level programs in Japan every year. Although there are many programs initiated by the Japanese Government the Sumitomo Scholarship Program is one of the biggest programs.
R.BAT-ERDENE: THIS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM BRINGS NEW CULTURE
President of NUM, Prof. R.Bat-Erdene: Sumitomo Scholarship is one of the prestigious programs being implemented in NUM. Those programs are bringing new culture to our school system.
Social responsibility of the biggest corporations in the world targeting the education all over the world is one the engines that developed countries have utilized. This support is greatly appreciated and seen as the invaluable investment.
JARGALTUYA: 20 STUDENTS OF MUST RECEIVED SUMITOMO SCHOLARSHIP
Jargaltuya, Deputy Director of Foreign Relations and Cooperation at MUST: Japanese government, universities and business entities are supporting the initiative to prepare engineers in Mongolia and the cooperation has advanced in this sector much. One of the examples is the Sumitomo Scholarship.
In 2010 MUST and Sumitomo Corp., have signed the MOU on Cooperation which allowed our students to be part of this program. Since that time over 90 best students are receiving Sumitomo Scholarship of which 20 are current students. This scholarship supports our students to take part in student conferences and pay for their tuition.
WE ARE RECEPIENTS OF SUMITOMO SCHOLARSHIP
B.Gerelmaa, Graduated Mongolian Language and Culture School, NUM:
-When have you received the Sumitomo Scholarship?
-I was accepted to receive the Scholarship in 2004 when I was in my first year at NUM and was privileged to receive the scholarship until my graduation. At that time the scholarship totalled to USD 200. It targets the students from the poor families with excellent performance.
-What was the tuition at that time?
-Tuition fees were increasing each year and by the time I was graduating it equalled MNT 1 million. USD 200 was a huge help at that time.
T.Batbuyan, Senior student at Geology and Mining School, MUST:
I am receiving the Sumitomo Scholarship for the 3rd year. The main criteria of this scholarship are the merit and social activities. Moreover, the second phase hugely discusses the future goals of the student. This is one the biggest scholarship programs available in Mongolia. I currently receive USD 500 annually.
-How do you spend your scholarship?
-As it is handed in spring, it usually goes towards participation in Student Conferences and graduation.
-What is your major?
-Mining Engineering. At this time of the mining sector expansion I feel I have chosen the right direction in my life.
Ambassador Campbell Remarks on Mongolia's Investment Climate at NAMBC General Meeting
April 21 (U.S. Embassy) Having now served three years in Mongolia, this is likely to be my last opportunity to speak to NAMBC's general meeting. In past remarks, I've focused primarily on the trendlines in Mongolian politics. This time, I'd like to take a slightly different tack and speak about two U.S. government-produced documents. Together they provide a micro and macro picture of Mongolia, which I think is particularly useful for observers of Mongolia at this time. The documents are the U.S Embassy-produced INVESTMENT CLIMATE STATEMENT and the Millennium Challenge Corporation's SCORECARD for Mongolia. The 2015 version of the Climate Statement will "go live" within the next few days, and the Scorecard became important to Mongolia with the MCC Board's December 2014 decision to enter into negotiations with Mongolia on a second compact. A senior MCC executive heads to Mongolia next week to review the work Mongolian and American teams currently are conducting on a constraints analysis. This analysis will identify the sectors of the Mongolian economy where a targeted investment is most likely to unleash growth and also, importantly, help us look for private-public partnerships. There may be opportunities for some of you arising from that work, and so I want to ensure that folks here have a basic understanding of MCC's approach.
Turning first to the ICS, as the Investment Climate Statement is called by the cognoscenti, you all know the key facts: Foreign Direct Investment into Mongolia has trended downward since its 2011 peak of $4.7 billion. Overall, FDI into Mongolia fell by 85 percent from 2011 through the first quarter of 2015. As a recently released IMF assessment found, the country faces substantial macroeconomic challenges in the near term. Balance-of-payment pressures generated by the low FDI coupled with weak commodity prices and up-to-now expansionary macro policies are a tough combination. In this type of environment, it is crucial for businesses to have an in-depth assessment of the operating environment. I believe our ICS provides that, covering particularly the Government's openness to, and restrictions upon, foreign investment; challenges in dispute settlement and the Mongolian judicial system; and transparency of the regulatory system.
The ICS provides the micro picture. The detail is crucial to those like you already IN Mongolia, as well as to investors contemplating new engagement. To use a military phrase, I'm going to put our bottom line up front. In 2014, investors told us that those able to look with realistic, open-eyes at the challenges of Mongolia's commodity-driven economy and rough and tumble political and judicial processes might find profitable medium- to long-term investment opportunities. Mongolia, as this group knows better than most, has some of the world's largest untapped mineral reserves. Mining and mining-related services represent potentially remunerative sectors for long-term investment, with potential also in infrastructure, transportation, energy, construction, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, and environmental products and services. But concerns about the weak rule of law in Mongolia, and here I'll quote directly from the ICS, "require us to heavily caveat even last year's qualified endorsement." In short, Mongolia is not a country for the faint of heart or the ill-informed. Collectively, we're in for a bumpy ride at least through the 2016 parliamentary elections. And, as the IMF says, measures beyond the recently introduced "Comprehensive Macro Adjustment Plan" are needed to underpin fiscal deficit targets, strengthen monetary and banking-sector policies, and ensure the most vulnerable are protected from the impact of the necessary macro adjustment.
How did we get here and what are the major issues identified in the ICS? Mongolia's elected leaders these days readily accept that government missteps have intentionally or incidentally acted as disincentives to investment; these leaders say they recognize the need to correct course. The new PM has so far received high grades from the Mongolian public for determination, but lower grades for results. Citing an unusual telephone/text poll as evidence of popular support, PM Saikhanbileg, including in an April 5 televised address, has focused on getting the mega-projects of OT and TT moving. As a brief aside, I'm happy, if we have time for Q+A, to offer my views on how this fits with Parliamentary Speaker Enkhbold's position announced on the opening day of the new session (April 6) that he does not see the need for further negotiations on Oyu Tolgoi and would take steps to remove from office any minister who attempts to finalize a contract for Tavan Tolgoi's development that lacks parliament's endorsement.
As most Mongolian eyes focus on Parliament, international investors have an additional and serious concern – the evident willingness of Mongolian state prosecutors and other authorities to unilaterally impose "exit bans" on foreign business executives whose companies become involved in business-related disputes with the government or individual Mongolian citizens. The 2015 conviction and imprisonment of three mining executives (one of them a U.S. citizen) suggested to investors that Mongolian courts do not fully observe principles of due process, and that foreign investors risk being coerced into settling legal disputes on disadvantageous terms.
The fact that several official Mongolian entities are empowered to level exit bans against individual investors and company executives complicates business-risk calculations. The widely held belief that exit bans are applied, or threatened, to coerce foreigners to settle business disputes with the government or Mongolian citizens on disadvantageous terms makes doing business in Mongolia a tough proposition. I have consistently described exit bans and these troubling legal cases as having "significant, detrimental impacts on foreign direct investment."
Another troubling development in the legal space, is the growing incidence of Mongolia's criminal courts acting to revoke business rights. In 2013, a criminal court judge's revocation of 106 mining licenses received widespread attention, but we didn't, at that time, see it as part of a trend. Of note in that case, at no time did the court offer specific evidence proving that these licenses, among the hundreds granted during a specific official's term, were improperly granted. In 2015, local legal experts are expressing concern that this type of action is seen elsewhere: with criminal courts assessing substantial fines from, or revoking rights of, companies—termed civil defendants under Mongolian law—based on third-party corruption convictions. Because U.S. companies have been involved in some of these cases, Embassy officials have observed a number of hearings. Of the cases we have observed, the criminal court has not allowed the civil defendants any opportunity to defend themselves before the court during the trial or at hearings specifically focused on proving corporate malfeasance. Local legal experts have noted that Mongolian law and regulation actually do not allow criminal courts to render administrative decisions on the status of use rights or assess taxes and fees owed. However, experts explain that the administrators find themselves in a bind, as they are obliged to act on court orders, without regard whether the criminal court has the authority to order an action. Until this gray area of judicial authority is resolved, investors can have their economic rights expropriated by a part of the judiciary acting outside its remit, without any opportunity to appeal these losses to a proper authority. This, obviously, is troubling.
There are no hard figures for the number of investment disputes involving foreigners in Mongolia. Most foreign investors desiring to do long-term business in Mongolia prefer to quietly pursue or even abandon particular claims, especially if the government has an interest in the matter, for fear of jeopardizing future opportunities. Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that some Mongolian officials from each branch of government have solicited or offered bribes as a means of pre-empting or resolving particular investment disputes with foreign interests. Also troubling are reports we hear directly from some investors that suggest a belief that foreigners, by their nationality, face bias rather than blind justice.
In cases in which the government, at whatever level, is involved directly or indirectly, in a dispute, investors have reported and we have observed substantial government interference in the dispute resolution process, both administrative and judicial. Foreign investors describe three general categories of disputes that invite such interference. The first category comprises disputes between private parties that involve one or more Mongolian government agencies. In these cases, a Mongolian party may exploit contacts in government, the judiciary, law enforcement, or prosecutor's office to coerce a foreign party to accede to some demand. The second category involves disputes between investors and the government directly. In these cases, the government may claim a sovereign right to intervene in the involved business venture, often because the government itself is operating a competing state-owned entity or because particular officials have undisclosed business interests. The third category involves a Mongolian tax official or prosecutor levying highly inflated tax assessments against a foreign entity and demanding immediate payment, sometimes in concert with imposition of exit bans on particular company executives or even the filing of criminal charges
We're hopeful the attention we pay to these issues in the ICS – and in venues such as this -- may help us to highlight to Mongolian officials how these concerns negatively impact investors. Improvements here would go a long way towards reviving investor confidence.
I don't want to conclude on a negative note. Since the last NAMBC meeting, two important things occurred. In December 2014, the Mongolian Parliament ratified the Agreement on Transparency in Matters Related to International Trade and Investment (TA). The agreement, signed in 2013 by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Froman and then Foreign Minister Bold, marks an important step in developing and broadening the economic relationship between Mongolia and the United States. The goal of the TA is to make it easier for American and Mongolian firms to do business. The agreement covers transparency in the formation of trade-related laws and regulations, the conduct of fair administrative proceedings, and measures to address bribery and corruption. In addition, it provides for commercial laws and regulations to be published in English, making it easier for international investors to operate in Mongolia. Parliament's ratification sent an unambiguous signal to foreign and domestic businesses that Mongolia seeks to restore confidence in the statutory and regulatory processes affecting commerce and trade in Mongolia.
Also in December, the Millennium Challenge Corporation's board decided to enter into negotiations with the Government of Mongolia. As I mentioned at the outset, each year, MCC develops a scorecard on each country that might be eligible for a compact. MCC assesses the degree to which the political, social, and economic conditions in a country promote broad-based sustainable economic growth. In making its determinations, MCC's Board considers three factors: performance on their defined policy criteria, the opportunity to reduce poverty and generate economic growth in the country, and funds available. If this is a second compact, as in Mongolia's case, the Board also considers the country's performance on implementing its first compact. Mongolia's first $285 million compact was implemented 2008-2013. The most interesting thing about MCC's approach is that it uses third-party indicators to identify countries with policy environments that will allow U.S. government funding to be effective in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. I urge NAMBC members to become familiar with MCC's focus areas -- Ruling Justly, Investing in People, and Encouraging Economic Freedom – as well as its strong focus on working with the private sector and incorporating public-private partnerships into their compacts. I believe the second Mongolia compact is going to significantly shape not only the U.S.-Mongolia development dialogue moving forward, but also the broader parameters of the relationship and the space for economic development.
With that, I conclude my remarks. I'd like to thank NAMBC's leadership for inviting me to speak today and for everything they do to keep the commercial aspect of the U.S.-Mongolia relationship vibrant.
Trial Run Underway for Smart Bus Pass Readers
April 26 (UB Post) The Ulaanbaatar Auto Road Authority (UARA) started running trials of their new bus pass readers last week, with a plan to shift to an electronic ticketing system by July.
The pass readers are now installed in 20 buses and 10 trolleybuses belonging to three different state-owned bus operators so far. Passengers will pay bus fares in cash until the electronic bus pass becomes available for its first stage of sales.
The UARA reported that 450 booths for bus pass sales and fare recharging will be set up near bus stops, while 50 more will be located inside department stores in Ulaanbaatar.
Bus fare collection boxes have been installed in the buses next to the driver's seat. Passengers will be asked to enter the buses through front door and put their 500 MNT fare into the boxes while boarding. Change will not be provided by drivers.
A customer service center will open next month at the UARA to receive comments, complaints and suggestions from passengers regarding the new electronic ticketing system.
"The elderly, people with disabilities, and the police will ride buses with the 'Pass for Discount Provided Passengers', school students will receive the 'Pass for Children', university students will show their student ID cards, while others will buy the 'Pass for Passengers'," said Ch.Enkhbat, Chief of the UARA.
Ten teams joined by Mongolian and South Korean officials are currently working to check each bus providing public transport in Ulaanbaatar to set up the reader. The bus pass system trial will be complete by the end of June.
All 1,200 buses providing public transportation in Ulaanbaatar will start collecting fares through bus passes starting on July 1. GPS tracking devices, LED displays showing bus routes and announcing next bus stops, as well as three surveillance cameras per vehicle will also be installed in each public bus as part of system upgrades.
The bus pass system is being introduced as part of the "Adopting electronic ticketing and monitoring system to Ulaanbaatar public transport" program under the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's action plan for 2013 to 2016.
Ulaanbaatar administrators signed an agreement in September 2014 to introduce the new system.
The new system is expected to save passengers time and money, improve safety, increase the efficiency of public transportation services, offer better control of state budget allocations for transportation companies, and prevent financial losses for bus operators.
Russia looks to Mongolia as alternative source of uranium amid sanctions
April 25 (InvestorIntel) Amid the existing Western sanctions and recent attacks of some US media, regarding with Russian activities in the US uranium market, Russia plans to find alternative ways of uranium production during the next several years.
Due to a ban on the supplies of uranium to Russia, which was recently imposed by the governments of some Western countries, and in particular Australia and expected difficulties with its further supplies from the US, Russia is considering other options in order to meet its uranium demand.
One of such options involves the establishment of production in Mongolia.
Preliminary decision, regarding with this, has been taken during a visit of Russia's President Vladimir Putin to Mongolia last year, while the initial agreement on this was signed by the governments of both countries as far back as in August 2009 during a visit to Mongolia of Russia's Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
It is planned that implementation of the project will involve participation of ARMZ Uranium Holding Co., a Russian uranium mining company, which operates the country's uranium mines and which is part of Russian nuclear giant Rosatom.
Under the terms of the project, investors will focus on the exploration, mining and processing of Dornod, Mardan (Mogi: Mardai) and Gulvan-Bulak (Mogi: Gurvanbulag) uranium fields in the country.
At present Mongolia is considered as one of the world's most promising countries for uranium production and the development of local uranium fields may fully meet Russia's uranium needs for the next several years.
Currently there are six layers of uranium in the territory of Mongolia, which contain more than 100 uranium fields. According to estimates of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, at present Mongolian uranium reserves are estimated at 120,000-150,000 metric tonnes, while in the case of unproven reserves these figures may reach 1.4 million tons, which makes the country the world's 5th largest producer of uranium.
In addition to Mongolia, as part of the plans of Rosatom's ARMZ is the development of uranium fields in Kazakhstan, (another world's leading region, in terms of uranium reserves) as well as acceleration of development of domestic fields.
One of such fields is operated by ARMZ's Dalur plant and is located in the Kurgan region of Russia. As part of the company's plans, the production at this field is expected to be increased up to 600 tonnes of uranium during the next several years.
In addition to Kurgan, as part of the plans of ARMZ is the increase of uranium production at Priargunskoe Mining and Chemical Combine, which operates two uranium mines.
Finally, the company plans to start preparations for the development of the Khiagdinskoye uranium field in Buryatia, the Russian region, which is located in the south-central region of Siberia along the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, and which is planned to become a center of uranium production in Russia during the next several years.
The project is expected to be implemented by ARMZ's local Khiagda subsidiary.
According to plans of ARMZ Uranium Holding Co., diversification of production and the expansion into new regions will help the company to implement its ambitious goals, which involve the reduction of the cost of uranium production by 35% and doubling the total revenue of the company over the next five years, according to the company.
In the long term, by 2030 the company's annual revenue should increase by six times.
Presentation: A PROSPECT OF URANIUM EXPLORATION AND MINING IN MONGOLIA
by Norov Enkhbat *, Sodnom Enkhbat **, Nanzad Norov* * Nuclear Research Centre of the National University of Mongolia ** Nuclear Energy Agency of the Government of Mongolia
IAEA TECHNICAL MEETING ON URANIUM PRODUCTION NETWORK FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING, 22 - 24 NOVEMBER 2010 VIENNA, AUSTRIA
CHP4 can be further upgraded says Russian ambassador
Ulaanbaatar, April 24 (MONTSAME) Mongolia's Minister of Energy Friday received Mr I.K.Azizov, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Mongolia on Friday.
The Ambassador spoke about the "Biotek" Russian energy company that has worked out a contemporary system of producing energy. "This system gives remote areas a great chance to receive reliable and cheap energy, it also save fuels by up to 70% when is operated correctly," Mr Azizov said. The company's products could be useful for Mongolia's energy sector, he added.
He also gave a report about the "ASEN" company that has been selected as a performer of renovating a turbine at Darkhan city's thermal power station. "This company is expected to complete all the work by the end of this year," the Ambassador said.
In response, the Minister thanked the Ambassador for the attention to the matter of the "ASEN" and hoped that this project will be completed in due time.
The Ambassador also said that the Russian "Soyuz" company and the "Renova" group want to collaborate at thermal power stations of Ulaanbaatar. It has been calculated that the Fourth thermal power station of the UB city could get 150 megawatt if it will receive an annex, "these companies are ready to perform this work, plus, the Russian side is also ready to give a political support to it," Azizov emphasized.
Foreign Minister on ASEM 2016 Preparations
April 26 (UB Post) President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj announced to host the 11th ASEM Summit of Heads of State and Government (ASEM 11) in 2016 in Ulaanbaatar, during the final press conference of the 10th ASEM Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Milan, Italy on October 16 and 17, 2014.
The following is an interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren about the preparation work for hosting ASEM 11, as well as other international issues.
The whole world will assess Mongolia depending on how ASEM11 is organized next year. At what percentage is the preparatory work progressing?
Not much time is left. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working in the working group led by the Prime Minister. The working group is divided into six sub-working groups, including for welcoming guests and ensuring security. I'm in charge of the working group on contents and documents to be presented at the summit.
Most importantly, hosting ASEM11 will open a huge opportunity for promoting Mongolia. The ASEM11 Summit will also be the 20th anniversary since the Asia-Europe Meeting dialogue process was inaugurated in 1996. So all the works completed in the past will be assessed and future works will be decided.
What sort of challenges are surfacing within the preparatory work?
Beginning from the airport, there are many difficulties. We're planning to accommodate guests using the opportunities we have now.
Hasn't the Japanese side signed agreements to issue the second stage loan for constructing the new airport?
Yes. Unfortunately, the new airport will be commissioned in 2017. The airport runway is said to be completed by the end of 2016. During this economically difficult time, we're aiming to construct the airport with low costs by utilizing private sectors and youth volunteers. We'll make use of the current airport and conference halls. As ASEM11 is a significant event, Mongolians will have to show that we can organize events exceptionally well.
Just recently, a Mongolian student was killed in Malaysia. When will Mongolia establish an embassy in Malaysia?
Over 350 Mongolians live in Malaysia. Mongolia is actively cooperating with Malaysia. Economic situations are causing difficulties for establishing an embassy. Mongolia is paying attention to cooperation with Malaysia on preventing Mongolians from becoming victims of crimes and losing their lives. As for Sh.Altantuya's murder case, there isn't much progress domestically. Most recently, a woman who was staying three other Mongolian women died. The cause of her death is still unknown; we're still investing.
In France, five Mongolian men died in a traffic accident. They were driving after working for many hours and collided with a big car. Individual responsibility issues of Mongolians residing abroad is very important. For example, not over smoking and drinking, and taking care of themselves appropriately. Our ministry is focusing especially on promotions for people to comply with the respective countries' regulations. For example, Mongolians are held in Russian police stations for trespassing over borders with forged documents. Some have been caught for gang theft. We're organizing training and promotions for preventing these issues. A 24-hour surveillance is running on information released on the internet and situations of people connected with embassies. Immediately after an aircraft accident is reported, we first check if there was a Mongolian passenger aboard.
Tavan Tolgoi (TT) negotiation was supposed to be contracted with investors, but it was delayed due to an announcement from the Speaker of Parliament. As a member of the government, do you think that it's correct to advance TT?
Mongolia's been discussing to move forward with major projects for many years. As the Foreign Affairs Minister, I tell fellow cabinet members that we should talk about advancing projects after resolving it domestically. Also, ministers shouldn't be allowed to travel abroad before the issue is settled. What would they talk about, right? Advancing and beginning Tavan Tolgoi and Oyu Tolgoi (OT) project has been discussed countless times. How many times are we going to talk about this? In the end, we're branded as liars. Therefore, TT should be advanced urgently. TT and OT are a bridge to bring in future major projects. Political parties should speed these projects within scopes of national unity and consensus.
The majority of the public believe that you're suitable for the Minister of Foreign Affairs position since you were an adviser to the President on national security and foreign policy. Despite holding successive visits to large countries, Mongolia is yet to see results of the visits. How are the global perspectives on Mongolia's foreign policy?
Mongolia has a great history. In one sense, they have a basic clue and reference about Mongolia. For example, we have the great history of our ancestor, Chinggis Khaan. However, we do have a drawback, which is the fact that Mongolia was strong only during Chinggis Khaan's rule. Modern concept about Mongolia is very poor worldwide. Therefore, we must change Mongolia's image of always discussing about attracting foreign investors.
Can you give an example on how Mongolia's image should be changed?
Firstly, we must inform that modern Mongolia is an independent democratic country that's walking at the same pace as other nations. Mongolia created an image of a leading example of a democratic state that's been newly developed in the past 25 year. What we need on top of this is to become a modern country. We must mainly promote that Mongolia as a modern country. In other words, it's important to make others understand Mongolia as a country with businesses that are able to accept and increase investments, and not as the Chinggis Khaan's Mongolia of the 13th century.
Secondly, people think of mining as the only business in Mongolia. This is wrong. Projects to promote, introduce and inform people that Mongolia has different sectors other than mining are necessary for diversifying the economy and ensuring national security. Particularly, introducing the agricultural sector. A country with 50 to 60 million livestock can extract wool, hides and skins. These are products that can be renewed in our neighboring countries, China and Russia. Furthermore, crop production and tourism have huge potentials for development. I believe opening and introducing these sectors is an urgent issue for foreign policy.
Mongolia needs to establish a television channel that broadcasts internationally. We must work closely with both of our neighbors. For instance, understanding of Mongolia among average Chinese people should be well studied. We should find out how Chinese middle schools teach Mongolia's history to children. Later, develop a long-term policy for finding out Russian people's understanding of Mongolia. This way we can change Mongolia's image.
Regarding investment issues, the Mongolian government and Parliament pass new laws every now and then. Economists highlighted that instability of legal environment is causing investors to leave Mongolia. Can you comment on this?
As for investment, the whole world has a specific direction and trend, which differs depending on time. A few years ago, it was the age of mining products when prices of gold and copper soared. Mining itself brings a large sum of investment. Stable legal and regulatory environment is required. People starting businesses will definitely demand a stable environment. These people aren't interested in places with high taxes and low investment flow. For instance, Norway put a 78 percent duty on crude oil, and yet all the businesses there are working efficiently. Simply put, if the legal and regulatory environment is stable, people can calculate profits for the next 20 to 30 years and invest.Rather than taxation, the biggest drawback of Mongolia is that new governments change the decisions of the previous government and members of Parliament and government say different things. These discussions don't provide consistency for the legal and regulatory environment, incurring loss and error. Mongolia needs to attract foreign investment by improving these aspects and ensure state continuity. Also, Mongolia needs to attract investment from third neighbors in accordance with the National Security Concept. Investment is crucial for the development of Mongolia. We can use practices of other countries that successfully attracted foreign investment. Not to mention, Mongolia hasn't fully promoted one of its biggest advantages.
More than mining and other factors, our strong point is our people. In general, having young and educated people is a huge investment environment. In other words, a key factor for Mongolia's future isn't mining or agriculture, but educated people. Now, people are talking about the economy based on knowledge. So it's necessary to develop policies aimed at the future of higher education. The state and government should do projects that are farsighted. Mining can be managed for today and tomorrow. However, if we want to look centuries ahead, we must do something farsighted and focus on providing higher education to young people of Mongolia.
ASEAN To Consider Partnership With Norway, Ecuador, North Korea And Mongolia
KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 (Bernama) -- ASEAN is considering the application from Norway, Ecuador, North Korea and Mongolia to establish a formal partnership with the association, said Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Osman Hashim.
He said ASEAN would go through the request process before making an evaluation on the applications that were sent to the association few months ago.
"There are different categories of partnership, so they have to go through the process (of evaluation) of which one is more suitable in their engagement with ASEAN," he told reporters after chairing the Senior Officials Preparatory Meeting ahead of ASEAN Ministerial Meeting tomorrow.
ASEAN had formalised partnership with several countries including Australia, China, Canada, European Union, New Zealand, South Korea and Pakistan.
Osman said Timor-Leste's request to be the 11th member of ASEAN has also been discussed in the nine-hour closed-door meeting.
Timor Leste had submitted an application to join ASEAN in March 2011 during the Indonesian Chairmanship of ASEAN.
Currently, the application is being reviewed by a special working group.
On the proposed common time zone for ASEAN, Osman said the matter was being discussed extensively in the meeting and would be continued to discuss in the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
In February this year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, during his three-day state visit in Putrajaya, voiced his desire to hold discussions regarding the common time zone at the regional organisation's level as soon as possible.
Last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had forwarded the ASEAN time zone proposal to visiting Myanmar President U Thein Sein during their talks in the federal administrative capital. The president said he would consider the proposal favourably.
Among benefits of a common time zone for the region is the enhancement of trade and cooperation among governments, and between ASEAN and other countries in Asia.
A common time zone allows more time for communication; coordinating share market activities; enhancing flight operation system and improving business and banking network in the region.
Osman said among other agendas that were discussed in the meeting including the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) Blueprint, the declaration on strengthening the ASEAN secretariat as well as the proposed Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) was one of the three pillars of cooperation premised under the ASEAN Community apart from the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
The APSC Blueprint, among others, envisages the regional grouping to be a rules-based community of shared values and norms, a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for comprehensive security.
In terms of preparation for the 26th ASEAN Summit, Osman said everything was very well planned and satisfactory including the logistics aspect.
ASEAN comprises 10 countries, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Foreign Minister Purevsuren attends 2015 Asian African Summit
April 24 (infomongolia.com) Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Mr. Lundeg PUREVSUREN is conducting a working visit to Jakarta, Indonesia on April 20-24, and in the meantime participated in the Asian African Summit themed Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prosperity held on April 22-23, 2015.
The Summit is being organized commemorating the 60th anniversary of Bandung Conference and on the first day of his visit, Mongolian Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren held a meeting with the Secretary-General of ASEAN (2013 -2017) Mr. Le Luong Minh (Viet Nam).
During the meeting with Secretary-General, Minister L.Purevsuren expressed Mongolia's strong interest in strengthening relations with ASEAN noting that the country sees ASEAN as a key regional mechanism for cooperation in Asia and handed an official document of request to become an ASEAN's "Dialogue Partner".
Within this framework, Foreign Minister proposed to form a Mongolia-ASEAN working group to determine further collaboration issue opportunities and afterword, he extended an invitation to the Secretary-General Le Luong Minh to visit Mongolia at his convenient time.
In turn, Secretary-General advised Mongolia to explore with ASEAN avenues and opportunities to enhance practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest. He encouraged Mongolia to broaden its cooperation with ASEAN and to maintain its active participation in ARF activities. Moreover, Mr. Le Luong Minh underlined such cooperation activities could be useful and important manifestations of the close links between ASEAN and Mongolia.
On the following day, April 21, Foreign Minister of Mongolia met his counterpart the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Mrs. Retno L.P. Marsudi exchanging views of bilateral cooperation and partnership.
During the meeting, the sides agreed to host an Intergovernmental Commission Meeting in Jakarta near future to discuss mutually beneficial economic cooperation and broadening issue. Concluding the meeting, the two Foreign Ministers made a joint press statement on current partnership situation and future tendencies.
On April 22-23, 2015, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren attended the Asian African Summit in Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Asian African Conference (Bandung Conference), the Summit was participated by 91 Asian and African countries, 15 observers, and 10 international organizations, whereas Foreign Affairs Heads of 37 States as well 22 Heads of State and Government from Asian and African countries have participated.
Objective of the Summit is to strengthen international relations among the countries in Asia and Africa, share experiences in enhancing both regions' development, as well as discuss solutions and how to address common challenges.
At the Summit, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Lundeg PUREVSUREN delivered a speech themed "World Peace and Prosperity for Strengthening South-South Cooperation" expressing Mongolia's interest to fully support principles on Non-Aligned Movement, Bandung Conference and the New Partnership for Africa's Strategic Objectives.
During his participation in the Summit, Foreign Minister of Mongolia L.Purevsuren held separate meetings with the President of host nation, Joko Widodo; President of the PR of China, Xi Jinping; Deputy Prime Minister of the ROK, Hwang Woo-yea; as well as Foreign Ministers from Iran, Myanmar, India, Tunis, Sweden and Deputy Foreign Minister of the DPRK respectively.
Concluding the 2015 Asian African Summit: Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prosperity, the following three documents were adopted, namely the Bandung Message, the Declaration on Reinvigorating the New Asian African Strategic Partnership and the Declaration on Palestine.
Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren gave a speech at Asian-African Summit – news.mn, April 24
Foreign Minister Visits Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia
Ulaanbaatar, April 24 /MONTSAME/ While participating in events of the 60th Anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren legged Friday the Headquarters of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) in Jakarta.
He met Mr Nishimura Hidetoshi, the Executive Director of the ERIA. They shared views on the bilateral cooperation, then Mr Hidetoshi touched upon measures, projects and research works, and spoke about opportunities to cooperate with Mongolia.
Mr Purevsuren underlined that Mongolia geographically connects Asia and Europe, "this is closest way to develop the regional economy", after which they talked about measures being implemented within the issue. Purevsuren also pointed out that Mongolia attaches a great importance to the upcoming 2nd meeting on the talks with Mongolia to be held during the 8th meeting of ERIA's Steering Council on this June 5 in Jakarta, and said Mongolia will fully support its ties with the ASEAN.
ERIA is an international organization established in Jakarta in 2008 by a formal agreement among leaders of 16 countries in the East Asian region to conduct research activities and make policy recommendations for further economic integration in the East Asia. ERIA works very closely with both the ASEAN Secretariat and 16 Research Institutes to undertake and disseminate policy research under the three pillars, namely "Deepening Economic Integration", "Narrowing Development Gaps", and "Sustainable Development" and provide analytical policy recommendations to Leaders and Ministers at their regional meetings. ERIA provides intellectural contributions to East Asian Community building and serves as a Sherpa international organization.
Mongolia intends to make specific steps through the ERIA in order to join the APEC, to become a partner of the ASEAN Dialogue, to join the East Asia Summit and to contribute to the political and economic integrations of Asia-Pacific, especially East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Mongolia has concurred with the ERIA to conduct joint research works with topics "Industrial cluster" and "Asian Energy Network" by launching ties on partnership dialogue and designing initial directions of cooperation.
Belarus, Mongolia intend to develop ties in transport, logistics
MINSK, 24 April (BelTA) – During a visit to Mongolia, Belarus Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Valentin Rybakov met with Mongolian Minister of Roads and Transportation Namkhai Tumurkhuu to discuss the current status and prospects of the development of bilateral ties in transport and logistics, BelTA learned from the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.
The Belarusian delegation headed by Valentin Rybakov also took part in the negotiations with the Ministry of construction and urban life of Mongolia. The talks with Vice Minister for Construction and Urban Development of Mongolia, Chairperson of the Mongolian part of the Joint Belarusian-Mongolian Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation Gochoosuren Baigalmaa focused on the status of implementation of bilateral agreements and the upcoming events on the joint agenda aimed at strengthening the Belarusian-Mongolian cooperation.
U.S. Embassy Screening Documentaries for American Film Festival, April 23-26
April 24 (gogo.mn) "American Film Festival 2015" is being held and is initiated by the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with the Arts Council of Mongolia.
The purpose of the "American Film Festival 2015" is to show modern American documentaries produced by freelance artists to Mongolian audience and to improve skills of Mongolian artists and students who are studying in this sector through conducting professional training by American directors and producers.
American screenwriter, producer and director Tim Skousen and Director of Uranium Drive-In, Susan Bereza arrived in Mongolia.
According to the festival, four movies are screening at Tengis cinema free of charge.
9th Annual International Mongolian Studies Conference, Washington DC, May 8-10
(Mongolian Cultural Center) -- The Mongolian Cultural Center and the Embassy of Mongolia in Washington, D.C. co-organize a Mongolian Studies Conference every year. This year's conference is scheduled for May 8 through 10th, 2015, at the Embassy of Mongolia.
There will be 21 scholars and researchers from the United States, Mongolia, Japan, Russian Federation (Tuva and Buryat), Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China (Inner Mongolia), and Republic of Kazakhstan presenting on a wide range of topics such as Mongolian social issues, literature, religion, history, and language.
The conference is open to the public; however, attendees must pre-register and pay the conference fee to attend. Following each presentation, attendees are welcome to ask questions of presenters and engage in further detailed discussion on the topic as time permits.
1. Please send your first and last name, employer, and the location (only city and state will be sufficient) firstname.lastname@example.org. This information will be used solely for the purpose of making your conference badge.
2. Please make a payment for the conference fee of $50. The conference fee entitles you to attend the conference on May 8-9th (breakfast and lunch included). At the conference you will receive a commemorative pen and a folder containing hard copies of presentations). You are invited to attend the conference-closing party on the evening of May 9th hosted by the Embassy of Mongolia and the conference-closing picnic on May 10thhosted by the Mongolian Cultural Center.
Mongolian Cultural Center, email@example.com, 202-302-4340
Russian Mongolists attending conference on historical documents collection of Mongolia
April 24 (infomongolia.com) On April 23, 2015, Chief of Staff of the Office of the President of Mongolia, P.Tsagaan received delegates from the Russian Federation representing as Russian Mongolists.
These Mongolists are visiting Mongolia to attend a scientific conference "Cultural Heritage, Manuscript and Archive Documents' Collection of Mongolia" being organized in Ulaanbaatar under the auspices of the President.
At the meeting, Director of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in Central Asia and Mongolia at the Academy of Science of Saint Petersburg, Dr., Professor I.V.Kuliganyek, officer of Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in Central Asia and Mongolia at the Academy of Science of Saint Petersburg, Dr., Professor N.S.Yakhontova, scientific worker of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, I.M.Zakharova, Professor of the Faculty of Islam and Oriental Studies at the Kazan Federal University, Tatarstan, Russia, R.M.Valeev, officer at the Kazan Federal University, Dr. of Pedagogy, R.Z.Valeeva and Director of the Institute of History and Archeology at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, S.Chuluun were present.
In his remarks, Chief of Staff P.Tsagaan extended his gratitude to the visiting delegates for continuing development of Mongolian cultural heritages and Mongol studies abroad and afterwards, he guided the guests through Civil Hall.
Presidential Office Head meets Russian scholars – Montsame, April 24
ACMS Speaker Series: Tony Burchill
Research: The Quantum Mechanics of Writing a Novel
April 28th, 2015 - Starting 5:30 PM
Location: American Corner, Ulaanbaatar Public Library
Tel: 976 7711-048
Quantum mechanics is the science of the very small: the body of scientific principles that explains the behaviour of matter and its interactions with energy on the scale of atoms and subatomic particles.
Tony discusses the pain and pleasure involved in the process of writing his grunge novel LA911 and looks towards his next novel set in Mongolia which he hopes to be a thriller.
Khusugtun: Votes of Mongolians can bring us to the final stage of Asia's Got Talent
April 23 (UB Post) "Asia's Got Talent" show is being televised in over 20 countries by AXN Asia channel starting from the March 12.
Mongolian folk band Khusugtun has made it to the final stage of the show.
The following is a brief interview with horse-head fiddle player V.Batzorig of Khusugtun about the show.
How many countries are participating in "Asia's Got Talent" show?
Asia is a continent full of talented people. As participants have unique and interesting cultural heritages, the show is very competitive. We are very pleased and happy that we progressed to the final stage. In total, 900 artists took part in the show. We are glad that we could make it to the top 25. The winner of the show will be awarded 100,000 USD in cash prize and will have the right to perform at Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.
How did the judges and audience receive Mongolian folk art?
We participated in the show to introduce the fascinating Mongolian folk artto the millions of audiences of the show, and the judges. We received votes from the judges and audiences of Singapore and Malaysia, which brought us to the top 25. Now semi-final stage will start. The second selection will start tomorrow.
How does the selection process proceed. Tell us about the selection that is about to start?
The participants who collected the highest votes through the Facebook page will be shortlisted in the top nine. I would like to call on Mongolians to vote for Khusugtun. The voting will start on April 23 at 8:05 p.m. and close on April 27 at 11:59 p.m.
To vote, people must click on "Khusugtun band" and they can send requests to their friends by clicking "invite your friends to vote".
If we make it to the top nine, we will travel to Singapore on April 28, where we will compete for the championship title by performing at the Gala concert. I would like to ask all Mongolians to support us and vote for us.
Why Mongolia is considering a German plan for new "eco-capital"
April 21 (Global Construction Review) This month the Mongolian parliament will vote on whether or not to approve a plan to create a new eco-city in the steppes that will eventually become the country's new capital.
Called Maidar, it's intended to be home to 300,000 people and new high-tech industries, as well as being Mongolia's new administrative nerve centre.
Designed almost entirely by German firms, and with investors reportedly champing at the bit to get involved – particularly from China – the new city will have to tackle a number of challenges including a severe scarcity of water.
But if it goes ahead, Mongolians could finally get some relief from the deadly pollution that plagues their existing capital, and the country could have its first blueprint for sustainable urban development.
The architect who landed this project of a lifetime was Stefan Schmitz, a 60-year-old partner in Cologne-based practice RSAA.
GCR caught up with him on his return from Maidar to find out how the idea for the project came about, how you build an eco-city in one of the coldest and driest countries on Earth – and why there are so many German firms involved in doing it.
Why a new capital?
Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world: 2.7 million people inhabit 1.6 million square kilometres, giving a density of 1.7 – about half that of Australia.
But four out of every 10 of those people live in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, so a city that was built to accommodate 600,000 people now contains twice that number.
This means that, paradoxically, near-empty Mongolia suffers from all the evils of urban overcrowding, including slums, housing shortages, traffic jams and deadly pollution.
In winter, when the temperature averages 40°C below freezing and there is never a cloud in the sky.
That sounds picturesque but constant high-pressure seals in pollution and, because Ulaanbaatar has no shortage of old cars, and because Mongolia relies on its abundant coal reserves for power, this creates smog so severe that is reckoned to be responsible for 10% of all deaths in the country.
One solution to the intolerable living conditions in the capital is to build a series of satellite towns designed from the ground up to avoid its problems.
At the moment, the country's economy is suffering as a result of rows between the government and the mining multinationals that are responsible for 30% of the country's GDP, but the growth trend over the past 10 years has been in double digits, reaching a peak of 17.5% in 2011.
The result is that, just as the need for such a spectacular project is becoming greater, so is the money available to investors and home buyers to achieve it.
Schmitz says that the demand for homes and the desire of industries such as tourism and media to relocate means that conditions for investment are perfect.
"So it's not a question of money, it's a question of how to organise it," he said.
In fact, one problem is that there is too much money coming into the scheme from one source.
"Chinese investors want to take it all," Schmitz said. "I think the Mongolian company, Maidar City, which is in charge of the project, must consider that they need different investors. If they give it all to one then they will lose their power to manage the project."
How it came about
When the Maidar project was conceived in 2012, it was intended to be a modest eco-town of 20,000 people built from scratch on the Mongolian steppes, about 20km south of the existing capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Schmitz told GCR that the idea for a settlement began when the Grand Maitreya Foundation decided to build a 54m-high statue of the Buddha in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the southern side of the Bogd Khan mountains, about 20km from Ulaanbaatar.
A private consortium of Mongolian companies backed by wealthy investors then decided to surround the statue with cultural and religious buildings, and a town for 20,000, built to strict ecological standards.
RSAA was asked to handle the urban design without going through the inconvenience of entering a design competition. The practice already had a profile in east Asia thanks to its winning three other eco-cities projects, including the Tianjin scheme in 2004, however Schmitz says the firm won its Maidar commission on the basis of its personal connections with the investors and the Mongolian government.
The decision to expand the town into a 110,000ha city was taken because the developers realised that the combination of the natural setting and the available infrastructure made it an ideal location. Schmitz says: "It was near to the highway, the airport and the railway, so the connections were perfect, so everybody wanted to have a bigger city."
As the plans grew more ambitious, the Mongolian state stepped in and, although it didn't provide any money, it did take over the regulation and administration of the project.
Not a drop to drink
The developers want Maidar to be an eco-city, but with Mongolian characteristics.
"We cannot meet the real Passivhaus standard as in Europe – it's too much for Mongolia – but we can do a kind of Mongolian Passivhaus," said Schmitz. "We have to adapt the standards to Mongolian conditions of course, which is also what the experts will handle."
The biggest single problem is water: Mongolia is about 1.3km above sea level, it's too cold to rain or snow for about eight months of the year and Maidar is pretty much on the northern edge of the Gobi Desert.
The design must make the most of what moisture there is. Fortunately, the Bogd Khan acts like a giant collector of the summer rains, so that water can be channeled into a reservoir.
With supplementary ground water extraction and strict water use standards in homes, RSAA calculates that there will be enough left over to irrigate part of the northern Gobi and bring it into agricultural production.
Another challenge is air pollution. Cutting that means reducing private car use through planning approaches that are now familiar from other eco-cities around the world.
The city is designed to be "polycentric", which means that its inhabitants do not have to travel far to get to get to work, do their shopping or enjoy their leisure time. Each section is a separate town with its own core, grouped around the central hub of the Buddha statue. Distances are designed to be short enough to walk or cycle.
Public transport will take care of medium-length journeys, restricting the use of cars to intercity travel using a new highway that is planned between Maidar, Ulaanbaatar and a new international airport.
It is also a short distance from Mongolia's main railway line, which runs from Russia to China; Maidar will have its own station on that route.
The finishing touch to the transport plans will be a cable car all the way to Ulaanbaatar. This is intended to cross the Bogd Khan, passing a newly built ski resort on its way.
The constant sunshine of winter means that solar energy can be used to supply the city with hot water. But to begin with, some energy will also be supplied from fossil fuel sources.
"Coal is a big issue," said Schmitz. "There is a lot of it in Mongolia and it's very cheap, so to begin with we cannot compete with that. We have to have a mixed strategy."
The plan is for a decentralised smart grid that can support the increase in renewable energy over the years. An existing wind park beside the city produces 50MW, and they want to boost that to 75MW. In the beginning power will be up to 50% renewable, and 100% within 30 years.
Friends from the Cold War
As well as RSAA, a number of other German firms are working on the city. Stuttgart-based TransSolar is the energy consultant, Berlin's Ingenierbüro Kraft is handling the water, while eco-certification is being done by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) and property consultant Drees & Sommer.
Why so many Germans? (The exception is the Finnish subsidiary of Ramboll, which is acting as traffic consultant.)
Schmitz explains that Germany and Mongolia have a special relationship that stretches back to the Cold War, when many promising Mongolian students were educated in East Germany. "There was a lot of exchange and the Mongolians got quite a good education in the DDR, so they can speak German and now they're well established people in Mongolia."
Will it really go ahead?
So far, only the lower half of the statue has been built, but work is under way on laying out the sites, and Mongolia's parliament is about to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the scheme. Schmitz is confident that it will get the green light.
If it does, single parcels of land may be made available to investors around the world. Before they can take possession, however, they will have to sign binding agreements as to what they can and cannot do with their land.
"The reason for this is that Mongolia has no network of environmental legislation, so we have to fix the preconditions in the property contracts," says Schmitz. For example, one stipulation could be that every building must have two water systems, one for drinking and the other for everything else.
"The key is to find a balance that allows us to both meet the ecological requirements of the city and keep investors happy," he added.
There is still time to strike that balance. Schmitz said the real beginning of construction will be 2017, once developers have prepared the site and settled on how the project will be managed.
The first phase of residential and commercial development is scheduled to last for about 15 years, and will create homes for 90,000 people.
Before then, a number of key industries are planning to relocate, such as financial services and the media, which has already negotiated its own 100ha complex.
A German television documentary about Maidar can be accessed here.
Mongolia Climbs 2 Spots in 2015 World Happiness Report to 100/158
April 24 (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network) --
This post was written by Joseph Bristley, a UCL ESRC-funded anthropology PhD student affiliated to the Emerging Subjects project. He recently gave a paper on 'Temporality and Nationalism in a Mongolian Desert Economy' as part of the Third Oxford Interdisciplinary Desert Conference. This two-day international conference was held between 16th and 17th April 2015 at the University of Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment, and was organised by Dr Troy Sternberg, Ariell Ahearn, and Dr Henri Rueff. The official conference programme can be downloaded here.
My paper was included in the conference's panel 'Pastoralism and the State in Inner Asia', which also included presentations on camels and land use in Inner Mongolia; different rhetorics surrounding pastoralists in Mongolia and elsewhere; mining and risk in Mongolia; and the distribution of deer stones.
I give a brief summary of my paper here and a few reflections on the conference. My paper analysed ideas around the proposed Sainshand Industrial Park (Sainshand Аj Üildveriin Tsogtsolbor) in Dornоgobi province: a vast, unrealised project including industrial facilities such as copper smelters, coal gasification plants, and cement works. This site, it is envisaged, will be connected within a broader infra-structure development project linking Sainshand on the one hand to the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine and Tavan Tolgoi coalfields, and on the other to the city of Choibalsan in eastern Mongolia. Already a locus on the Trans-Mongolian railway between Ulaanbaatar and China, Sainshand's status as a point on a large trade network will be significantly scaled-up by the construction of the Industrial Park. The Park's aim is to diversify the Mongolian economy, produce processed minerals for export – currently, unprocessed minerals are exported to China on a large scale – and to create a large number of jobs for Mongolians.
Despite a number of reasons hampering the implementation of the Industrial Park it nevertheless has a kind of 'spectral presence' in Sainshand, being "already there without being there" (Derrida 1994: 98). In this sense, it resembles the un-built Power Station #5 in an eastern suburb of Ulaanbaatar, studied by Morten Pedersen, which "appeared to loom large in peoples' minds" despite its "limited degree of physical materialisation" (Nielsen and Pedersen 2015: 253).
In fact, the lack of materiality of an operational Industrial Park, I argued, opened up a discursive and imaginative space for people living there in which the future of the city – and the country as a whole, which would benefit enormously from the completed project – could be imagined. It also cast perceptions of the future itself as particularly significant in framing peoples' perceptions of their city and country. Thus Batsük, who moved to Sainshand several years ago, told me with some pride that the Sainshand Industrial Park would be the second biggest industrial project in the country after Oyu Tolgoi. Thinking about how work on the Park would unfold in the not-too distant future, he listed the number of 'factories' to be built, and the number of workers he expected to be employed at some of these. Batsük said that the population of the area – then at 22,000 for the district of Sainshand City – would surge as thousands of builders and industrial workers would work on the implementation and operation of the new Industrial Park.
The way perceptions of the future are mediated through as-yet un-built structures and unmade objects of the Industrial Park is mirrored in another area of Sainshand's life: the rebuilding of Khamarin Khiid. This monastic complex, founded by the famous Buddhist poet Danzanravjaa from 1818 onwards, was a centre of Buddhist culture until its destruction by communist forces in 1938. It has been undergoing reconstruction since the fall of communism in 1990, with the aim of rebuilding its former temples, mediation caves, and 'energy centre'. A number of its original sites – such as the 'Energy Centre' – have been restored to date, the former monastic complex providing a template for its own rebuilding by not being there.
Through these two examples, I argued that the Industrial Park and Khamarin Khiid project are conceptually suggestive of each other: both draw on absences in the present to open a particular vista onto the future, and articulate perceptions of the future as a background against which particular projects can unfold; and both do so through positing the construction of particular types of building whose significance runs beyond Sainshand (the Industrial Park is going to be of national importance exporting goods from Mongolia, whilst the monastery draws visitors from throughout the country, and from across its borders).
Both schemes aim to establish sites of transformation with a particularly national resonance. The Khamarin Khiid complex is the location of the world's 'energy centre', a site of spiritual transformation where beneficial energy can be converted and harnessed by visitors from across Mongolia and beyond. The Industrial Park is a site of transformation in a different register, where national resources will be transformed in ways that will benefit Mongolia. Both suggest the ways in which beneficial transformations and the conversion of 'raw' materials lie within particular national contexts and temporalities.
My paper's audience consisted of a number of researchers, and I was asked questions about the proposed funding of the Industrial Park, and the prominence of Buddhism in post-socialist Mongolia.
The Third Oxford Desert Conference was a two-day event, which drew together scholars from around the world to explore a number of desert-themed issues on an interdisciplinary basis. Panels included the topics of 'Dryland Ecosystems and Water', 'International Development Perspectives on Drylands', and 'New Technologies in Desert Research'. The conference presented an excellent opportunity for scholars from different backgrounds working on deserts to exchange ideas.
The Mongolia Connection
by Johnny Ramirez
April 15 (The Jornada, New Mexico State University) It seems as though drought and water scarcity are in the news on a daily basis. In fact, desertification is a growing problem throughout the world, as dryland regions become increasingly arid and more challenging to manage sustainably. For the people of Mongolia, a country that is more than 80% rangeland, land degradation is a particularly pressing problem due to increases in livestock numbers and changes to livestock management systems that occurred after the transition from communism to democracy in the early 1990s.
Mongolia is heavily reliant on pastoralism – over a third of the country's workforce is engaged in the livestock sector – so the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems is a critical social and economic issue.
Yet many studies have called the long-term sustainability of Mongolian rangelands into question. Recent estimates suggest that 70% of Mongolia's rangelands are in some way "degraded" such that livestock production is limited and other ecosystem services such as clean air, fresh water, and biodiversity may be in decline. The causes of perceived degradation, however, remain controversial, as well as how Mongolia should respond.
It was because of this controversy that Green Gold Mongolia, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) supported by the Swiss Development Corp. invited the Jornada in 2006 to help them develop a system of measurement, interpretation, and responses to understand and combat rangeland degradation.
Mongolia Learns From Our Past
It was a natural fit. The Jornada has over 100 years of experience in rangeland research and management that has helped establish sustainable management practices in arid Southwestern US rangelands. The Jornada has also contributed to scientific understanding, monitoring techniques, and interpretive tools that are used throughout the world. Because Mongolia faces similar conditions of aridity as the Jornada's New Mexico experimental area, Jornada scientists knew that they could contribute to the scientific infrastructure of the new democracy and learn a lot about their tools and ideas in the process.
With the efforts of Brandon Bestelmeyer, Ericha Courtright, Jeff Herrick, and Justin Van Zee, and other Jornada staff, the Jornada has worked with Green Gold Mongolia, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and several Mongolian government agencies to craft a comprehensive infrastructure to advance rangeland sustainability in Mongolia. Each piece addresses a specific need. Repeatable and precise rangeland measurement efforts reduce controversy about what has changed in Mongolian rangelands. Database development and maintenance ensures that the data are error free, trustworthy, and available for the long-term. Ecological site descriptions and state-and-transition models, cooperatively developed with herders and local rangeland professionals, provide a diagnosis of rangeland problems and potential remedies tailored to specific land areas. Mapping of rangeland states and pasture infrastructure, using remote sensing and geographic information systems, provides the basis for developing management plans.
Individually, each of these tasks is challenging, but to build an infrastructure linking these pieces together at a national scale is unprecedented—a testament not only to the efforts of Jornada scientists but to the continued support of the Swiss government and the energy and ingenuity of Green Gold staff. The team's successes are impressive: a nation-wide monitoring program has been established since 2011; general state-and-transition models have been developed for most parts of the country and used to interpret rangeland measurements according to management needs; local herder cooperatives and government staff are beginning to use ecological site descriptions and maps for developing management plans.
These efforts have also put a new spin on the well-worn degradation story: while some areas are in fact significantly degraded, Mongolian researchers estimate that about 80% of the rangeland in Mongolia is recoverable within a decade if grazing is managed properly.
Implementing management changes where they are needed, fairly, cooperatively, and effectively, is the next challenge that Mongolia faces. Implementing management changes, such as changes to the timing and duration of grazing, can require reductions of livestock numbers in certain areas, at least until recovery of key plant species occurs. This could be accomplished through programs and infrastructure to promote "off-take," that is, the timely sale of livestock so that older animals don't accumulate and forage isn't wasted on the maintenance of unproductive animals year after year. Marketing programs, improved veterinary care to reduce the incidence of disease, and cooperation from important trading partners in China, Russia, and other countries will be important. The development of roads and slaughterhouses could help to facilitate trade that improves off-take as well herder income and livelihoods. In addition, the Mongolian government is discussing a fee system and environmental quality standards that could help incentivize improvements in rangeland vegetation and animal quality that, ultimately, make some livestock products more profitable.
Other environmental benefits are also anticipated, including carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and even a potential for increased tourism.
Back on the Home Front
Jornada researchers, alongside many researchers in its parent agency the Agricultural Research Service, welcome the opportunity to contribute to USDAs mission at a global level by participating in projects that improve global food security and environmental sustainability. As our nation helps countries, such as Mongolia, become more food secure, sustainable, and economically stable, USDA and ARS also contribute to global stability and economic opportunities for Americans.
There are more tangible benefits as well. After nearly a decade of working with Mongolia and establishing programs from the ground up, Dr. Bestelmeyer and others have been able to bring back what they've learned to the US by improving the tools we use at home. For example, ideas originating in Mongolia will be used to revise our ecological site descriptions. As this collaboration continues, the Jornada looks forward to an interchange of ideas and technologies that help sustain rangelands at home and throughout the world.
More information about The Jornada's work in Mongolia is available here: http://jornada.nmsu.edu/esd/international/mongolia
Native Southborough resident shares research on elusive Mongolian wolverines
Southborough, April 25 (Community Advocate) – Wildlife biologist Rebecca Watters, a Southborough native and graduate of Algonquin Regional High School, came back to her hometown April 16 to give a presentation about her experience and studies on wolverines at the Southborough Community House. Watters currently lives in Bozeman, Mont., and goes on yearly expeditions to the northern Mongolian mountains where she conducts extensive research on these rare animals.
Wolverines are an elusive species, according to Watters, and it has proven to be a difficult task for researchers to fully comprehend their traits and lifestyle. Their habitats lie in cold secluded regions and they depend on the deep spring snow to build their dens. Watters explained that wolverines are members of the weasel family, with the ability to disperse up to 500 miles and defend territories up to 500 square miles. Although these mammals generally weigh up to 30 pounds they have the tenacity to hunt and kill a full-grown moose, making them one of the toughest animals in North America.
Watters received a bachelor's degree in anthropology at Saint Lawrence University, served in the Peace Corps for two and half years in Mongolia, and attended graduate school for environmental science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. While doing her master's research on wolves in the Greater Yellowstone, one of Watter's contacts invited her on a wolverine field expedition. She was intrigued and agreed to hike high up in the Absaroka Mountains.
"The first night out, a wolverine came into our camp, which in and of itself was astonishing," said Watters. "There are wolverine biologists who work on the species for decades and never see one in the wild."
The wolverine ended up spending over 10 minutes in the campsite. It was a combination of that experience, being in the elevated snowy wilderness, and the fact that these species are poorly understood and hard to study that inspired Watters to take on the challenge of researching wolverines.
Watters found out that there was an unstudied population within Mongolia and in April of 2013, National Geographic sponsored a five-person expedition to the country's mountains. In the course of 23 days, Watters and her companions trekked approximately 230 miles in an ecosystem that proved to have many challenges, including frozen lakes and snow that was well above their waists. Despite the hardships the team was able to locate 28 sets of wolverine tracks, collected 33 samples of DNA, and found remains of elk and birds that were eaten by wolverines.
One of the challenges this species currently faces is the increasing temperatures, melting the snow that wolverines depend on. Wolverines have a low reproductive rate, giving birth to only one or two kits every other year, and have been nominated for the endangered species list several times. Watters strives to spread knowledge and preserve the lives of these creatures.
"The next generation of biologists have a big task ahead of them with … the rising climate change," Watters noted. "It's also important for people to appreciate the outdoors and species that are a part of it."
For more information, visit The Wolverine Foundation at wolverinefoundation.org.
While Russian archaeologists were conducting a routine examination of an old sabre unearthed seven years ago in Yaroslavl, they discovered that the weapon dates back to the 13th century, making it to be oldest crucible steel weapon in East Europe.
April 22 (Medievalists.net) "It was highly unexpected and exciting find" said Dr. Asya Engovatova from the RAS Institute of Archaeology, who lead the research. "We were analysing a fragment of a sabre – which had already been in the Yaroslavl State Museum for seven years – and discovered it was a unique artifact."
The sabre was unearthed by Engovatova and her colleagues in 2007, at an excavation site in the historic centre of the city of Yaroslavl, which lies northeast of Moscow. The site is a mass grave of the city defenders and civilians slaughtered by Mongols under the command of Batu Khan – on a single day 1238.
"The site contains comprehensive evidence of the atrocity committed that day. We found numerous skeletons of murdered women and children, many household objects like dishes, jewellery, many weapons items – and this sabre," Engovatova said.
The metallographic methods used in the analysis revealed that the sword has been made from crucible steel. The technology used to produce steel of this kind was first perfected in India, in the first-century AD. Artifacts crafted from such steel later begin to turn up in Central Asia. European sword-makers appear to have known nothing of this technology. The techniques for making crucible steel were later lost, and European steelmakers reinvented it only at the end of the eighteenth-century.
In the Middle Ages and thereafter, crucible steel was very expensive. It conforms to the needs for bladed weapons more exactly than any other material, with its combination of great strength and ability to maintain sharpness throughout the length of the blade.
Scientists suggest that the "Yaroslavl Sabre" could have belonged to a very wealthy warrior from Batu Khan's army.
Alan Williams, a well-known British expert on the ancient technologies of bladed weapons said that Central Asian crucible steel was used only for blades of German swords branded ULFBERHT, dating from the eighth and ninth centuries – and never for forging all-steel blade.
The intense interest surrounds not only the production methods for the blade, but how it came to be buried. The sabre was broken, its handle lost, and its blade bent. Analysis shows micro-cracks present in the blade – usually an indication that an object had been burned. Most likely the weapon was subjected to bending as ritual damage, for which the blade had to have been heated to a high temperature.
Currently, the sabre has been restored and returned to the Yaroslavl Museum, together with the entire collection of archaeological treasures found at the excavations.
Mongolian midwife in Timaru
April 23 (The Timaru Herald) For the past month one of Mongolia's top midwives has been in South Canterbury absorbing New Zealand's techniques and systems for helping young mums and babies.
Amara Luvsandagva 43, is in charge of midwifery at the largest hospital in Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbataar.
She oversees 56 midwives and 130 nurses who deliver 16,000 babies a year, an average of 45-50 a week.
Luvsandagva is here on a reciprocal exchange after South Canterbury District Health Board clinical midwife manager Julie Dockrill went with a group of midwives to Mongolia in 2013.
Before coming she did an intensive English language course to assist her on her first trip out of Mongolia.
While here, she has absorbed as many of the facets of ante-natal health care as possible, including spending time at Plunket and the teen mum unit at Timaru Girls' High School
She also spent some time at Oamaru Hospital, where they have about six births a week, which Luvsandagva thought was quite quiet.
Luvsandagva had some favourite aspects of spending time in New Zealand, including seeing the penguins in Oamaru, the lack of rubbish and the big houses New Zealanders have.
"The fruit and food is good. You are very lucky."
Dockrill said it had been a gratifying and humbling experience.
"New Zealand women are very lucky with the care they receive. It is amongst the best in the world."
People take for granted the fact that equipment is sterilised, but in Mongolia all they do is wash it in some solution and then reuse it, she said.
It had also been good to have Luvsandagva here learning, because she was someone who had the power to implement positive change in her home country, Dockrill said.
She was hoping to raise funding to go back to Mongolia in October, in part to help introduce the teaching manual the group has written.
"It's an opportunity to help make some positive change in the world."
Men born with debt
April 23 (UB Post) Last week I received my military draft notice.
And to make things perfectly clear, I did not enlist in the military, nor do I have any desire to "serve" my country in this particular capacity.
Draft notices are sent to every able-bodied man over the age of 18 in Mongolia every year, as all men are required to serve a compulsory one-year military service in Mongolia.
People with disabilities or medical conditions, as well as students, men whose children are under the age of two, those living abroad, and those who have a "special" occupation are excused from military service.
Those who do not fall into the above categories, such as myself, are obliged to take a physical examination every year at a given place and time, regardless of their personal or professional schedule. If passed, the military has the right to take candidates away for service.
Given the option, most people in today's society would not choose to serve. Many men of service age view military service as a waste of a perfectly good year, and most are either in pursuit of higher education or have already formed a family of their own. Losing a year in one's education and career pursuits in the modern world can set one back a mile, and it is a nightmare for many who receive a draft notice.
If men don't go through the hassle of physical examination and registration at their local authority, they face monetary penalties. If one chooses not to serve, they are required to pay around five million MNT (an average year's income).
People find ways to avoid serving these days, such as medical conditions or taking courses at universities. But this shouldn't have to be.
Mongolia, a democratic nation that values human rights, shouldn't force its citizens to serve. No matter how politicians and military officials phrase it, they cannot get around the fact that this is blatant extortion, as if men are born with a debt to the country. Why are we obligated to serve in the military during peace time?
A decade ago, the military draft procedure was a mess. Candidates, unwilling or otherwise, would sometimes line up for hours for the mandatory physical and once passed, their heads would be shaven in the next room and they would be loaded onto a truck to be sorted.
Older men like to talk about their military duty and how they were enlisted. Many say that they had no intention of serving but "had to", because that's just how it was. But nobody has spoken out about ending conscription.
Not much has changed since then, except that due to a lower budget and overcrowded military units, the military is a bit more lenient about enlisting unwilling candidates. Mongolia's military budget in 2012 was a little over 108 million MNT, approximately one percent of Mongolia's GDP.
Still, officials in Mongolia's armed and defense forces insist that they need more men. They go on and on about the benefits of the military, such as learning discipline and respect, as if these attributes can't be cultivated in any other professional setting.
Twenty other countries besides Mongolia have conscription terms for one year or less, including Brazil, Austria, and Bolivia.
In the 21st century, mandatory military service in Mongolia (where no military confrontations exist) seems very redundant, and a hassle for people going about their daily lives.
I understand that Mongolia is in a sensitive position when it comes to national security, as we are wedged between two great military powers, China and Russia.
Mongolia's current active frontline personnel is at around 10 ,000, and reserve forces amount to some 130,000. But even this number is inconsequential when compared to the armed forces of our neighbors, so it is fitting that Mongolia relies more on its diplomatic relations than military forces to secure and strengthen its national security and independence.
The last major arms conflict in Mongolia was the Khalkh Gol battle against Japanese forces in WWII in 1939. Therefore, Mongolia should look to other options to maintain its military power instead of forcing its productive members of society into military service that is of inconsequential benefit to enlistees. Plus, soldiers have to be trained, housed, fed and equipped through state funds.
The President's "student soldier" program, which allows university students to serve their military duties at intervals during their semester breaks, is ineffective in training sufficient soldiers, and a waste of time for students who could have used the time to gain work experience or further their studies.
Even countries that are in active wars, such as the U.S. and Afghanistan, do not have enforced conscription. Their military forces are comprised of volunteers and contracted forces.
Mongolia's economic woes far outweigh that of its military troubles, hence men should be educated to become productive members of society, instead of weapons of the state, to fight the country's most pressing battle: the economic crisis. In the 21st century, men in a democratic society should not be viewed as potential soldiers for the country's leaders, but as individuals who have the full right to make their own choices and paths in life.
Visit to Hustai National Park, World's Last Wild Horse Sanctuary
April 24 (gogo.mn) We had a chance to visit Hustai National Park during the spring time, which enables the visitors to observe the wild life at best, as the animals are roaming in big groups as it is not hot yet, so that animals usually start being in smaller groups of 3-4.
Interestingly, the rangers and guides of the Hustai National Park are all speaking perfect English. We were provided with binoculars to have a closer experience of all the beauty of the wildlife of the Mongolian steppe and mountains.
Our journey started at 10.30AM and it took us just over an hour to reach to our destination located about 95 km far from Ulaanbaatar city. At our destination friendly staff of the park greeted us and offered snacks before our ride through the park.
Hustai National Park covers 50.6 hectares of land which is home to:
· 459 species of vascular plants,
· 85 species of lichens,
· 90 species of moss,
· 33 species of mushrooms.
· 44 species of mammals including Red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Roe deer, Wild boar, Wild sheep, Ibex, Mongolian marmots, Grey wolves, Lynx, Pallas' cat, Red fox, Corsac fox and Eurasian badger,
· 217 species of birds include Golden eagle, Lammergeier, Great bustard, Whooper swan, Black stork, Daurian partridge and Little owl,
· 16 species of fish,
· 2 species of amphibians,
· 385 species of insects (including 21 species of ants, 55 species of butterflies, 10 species of bush crickets and 29 species of grasshoppers).
At the Hustai National Park they offer lodging and ger camps in two locations, which offer all the comforts for the visitors and tourists for the maximum relaxation and adventure on the road at the luxury of the wild life.
For more info please contact Hustai National Park management at: 245087 (office in Ulaanbaatar), 93230169 (Hustai camp). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exhibition to mark St. Zanabazar's 380th birthday
April 26 (UB Post) An exhibition dedicated to the 380th birthday of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar is set to be unveiled soon.
Through the Friendly Ulaanbaatar Program of the Ulaanbaatar Mayor, the exhibition will feature artifacts and art works of Zanabazar from his personal workshop.
During the excavation and research of the Saridag monastery, approximately 1,300 artifacts connected to Zanabazar were found. Only 100 of these findings will be presented at the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts from April 27 to May 28.
The construction of Saridag monastery in Erdenet soum of Tuv Province started in 1654, by the request of Zanabazar, and finished in 1680. Historians say that the monastery is related to the Khalkh Buddhist Center.
To develop Buddhism in Mongolia, Zanabazar established many monasteries in the country. Zanabazar was born in 1635, as the second son of Tusheet Khaan Gomdoborj, in Zuil soum of Uvurkhangai Province.
In 1639, at the age of five, Zanabazar was raised as the head of the Buddhist religion by Khalkh nobles, such as Tusheet Khaan Gombodorj, Setsei Khaan Sholoi, and 108 boys were appointed as his disciples. Zanabazar is from the same clan as Chinggis Khan, Altan Urag. He was an influential person of the state and religion in the 17th century.
Besides being an educated lama, he was an artist, painter, poet and a craftsman. His sculptures, such as, "21 White Tara" and "White, Green Tara" are popular as "Zanabazar design" not only in Mongolia but throughout the world.
Through "The Eyes of Women" Photo Exhibition, Blue Moon Art Gallery, April 23-26
April 23 (UB Post) Women photographers of the Federation of Mongolian Photographers are presenting a joint exhibition called "The Eyes of Women" at Blue Moon Art Gallery, from April 23 to April 26. The exhibition is dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the photography sector in Mongolia.
During the opening ceremony of the exhibition, some of the photographers were awarded the title of Best Cultural Worker.
Overall, 80 photographs by 13 female photographers are presented in the gallery. Photographers who participated in the exhibition are B.Ulyataikhuu, D.Tserennadmid, Kh.Khashiimaa, S.Tuya, T.Chimgee, S.Badamkhand, J.Uermaa, G.Erdenetuya, Sh.Otgonjargal, D.Byambaadorj, L.Nomingerel, D.Erdenetsetseg, and the late Ts.Nina.
The photographs have a wide range of themes, including countryside life, arts, culture, sports, traditions, children, and the beauty of women. Tender photographs of a nude pregnant woman were heartwarming creations. These photographers have proven that they are important artists documenting history.
Mongolian boxers win two gold, two silver, three bronze at Indonesian President's Cup
April 26 (UB Post) Mongolia's boxing team won two gold, two silver and three bronze medals at the 22nd President's Cup last week. The tournament, which attracted over 160 boxers from 19 countries, was held in Palembang in Indonesia from April 19 to 25.
The Mongolian team was coached by D.Batsuren and B.Enkhtaivan.
Boxers E.Tsendbaatar (men's 56 kg) and B.Chinzorig (men's 64 kg) won gold medals, and M.Nandintsetseg (women's 51 kg) and D.Otgondalai (men's 60 kg) took silver medals. G.Gan-Erdene (men's 49 kg), O.Suvd-Erdene (women's 60 kg), and B.Tuvshinbat (men's 69 kg) seized bronze medals in their respective weight divisions.
The 22nd President Cup served as a training for the Mongolian team, especially for the coming Asian and World Championship tournaments, both of which are set to be held in tropical countries. The Asian Championship will be held in August in Bangkok Thailand.
The World Championship will take place in October in Doha, Qatar. This tournament will be the first Olympic qualification tournament for boxers around the world.
Future speed skating champions train at Chinggis Square
April 23 (UB Post) If you have seen and wondered why there are so many children at Chinggis Square practicing roller skating, they are the young athletes of the Central Sports Palace. Shuud.mn spoke with coach A.Bold and his students about their training.
Please introduce yourself. Your students have been training at the Chinggis Square quite a long time.
I am an international speed skating master and speed skating coach at the Sports and Physical Education School of Ulaanbaatar. The skating class at our school was opened as part of President Ts.Elbegdorj's decree to develop winter sports in Mongolia, and I was assigned as coach. I have been working in this position for over a year now. My students have been very successful so far and have been developing fast. We won 18 medals from the State Speed Skating Championship.
How old are your students?
Our school admits student above fourth grade. The youngest student of the speed skating class is in fourth grade. The students who are training right now are in fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth grades. The students of our school specialize in one sport, besides taking general education classes. There are 11 students in the speed skating class, which is currently in its second year.
Where is the school located?
We are located at the Central Sports Palace.
Tell me about the training rinks and fields.
The Mongolian Skating Association is located at the Central Stadium. There is a roller skating rink and training facilities. However, Chinggis Square is nearer to our school, that's why we train here. My students are training to participate in the Children's Games in June 6.
Are you training roller skating as there are no indoor ice rinks in Mongolia?
Training on ice begins in October. The Central Stadium prepares an ice rink when the weather becomes cold enough. In summers, we do roler skating and running as an alternative. We train all four seasons without breaks.
Speed skating class students also shared their goals and spoke about their training.
Enkhzul: I want to become an international athlete
How long have you been speed skating? How do you like your training? What is your goal?
I have been taking speed skating classes for three years. My dream is to become an international athlete. I study in the sixth grade.
Is it hard to skate in winter? Have you ever wanted to give up?
Yes, I have. But I really like speed skating and I don't give up. I don't get cold in winter because I keep skating on ice.
What do you like most about speed skating?
I enjoy the feeling of freedom.
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