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Monday, November 30, 2015
Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
Ch.Saikhanbileg: Lenders Reached Agreement on OT Project Financing, Official Signing December 16
November 27 (gogo.mn) Prime Minister of Mongolia Ch.Saikhanbileg addressed to the public via Mongolian National Public Television. We delivered the shortened version of his full speech, which consists of five main parts.
First. We have made a great progress in adopting an integrated state budget, reducing budget deficit, managing budget-saving policies, planning expenses and revenues accurately and targeting welfare policies to beneficiaries during two parts of amendments to 2015 state budget and the discussion and approval of 2016 state budget. So, we are able to approve deficit free state budget from next year, but we must follow principles and maintain what we have achieved.
Second. Mega projects have commenced, whereas development works have been underway. I have new and positive news for you. International banks have agreed this week to provide USD 4.2 billion of financing to Mongolia.
We are planning to officially announce about the financing on December 16 in Ulaanbaatar. Oyu Tolgoi underground mine set to re-start its development works, which leads to contribute the state budget with USD 70 million or MNT 140 billion tugrugs.
We have constructed the road within last three years, as long as the road established for 25 years.
Third. We have given a great deal of attention into reforming business environment for investors; we finalized disputes around 106 licenses, which had been a burden on the reputation of Mongolian business environment.
Also, we eliminated troubles surrounding the law with the long name, as well as we erased the bad nickname "Hotel Mongolia" where investors are believed not to able to get out once invested.
Exploration works halted for numerous years have been reinstated, as the law, which is poised to benefit local residents from mining revenues, was approved.
More tax revenues from mining operations are poised to go to local administration, more supportive local administration and residents are towards mining entities. In regards, over 600 exploration licenses have been currently issued, while foreign investors give more attention to Mongolia.
Fourth. We have intensified policies towards business enterprises and wealth creators. During the period of economic difficulties, extended supervision and examination have been terminated, and the law of refunding 20% of VAT to businesses will be effective from January 1.
What legal entities are required is to deliver four financial reports per year instead of 34 financial reports. 25 types of public services can be received via online. Moreover, online method of delivering public services without additional cost and bureaucracy will be broadly applied in the government agencies in the future.
167 public services will be online by next year and eventually be included in automate machine of public service. Online signature will be soon effective and applied in documents.
Mongolia climbed up to 56th place from previous 76th place and 5th place in Asia for the first time on "business-friendly environment" survey released annually by World Bank. Economic Council under PM, which consists of representatives from private sector, is also working to help decision-makers.
Fifth. Mongolia has been successful in international relations with other countries. We have established first free-trade agreement with Japan.
President, Speaker and Prime Minister have successfully paid official visits to two neighboring countries and others.
Mongolia has become the member of UN Human Rights Council with the vote of majority.
Link to PM's speech (in Mongolian)
UPDATE 1-Rio Tinto set to decide on expansion of Mongolia copper mine
* Rio lining up funds for Oyu Tolgoi mine
* Copper chief says final investment decision expected early 2016
* Says could see copper supply deficit in 2 or 3 years (Recasts on Mongolia mine; adds comment, detail)
SYDNEY, Nov 26 (Reuters) Rio Tinto is lining up project financing for a $4 billion expansion of its long-delayed Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia and will make a final investment decision early next year, a senior executive said on Thursday.
The mine, which started producing from an open pit over two years ago, is the biggest single foreign investment in Mongolia, and resolution of disputes over its second phase in May revived hopes for a string of other stalled mining projects.
"At the end of the day, what we need is consistency and stability and we believe we have the right environment today," Rio Tinto copper and coal chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said at a Bloomberg News-sponsored forum.
"As we speak, we are putting together the project finance and anticipate that will happen this year," he said.
"We expect early in the next year we will be able to take a decision about restarting the underground construction."
The Anglo-Australian miner's Turquoise Hill Resources arm owns 66 percent of Oyu Tolgoi. The Mongolian government owns the remainder of the project, located in the Gobi desert near Mongolia's border with China.
Disputes over taxes and construction costs on the first stage stopped work on the second phase in 2013.
The underground expansion, with 25 billion pounds of copper and 12 million ounces of gold reserves, will make Oyu Tolgoi one of the world's top 10 copper mines and propel growth for Rio outside iron ore, where most of its revenue is generated.
Copper and other commodity prices are likely to remain subdued in the short term as markets come to terms with oversupply and slower Chinese growth, Jacques said.
"At some stage the winds will change and we will be asked how we are planning to grow the topline not just manage the bottom line," he said.
A supply overhang in copper that's left prices at their lowest in more than six years could take two to three years before shifting to a deficit, according to Jacques.
Separately, Rio Tinto declined to comment on a media report it was poised to approve an expansion of its South of Embley bauxite mine in Australia at a cost of $1 billion. Bauxite is used to make aluminium.
Copper prices weigh on Rio Tinto's looming decision on Oyu Tolgoi expansion – MINING.com, November 26
Turquoise Hill Resources Receives Average Rating of "Hold" from Analysts
November 27 (MarketBeat.com) Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ) has been assigned an average rating of "Hold" from the eight analysts that are covering the stock, Marketbeat reports. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, two have assigned a hold rating and two have assigned a buy rating to the company. The average 1-year price objective among analysts that have updated their coverage on the stock in the last year is $5.67.
A number of research firms have commented on TRQ. Macquarie upgraded shares of Turquoise Hill Resources from a "neutral" rating to an "outperform" rating in a research note on Monday, November 9th. Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Turquoise Hill Resources from a "hold" rating to a "sell" rating in a research note on Monday, November 9th. TheStreet lowered shares of Turquoise Hill Resources from a "hold" rating to an "e+" rating in a research note on Friday, August 7th. Finally, Scotiabank decreased their price objective on Turquoise Hill Resources from $5.75 to $5.00 in a report on Tuesday, September 29th.
Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ) remained flat at $2.66 on Friday. 586,794 shares of the stock were exchanged. The firm has a market cap of $5.35 billion and a PE ratio of 19.00. The company's 50 day moving average is $2.85 and its 200 day moving average is $3.35. Turquoise Hill Resources has a one year low of $2.41 and a one year high of $4.74.
Rio Tinto: Digging Deep at Oyu Tolgoi
Oyu Tolgoi, which contains one of the world's largest copper-gold deposits, has been mining from its open pit since 2012 and shipping copper concentrate since 2013. Preparations have now begun to develop an underground mine to tap its best ore deposits, and unlock 80 per cent of the mine's value.
The ore will be mined using block caving; a technique which involves collapsing the orebody from below. Once an initial horizontal slice has been blasted, gravity allows ore to flow down through the mine's draw points.
Block caving is safer and more cost efficient and productive than other underground mining techniques, as it minimises the requirement for underground development and blasting.
The Hugo North development will represent the first large-scale underground mine in Mongolia. When completed the mine will be 1.3km deep, and connected by more than 200km of underground tunnels. It will also include a range of facilities, such as maintenance and refuelling equipment, designed to allow operations to continue uninterrupted.
Ensuring the safety of workers will also be a key aspect of the mine's design. Safety features include mine tunnels reinforced with concrete, and refuge chambers where workers can safely reside in an emergency.
The development of the underground mine took a significant step forward in May 2015, with the signing of the Oyu Tolgoi Underground Mine Development and Financing Plan by joint owners the Government of Mongolia (34 per cent) and Turquoise Hill Resources (66 per cent, of which Rio Tinto owns 51 per cent).
The next steps include finalising the project finance and the feasibility study, and securing all necessary permits to enable the development to proceed.
Rio Tinto Copper & Coal chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said the development would provide access to the highest grades of copper and unlock the greatest value for all shareholders.
"Developing the underground mine will place Oyu Tolgoi at the centre of the global copper market – with Mongolian minerals playing a critical role for the world's growing demand for the red metal," Jean-Sébastien said.
"Due to falling copper grades and many mines reaching the end of their lives, the world faces an annual four to six million tonne copper production deficit within the next decade.
"That's why a world-class asset like Oyu Tolgoi, which will run for many generations, is so important.
"It provides an opportunity to plan for the long term, build lasting partnerships and create mutual value. For communities, for shareholders, for governments," Jean-Sébastien said.
Once approved, construction of the mine will take five to seven years.
Kincora Copper looking at new options in and outside of Mongolia
The explorer Kincora reckons now is a good time to go shopping for new assets
November 26 (Proactive Investors) Exploration stage company Kincora Copper (CVE:KCC) is actively seeking potential options to enhance shareholder value both in and outside of Mongolia.
Mongolia Growth Group Announces Continued Improvement in Performance Metrics and Third Quarter Results
Toronto, Ontario, November 27 (FSCwire) - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (YAK ‐ TSXV and MNGGF - USA) ("MGG") or ("the Company") a commercial real estate investment and development company participating in the dynamic growth of the Mongolian economy announces its financial results for the third quarter of 2015 and is pleased to report continued progress on improving operations and reducing costs as it targets positive Adjusted Funds From Operations (AFFO)*.
Highlights for the quarter:
· Dramatic improvements in operational performance have reduced negative AFFO by (85%) to CDN $97,263 compared to the third quarter of 2014 when negative AFFO was CDN $654,605.
· Continued sequential improvement in financial performance as negative AFFO declined by (53%) to CDN $97,263 compared to the second quarter of 2015 when negative AFFO was CDN $206,685
· Reduced expenses excluding non-cash, non-capitalized development expense by 34% compared to the third quarter of 2014, despite a sizable increase in expenses associated with the operation of Tuguldur Center and various marketing initiatives
· Ended the quarter with a tangible Net Asset Value (NAV) per share of CDN $1.48
"We have spent 2015 focused on restoring our operations and reducing costs," said Harris Kupperman, Chairman and CEO of MGG. "The results during the third quarter show the dramatic progress that has been made, despite a weak economy in Mongolia leading to lower than expected rental revenue.
Now that our expense levels have normalized at a level that is significantly below the prior year, our focus is on growing our revenues while ensuring that we maintain the same frugal cost structure that we should have maintained previously.
Over the next quarter, MGG expects to realize milestones in a number of areas:
On the revenue side;
· Lease two vacant buildings that have not been part of our leasing pool over the past year
· Lease our newly installed billboards
· Begin to generate 3rd party fee revenue by brokering transactions for clients
On the development side;
· Complete the development of a ~200 meter extension to Tuguldur's retail space
· Despite a weakening economy, along with increased vacancy, tenant turnover and bad debt expense, we believe that the initiatives above will allow us to grow our revenues in future quarters.
· It has been an arduous journey, getting to the point where we can once again focus on growing the business and I'd like to thank everyone who has helped in successfully turning MGG around."
Prior Quarter Scorecard
Goal-At the corporate level, we anticipate that our overhead expenses will finally normalize following a complete restructuring of our operations to dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiencies
Result-With the exception of certain previously deferred consulting fees related to tax planning, our cost structure has now normalized
Goal-At the property level, we are targeting a more stable tenant base with lower turn-over as we re-structure the tenant mix at Tuguldur and re-lease a number of current vacancies
Result-We have finally identified our preferred future tenant mix at Tuguldur, but have failed to migrate towards it during the quarter. Offsetting this, we have had success at reducing other vacancies
Goal-The rollout of various fee based initiatives
Result-We have begun to populate our MGGProperties.com site with various 3rd party properties that we are marketing, however we have seen a slow uptake in leasing and sales transactions due to the weak economy
Selected Quarterly Financial Information (CAD)
276 closed -2.45% to HK$0.199
MEC: Interim Results
November 27 -- The directors (the "Directors") of Mongolia Energy Corporation Limited (the "Company") announce the condensed consolidated results of the Company and its subsidiaries (together collectively referred to as the "Group") for the six months ended 30 September 2015 (the "Financial Period") together with the comparative figures for the corresponding period in the previous year as follows:
MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Our principal project is the Khushuut Coking Coal Project in Western Mongolia.
During the Financial Period, we continued our tightening measures and careful planning in our operation and production in response to the stringent market conditions. Approximately 487,000 tonnes of run-of mine ("ROM") coal was produced and approximately 153,000 tonnes of coal was sold to our customers during this period.
Profit recorded for the Financial Period was merely attributable to the recognition of non-cash gain on fair value changes on derivative component of convertible notes amounted to HK$374.0 million (2014: HK$20.1 million).
We had issued 40,703,360 new shares to our contractors for full settlement of the outstanding service fees amounted to approximately HK$16.1 million during the Financial Period.
ASX Mongolia Stocks AGM Results:
Aspire Mining, November 26
Viking Mines, November 26
Draig Resources Chairman's Address at AGM, November 26
Wolf Petroleum, November 26
MSE Weekly Trading Report: Top 20 -2.6%, ALL -2.3%, Turnover ₮78.2 Million Stocks, ₮9.77 Billion T-Bills
November 27 (MSE) --
₮10 Billion 28-Week 13.8% Discounted T-Bills on Offer at MSE
November 25 (MSE) Buy order of 28 weeks Government retail bonds with annual interest of 13.800% starts from 25 November 2015 until 01 December 2015 through brokerage companies.
Click here to see detailed information of Government retail bonds.
Bishrelt Industrial JSC Shares Delisted from MSE
November 27 (MSE) Accordance with the Resolution No.: 310 of Financial Regulatory Commission of 2015, the paper request No.: 30/2015 of "Bishrelt Industrial" JSC dated on 10 August 2015, total 700,523 shares of "Bishrelt Industrial" (MSE:HHC) JSC has been delisted from Mongolian Stock Exchange on 25 November 2015.
Historic low ₮1,997.26/USD set September 11
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, November 27 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM issues ₮218 billion 1-week bills at 13%, total outstanding -3.3% to ₮673.65 billion
November 27 (BoM) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 218 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
BoM FX auction: US$19m sold at ₮1,994.5, accepts $9.19m MNT swap offers
November 26 (BoM) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on November 26th, 2015 the BOM has received bid offers of USD 36.0 million in a rate between MNT 1991.50-1994.92, selling bid offers of USD 0.4 million in a rate with MNT 1994.95, bid offers of CNY 23.5 million in a rate between MNT 310.71-311.71 from local commercial banks respectively. The BOM sold USD 19.0 million in a rate of MNT 1994.50.
On October 26th, 2015, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement buying bid offer equivalent to USD 9.19 million from local commercial banks and the BOM has accepted the offers.
BoM: ₮10 Billion 28-Week 13.8% Discounted T-Bills Sold with ₮21.5 Billion Bids
November 25 (BoM) Auction for 28 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 10.0 billion MNT. Face value of 10.0 billion /out of 21.5 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 13.800%.
Fitch cuts Mongolia's rating to 'B'; raises outlook to stable
Nov 24 (Reuters) Credit rating agency Fitch cut its rating on Mongolia by a notch to 'B' from 'B-plus', citing strained external liquidity, weak public finances, and deterioration in its growth outlook.
"The agency expects external liquidity to remain under pressure in 2016 due to a projected widening of the current-account deficit on the basis of weaker commodity exports and limited capital inflows," Fitch said on Tuesday. (bit.ly/21dMMPL)
The ratings agency said it expected the north Asian country's growth to slow to 1 percent in 2016, driven by continued weakness in consumption and a negative contribution from net exports.
Mongolia's real GDP rose by 1.9 percent during the third quarter of 2015, decelerating from 9.3 percent a year earlier, Fitch said.
Fitch, however, raised its outlook on the country to 'stable' from 'negative', saying upside and downside risks to the rating are currently balanced.
Standard and Poor's had also cut its rating on Mongolia by a notch to 'B' from 'B-plus' on Nov. 3.
Fitch Downgrades Mongolia's State Bank to B-, Outlook Stable; Affirms Khan Bank at B, Outlook Negative
Fitch Ratings-Hong Kong-27 November 2015: Fitch Ratings has today downgraded the Long-Term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of Mongolia-based State Bank LLC to 'B-' from 'B'. The Outlook is Stable. Fitch has affirmed the IDRs of Khan Bank LLC at 'B', with Negative Outlook.
At the same time, the Support Rating (SR) of State Bank was downgraded to '5' from '4' and Support Rating Floor (SRF) was revised to 'B-' from 'B'. These actions follow the downgrade in the Mongolian sovereign to 'B' from 'B+' on 24 November 2015.
A full list of rating actions is at the end of this rating action commentary.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
IDRs AND VRs
The affirmation of Khan Bank's IDRs and VR reflects the bank's manageable asset quality, reasonable risk standards and adequate capitalisation that is better than that of its Fitch-rated peers. The bank's large retail loan portfolio of 59% of total loans at end-1H15 had an impaired loan ratio of just 0.5%. The Fitch Core Capital ratio remained stable at 14.1% end-1H15. The bank maintains a strong business franchise and has better strategic discipline compared with peers.
Khan Bank has good liquidity support from bilateral institutions and the bank's corporate governance benefit from the involvement of international shareholders in its management.
Khan Bank's Outlook remains Negative because of the pressure on asset quality from the weakening operating environment.
State Bank's VR reflects the bank's limited loss-absorption capacity, less stable liquidity relative to Fitch-rated peers and low profitability. Capital is considered tight and the bank has weak access to capital and funding from multilateral institutions. Profitability continues to be constrained by the regulatory net loan-to-total asset ratio cap of 57%. The bank's VR is balanced by its large franchise, stable asset quality and low risk appetite relative to Fitch-rated peers.
IDRs, SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR
Copper Faces at Least Two More Years of Pain, Rio Estimates
· Metal fell below $4,500 a ton for first time since 1999
· Producer says is more optimistic on longer term demand
November 26 (Bloomberg) The copper market is facing two or three years more of pain, though the good news for the metal, which hit a six-year low this week, is that it will recover faster than other commodities, according to Rio Tinto Group.
BlackRock Inc., the world's largest money manager, is seeing a slowdown in demand as the global economy slows, particularly commodity intensive economies like China, Russ Koesterich, global chief investment strategist, said Wednesday in a Bloomberg TV interview. Industrial metals and energy commodities are "significantly oversupplied" and it'll take time to bring supply and demand back in to balance, he said.
Link to article (and interview with J.S. Jacques)
Mongolia Parliament Approves US$1 Billion Loan from China Exim Bank
November 27 (news.mn) Today, Parliament agreed to accept a USD 1 billion loan from China. The legislation was passed with an 84% majority. The agreement will be signed between Mongolian Government and the Export Import Bank of China. Under the plan, the Government will spend USD 703.5 million for the "Egiin Gol Hydro Electric Station Project", USD 102.5 million to construct the overhead power lines for the "Ulaanbaatar Mandalgovi Power Plant", USD 40 million for modernizing the heat generation facility at the "Erdenet Power Plant", USD 40.8 million for the expansion of the roads at the Gatsuurt crossroad, USD 66.2 million to build a meat processing factory and USD 20 million for the professional training centers. The agreement condition is a 2% annual rate over 20 years. In addition, the Mongolian Government will be exempt from payment for the first 7 years.
ACMS Speaker Series - Dr. Ann Altman: Bringing a Taste of Local Government from Connecticut to Mongolia: 2006-2015
November 30th, 2015 - Starting 5:30 PM
Location: American Corner, Ulaanbaatar Public Library
Tel: 976 7711-0486
Dr. Altman will give an informal talk about her work with and for Mongolians here and in the USA. For the past 10 years Dr. Altman has been mentoring and lecturing on leadership and community development throughout Mongolia.
Parliament Approves Law on Development Policy Planning
November 27 (news.mn) On 26th November, Parliament approved the "Development Policy Planning Law". The majority of MP's voted in favour. Mongolia now has a long-term development policy, approved by law. The main implication is that the national development policy will be implemented without any alterations, even during changes in government. Under the law, political parties can create their action plans so long as they operate within the framework of the national development policy.
Winners of 2nd Annual Best Environmental Journalism Award Announced
November 27 (UB Post) The Green World Environmental Journalism Club of the Press Institute of Mongolia and Anglo American Development LLC organized the Best Environmental Journalism 2015 competition and announced its winners on Wednesday.
Over 60 articles from 52 journalists were submitted for the second edition of the Best Environmental Journalism competition. The team of judges included a journalism professor, an environmental and journalism researcher, an environmental expert, and a veteran journalist. The competition was held in four categories: Television and Radio, Newspapers and Websites, Provincial Publication, and Photography.
The Photography and Provincial Publication categories were added to the competition this year. President and Chief Representative of Anglo American Development LLC Graeme Hancock gave a speech at the award ceremony, emphasizing that the two new categories expand the scope of the competition and contribute in attracting more public attention to environmental challenges. Hancock pointed out that articles and programs related to the environment have improved over the years in Mongolia .
In the Television and Radio category, journalist E.Gan-Ochir from Eco Television came in first place with his "Bird Life" television program, followed by journalist R.Khongorzul from the Mongolian National Broadcaster, who competed with her "Bat Orshig" report. Journalist B.Enkhmart from Undesnii Shuudan won the Newspapers and Websites category with her series of articles, "Transnational crime in three countries and tragedy of bristling tweets". Gogo.mn journalist G.Odgarav came in second place with her series of articles about Ulaanbaatar's wastewater treatment facility. Photographer at Government News newspaper B.Ganbayar was awarded for taking the best photograph, and the photography of Unuudur photographer E.Khartsaga, whose work is often featured in The UB Post, received second prize. For the Provincial Publication category, SB Television reporter Ts.Enkhbaatar's report "Don't pick up liver stones, your mother will die" won first place, followed by "While promoting a green city, the city's become a garbage city" by journalist Ts.Unurtsetseg of Arkhangai Life newspaper.
The competition awarded cash prizes amounting to 14 million MNT. First prize winners received a Best Environmental Journalism 2015 Cup, certificate, and a cash prize of two million MNT. Second place winners received a cash prize of 1.5 million MNT along with a certificate.
EBRD lends US$ 70 million to Mongolia's Khan Bank
EBRD financing will be aimed at SMEs and their value chains, sustainable energy and cross-border trade
Mongolia food court inspired by S'pore
November 27 (The Straits Times) Many Mongolians will recognise Mrs Saldan Odontuya as a Member of Parliament in their home country, but, to some, she remains affectionately known as "Sentosa".
That is the name of the food business she founded about 15 years ago with the help of three Singaporean businessmen.
It all started with a plate of chicken rice at a food court in Orchard Road for Mrs Odontuya, who first visited Singapore in the 1990s to scout for business ideas.
"Each time I went back, the taste, size and look were the same," Mrs Odontuya, chairman of the Mongolia-Singapore Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group, told The Straits Times through a translator. She was a keynote speaker at the Midas Touch Asia-Mongolia Xchange business forum, held on Wednesday at the Fullerton Hotel.
Fascinated by the idea of having many food stalls under one roof, she opened a food court in Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital city.
The food court is not devoted to Singapore dishes, but she hoped that naming it after Sentosa would convey a sense of quality associated with Singapore's products, she said.
It proved to be a hit.
"We had some big and expensive restaurants, but not mid-level restaurants where average people could visit," she said.
The food court may be a small idea, she said, but Mongolians can look at what they can learn from it and how they can take home the best practices of Singapore.
"My success today is closely related to Singapore. I'll always be thankful for that," she said.
After six years, she finally met her former business partners again yesterday for a dinner of Cantonese cuisine.
"But not at a food court this time," she quipped.
Solving the Cashmere Crisis
LONDON, United Kingdom, November 26 (Business of Fashion) — A fashion business exercises careful control: over its image; its business growth; where possible, over how consumers respond to its brand. But even the world's most prestigious luxury houses cannot control the climate.
Related: KERING AND BSR TACKLE RESILIENCE TO CLIMATE CHANGE FOR LUXURY FASHION – Kering Group, November 4
Mongolians target open data to monitor choking air
· Citizens and policymakers could help gather standardised air quality data
· OpenAQ's online system would offer updates on local air pollution
· The government is shutting down fund that supports clean air efforts
ULAANBAATAR, November 25 (SciDev.Net) Mongolians are increasingly turning to open data and smartphone apps to monitor air quality as the country's government reveals it is to axe funds for clean air efforts, according to advocates.
The country's capital, Ulaanbaatar, is heavily polluted, yet data on pollution hotspots and trends is rare, according to OpenAQ, a not-for-profit that collects global air quality data to create an online database for use by researchers and journalists.
During a workshop in the city on 18-20 November, OpenAQ members discussed with citizens and local policymakers how they could help gather standardised air quality data and share this with scientists and the public to raise awareness of the problem.
The workshop was organised by OpenAQ's US founders, atmospheric scientist Christa Hasenkopf and software developer Joseph Flasher. Subscribers to their online system will get a daily update on local air quality, they told the audience.
This kind of information is especially important to flag up exposure to hazardous air pollution among people who may be unaware of it, says Altantur Bayarsaikhan, a software development student at the National University of Mongolia, who attended the workshop.
"It will help the application's users understand the connection between real-time data and their actual experiences with air pollution," he says. "By making air quality levels a daily part of their lives, the public can grow more conscious."
According to the World Health Organization, Ulaanbaatar is among the five cities with the worst air pollution in the world, mainly due to heavy industry and the use of coal for household cooking and heating.
But Mongolia's government is increasingly leaving the battle against air pollution to NGOs and individuals, the workshop heard. At the start of next year, the government will shut down the country's Clean Air Fund, which supports projects to combat pollution, due to budget cuts.
At the workshop, software developer Dulguun Battulga presented a prototype smartphone app that uses data from the OpenAQ platform to create a global map of all the places about which air pollution information can be obtained.
By incorporating user-friendly graphs and hosting a discussion forum, the public and scientists could exchange real-time information about pollution and take action, OpenAQ's supporters hope.
"Scientists and policymakers around the world can exchange solutions to similar air pollution problems," says Nasanjargal Naranbat, the renewable energy project manager at the Ulaanbaatar Air Quality Agency.
He told the audience that the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Hohhot have the same air quality levels as Ulaanbaatar, and that initiatives to reduce pollution in these cities could be copied in Mongolia.
XIX Russia-Mongolia Intergovernmental Committee Meeting Held in Chita
November 27 (infomongolia.com) The 19th Intergovernmental Committee meeting on Trade, Economy, Science and Technical Cooperation between the Governments of Russia and Mongolia was successfully held in Chita City of Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia on November 22-24, 2015.
The Joint Commission meeting was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Mr. Lundeg PUREVSUREN and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, Mr. Sergey Yefimovich Donskoy.
The parties exchanged views on broadening and developing the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries, enhancing bilateral economic ties in the fields of road and transportation, fuel and energy, industry, mining, construction and agriculture.
Following the meeting, the Ministers signed the Protocol of the 19th Intergovernmental Committee meeting, reports the Press and Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia.
MIT to send students, faculty to Mongolia to help spur innovation
November 24, 2015 (MIT News) MIT will launch a pilot program that will send MIT students and faculty to Mongolia to further entrepreneurship, innovation, urban planning, and university faculty development.
Gantumar Luvsannyam, the Mongolian minister of education, culture, and science, signed an agreement with MIT President L. Rafael Reif last Wednesday, giving the program his blessing.
MIT will select staff from the Teaching and Learning Laboratory to travel to Mongolia to conduct workshops that will be open to faculty from all Mongolian universities and colleges.
A faculty member from a Mongolian university will similarly have the opportunity to spend a semester at MIT.
Stephen C. Graves, a professor of management and mechanical engineering, has been appointed as the program's faculty lead.
Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin '09, the first Mongolian citizen to attend MIT as a graduate student, will coordinate several of the program's activities.
A team of students from the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, and a faculty member, will spend two months in Mongolia to map the entrepreneurial landscape and to recommend steps to strengthen the entrepreneurial environment.
A separate student team from MIT's Global Startup Labs will spend six to eight weeks in Mongolia teaching student entrepreneurs about mobile app development.
Fast track evolution as great Siberian symbol is surprisingly unmasked as an immigrant breed.
November 25 (The Siberian Times) The resilient Yakutian horses are one of the great native sights of the Sakha Republic - or Yakutia. In their way as much a part of the classic Siberian scenery as permafrost, extinct woolly mammoths, diamonds and Laika dogs in this kingdom of cold. Except that these horses are not really native.
Fascinating new scientific research has found that their seemingly built-in protection against extreme Arctic conditions is a recent phenomenon, at least by the normal tortoise-paced standards of evolution.
Researchers say these horses, which seem so well attuned to the harsh cold with thick, dense winter coats, their armour against temperatures of minus 70C (minus 94F), are incomers that only arrived in these parts within the last 800 years. Yet during that time, the requirement to survive has seen a quick-fire - almost overnight in relative terms - evolution by this species of horse.
Moreover, there was indeed a breed of horses native to this vast area of Russia, in which lie the coldest permanently inhabited communities on the planet. But these true native horses became extinct, at roughly the same time as the woolly mammoth and rhinoceros also died out, finally disappearing around 5,000 years ago.
It transpires that a human population migrating within the last millennium to this land of ice - probably from Mongolia - brought horses with them, and these are the ancestors of today's distinctive Yakut horses, shown in our pictures.
'This is truly amazing as it implies that all traits now seen in Yakutian horses are the product of very fast adaptive processes, taking place in about 800 years,' explained Dr Ludovic Orlando, leader of an international team of scientists.
'This represents about 100 generations for horses. That shows how fast evolution can go when selective pressures for survival are as strong as in the extreme environment of Yakutia.'
The forebears of today's hardy horses are the domesticated stock of Mongolia, not the wild horses known to have roamed Yakutia in ancient times, a species that remains today only in fossil form. Yet these migrant horses were central to the lives of the population that settled in Yakutia: had these animals not coped with, and thrived on, the cold, these human societies would not have survived.
Riding 'Mongol Derby,' The Longest Horse Race On The Planet
Horses are the 'vehicle' of choice in the wilds of Mongolia, where an adventure event each year draws competitors from around the globe. Our correspondent was there to take part in the action.
November 25 (Gear Junkie) Riders from a dozen countries converge upon Mongolia to test their skills and luck in the Guinness Book of World Records' recognized longest horse race on the planet — The Mongol Derby.
Organized by The Adventurists, riders in the event race atop the semi-wild horses of the steppe for 1,000km through the Mongolian wilderness.
They are only allowed 11lbs of essential survival kit — no changes of clothing and no back-ups in case something breaks. For navigation, riders are armed with a GPS device and crude intuition to guide them.
World's Longest Horse Race
In its 6th year, the Mongol Derby is a multi-horse race taking influence from Genghis Khan's legendary postal route. The system relied on a vast network of horse stations manned by the nomadic herding families of the steppe.
Throughout the 10-day race, riders live with these same herding families and race in the hoof prints of those ancient messengers.
The Mongolian families are the heart of the race; they open their homes and condition their horses for the Western riders.
Riders race 13.5 hours a day, and they switch horses in pony-express-fashion, sometimes four times a day. It's really an ultimate test, both mentally and physically, that pushes riders to the absolute limit!
I was one of these scrappy, questionably-sane competitors in 2012, and this year I was offered the opportunity to return to the steppe and experience the race as a crew member, heading the Bloodwagon — essentially scraping broken riders off the dirt and performing search and rescues.
On 'Bloodwagon' Duty
I spent two weeks aboard a Soviet-era, four-wheel-drive Furgon as riders galloped across the flat grassy steppe, evaded wild dogs, suffered through extreme heat, and navigated themselves (sometimes unsuccessfully) through the northern mountains.
I witnessed them fall on their asses and pick themselves right back up, jumping back on strong-willed horses to carry on. It was wild seeing each rider's journey throughout the race — and I most definitely had a flashback or two.
While this group of international riders raced through arguably the hardest challenge of their lives, the other event managers and I faced our own challenges, saving riders when the crap hit the fan. Think vast bogs, densely forested mountains, flooded rivers — this makes for responding to SOS calls a challenge unto itself.
My most memorable SOS was the night I rescued an Australian rider from the top of a high mountain ridge. She had missed the narrow winding path that led down into the camp at the bottom of the canyon.
As the sun set and temperatures plummeted, she found herself riding past the 8:30 p.m. curfew with no place to camp and no herding families to stay with.
When the rider set off her SOS signal, my team and I loaded up and began the slow climb from the canyon floor. We spotted a small glimmer of light coming from her headlamp and although she was a bit shaken and slightly hypothermic, she was OK.
We got her into the warmth of the vehicle, but then we were left with the decision of what to do with her horse. We couldn't just leave him on top of the mountain in the dark, so I decided to ride him back to camp myself.
Late Night Rescue
The Jeep trailed me to light my way through the rocky terrain and down the path into the canyon. At various points I could see eyes in the dark; knowing that wolves populated these mountains made the midnight journey eerie and tense.
Eventually, we made it back to camp around 2 a.m., horse and humans safe and sound.
Overall, the Mongol Derby isn't just a horse race, it's a constant battle. You're stripped down and have to force yourself past your limits again and again, far beyond what you thought you were capable of before.
You have to let go of control and just be in the moment. When you reach the end with some of the fastest, most intense friendships you will ever make, you pause and think one thing: Did I really just do that!
A.Bayartsetseg Wins Evening Gown Competition at Miss Earth 2015
November 27 (news.mn) The "Miss Earth 2015" pageant is currently underway in Vienna. Mongolia's contestant, A.Bayartsetseg, who won the evening gown competition, has also been included in the best 12 for the talents competition, during which she showed her skills in calligraphy, while performing a traditional dance. The winner of the "Miss Earth" will be in responsible for undertaking projects and programs on ecology as well as urgent world issues. She will also represent the UN environment program and the "Miss Earth Foundation". The Mongolian contestant A.Bayrtsetseg has already given a speech on climate change and global warming from this UN platform.The "Miss Earth 2015" pageant will end on 5th December.
Young Designer B.Erdenechimeg Wins Victorinox' Design Contest
November 27 (UB Post) Mongolian illustrator and designer B.Erdenechimeg won Victorinox's Design Contest for Classic Limited Edition 2016 with her "Rainforest Walk" design. The contest is being organized by famous Swiss knife company Victorinox from September 22 to 29.
B.Erdenechimeg is a talented young designer who sharpens her skills at various design competitions. She has recently won an advertisement competition for Coca Cola. Many large companies have tried to recruit her but she prefers being a freelance designer as she believes it gives her more freedom to think of new designs and ideas.
B.Erdenechimeg gave an interview from Montreal, Canada, where she currently resides
Congratulations on becoming one of the winners of Victorinox's design contest. How did you find out about this contest?
I signed up for an online design course last summer to improve myself. I keep contact with the people I met through the course. One of them told me about this competition. That person told me that she was taking part in the contest to design Victorinox's new limited edition knife and asked us to vote for her design.
When I looked up the competition, I found out that the competition was still open for design submissions. So I sent my design to test my skills.
This competition takes place every year. It's considered to be quite reputable as designers from many countries compete.
Do you know the number of participants? Can you tell us about your "Rainforest Walk" design?
1,024 designs were submitted for the competition. The best 40 designs were announced to the public. The competition didn't finish with this. The best of the best has to be determined. It was a good choice for me to use a theme related to nature as the knife was for travels.
The knife was decorated with leaves and flower shapes. I used to live in Singapore so I got the idea from the plants and trees I often saw there. My grandmother was fascinated with their shapes when she first saw them. If you look closely, they have really interesting shapes. Afterwards, I wanted to use these shapes for my own designs.
Was the winner selected through a public poll?
Yes. Top 10 designs were selected through a public poll. The final results will be announced next week. Victorinox will produce limited editions of the winning designs and sell them for a slightly higher price than the regular range. I'm confident that my design will be selected again because many Mongolians are supporting me.
You majored in multimedia design. Can you explain what you do?
I finished School No.1 of Ulaanbaatar in 2006 and studied multimedia design for three years in Malaysia. I always enjoyed drawing. This interest developed to illustrations and designs so I chose this major.
I received job offers from several Singaporean companies while studying in . I was elated at the time. I felt like I shouldn't lose this opportunity and worked as the general designer at a Singaporean advertisement agency.
Text, graphic images, animation, video and sound are all elements of multimedia. These elements are used to make designs. Multimedia is widely used in advertisement and promotion. I used to come up with ideas for advertisement but now I design labels and decorations.
What do you think about advertisement in Mongolia?
Advertisement is diversifying as IT develops. This is good but there are many advertisement that look similar.
Is it true that you worked at world famous marketing companies Ogilvy & Mather and Publicis?
My first job as a designer was at Publicis. I designed an advertisement for Paypal Holdings, which operates a worldwide online payment system. I became the designer with the best portfolio at Publicis and received an offer from Ogilvy. In general, I was in charge of advertisement design and solutions at these companies.
Where do you get your inspirations for your designs?
I had to work with another person whenever I had to come up with new ideas at the marketing companies. For example, with a slogan-maker for the product.
We would discuss, draw up a design and present the idea together. Now, I do all of this alone.
How are your designs different from other people's designs?
I'm not sure. I'm just starting to find my own style. I will be more sure of my own style and signature with more experience.
What's your dream?
I want to create my own brand and manufacture it in Mongolia. In other words, producing a world brand in Mongolia is my dream. I will work hard to realize this dream.
The lake at the end of the earth that's claims lives by tempting people to drive on its thin ice
November 25 (news.com.au) DEEP in Mongolia — hundreds of kilometres north of the capital Ulaanbaatar — there lies an extraordinary lake. This vast, deep body of water is one of the oldest in the world and stretches 130 kilometres into the Siberian taiga. It's surrounded by thick forests — home to wolves, deer, wild boar and moose.
Mongolia's deepest lake wasn't on the top of my destination bucket list, but circumstance led me to this wild, untouched area on the border between Mongolia and Russia.
In winter, temperatures plunge to -50 degrees Celsius, and ice a metre thick enables locals to travel across Lake Khovsgol in their trucks.
"In winter you'll see lots of cars and trucks driving over it," said my guide Batbayar.
"But the lake claims many lives. You need to know where to drive. Most years a truck or jeep will plunge to the bottom because someone drove on ice that was too thin."
At 130km long and up to 40km wide, the lake surface in winter offers passengers a shortcut and respite from an otherwise uncomfortable journey across unpaved mountain tracks. In 2011, two trucks broke through the ice and one sank, killing a co-driver, while two other drivers managed to escape. Before this, in 2008 a van carrying hospital staff fell through the ice, killing all seven people on board.
The closest hamlet to Lake Khovskol is Khatgal, which sits on the southern tip of the lake. It takes about three or four days of driving from Ulaanbaatar to reach Khatgal, a ramshackle village with little more than a school, a post office, a couple of shops and a collection of wooden houses and gers — cosy, felt-lined tents.
Yaks and horses wander along the gravel roads, children ride around on scrawny horses and there are plenty of characters in town who seem to have had too much to drink. This frontier-like town was a place like nowhere else I'd been before, it felt incredibly remote and cut off from the outside world.
When I set out for Lake Khovsgol, my Mongolian boss gave me an address of his friend. As they didn't have a telephone, when I arrived in Khatgal I approached a child in the street and asked if he knew where this family lived. The boy ran off to find my host and before I knew it I was in a ger being offered warm salt tea with rich horse milk.
Inside the ger there was a wooden bed that was painted bright orange and decorated with a fanciful design. Next to the Hobbit-sized door there was a chest of drawers, on top of which all the family's prized possessions were displayed: black and white photos, a little statue of Buddha, jade snuff bottles and an old radio. In the centre of the ger was a stove that filled the air with the smell of burning dung.
Northwest of the lake, close to the Russian border, live Mongolia's reindeer people — called Tsaatan or Dukha. They're an ancient people of Turk descent who are first mentioned in the annals of China's Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907).
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