Monday, May 2, 2016

[BNP/ICBC appoint receivers; Shell ditches Mongolia; 10 parties+1 coalition vie for 2016; Top 100 companies announced; and Dali and Picasso exhibit opens]

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Monday, May 2, 2016

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Int'l Market

Mogi: wow, ALL shares in MCCL? MCCL owns MMC entire assets. 975 trading -1.4% in early trading to HK$0.068

FTI Consulting: Receivers and Managers of Shares in Mongolian Coal Corporation Limited Appointed

HONG KONG, April 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- On 26 April 2016, pursuant to a Share Charge dated 29 March 2012, the Shared Security Agent acting on the instructions of BNP Paribas and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China appointed Rod Sutton, John Batchelor and Kenneth Fung, Senior Managing Directors of FTI Consulting, as Receivers and Managers of all of the shares in Mongolian Coal Corporation Limited ("MCCL"), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong Stock Exchange listed Mongolian Mining Corporation ("MMC", Stock Code: 975).

The Receivers and Managers advise that the key operating entities of the MMC group in Mongolia are unaffected by this appointment and will continue with their normal operations.

Mr. Batchelor stated, "The focus is to drive an offshore restructuring to ensure the ongoing long term viability of MMC and its subsidiaries. In consultation with management, an urgent assessment of the operations will be undertaken to determine the optimal financial and capital structure for stakeholders."

All media and any parties requesting further information should contact the Receivers and Managers as follows: 

Laura Chung 
FTI Consulting 
Phone: +852 3768 4500 

Link to release


Mogi: Shell overriding new subsidiary BG Group's past decisions? MATD shot up +223.5% Friday on the announcement, RDSA -1.09%

Petro Matad Expecting "Highly Material" Compensation From Shell, Shares Jump 223%

LONDON, April 29 (Alliance News) - Petro Matad Ltd (LON:MATD) Friday said the decision by its partner in Mongolia to withdraw from the joint venture will lead to the company receiving compensation that will be "highly material" to the business.

Petro Matad was working with an "affiliate" of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC (LON:RDSA) under production sharing contracts covering blocks IV and V in western and central Mongolia, but Petro Matad's partner has informed the company it has exercised the exit option detailed in the farmout agreement signed between the two firms back in April 2015.

"The decision by Shell is based on optimisation of its own portfolio and it is not related to the technical prospects for the blocks. The exit is subject to Mongolian government consent," said Petro Matad.

"Petro Matad will continue to execute the work program as planned. Currently, our seismic contractor is mobilising to the field and will soon commence the second phase of the planned seismic acquisition programmes in blocks IV and V," the company added.

Significantly, Shell's affiliate will have to pay compensation to Petro Matad after deciding to exit the blocks, which Petro Matad said would be "highly material" to the company. Petro Matad's stake in the blocks will also soar to 100.0% from only 22.0% as a result.

Petro Matad shares were trading down 5.9% to 2.0 pence per share on Friday afternoon.

Link to article

Link to MATD announcement


XAM trading +4.35% mid-day at A$0.24. Cash at end of quarter A$4.7 million;

Xanadu Mines: Quarterly Activities & Cashflow Report


Exploration drilling underway at Kharmagtai

      Exploration activities continue at the Kharmagtai copper-gold project;

      Additional drill targets generated through systematic use of multiple geophysical data sets have been prioritised in current drill program;

      Drilling intersects broad zones of porphyry alteration and mineralisation;

      Significant high-grade epithermal gold mineralisation confirmed at the Shar Zam prospect;

      KHRC256 intersects several significant zones of epithermal gold mineralisation:

-       4m grading 1.36g/t Au 0.17% Cu from 132m; and

-       1.4m grading 14.74g/t Au and 1.82% Cu from 202.6m, including 0.3m grading43g/t Au and 5.38% Cu;

      Reconnaissance drilling expected to be complete at the end June;

      Metallurgical testing work on copper-gold mineralisation has commenced;

      Reconnaissance exploration, field mapping, and infill geochemical sampling areongoing.

Significant high-grade gold mineralisation discovered at Oyut Ulaan

      New surface rock chips including 305.8 g/t Au, 171.6 g/t Au and 123.2 g/t Au from newly discovered quartz-carbonate-sulphide veins at Oyut Ulaan;

      Trench results confirm the existence of a continuous zone of shallow high-grade narrow vein gold mineralisation;

      Systematic sampling along and within three parallel zones display remarkable continuity along the strike;

      Trenching confirms lower-grade gold mineralisation (0.1 g/t to 1.0 g/t Au) in host rocks;

      Geophysics indicates the prospective area of mineralisation is 4.5km long and 300m wide;

      New trenching results enhance drilling target.

Strong financial position and new appointment to Board

      Kharmagtai project deferred consideration repaid and project fully secured;

      Cash and equivalents of A$4.7 million;

      Appointment of Dr Andrew Stewart as an Executive Director of the Company, inaddition to his role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

April 29 -- Xanadu Mines Ltd (ASX: XAM – "Xanadu") is pleased to provide shareholders with an update of exploration results from Kharmagtai and Oyut Ulaan during a strong first quarter.

Link to report


Xanadu Mines: Proactive Investor Briefing Presentation - May 2016

May 2, Xanadu Mines Ltd. (ASX:XAM) --

Link to preso


AKM trading +20% on low volume at A$0.006. Cash at end of quarter A$758K. AKM closed -28.6% Friday to A$0.005.

Aspire Mining: Quarterly Activities Report

Northern Railways Investment Update

      Negotiations between Mongolia, Russia and China continue to identify key projects to be included in the "Economic Corridor" between China and Russia through Mongolia. Northern Railways' Erdenet to Ovoot Railway remains a potential inclusion in this Economic Corridor.

      Northern Railways LLC and its advisers continue discussions with potential funders of the feasibility study for the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway.

Initial Resource for Nuurstei Coking Coal Project

      ECJV receives an initial Nuurstei Coking Coal Project resource report with total JORC 2012 Compliant Resources of 12.85 Mt (4.75 Mt Indicated, 8.1 Mt inferred).

      Mining Licence application commenced.


      Seaborne metallurgical coal prices have enjoyed a significant 20% increase over the March 2016 quarter. Most analysts predict modest price rises in 2017 and 2018.

      Aspire has formed a consortium to investigate other existing and near term coking coal production opportunities for acquisition or joint venture. The consortium has been active in a number of sales processes that are currently ongoing for the sale of metallurgical coal assets in both Australia and Mongolia.

April 29 -- Aspire Mining Limited (ASX: AKM, Aspire, or the Company), focussed on the exploration and development of metallurgical coal assets in Mongolia, is pleased to present its Quarterly Activities Report to Shareholders for the quarter ending 31 March 2016.

The Company is the largest coal tenement holder in the Orkhon-Selenge Coal Basin in northern Mongolia. Aspire currently wholly owns the large scale, world class Ovoot Coking Coal Project (Ovoot) Through its 50% ownership in the Ekhgoviin Chuluu Joint Venture (ECJV), Aspire also holds an interest in the Nuurstei Coking Coal Project (Nuurstei) and the Erdenebulag Coal Project (Erdenebulag).

Northern Railways LLC (Northern Railways), Aspire's Mongolian rail infrastructure subsidiary is responsible for activities associated with the commercialisation and future development of the 547 km Erdenet to Ovoot railway in northern Mongolia (Rail Project). The Erdenet to Ovoot railway is a part of the Mongolian Rail Policy and plays an important role in the development of an international Economic Corridor supported by the Governments of Russia and China to facilitate increased trade between the three nations and the wider Asian and European economies.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


WOF last traded at A$0.007. Cash at end of quarter $71K.

Wolf Petroleum: Quarterly Activities Report

April 29, Wolf Petroleum Ltd. (ASX:WOF) --

Operational Update

Wolf Petroleum Limited ('the Company') continues to progress negotia­tions with potential strategic partners in regards to continuing exploration programmes on SB, BU and Jinst blocks.


Legal Update

As announced on 14th of March 2016, the Company as Second Defen­dant had been served with an Originating Process by Ngaanyatjarra Council (Aboriginal Corporation) ('NCAC'). The amount claimed by NCAC was $104,880.91.

The First Defendant to the Originating Process is Palgrave Resources Ltd (ACN 116 047 299) ('First Defendant').

The Company advised on 26 April 2016 that the terms of a commercial settlement have been reached and documented between NCAC and the Company. The Company has executed the settlement deed and placed the settlement amount in trust with NCAC's solicitors.

Loan Facility Secured

The Company has secured a loan facility from Celtic Capital Pty Ltd.

The terms of the facility are:

-       Amount borrowed: $60,000

-       Fees: Nil

-       Repayment date: On or before 30 June 2016

-       Interest rate: 20% per annum, with a minimum interest amount of $15,000

Resignation of Non Executive Director Mr.Daniel Crennan

Mr. Daniel Crennan resigned from the Board on 31 March 2016.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


TER last traded A$0.005 on Friday. Cash at end of quarter A$1.4m

TerraCom: Quarterly Activities & Cashflow Report

May 2 -- TerraCom Limited ("TerraCom" or the "Company") (ASX: TER) is pleased to present its quarterly activities report for the period ended 31 March 2016.


      2015 Strategic Review implementation progressing across operational and corporate levels as summarised as follows:

      Balance Sheet Restructure o Existing Note Holders Debt Rolled for 5 Years at a face value of approximately US$76 million.

o    Secured a new loan of USD$5 million from its existing note holders.

o    Existing working capital facility of US$41 million has been extended to 23 December 2016 and discussions underway to roll this into the 5 Year facility.

o    US$13.2 million interest and deferral fees irrevocably waived.

o    US$5 million CN converted from debt to equity.

o    US$1.1 million outstanding interest paid by additional equity in TerraCom.

      Mongolia o The Baruun Noyon Uul (BNU) coking coal mine in Mongolia continued its very impressive safety record of No Lost Time Injury (LTI) since inception. The project has now recorded 1.6 million man hours without an LTI.

o    During February & March TerraCom's Mongolian subsidiary Terra Energy LLC has progressed rapidly on the installation of an alternative supply chain with a number of key milestones already achieved. First coal is forecast to be washed in early April 2016.

o    In the first quarter of 2016, TerraCom's Mongolian subsidiary Terra Energy LLC (Terra Energy) has been granted four new exploration licenses by the Minerals Resource Authority of Mongolia (MRAM).

      Business Development o Positive progress made on potential acquisition of cashflow positive assets in Central Queensland and Indonesia to supplement cashflow and de-risk TerraCom from single mine company

Link to report


VKA trading +11.1% to A$0.02. Cash at end of quarter A$1.48 million.

Viking Mines: Quarterly Activities & Cashflow Report

April 28 -- During the three months to 31 March, 2016, Perth-based Viking Mines Ltd (Viking or the Company) activity was focussed on reviewing new mining project opportunities, while progressing government approval of the sale agreement for the Akoase gold project in Ghana.

1. Akoase Gold Project (Ghana, VKA 100% - reducing to 0% upon completion of sale)

2. West Star/Blue River Joint Venture Gold Project (Ghana, VKA 100% hard rock)

3. Berkh Uul Coal Project (Mongolia, VKA 100%)

No on-ground work was undertaken on the project during the quarter.

As previously reported, the Mongolian Government has been in the process of reviewing and amending the Law on Prohibiting Mineral Exploration and Extraction near Water Sources, Protected Areas and Forests (commonly referred to as the "Long Name Law"). Following recent announcements, including a Government Resolution that licence areas in headwater zones and river basins are to be annexed and revoked, the Company has been advised by the Ministry of Tourism, Green Development and Environment that approximately 53% of the Berkh Uul prospecting licence falls within a headwaters of rivers zone. This government determination impacts upon the Company's current coal resource and Viking continues to engage in discussions on this matter with the Mineral Resource Authority of Mongolia (MRAM) and the Ministry of Tourism, Green Development and Environment.

MRAM and the Ministry of Tourism, Green Development and Environment have indicated they are prepared to review the Long Name Law zone boundaries at Berkh Uul on receipt of a formal written submission. This submission was lodged on 18 February 2016 with MRAM.

The Company has received informal advice that the various Government departments are to form a working group to review our submission, commencing with a field inspection of the project area during the upcoming summer period. We expect formal confirmation of this review process in the coming weeks.

4. Khonkhor Zag Coal Project (Mongolia, VKA 100%)

No on-ground work was undertaken on the project during the quarter.

5. Corporate

During the quarter the Company accelerated and intensified its review of mineral project farmin/ acquisition opportunities in the expectation that the final Akoase sale proceeds will be received during the September quarter. The Company has prioritized gold projects as its major target while base metal projects at an advanced stage with resources are also being considered.

No project reviews are currently at an advanced stage of consideration. Viking will continue to pursue these and any other opportunities, which are complementary to its existing project portfolio and consistent with its core objective to acquire near term production assets with potential to deliver sustainable cash flow.

The Company has appointed corporate adviser Emerald Partners Pty Ltd to assist in the search for suitable new advanced mining projects. Emerald Partners advised the Company on its sale of the Akoase gold project and has previously been a corporate adviser to the Company.

Link to report


DRG last traded A$0.021 on Friday

Draig Resources: Quarterly Activities Report


      Completion of rights issue raises $610,479 before issue costs

      Cash balance of $2.088 million at the end of the quarter

      Ongoing review of new opportunities

April 28 -- Draig Resources Limited (ASX: DRG) (Draig or Company) is pleased to provide its Activities Report for the quarter ended 31 March 2016.

Link to report

Link to cashflow report


Shares are suspended

CIC Gold Annual Report & Account 2015

April 29, CIC Gold (LSE: CICG) --

Chairman's Statement

During the year the Board agreed to acquire Gobi Minerals Group subject to shareholder approval which was granted by special shareholder meeting held on 19 February 2016. Gobi Minerals Group collectively own a 100% interest (the "Interest") in mineral title Altan Tobchi, a gold and copper mineral asset of 478 square km, situated in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, 560 km from Ulaanbaatar city. It is located adjacent to Mongolian Alt Corporation now in production. It is also located in the area of the world leading producing copper gold deposit Oyu Tolgoi owned by Turquoise Hill Ltd. The Gobi Minerals acquisition is a post end of year event and will not be included in these financial statements.


HE Barsbold Ulambayar (Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer)

His Excellency Barsbold Ulambayar, as an Independent Non-Executive Director, brings significant expertise in environment responsibilities, geo-political relationships and extensive commercial investment strategies. Over the last 28 years, he has built a successful career in both public and private sectors having extensive international experience and expertise.

At 26 years old, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry (1990-1992) having responsibility for foreign trade and industrial development. During this time he was involved in the liberalisation and privatisation of many corporate entities.

Link to report

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Local Market

Mogi: No weekly update as of 11 am


FRC suspends Standard Investment's special permit for 3 months

May 2 (MSE) According to the Resolution No.:137 of Financial Regulatory Commission dated on 25 April 2016, the special permit of "Standard Investment UTsK" LLC suspended for 3 months.

Link to release

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Historic low 2,050.85/USD set March 28, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, April 29 Close
















































































































































































































Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,008 Sell ₮2,018), TDB (Buy ₮2,010 Sell ₮2,018), Golomt (Buy ₮2,008 Sell ₮2,018), XacBank (Buy ₮2,008 Sell ₮2,018), State Bank (Buy ₮2,009 Sell ₮2,019)

MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:

Link to rates


BoM issues 81.3 billion 1-week bills at 12%, total outstanding +15% to ₮223.15 billion

April 29 (BoM) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 81.3 billion at a weighted interest rate of 12.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release


BoM Mortgage Report, March 2016

April 29 (BoM) ---



Mortgages Outstanding (Million MNT)

Of This

Average Mortgage Length

Average Mortgage Rate

Total Borrowers

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Link to report (in Mongolian)

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Politics & Legal

Ten parties and one coalition submit documents before deadline

April 29 ( The deadline for receiving the action plans and election proposals from the political parties is ending today. The General Electoral Commission has informed that: "As of 14.00 pm today 29th April 2016, ten political parties and one alliance have delivered their documents".

On next Wednesday (4th May), the General Electoral Commission must deliver the official response to the political parties and alliances, after reviewing their action plans.

Link to article


Nine political parties and one coalition requested to partake in parliamentary electionMontsame, April 29


MPRP Chairman Enkhbayar asks for fair election treatment

Ulaanbaatar, April 29 (MONTSAME) City's committee of the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) Friday delivered an election programme to the General Election Commission (GEC) to run for the 2016 parliamentary election which is scheduled to be held this June.

The MPP's election programme already has been supervised by the Audit Office, said Ts.Sandui, head of the City's Committee of the MPP, and pointed out that the MPP will work with purposes to make living environment of Ulaanbaatar happier, healthier, safer and more peaceful.

The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) has decided to run for the forthcoming election alone. Thus, the MPRP chairman N.Enkhbayar and authorities of the party has submitted an election programme to the GEC. Mr Enkhbayar expressed a hope that the GEC will be fair during the parliamentary election.

Programmes of all political parties for the 2016 parliamentary election will be announced by the GEC next Wednesday.

Link to article


MP Baasankhuu appointed Justice Coalition caucus leader

April 29 ( For some time now, N.Battsereg, the director of the Justice Union Group has wanted to resign, because of too much work – he is also Minister of Environment Green Development and Tourism. The Justice Union has been long in deciding this issue. Today, the group discussed the 5th protocol of the Constitutional Court and the appointment of a new director, as a result, of which, O.Baasankhuu, who is a member of parliament, was appointed as the Group Director.

Link to article


Budget Frameworks for 2017 and assumptions for 2018-2019 submitted

Ulaanbaatar, April 29 (MONTSAME) Head of the Cabinet Secretariat S.Bayartsogt submitted April 28 the draft of Budget Frameworks for 2017 and the Budget Assumptions for 2018-2019 of Mongolia to the Chairman of the State Great Khural Z.Enkhbold.

The draft has two articles, which provide the bases for estimations of expenditure limits for 2017 state budget and 2018-2019 medium-term expenditure limits.

Economic growth of the developing countries in Asia are speculated to slow down in 2016-2018, according to analysts. Actual economic growth of Mongolia is expected to be about 5 percent for the next three years, with greater growth in agriculture and services.

Link to article


Draft resolution submitted on approving basic guideline for 2017 socio-economic development

Ulaanbaatar, April 29 (MONTSAME) This resolution submitted Thursday by S.Bayartsogt, head of the Cabinet Secretariat for Government to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold.

The basic guideline has five chapters on policies on macro-economy for overcoming economic difficulties, augmenting investments and financial sources and increasing the effectiveness, on industries of supporting the economic growth, on developing regional and local development, on environment, on human and social development, on reforms in governance, laws and external relations, and on defense. It reflects goals of the 2017 policy, criteria, financing, financial sources, responsible Ministries and agencies as well as correlation of the guideline's purposes and measures with long- and middle-term programmes and policy documents.

The basic guideline is projected to maintain a balance in main indicators of the macro-economy by implementing the economic, budgetary and fiscal policies and to keep the economic growth at a sustainable level by exploiting all financial sources and augmenting the effectiveness. It also has goals for augmenting the employment rate and job places, creating a safe and healthy environment for people; protection of environment; promoting the quality and adequacy of education and health institutions; and strengthening potential of the defense sector and broadening the foreign cooperation in peace.

Link to article


Meeting organized on freedom of expression and opinion

Ulaanbaatar, April 29 (MONTSAME) The "Globe international" NGO organized a discussion meeting themed "Freedom of expression and opinion" on April 27, 2016 at the UN house, Ulaanbaatar.

Speeches were delivered by Ms Beate Trankman, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative; representative from the Department of International Legal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ambassadors and other representatives of certain Embassies had participated in the meeting.

"When Mongolia has been elected as a member state of the Human Rights Council (HRC), the country bears responsibilities for promoting the 'Freedoms of opinion and expression'. Last year Mongolia's second Universal Periodic Review(UPR) report was successfully reviewed and number of recommendations were given by the UN HRC which recommendations implementation action plan has been adopted during the Cabinet meeting on April 11th of this year," Ms Trankman said.

In her speech, the President of Globe International NGO Ms Naranjargal talked about UPR recommendations and its follow up on the "Freedoms of opinion and expression".

Next discussion meeting is expected to be held for the non-resident Embassies with concurrent accreditation to Mongolia in Beijing.

Link to article


AFCCP claims reduction of 10-260 in fuel prices nationwide

April 29 ( D.Munkhtur, Head of the Authority for fair competition and consumer protection (AFCCP), reports the office has successfully reduced fuel cost by 10-260 tugrik per liter after series of appealing fuel importing companies.

He said retail price for fuel in rural communities is now reduced by 10-260 tugrik, and in UB 10-160 tugrik. Diesel fuel price was reduced by highest, 260 tugrik, in Gobi-Altai, underlined Mr. Munkhtur.

AFCCP appealed to reduce fuel price in these economic recession. D.Munkhtur states "We achieved this tangible result through supporting and educating, not just penalizing. This is an example of positive resolution of AFCCP".

Link to article


Who owns the 400 million VAT lottery ticket?

April 29 ( Even though, the receipt number of the MNT 400 million was declared during the VAT lottery on 20th March, the owner of the receipt has not been revealed. Why? The reason is that the receipt has still not been registered on

Information has been spreading across the media that the winner has been found – her name is N.Tseepil, she is a UB citizen, who stays at home looking after her three little daughters. After collecting receipts, she tried registering them online; this took place on 24th April, a month after the lottery had taken place. Among the receipts she saw the winning number. Unable to believe that she had won, Ms Tseepil tore the receipt in two. She has since delivered her receipt – now in fastened together - to the General Customs and Tax Authority. We, therefore, contacted the VAT project coordinator R.Otgontulga for clarification. She said that it is still too early to say whether a winner has been found.

Link to article


Mogi: EMC has done—is doing--a lot for Mongolia and its people, but these "social" works are more politics than social responsibility. Government treats it like its own piggy bank, breaking it every time it needs quick cash. EMC, like the good "eldest son" continues to take care of us, but I fear for the sustainable future of Erdenet City as EMC gets depleted

Erdenet Mining: Father of the city, eldest son of the state

By B. Enkhtsetseg

April 29 (April 2016 №08 (110), Mongolian Economy) It is common to hear residents of Erdenet ask, "Have you visited the swimming pool and new hospital? Why don't you relax at Selenge resort?" Erdenet city has the longest bicycle path in Mongolia with a length of 5.6 kilometres, and the residents of the city take pride in having built it with their internal resources and labour without making any requests from any budget. Now the factory workers and residents walk and bike on this road, getting exercising in fresh air.

The five-storey apartment buildings from the socialist era are much shorter than the modern ones, but they do not fall short in the looks department, which is the result of the past three years of cooperation with Orkhon province authorities. Around MNT 5.6 billion in investments were made not only for the exterior paintjob of the city's apartments, but also for upgrades on roads and street lighting.

"Looking at the past four decades, EMC sets the standard for social responsibility in Mongolia," stated S.Suvdaa, Deputy Director General in charge of social issues. "Ever since its establishment, it has been the basis of the city and has provided significant support to this city's economy and community." For Erdenet city, EMC is like its father; for the state, it is like its eldest son.

In modern times, social responsibility is measured by the ISO-26000 international standard. This standard has many indicators on aspects such as economics, procurement and environmental protection. EMC is leading the country by the indicators prescribed in this guideline for standards. EMC was recently voted as the best of the best among taxpaying enterprises of Mongolia. In fact, this factory has carried a significant chunk of the state budget on its back for many years. It would be difficult to imagine the state budget without EMC, just like Erdenet city without the Erdenet factory. At the same time, the company contributes to local development by directly purchasing the products of enterprises of Orkhon province.

Public service units, social discounts and support funds account for nearly seven percent of EMC's total costs. The operating costs of public service units on their own account for nearly 2.5 percent. Under the cost-saving policy implemented during these times of economic difficulty, these units reduced their expenditures by 10-15 percent and increased revenues, saving about MNT 1.5 billion last year. In a nutshell, EMC adheres to a policy which holds that Erdenet city must develop along with the company, given that it operates using the local natural resources. In general, EMC has been implementing a comprehensive social protection policy for a long time.

The company finances 12 social service units, including a cultural and athletics centre of the province, kindergartens, schools, technological institutes and hospital. They provide services for not only the employees of EMC, but for all the residents of Orkhon province. As such, the company's executives believe that they have no right to slash social service units due to economic difficulties. If major units operating in the province, such as a sporting complex, miner's cultural building, medical spa complex and Selenge resort, come to a stand-still, the residents of Erdenet would not starve, but it would definitely have negative consequences on the morale of the public.

The mining sector has more than 40 types of social support undertakings. These types of support create the conditions for employees to work with efficiently and diligently. EMC provides 24 types of support. This company is a shining example that proves employees' work becomes more steady and stable, and for longer, if employees are supported with more than just a paycheck. Another reason why employees are stable in this company is related to its compensation and incentives policy. While layoffs and salary shortfalls are increasing throughout the country due to economic difficulties, the employees of this company over the past three years have received salary rewards equal to the base salary on three occasions and bonuses ranging from MNT350 thousand to MNT one million seven times.

8,000 dependents, 100,000 stakeholders

It is the end of an era, as the staff of EMC who started working there almost four decades years ago are now retiring. EMC is providing social support activities for more than 8,000 people, including a total of 6,000 employees, 1,780 senior workers, about 500 people receiving pension due to occupational illnesses, employees of two subsidiaries and contractor companies. The company has spent a total of MNT142 billion on social support in just the last three years.

When the generation of people who carried the operations of the factory on their backs retire, trained mining engineers, technical staff and a variety of professional workers must be ready to take over. A lot effort is required to teach and train them. In the agreement made between the company administration and labour union, it is stated that one child of a factory worker can take over their parent's job. About 30-40 percent of new employees are those taking over their parents' jobs, while the rest are selected through an open selection process. Over the last three years, EMC spent MNT7.5 billion on training. As of last year, 355 people have studied abroad and 266 have studied domestically thanks to the factory's agreement. The factory has a technological institute that prepares future personnel of the sector. Even Oyu Tolgoi expresses interest in hiring the graduates of this institute.

The mining sector is considered one in which work conditions are harsh throughout the world. Although this sector strictly adheres to safety and security standards, cases of the loss of ability to work due to industrial accidents, poisoning and occupational illnesses do occur. In the last three years alone, EMC spent MNT 6.4 billion on compensation for employees who lost their ability to work. However, the company was able to improve the situation by increasing preventive medical examinations and implementing its "Health" programme, which is better than providing compensation for employees after the fact. In other words, the rate of the five predominant illnesses among its employees has fallen: one in 20 people had one of these illnesses in 2013, while it had become one in 70 last year. Erdenet Medical, a diagnosis and treatment centre built in Orkhon province through funding from EMC, has started its operations. It was decided that the hospital would operate under the management of Japan's Medipass International.

EMC negotiates and signs a collective agreement with the labour union every two years and evaluates its implementation. In 2014, the implementation of the collective agreement was 98 percent, while it increased to 99.1 percent in 2015. The previous agreement reflected many aspects, including transport and coal discounts, housing assistance, hot meals, toxin neutralizing products, labour safety, hygiene supplies, health of workers and one-time financial support for retiring employees. One of the provisions proposed by EMC was "mothers with salaries." They provide MNT 400 thousand every month for mothers who are taking care of their children until the kids reach the age of three. This amount of money is equal to some other sectors' actual base salary. "In Mongolia, EMC is the only company that makes such agreements with its labour union to bear and implement such responsibilities, maintaining jobs for women on maternal leave," said S.Suvdaa. In 2016, the collective agreement was made with a term of one year. Although the prices of products exported by EMC are falling on global markets, the company is trying not to cut back the provisions and implementation rate of the agreement made with the labour union.

Although around 8,000 people work for EMC and its related companies, 100,000 more lives are connected in some way.

Therefore, EMC's involvement in family issues is a necessity. About 1,300 employees were able to resolve their housing issues in the last three years with the help of EMC's housing assistance. Furthermore, residential apartments such as Zaluus-600, Moscow-300 and the Eco-400 residential complex are planned to be built in Erdenet within the scope of the "Housing" programme supported by the joint factory council. In addition, employees of the company can now get assistance of up to MNT 8 million for the 30 percent down payment for mortgages, as changes were made to the guidelines and regulations of the housing assistance programme. An initiative to restructure the social support fund into a unit of the housing project was proposed, and it is being studied at the moment. EMC did not just build residential apartments; they have successfully started works concerning environmental recovery, implementing a project to build a major park that will shelter endangered animals.

To date, Erdenet Mining Corporation, with its nearly four decades of history, is not only taking care of its 8,000 employees, but is also tethered to the city and its 100,000 residents. Since natural resources are not limitless, the company's next objective is to make Erdenet city into a city that will carryon, even after the mines are exhausted.

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Mogi: will get you the full list once I find it in English. Apparently MNCCI made an error on the list and apologized to Khan Bank and XacBank. Here's the final list in Mongolian. . Top 10 are 1. Erdenet Mining, 2. OT, 3. Khan Bank, 4. TDB, 5. UB Railway, 6. DBM, 7. APU, 8. Mobicom, 9. Golomt Bank, 10. NIC,

Khan Bank Receives Top 100 Enterprise Award

April 29 (Khan Bank) The TOP 100 Enterprise award ceremony was organized by the Government of Mongolia and Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) at the Ceremonial Hall of the Government House yesterday. Khan Bank was honored as one of the TOP 100 Enterprises of 2015 and received a trophy and certificate.

Every year, the nation's top enterprises that have made substantial contributions to Mongolian social and economic development are selected for recognition based on several major , including total tax contributions, sales performance, number of employees, and other financial indicators.

The TOP 100 Enterprises awards has been organized for 15 years. A team of representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Mongolian Customs General Administration, General Department of Taxation, General Authority for Social Insurance, National Registration and Statistical Office, the Financial Regulatory Commission, and MNCCI conducted the selection of enterprises.

Khan Bank makes investments and contributions to the nation's sustainable social and economic development and pays careful attention to its employees' welfare. Khan Bank received the award mainly due to its implementation of comprehensive programs dedicated to  social well-being through its corporate social responsibility program.

Khan Bank will continue to strive to be a leader in corporate governance and social responsibility to make lasting contributions to the nation's social and economic development.

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Conference Held on Sustainable Development of Mongolia's Dairy Sector

April 29 ( On 26th April, a conference entitled "Milk Industry- Sustainable Development" took place. A total of 150 representatives from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the General Inspection Authority, research and educational organizations and representatives of the milk products industry participated. A number of interesting topics were discussed including: ensuring sustainable supply, development policy, livestock feed, animal health and hygiene, breeding, developing the dairy farm with establishing dairy sector business clusters.

In 2015, there were a total of 61,900 dairy cows, 70.3 million liters of milk were processed and MNT 52.5 billion worth of milk products were produced.

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Mongolian media delegate visits Yonhap to promote cooperation

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's No. 1 newswire Yonhap News Agency and top representatives from Mongolia's media agreed Friday to enhance media content for global readers by strengthing cooperative ties.

A Mongolian delegation of 10, including Confederation of Mongolian Journalists vice president Khurelbaatar Batkhishig and Undesnii Shuudan chief editor Dashtseren Zayabat, visited Yonhap headquarters in central Seoul.

The guided tour kicked off with a presentation on Yonhap's domestic and overseas operation.

"I was particularly impressed with Yonhap's global newswire services in six different languages," said Batkhishig during the group tour of Yonhap's news rooms and broadcasting studios.

Batkhishig welcomed active exchange of media insight between Yonhap and Mongolian media outlets. Mongolian broadcasting media Contents & is particularly positive about such exchange, he added.

Yonhap began providing news content since 1980 as the country's leading newswire agency, employing some 590 reporters.

The South Korean media company played a leading role in covering the Seoul Olympics in 1988, an economic milestone for Asia's fourth largest economy.

With 50 correspondents operating in 33 cities of 25 countries, Yonhap currently provides newswire services to 83 news agencies around the world in English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabian, Spanish and French.

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Mongolia makes the most of the middle position

Author: Anthony V. Rinna, Russia and Eurasia Analyst at Sino-NK.

April 30 (East Asia Forum) On 14 April 2016 the foreign ministers of Mongolia and Russia signed what they termed a Medium-term Strategic Partnership Development Program in Ulaanbaatar. Plans to establish a strategic partnership between Mongolia and Russia date at least to September 2014, when the presidents of the two countries met in the Mongolian capital.

During his recent visit to Mongolia, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov highlighted plans for increased cooperation between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and at the UN. Lavrov also noted plans to create a China–Mongolia–Russia economic corridor. Officials from the three countries will discuss these plans on the sidelines of the next SCO summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Mongolia is an important component of Russia's orientation toward Asia. Its interests in Mongolia are primarily economic. Russian energy company Rosneft supplies Mongolia with 92 per cent of its oil. In return, Mongolia possesses a vast amount of mineral wealth that Russia desires.

Yet bilateral trade between the two countries has declined since 2010. Russian officials would like to see this trend reversed, particularly as China continues to make economic inroads into Mongolia. Mongolia and Russia the possibility of opening a ruble-based credit line for Mongolia. But Moscow appears to be less interested in using Mongolia as an economic link to broader Eurasian markets than China. Russia's main priority is more tightly focused on maintaining a privileged position in the Mongolian energy and mining sectors.

Russia will likely increase, in a limited fashion, its influence in East Asia through its enhanced relations with Mongolia. Mongolia, likewise, may diversify its economic position in international markets. Yet the concept of 'strategic partnership' is not clearly defined. The term's ambiguity allows for considerable flexibility. In Mongolia's case, the loose definition may prove problematic for its attempts to implement a policy of official neutrality.

In late 2015 Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj opened the debate regarding official Mongolian neutrality to the public and the topic is high on the agenda in Mongolia's current session of parliament. In Elbegdorj's view, Mongolia has essentially been a de facto neutral country for several years. Mongolia's foreign policy is centred on diversifying its economic and security partnerships beyond the geographic confines of its neighbours China and Russia, while not aligning fully with any one country or bloc.

Mongolia's multi-vector policy of reaching out to the West, as well as other countries such as Japan and Turkey, is billed as the 'Third Neighbour' policybased on a statement by former US secretary of state James Baker in 1990. Mongolia's geographic vulnerability toward China and Russia underlies the continued use of this term to describe Ulaanbaatar's external relations.

Mongolia's multilateral defence policy is based on limited cooperation with China, Russia and the United States, as well as with larger groups such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the SCO. Mongolia is an observer at the SCO, and could become a member. Mongolia also participates in NATO's Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. As John Daly of Johns Hopkins University maintains, Mongolia's policy of military multilateralism is part of the country's strategy to maintain its sovereignty and independence.

The principle of neutrality mostly relates to Mongolia's defence relationships, while strategic partnerships largely concern international trade and exchange. Declared neutrality does not conflict with forming strategic partnerships: neutral Switzerland, for instance, recently announced its intention to enact a strategic partnership with China.

But the problem for Mongolia is the country's dependence on China and Russia in the economic sphereViktor Samoylenko asserts that neutrality is feasible only when a country is not overly dependent on external financing and investment. Mongolia's economic growth rate declined from 7.9 to 2.3 per cent between 2014 and 2015, and foreign direct investment dropped by a third over the same period. Mongolia exports far more to China than to Russia, though Mongolian imports of Chinese and Russian goods (excluding energy) are more balanced between the two countries.

The realisation of a Mongolia–Russia strategic partnership may prompt the development of a more balanced trade relationship for Mongolia and bolster the country's ailing economy. Yet it could also increase Mongolia's sense of economic dependence on Russia, particularly as an economic counterweight to China.

As traditionally defence and security-oriented blocs such as the SCO expand their mandate into the economic sphere, the lines between trade and security in defining regional relationships have become less distinct. The onus therefore will be on Mongolia to sustain economic relationships beneficial to its economy while maintaining sufficient strategic distance between its security partners.

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Mongolia's Permanent Neutrality Initiative: More Questions Than Answers

By Suren Badral, Adviser at Institute for Strategic Studies of Mongolia

April 29 -- Over half a year passed since President Tsakhia Elbegdorj of Mongolia put forward a challenging new foreign policy initiative to make Mongolia a permanently neutral country. The Permanent Neutrality Initiative (PNI) came all of a sudden to not only the international community, but also to the Mongolian public. The Mongolian public, especially the academic circles and professional community, are still debating on this new initiative with no sign of forging a consensus.


President Tsakhia Elbegdorj published an article on September 7, 2015, where he first introduced his proposal on the PNI. Then at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly on September 29, 2015, he informed the international community of his initiative. It should be noted he did not yet formally proclaim the permanent neutrality status of Mongolia and for good reasons.

On September 20, the Office of the President submitted a draft law on Mongolia's permanent neutrality to the Parliament for discussion and adoption. The draft was since then tabled to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Security and Foreign Policy several times to decide whether it would be included in the agenda of the Parliament session. The Committee held several meetings on the draft, including a closed one where the President himself labored to explain the justifications for his initiative.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry of Mongolia started informal consultations at the United Nations to mobilize support from the member states prior to formally submitting a draft resolution on Mongolia's permanent neutrality.

But so far, no progress has been made both locally and internationally to rally support for the PNI of Mongolia. Let us check what may have gone wrong.


Although the respective sovereign decision can be made unilaterally, neutrality becomes effective only when one or more countries directly affected by such an action commit to recognize and respect the status. Thus, the process must be plurilateral, if not multilateral, for the neutrality status per se strives to legally obliging the concerned countries, especially neighboring countries, to become a party to an international liability.

So the right to be neutral and so permanently shall be recognized internationally. There is no standing and effective international instrument – except for the Hague Convention (Hague V) of 1907[1] which seems to have become dormant and outdated for today's reality –  that would present internationally applicable norms and principles governing the neutrality status of a country, especially in the modern context.  Therefore, any application for and of the neutrality status is to be dealt with individually and on a case-by-case basis.


A common sense tells that the following conditions must be met for the neutrality of a country to be applicable and effective:

1.    The country in question justifiably sees an imminent threat of war that might, directly or indirectly, draw it into and wishes to stay out of it.

2.    The country shall have made the respective formal decision on the basis of consent of the state power. In the case of Mongolia, it is the people exercising "it through direct participation in state affairs and through representative bodies of state power elected by them[2]".

3.    Countries that are affected by the neutral status (belligerents in a case of armed conflict or war) shall have recognized and committed to respect the status. In the case of Mongolia, China and Russia at least should have done so. Such a commitment shall be enshrined in bilateral and/or multilateral instruments of international law.

In addition, recognition by the General Assembly of the United Nations may serve as an important test for an eventual recognition by the concerned states. However, the non-binding nature of the UN General Assembly decisions suffices to become an excuse not to abide by the decision.

It is evident that none of the above conditions is satisfied so far leaving Mongolia with a very narrow window to follow the example of Turkmenistan if it is determined to pursue the initiative.


The case of Turkmenistan is a vivid example of how a country's unilateral declaration of permanent neutrality can end up in a limbo. The UN General Assembly recognized the status of permanent neutrality of Turkmenistan in 1995 in its resolution A/RES/50/80[3]. However, the UN decision failed to result in recognition of and legal commitment to respect the country's neutral status by concerned states, especially by its neighboring countries.

It is true that Turkmenistan faced at that time real threats to its security from the volatile Central Asia, especially from Afghanistan, and probably, pressures from the Shanghai Five (predecessor of the SCO) countries to join the new grouping. However, the seemingly wise decision of Turkmenistan eventually produced problems than solutions.

"[A]s the country's neutrality policy has left it outside of regional security groupings like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Turkmenistan's potential political and security problems remain outside formal assistance from these organizations or its members, leaving Ashgabat to face internal or external threats alone. In such a case, Turkmenistan might find that its explicit neutrality and lack of defense agreements with other countries is a diplomatic liability rather than an asset.[4]"

The case of Mongolia is fundamentally different from Turkmenistan, for sure.


By 1995, Mongolia did already choose an activist foreign policy to extend the rank of its foreign partners beyond the former communist bloc, especially Russia and China. Its trademark "Third Neighbor" policy has been outstandingly successful and served as the engine for Mongolia's democratic development. 

At the same time, Mongolia succeeded to conclude landmark treaties with its neighbors – the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Mongolia and the Russian Federation (January 20, 1993) and the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Mongolia and the Peoples Republic of China (April 29, 1994), which have renewed and cemented the commitments by the post-communist Russia and China not to resort to an aggression and/or threat of aggression against Mongolia.

The international environment of the time of declaration by Turkmenistan and Mongolia of their respective PNI is completely different from each other. In 1995 when Turkmenistan declared its permanent neutrality status and had the respective UN General Assembly resolution passed, the most concerned countries – China and Russia – were preoccupied with their internal sorting out and most likely overlooked what was the intention of Turkmenistan. Now by 2015, they became already assertive and vigilant not to make the same "mistake".

Therefore, the intended démarche at the United Nations to pass a respective resolution on Mongolia's permanent neutrality status is likely not to succeed to win the full house support. If the draft resolution is pushed through a vote, China and Russia will definitely abstain, if not to vote against, which will become an embarrassment, if not failure, for the Mongolian foreign policy.

The "third neighbors" of Mongolia who would normally try to avoid further conflicts with Russia and China over Mongolia in such a distant matter as neutrality will just "wait and see" if Mongolia's neighbors are positive or negative.

In addition, the prospective disengagement of Mongolia from the current fruitful partnership with NATO and its possible departure from being a model democracy in Asia, if its permanent neutrality obtains an international status, would discourage the western countries to openly support Mongolia's PNI. 

The complete taboo on the subject of Mongolia's PNI at official meetings and negotiations between Mongolia and Russia and Mongolia and China observed since the PNI launching in September 2015 has demonstrated a clear sign of non-approval by its two neighbors.

Given the current circumstances, there are now two options for Mongolia to choose from before it is too late: to decide bluntly to pursue a unilateral declaration of its permanent neutrality or to work on how to exit from this limbo gracefully.

But it should not forget that any unilateral action will result in a diplomatic liability rather than an asset as was the case for Turkmenistan.

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Mongolian Defense Minister speaks at Conference on Int'l Security in Moscow

Ulaanbaatar, April 29 (MONTSAME) The Mongolia's Minister of Defense Mr Ts.Tsolmon gave a report themed "Regional security and military cooperation of Mongolia" at the Fifth Conference on International Security held April 27-28 in Moscow, Russia.

This conference gathered some 600 delegates from over 80 countries including Defense Ministers, Deputy Premiers and chairs of the Armed Forces; and 10 organizations to discuss issues of impacts on the international security, prevention of possible problems and collaboration in it.

Within the conference, the Mongolian Minister has met with his counterpart of the Russian Federation Army-General S.K.Shoigu, exchanging views on a present situation and further development of the bilateral cooperation in defense. This meeting has been witnessed by Ms B.Delgermaa, the Ambassador of Mongolia to Russia; and Brigadier-General G.Enkhbaatar, a military attache of the Mongolian Embassy in Russia.

With a visit to the Russian Federation, the Defense Minister Mr Tsolmon is being accompanied by Brigadier-General G.Saikhanbayar, head of the Defense Ministry's Department of Strategic Management and Planning; and G.Lunden, an advisor at the Cooperation Department.

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Culture, Society

Mongolia: 2016 Festivals & Events Updated

April 29 ( Wherever they go seasoned travellers love taking place in local festivals and events as they believe it gives such a deep insight to the people's culture and traditions. Mongolia is a country of rich natural wonders and diverse cultural heritages, and presents plentiful exciting festivals and events all year around from Tsaatan Reindeer Festival to Golden Eagle Festival, traditional weddings to the Great Naadam Festival to visitors and its' people.

And the year 2016 isn't any different; some really exhilarating events and festivals are taking place all across this beautiful, vast and ancient land of nomads. This winter and spring, we witnessed some truly wonderful festivals such as Silver Reeds winter festival, Camel Festival that sat the Guinness Record with 1100 camels race, Ice Festival and Winter Eagle festival etc so far (don't get too upset if you missed this year, try next winter-spring!), and there are many more planned for the summer-autumn!

So we, at GoGo Travel, have decided to update the previous 2016 events and festivals info for you based on the latest information from the organisers. Come join the hearty Mongols at their jolly festivals this year!  

Prepared exclusively for GoGo Travel by Zola (Co-founder of Premium Travel Mongolia LLC.

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The Mongolians turning skateboarding dreams into a new scene in Ulaanbaatar

Young Blood

Text by Bejan Siavoshy | Photography © Bejan Siavoshy

April 23 (Huck Magazine) More than half the population of Mongolia is under 30. Caught between the expectations of their parents and a future only they can see, skateboarders in Ulaanbaatar are breaking from convention to prove their vision is more than just a dream.

Uukhai was the war-cry of Mongol warriors as they charged into battle, defying odds – and rival kingdoms – eight centuries ago. The incantation powered them to carve out the largest land empire in human history – spanning from the sea of Japan to Eastern Europe.

The battle cry has now been claimed by a new generation. Instead of tearing across the plains on horseback, they glide through the industrial urban sprawl of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, on skateboards. In a country where half the population is under thirty, these skateboarders – members of the Uukhai skate crew – offer a glimpse at Mongolia's rising creative class who take pride in their heritage, but are frustrated by the toll of the endemic corruption sowed by the generations before them. They're a group that is misunderstood by their parents, but ready to start shaping the future.

This modern Uukhai has been loosely described as a skateboarding association. But its role and purpose varies, depending on which member you meet. For some it's simply a crew of friends who skate together, for others it's an NGO providing scarce skateboards to youth who can't afford them; for some it's street cool distilled and for others still it's a feeling of freedom they cling to as expectations and economics yank at their feet.

Erdenedalai 'Eddie' Purev, Chef and Uukai founder, twenty-four

With both arms sleeved in tattoos and a head of hair that fades between long and short, Eddie is a walking poster-child for the culture he embraced as a bright-eyed thirteen-year-old, when he swapped Ulaanbaatar for Queens, New York — where he currently resides.

Eddie travelled between Mongolia and the US and started skateboarding in Ulaanbaatar in the mid-2000s without giving much thought to any broader movement. "Back then, I never really paid attention to the development [of skating in Ulaanbaatar]. Me and three friends were the only ones skating full time. We thought we were the only cool kids in town for sure."

Over the years, his trips were notches in Mongolia's shifting landscape as the country started adjusting to its free-market adolescence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, and the youth-driven demonstrations that followed, Mongolia cast away nearly seven decades of communist rule. A democratic government and market-based economy was set up following the peaceful revolution of 1990, but political infighting, hyper-inflation and the 1997 Asian financial crisis meant Mongolia didn't benefit from the transition until the mid-2000s.

"Things started to change as I got older and spent more time in Mongolia," Eddie says. "Kids were always looking at me with awe, while I skated past them. I could tell they were brave enough to try it, but had no idea how to acquire a board. The streets were getting cleaned up, finally, so the opportunity was starting to shine."

In 2013, Eddie started Uukhai. The potential he saw in the youth of Ulaanbaatar contrasted with the mismanagement he felt was becoming pervasive among the shot-callers of the new, moneyed Mongolia. "The elders were just putting money in their own pockets from all the mining opportunities," Eddie explains. "I felt like making a difference that would directly influence the kids in the streets in an embracing, motivational way. What better way to do that than with what I love to do?"

After many late-night discussions, a lot of paperwork and politics, Eddie and his skate friends got Uukhai registered as an NGO. They set about raising money to get more skateboards to kids in Ulaanbaatar, and starting work on a video to give a voice to the local scene.

Tengis Badmaarag, fashion design student, eighteen

Tengis has been skating since he was fifteen at Fountain Park, a spot whose rebel credentials are marked by a monument to the Beatles. In 1970s Mongolia, the Beatles emerged as a symbol of rebellion as young people would gather to sing their tunes after buying albums at Ulaanbaatar's black-market record-swap meets, shirking the censorship of the country's then-communist government. One side of the statue sees the Fab Four cast in bronze against a red brick background; on the other side a young Mongolian is strumming a guitar against a block of solid yellow.

But even here skateboarding is far from universally appreciated. After landing a kickflip, Tengis is scolded by a white-haired woman for disturbing her tranquility. "They think a skateboard's a toy," Tengis says, nodding towards the elderly woman still casting a stoney look. "They think, 'Oh, this is something for little kids to play with.' Or they see us and think 'These are bad guys,' like gangsters. We tell them that we are just having fun and it's a sport, but they don't listen. They just say, 'Don't play with that toy here.'"

Here, in the park, Tengis first caught the eye of older skaters who would eventually go on to found Uukhai. But his parents have yet to be convinced that he's not wasting his time. Their cynicism turned to condemnation when Tengis was hospitalised a year ago after attempting to jump a 1.6-metre gap and fell on his head. "I don't remember much," Tengis says. "My friends say I was knocked out for six minutes. After that my parents said, 'You're never skateboarding again.' I told them 'No, I want to be a pro skater.' They just say, 'Pfffft.'

Tengis insists he won't bend to convention, but adds that a lot of skaters he grew up with have succumbed over the years, trading decks for jobs, and settling down to have families at the behest of their parents. "In the US or Europe, when kids are eighteen or nineteen, their parents let them go. Asian parents – even when you are old – they don't let go," says Tengis. "My father wants me to be an engineer. He is an electrical engineer, but I don't like it."

He studies fashion and hopes to make Uukhai into a homegrown skate brand. "I want it to have the feeling that it is a little old, but not too old. I want it to represent Mongolia and I want it to be a little gritty."

Sergelenbayar "Seke" Batjargal, aspiring skate shop owner, twenty-eight

In 2004, Carhartt's skate team visited Mongolia and documented their journey through photobooks and videos. But it wasn't until 2013, when Uukhai put out their own major video, The Uukhai Documentary, that the foreign perspective was countered by something truly authentic and homegrown.

One of the skaters in the video is Sergelenbayar Batjargal – Seke for short. The twenty-eight-year-old is often seen rolling around Fountain Park on chilly autumn weekends in a hoodie, jeans and scuffed skate shoes. Seke hangs at the sidelines during most skate sessions, letting younger kids get shine in front of their peers. But when he goes to try something, everyone stops to watch.

Today, Seke is fixated on a patch of grass that has created a five-foot gap between the park's smooth concrete and the curb leading to the street – where he intends to land after jumping the grassy patch. Seven tries in, Seke sticks the landing. He hits it twice more, landing cleaner on try nine.

An eight-year veteran of Ulaanbaatar's skate scene, Seke was there with Eddie at Uukhai's inception. But Seke is in the minority among his peers; his parents support what he is doing with Uukhai and his ambitions to open the city's first real skate shop. He wants to make skateboarding more accessible to Ulaanbaatar's youth. At the moment, if you want a complete board from a reputable brand you have to buy it online for up to 250 US dollars – more than many parents want to spend on a "toy".

Uukhai's activities as an NGO tried to tackle this, but funding dried up shortly after their first fundraiser event. Seke says they're still struggling to get financial or government support for skateboarding in the city.

"We haven't met anyone interested in developing skateboarding in Mongolia," says Seke. "They only see a few of us around the city skating and think it's not popular. That's why I want to open a skate shop. If I succeed, I'll support skating for young people here. I give out my used decks in good condition to kids that need it. I gave away new bearings to someone last month. For now, I do what I can."

Ankhbayar "Patrik" Chinzorig, construction worker/bartender/student/Uukai skate manager, twenty

Ankhbayar Chinzorig, the Uukhai skate team manager is meeting friends in front of a clothing store, which boasts an open parking-lot and long rows of stairs.

Ankhbayar, who goes by Patrik, is late. Wearing a black beanie, workman's jacket, and heavy boots, he looks ready for heavy lifting, not skating, when he arrives. He's just finished his side-job on a construction site. Patrik trades boots for skate shoes with one of the younger skaters taking a break from the day's action. As he warms up he cuts a different figure to the fresh-faced teenager that appeared in the 2013  Uukhai video. But after a few missed tricks, Patrik lands an ollie over a small ledge. "As I get older, my body is becoming heavier and stiffer, but it is probably because of my current job," says Patrik. "I try to work out, practice and skate every day."

Patrik works multiple side-jobs alongside bartending full-time and attending school. For him, working hard to follow his passion is not an issue; it's the lack of support from the community that frustrates him. "People here think skating is not a serious sport. I'm working hard to show skating is a sport that should be taken seriously," he says.

Uukhai have made headway in their quest to legitimise skateboarding. After approaching the local Ministry of Sports and Arts, the municipality agreed to help Uukhai organise an X Games-style competition in 2014, which was hosted at Ulaanbaatar's National Amusement Park. But since then, Patrik says calls for government support have fallen on deaf ears – especially when it comes to helping build a park that's skateable in winter, when temperatures can reach minus forty degrees Celsius. "We've proposed to the [local] government many times to build an indoor skatepark, but nobody would take it seriously. They think a skatepark is not a useful thing. Because of that, we skateboard in the street," says Patrik.

He also hints at a clash of ideologies between the older Mongolians that have known the nation as a Soviet satellite state, and the current generation, which knows Mongolia as a democracy. "Old people here are very conservative. They're completely different from young people. Young people like to try out new things and are more open-minded. That's probably because of the Old Russian socialist influence that has impacted [Mongolia's older population] permanently," Patrik says.

Distrust of the government is also growing in Mongolia, and Patrik says change is needed. His sentiments are shared by many, it seems: according to a 2015 Asia Foundation report, fifty-nine per cent of Mongolians believe corruption has gotten worse in the past three years, up from forty-one per cent in 2013.

But Patrik is hopeful: "I believe that the youth can make changes. When our generation reaches forty or fifty, I think Mongolia will be in a better place than nowadays."

"Nothing is impossible," adds Patrik, after another missed trick. A smile creeps across his face as he rolls away to try again

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Winners and losers in Mongolia's mining gold rush

They call them ninjas: driven by lack of opportunity, tens of thousands of Mongolians, including children, are engaged in illegal gold mining, often in extremely harsh and dangerous conditions, writes Zigor Aldama

April 29 (South China Morning Post) Even if there were an old-type thermometer in place, it would be unable to correctly reflect how cold it is in Zaamar, a central Mongolian town of unpaved roads and wooden houses. At 40 degrees Celsius below zero, the mercury would freeze. But that doesn't really matter, because, regardless of the temperature, the "ninjas" don't rest.

Armed with rudimentary tools, they hollow out the steppe in search of its most precious mineral resource: gold. And there are many of them; various studies claim that up to 300,000 people, 10 per cent of the population living in a country four times the size of Japan, have at some point in their lives been involved in the search for gold. Currently, the government estimates, about 100,000 Mongolians illegally mine up to five tonnes of gold each year.

Ganzorig, who prefers not to give his full name, is one of them. As he digs, with a pick and shovel, in the frozen ground outside Zaamar, he responds in monosyllables. He looks up from about five metres below the surface, sweat frozen in his eyelashes. Despite the conditions, he laughs heartily and often. When the partner he's working with hauls a bucket of soil to the surface, Ganzorig takes the opportunity to climb out of his hole and smoke a cigarette.

"It's not been a good day so far," he acknowledges. "But this job is better than trading cattle." And he should know; until a couple of years ago, Ganzorig was one of the nomads who inhabit Mongolia's northeast. He lost most of his herd during the winter of 2010, remembered as the terrible " dzud", then decided to sell the rest and follow the advice of a friend who worked as a ninja.

The nickname comes from the green bowls some gold diggers carry on their backs, which resemble the shells sported by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cartoon characters. But Ganzorig, like most of those seeking gold around Zaamar, considers the term a pejorative one. Nevertheless, he doesn't really mind what people think of him.

IN PICTURES: New photographs capture special bond between hunter and eagle in Mongolia

"The main goal is to feed my family," he says. "One gram is trading for 55,000 tugrik [HK$210], so even though the price varies according to the market, every day we work we generally earn about 100,000 tugrik."

A few yards from Ganzorig, Demidee is also looking for gold. Having just turned 19, he is using his 10 days of holiday from vocational training college to help his mother search for riches, but neither of them dares dig a hole. Instead, they use a crude metal detector. Given that most nuggets weigh only a few milligrams, their returns are poor.

"We spend too much time digging up useless bits of scrap metal," says the young man. "Sometimes, however, we get lucky. Once we even came up with a piece of gold weighing 2.3 grams." Today, however, they have found nothing. "We prefer that to digging holes, which is very dangerous," he says.

Besides private security personnel employed by the mines, the police have been known to use firearms to expel those seeking gold - FORMER NINJA

The ninjas in Zaamar must be alert to another danger: Khurlee and his metallic grey Land Cruiser, which can appear out of nowhere.

"They are on private land and they aren't allowed to dig here," says Khurlee, a heavy hired to scare off the gold diggers by a Mongolian mining company he'd prefer not to name. He is wearing a camouflage uniform and warned of his arrival by turning on a red light on the roof of his car and blasting a siren. He is aware of the presence of a journalist so he politely urges the ninjas to leave the area. But Amgelan Damdinragehaa claims that that isn't always the case.

"They often end up fighting, and there have even been people killed in the clashes," says the former ninja. "Besides private security personnel employed by the mines, the police have been known to use firearms to expel those seeking gold."

Damdinragehaa is the president of a small association of artisanal miners, a type of organisation the government legalised at the end of 2013 to reduce the number of ninjas and allow people to legally benefit from the exploitation of a national resource. Having been one, Damdinragehaa understands the ninjas' plight, but he is now determined to see the back of them.

"In this area, there used to be 10,000 illegal miners, but now there are only 3,000. The rest of us are associated, and that allows us to have more resources, to have more power when negotiating prices and to sell gold directly to the Bank of Mongolia regardless of quantity."

Damdinragehaa argues that ninjas present two problems: environmental degradation, "because they don't repair the damage done to the land by digging hundreds of holes"; and an economic loss for the country, "because they don't pay taxes and sell the gold to Chinese middlemen".

Ganbold, who also prefers to give just his first name, admits this is true. But only partially. He works with his wife, Tungalatamir, in the nearby village of Khailaast, beside a small lake, where he sifts through soil discarded by an open-cast mine to find gold. They do not dig, they simply pay others to deliver the soil in a truck to them and "clean it" using a hopper and pressurised water. As it is the heaviest material, at the end of the process, any metal to be found in the soil is deposited at the bottom of the hopper. Several tonnes of raw material are necessary to yield, if they are lucky, a couple of nuggets.

Although the soil no longer has any value for the Uuls Zaamar gold mine, the company considers ninjas like them thieves. So the couple know that at any time, someone might appear to send them packing, and there is a chance they'll have their truck and tools seized.

Unlike the workers in Zaamar, Ganbold and Tungalatamir work only between April and October, when the ground is not frozen - "We are already over 60, so we are not spring chickens any more" - but they find about six or seven grams of gold every day they're on the job, they say.

Sometimes, Chinese buyers come here to buy directly ... Then the gold will be bought in China and Hong Kong by investors and jewelers - SHOP MANAGER

Once in the privacy of their charming ger (the traditional Mongolian tent) the couple have erected in Khailaast, Ganbold displays the notebook in which he keeps track of the treasure they've extracted.

They sell at night, in a small shop in the middle of the dusty town, which appears to have been transported directly from the American Wild West. The process is straightforward: the clerk reaches for a little scale from under the counter, certifies how many grams a seller has brought in and pays in cash immediately. As a European specialist will later confirm, after examining a small sample, the gold Ganbold and Tungalatamir dig up is 24 carats, the highest purity. They are aiming to save enough to buy an apartment in the capital, Ulan Bator, in which to move with their two adult children.

"Then we will retire, but we still have some way to go," Tungalatamir says, counting a wad of bills.

From Khailaast, a trusted courier will take the gold bought in the shop to Ulan Bator, to sell to brokers, who will introduce it to the international market once it's been combined with other metals and its quality has been lowered to the standard 18 carats.

"But, sometimes, Chinese buyers come here to buy directly and save the commission of intermediaries," says the manager of the shop. "Then the gold will be bought in China and Hong Kong by investors and jewellers who will eventually channel it to the legal market."

The problem with this system, Tuya Damdinjats points out, is that it encourages the looting of Mongolia's raw materials. Damdinjats heads the Duush Mandal Khairkhan (DMK) union, an association of traditional miners created by 300 former ninjas in the village of Zuunkharaa, about 200km from Khailaast.

"We avoid letting the gold out of the country. And, unlike what multinational mining companies and the ninjas themselves do, we actually care for the environment. We try to pollute as little as possible and we have a programme with the Asia Foundation NGO to recycle the soil in new facilities we have built especially for the purpose," she says, during a visit to the small factory in which the union's rocks are broken up and processed under the supervision of three or four employees. Unlike Ganbold, the union uses chemicals to extract its gold, and the purity is lower and more variable.

The organisation has acquired more advanced digging equipment, some of it funded through development grants given by the governments of the Czech Republic and Switzerland, and has been improving the working conditions of its members: "Everyone pays 53,000 tugrik in taxes per month and they are guaranteed a minimum salary of half a million tugrik," says Damdinjats. "Of course, they do not pay for any of the tools and they have health insurance … and 10 days of holidays after each month working."

This approach, she emphasises, professionalises the ninjas, contributes to the national economy and helps reduce accidents at work.

Accidents must surely happen, though, judging by what we see in the Noyod mountain, one of several areas in which union members are permitted to dig. Here, three DMK men, helped by two children, aged 14 and 11, on their school holidays, prepare by hand the cartridges of dynamite they'll use to blast open the bowels of the earth. Some of them work with a cigarette dangling from their mouths, apparently oblivious to the danger that poses.

"Here we are as a family," laughs Uuganbayar. Everyone says they are satisfied with the functioning of the DMK.

"Working as a ninja can return more money, but it is dangerous and illegal," says the short but strong 40-something miner, who is also responsible for surveying, to determine where they dig.

"We are guided by the terrain, we dig a metre deep and, depending on what we find, we either stay or seek another location," he explains.

Many families who were once poor now live well with this type of mining. - NYAAMBAATAR

They dig out 20 bags of stone a day, which are sent to Zuunkharaa for processing. The adults wait for the midday sun to reach its zenith so its light penetrates as far as possible the narrow hole into which they crawl. Even so, the sunlight disappears a few feet in, leaving the tiny flashlights attached to their helmets as their only illumination. Security measures are non-existent, and usually they don't even wear protective masks, because, they say, oxygen is scarce below ground and masks hinder their breathing.

An hour is enough time to place their explosives and flee the shaft before a thudding sound shakes the ground. A few seconds later, a jet of powder shoots out of the ventilation shaft they'll use to extract the stone.

"That is the most exhausting job because you can barely breathe and [the loads] are heavy," says Nyambaatar, 20, as he tries to wipe fine white powder from his face. "But I wouldn't do anything else, because I do not know anything else - but also because I believe that we are contributing to the development of the region. Many families who were once poor now live well with this type of mining."

That is not the kind of talk that pleases D. Enkhbold. As president of the National Mining Association of Mongolia, which represents large multinationals operating in the country, he is at loggerheads with both the ninjas and traditional mining associations.

"As for the former, it is clear they are not subject to any kind of regulation and they are especially harmful. The problem with the latter, however, is the opacity with which they work, the lack of means to control their operation and the fact that they have some unfair tax advantages." In addition, Enkhbold states, "The bigger the mining companies are, the more they contribute to society through jobs and taxes or royalties. And they also care more than small businesses for the conservation of the environment."

In Zaamar, Damdinragehaa contests that last assertion. And he does so by pointing at the lunar landscape sculpted around a large Russian mine.

"Can you see all these little hills? They weren't there before. They are the result of a botched process to cover the gigantic holes the miners made. The Russians took the gold, they paid corrupt politicians who turned a blind eye on taxation, and conducted a ceremony with the media to show how they would recover the environment. When the cameras left, they did, too," says Damdinragehaa. "Now no one can bring cattle here because they fall in the holes and get killed."

Enkhbold concedes only that, "Corruption and bureaucracy are major problems, also for multinationals."

The struggle for gold in what some dub "Minegolia" is expected to be long and bloody, in part because the prize is a sweet one. The importance of the mining sector has exploded since Mongolia abandoned communism in 1990. Today, mining represents about 20 per cent of the country's gross domestic product and provides 70 per cent of its economic growth.

There are fewer and fewer people in poverty, largely thanks to mining, but the divide with the rich is growing - ZUUNKHARAA 

However, the falling prices of most raw materials have slowed the increase in GDP from a rate of 17.5 per cent in 2011, a speed that made the land of Genghis Khan one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Nevertheless, the World Bank states that the poverty rate in Mongolia fell from 27.4 per cent to 21.6 per cent between 2012 and 2014.

"The problem is that growth remains in the hands of a few, and social differences soar," says Damdinjats, who is also the mayor of Zuunkharaa. "There are fewer and fewer people in poverty, largely thanks to mining, but the divide with the rich is growing.

"Gold, like other valuable minerals, is a state resource that should be reinvested in the country. More job opportunities for the youth must be created through education, so that dependence on mining is lessened. And we must try to prevent foreigners from taking our raw materials. What prevents this from being achieved is, of course, corruption in the government.

"Everyone wants their envelopes and, in the end, the deputies are elite people drafting legislation to make even more money."

Meanwhile, the steppe is steadily being stripped.

"In Mongolia you either have to be a herder or get a good degree to work in an office. There are very few alternatives," says Tungalatamir. "There are almost no factories like in China, but the land has many resources and we don't think it's fair to let the corporations take everything. We should all benefit."

Says Ganzorig, "As far as I have the strength, I will dig for gold. Nothing else I can do now will support my family. If they want me to stop they will have to put me in jail."

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Cops nab 7 Mongolian shoplifters, 7 more on the run

April 28 (The Macau Post Daily) The police arrested seven suspects from the Republic of Mongolia on Tuesday for their involvement in a number of shoplifting cases in the peninsula and Taipa this year, a Public Security Police (PSP) spokesperson said yesterday.

The spokesperson announced the case during a special press briefing at the PSP headquarters in Zape.

According to the spokesperson, while investigating a shoplifting case in a shop near the St Paul's Ruins last Wednesday, police officers quickly identified the seven suspects.

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Nature, Environment

Dying Steppe

Mongolia's grasslands have sustained the nomadic people whose long history of raising livestock is legendary. But climate change, urbanization and bureaucracy are threatening the very existence of their herder culture, Nathan VanderKlippe reports

ADAATSAG, MONGOLIA, April 29 (The Globe and Mail) Gantumur rides a stocky white horse out onto the steppe, a choppy trot moving toward two dots in the dry grass.

He dismounts next to a sheep and lamb. They have barely moved from this place since the birth 10 days ago, the mother too weak to walk.

Gantumur, a 51-year-old Mongolian herder, spreads a plastic bag on the ground, offering its contents of bran to the sheep. As she eats, he sits next to his horse, using the animal for protection against a bitter wind that ruffles his knee-length deel overcoat, its thick blue cloth flecked with horse hair.

"I'm bringing food so she can gain enough strength to rejoin the herd," he says. But even with the additional sustenance, he worries about the mother, her wool falling in clumps off a thin body.

"She's so weak – and if she can't make enough milk, both of them will die," says Gantumur, who like many Mongolians goes by only one name.

He has already lost 60 of his 100 goats and sheep, after a fierce winter that has taken a grim toll on the Mongolian steppe. The spectacular expanse of undulating grassland has long sustained the country, but has come under threat from climate change and overuse, which in recent years has killed huge numbers of animals and propelled a human exodus from the land that is eroding one of the last nomadic cultures on Earth.

Across Mongolia, nearly 860,000 animals have already died from this year'sdzud, a weather phenomenon in which a summer of drought is followed by a winter of cold and heavy snow. Today, carcasses lie in dry gulches and dried-out watering holes, their exposed skin gleaming in the sun after herders stripped hides to salvage some value. Many more animals died from large numbers of miscarriages.

The dzud is part of the Mongolian landscape. Elder herders recall great numbers of livestock felled by dzud conditions in 1945 and 1967. But what once took place on a lengthy cycle now appears to be coming with more frequency. Huge numbers of animals died in 2001, and then again in 2009, before this year's dzud – which although regional and not as deadly as earlier iterations, is still expected to kill more than a million livestock.

"It used to happen every 20 years. Then it went to a 10-year pattern. And now it seems we have come to a five-year pattern," said Quentin Moreau, country director for People in Need, a Czech disaster response organization. "It's very likely an aggravating factor is climate change."

Driven in part by the emotional toll of losing animals under their care, herders themselves are abandoning the steppe. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Mongolian herders fell from a half-million to 300,000.

Mongolia's herder culture, one of the last on Earth, is "just dying. It's only a matter of time until we're going to probably end up with a symbolic number of herders, and that's it," Mr. Moreau said.

In Adaatsag soum, a county-like region in southern Dundgobi province, 15 per cent of the population has vanished in the past three years alone. Local leaders have tried to stem the departures, organizing training sessions and seminars to promote the herder lifestyle to young people. The message is: "You don't have to go – you can stay here and you can live well in this soum," said Ochirbat, the elected leader of a local bag, or brigade, a smaller administrative unit.

"We are doing this because Mongolia has been founded on animal husbandry. It's the main economic pillar of the country. That's why we need to keep younger generations in the countryside to tend livestock."

But it's been a hard battle, particularly as dzud conditions kill animals owned by young herders who may struggle to shepherd them through tough conditions. A half-decade after the last major dzud, some herders have recovered only a fraction of their former herd sizes.

Others have already quit. "They sort of give up. They don't have the mental or psychological power to continue herding livestock," Ochirbat said. "They feel that 'I can't do it so I would rather go to the city.'"

In 2014, only 29 per cent of Mongolians remained rural, according to World Bank statistics. In China, by comparison, nearly one in two people still lives in rural areas.

But Mongolia's transition to an urban population comes amid worsening conditions on its vast grasslands – which sprawl across a country larger than Quebec – that have only grown worse as people have left.

Many herders are only partly quitting the countryside, becoming instead absentee herders who live in the city but maintain hundreds of animals in the countryside to augment income.

That has created larger accumulations of animals, and with it, bigger problems. Some herds now exceed 1,000, as families care for their own animals alongside those owned from afar. Mongolia now has 61 million head of livestock, roughly double what scientists believe the country's natural environment can support.

At the same time, herders who once regularly moved long distances have grown more sedentary, a product of bureaucracy and growing material possessions. The grasslands may remain unfenced, but administrative divisions imposed during Soviet times, and since maintained, have bound the landscape in ways that interfere with old patterns.

A study by Batbuyan, a human geographer at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, found that 154 out of 330 soums lacked one or more seasonal grazing areas.

Solar panels, meanwhile, have brought modernity to remote places, but at the cost of mobility. In older times, herders kept possessions to what could move on two camels, or four horses. Today, it takes a truck to haul around flat-panel televisions and DC-power washing machines. Many herders move once a year rather than with the seasons, and often only short distances, creating an increasingly heavy footprint on the grasslands.

"People with big animal herds cannot move far, and so they just hope there will be rain and there will be grass," Batbuyan said. The solution, he says, lies both in returning to past practices – including moving with each season – and in embracing new solutions. That can include building co-operatives to help spread herds across the landscape. By working together, herders can embrace modern practices such as the ability to trace meat to its source, which in turn can help boost exports, raise meat prices and lessen the need for such large numbers of livestock.

The alternative is increasing fragility in the face of a landscape in the midst of damaging change – some of it natural, some of it caused by humans.

Climate projections suggest Mongolia will see more warming than any other East Asian country, with average temperatures increasing more than five degrees by 2090. Precipitation patterns are already changing. Hundreds of rivers and lakes have already gone dry.

At the same time, illegal hunting, much of it for sales to China, has eliminated roughly 75 per cent of the country's marmots, a species important in maintaining grasslands health, in the past two decades.

Today, "over 70 per cent of the land has been influenced by desertification – not just the steppe, but even in mountain areas, because of climate change and the impact of livestock," said Suvd, an Ulaanbaatar-based project officer with GIZ, the German international development agency.

In Dundgobi, or Middle Gobi, the province on the northern fringe of the Gobi Desert, countless miniature sand dunes gather around tufts of grass. Less than 1 per cent of the province is unaffected by desertification; the encroachment of sand is considered "medium" or "very strong" in nearly three-quarters of its land.

Outside Adaatsag, a recent windstorm blew in a sand drift more than half-a-metre thick, nearly burying a large metal milk jug behind the stone-walled shelter for sheep and goats that belongs to Dusmaa, 64, and her herding family.

"I'm worried that the sand is increasing," she says.

They lost more than 100 livestock in the recent dzud. Thirteen dead goats still lie on a nearby roof, waiting for the family to find time to strip away their valuable cashmere with hot water. "The winter was harsh," Dusmaa says. "It was much colder than previous years," with temperatures dipping to -40 degrees Celsius, "and the snow cover was thick."

The family bought additional hay and feed, and did what it could to save animal lives. But winter punished humans and animals alike. Dusmaa's son broke his shin after crashing his motorcycle on the icy ground, leaving him on crutches and unable to work for six months. Even warmer April temperatures are small consolation. "Until June, we are not completely out of danger," Dusmaa says. "A sudden snowstorm can make things difficult."

As she talks, her daughter-in-law places a giant steel bowl on the stove in the centre of the family ger, the round structure, insulated with lamb wool felt, commonly known as a yurt. She pours in milk and tea leaves to boil up milk tea. The family hands around a plate stacked high with dried curds, bread and hardened milk fat, all made by hand. Outside, workers use tools with bent steel tines to scrape cashmere from goats. Falcons and camels dot the surrounding landscape.

Dusmaa knows she is part of a diminishing way of life. Three of her six children are no longer herders; even those still tending livestock send their children eight kilometres away to live in the dusty local village on weekdays to attend school. The primary ambition for many herders is to give their children a future away from the grasslands.

Dusmaa can't understand it.

"When I look at people who have gone to get jobs and make a small salary, I feel for them. I think they would be better off herding livestock instead," she says.

"All of our needs can be met from our livestock – the milk, the wool, the cashmere," she says. That's not to mention the cow and sheep dung that provide valuable fuel for winter heat.

Dusmaa admits it's tough when dzud conditions hit.

"But when nature is great, and the weather is okay, we have no problems. It's really great to have livestock."

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Mining threatens Mongolia's fragile environmental balance

Mongolia's rush to exploit its mineral resources is using up precious water supplies, writes Lucy Woods

April 25 (chinadialogue) A fifth of Mongolian land has been earmarked for mining. Investors are so happy about this they have given a new moniker to the world's second-biggest landlocked country: "Minegolia".

Mining's share of Mongolia's economy has doubled in a decade. Copper, gold, uranium, silver and coal mines account for 20-30% of national GDP and 89% of annual exports.

Oyu Tolgoi, already one of the largest mines in the world, is expected to expand during the next few years despite weak commodities prices, and will have an increasing impact on the country's economy and its ecology.  

The International Monetary Fund predicts that by 2021, Oyu Tolgoi will account for a third of Mongolia's GDP and that mining's share of the economy will account for over half.

But the Gobi Desert is more than a vast store of mineral deposits and is also home to many endangered plants and animals.

"The world is in danger of losing these valuable species into extinction forever," said Choikhang Janchivlamdan, a director from the environmental non-profit Green Initiative, when asked about the impact of continued mining on these desert habitats.

Mining has left water reserves overexploited, he says. Even in rocky outcrops - previous havens for parched animals - water has disappeared, he adds.  

One of these endangered animals is the Asiatic Wild Ass and Green Initiative has observed the species scraping 60-centimetre deep holes into the cracked banks of dried up rivers to quench their thirst.

Other endangered animals native to the Gobi include the black-tailed gazelle, argali sheep, ibex, Mongolian gazelle, corsac fox, cinereous vulture, steppe eagle and grey wolf.

While mining companies claim to use separate, deep-underground saline water called 'fossil water', in reality many do not. For this, deep drilling and large investment is required, says Mongolia's United Nation's Development Programme (UNDP) deputy representative, Thomas Eriksson. Instead of fossil water, mines use precious groundwater, polluting and draining water reserves that are shared with animals and people.

According to a World Bank study in 2010, the Southern Gobi region only has sufficient groundwater for the next decade or so, while herders in the region have testified to the impact of mining on aquifers.

Despite the droughts and other ecological threats posed by mining, many countries are still eager to follow the UK, Canada, Russia and China, and invest in Mongolia's mining boom.

In 2011, Germany signed a coal agreement with Mongolia, Last year, a free trade agreement was signed with Japan, and a second trade agreement is in the works with South Korea.

Mongolia is heavily dependent on foreign investment, which it makes it difficult to reject proposals from foreign mining interests - especially from neighbouring China. Some 89% of Mongolia's exports, which are mostly minerals, rely on Chinese buyers.

"There are few countries in the world where Chinese trade, foreign investment and global commodity prices have such an impact," says Eriksson, as Mongolia "has not yet set aside sovereign wealth (for environmental protection or health)"  

Mongolia is suffering from China's economic slowdown and has already reacted with emergency austerity measures.

"This country is in deep trouble" says Sukhgerel Dugersuren, executive director of NGO Oyu Tolgoi Watch, expressing her concerns.

"A lot of Mongolians would say they have not seen much benefit (from mining)," says Eriksson. Most of the country still lacks running water, sewage, hospitals and roads.

Yet, according to the World Bank, Mongolia's economy will likely remain on the up, while poverty levels are likely to fall.

To help entice foreign investment in mining, and in the hope that multinational companies would build much needed infrastructure, the government introduced the Land Allocation Law of Mongolia (2003; amended 2005/08). In it, if mining companies offer compensation for resettlement, and nomads refuse, they lose all land rights.

The law has proved controversial. In response, the Asian Development Bank wrote separate rules for its projects, adding that the existing law is: "incomplete, imprecise, and fails to adequately protect the rights of affected persons, "

Forced to move to inadequate dry lands, nomadic herders give up, sell their animals, relocate to the city and look for a job. One readily available job is cleaning Oyu Tolgoi roads, says Dugersuren.

"People do not see that as a meaningful existence! You are a nomad. You are a proud person and it's your lifestyle. You have all your future plans…then all of a sudden you lose it all. [Mining companies] give you a job that is collecting people's trash."

Desperate job-seeking nomads have also made the migration to an area  atop the infamous Nilaikh coal mine.

Located on the outskirts of Ulan Bator, Nilaikh is the oldest coal mine in Mongolia. Closed since Mongolia's revolution in 1990, Nilaikh is now covered in rotting animal corpses, piles of discarded plastic and rusting metal scraps as the government has tried to deter illegal mining by turning it into a rubbish dump. Undeterred, unlicensed groups still mine the abandoned tunnels.

There are no safety standards and no air testers, and mines are prone to regular collapse. "People lose their animals and are not experienced in mining," says one local who did not want to be named. "They go down till their legs get weak. Nomads do not know about methane, and so, they die." According to some locals, at least 10 lives are lost this way every year at the mine.

In an attempt to 'offset' displacement and ecological damage, mining companies, and the government, employ "broad and somewhat arbitrary parameters" a 2014 study, in the Journal of Environmental Management found.

Offsetting might be planting trees to replace ecosystems or erecting a community building to replace generations of tradition; and the practice does "not sufficiently consider real-world challenges in compensating losses in an effective and lasting manner," the report concludes.

In response to Oyu Tolgoi's 'offsetting', herders took a standpetitioned and filed acomplaint to the World Bank's Compliance Advisor Ombudsman in April 2013.

Three years on, the complaint has yet to be resolved.

"For many, it (mining) is a cultural shock," says Dugersuren. Even the traditional Mongolian boot has "the nose turned upwards so as not to kick a stone to disturb the earth."

For the most sparsely populated country in the world, where the main form of transport is still horseback along zigzagging dirt roads, mass demonstrations against monolithic international mining and finance organisations are an exceptional struggle: "We are so very few. If we bring together 40 nomads in the Gobi, that is huge, this is a big thing for Mongolia, but it is nothing when foreigners look at it" says Dugersuren.

Deciding on what action to take can also be confusing, as the same companies that are the source of public grievances are also claiming to fund public services. For example, the UK mining firm, Rio Tinto reported providing a local hospital, "but you go there and there is one dental cabinet with a plaque that reads: World Bank financed," says Dugersuren.


However, alternatives to economic dependency on mining are plausible and plentiful.

Mongolia's abundant natural resources are perfect for ecotourism, and adventure holidays. A long-term government policy to protect tourism "from any negative effects from the mining industry" would help diversify Mongolia's economy, says the Oxford Business Group's 2013 Mongolia report.

"Local management models" could protect wildlife from mining while also empowering citizens, says Eriksson. The model is already successfully used by UNDP to protect river basins and forests. Nomads become "managers of the land" and the government "actually interacts with them," he adds. 


Reducing Mongolia's reliance on mining would make way for entirely new industries. The country gets plentiful and strong sunlight, and with an estimated 11GW of wind power that could be harnessed in the Gobi, there is huge potential for renewable energy.

Investment in Mongolian renewable energy could benefit all of Eurasia, says Batbold Ulziibayar, project contract manager for energy company, Clean Energy Asia (which developed Mongolia's first windfarm in 2013).

Wind energy is "low impact on traditional nomadic lives with minimal land use." But renewables are lacking the requisite financial inducements, says Eriksson.

With so many investment opportunities and natural resources available to it, the question is what will Mongolia choose to exploit, and what will it protect.

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Ulaanbaatar International Marathon on June 4

April 29 ( International "Ulaanbaatar Marathon" on will be held on June 4. The marathon has 2 categories -- Amateur and Professional. Starting line will start at Chinggis Khaan square and after running specified routes, runners will finish back at Chinggis Khaan square.

The professional category is divided into semi - 21 km; and full - 42 km distances. And amateurs' marathon is divided into 3 distances with 4 age groups. Specifically, 5 km distance will include ages between 12-17, 18-35, 36-54, 55 and above; and 10 km distance includes everyone above age 18. 

There is also marathon designed for families and people with disabilities for 1.5 km distance.

Full marathon (42 km) winner prize:

  • First place 10 million MNT
  • Second place 8 million MNT
  • Third place 6 million MNT

Amateur's marathon 10 km winner prize:

  • First place 500,000 thousand MNT
  • Second place 400,000 thousand MNT
  • Third place 300,000 thousand MNT

Amateur's marathon 5 km winner prize:

  • First place 300,000 thousand MNT
  • Second place 250,000 thousand MNT
  • Third place 200,000 thousand MNT

Runners who finish in 4-10th places in any category will be rewarded with medals, certificate and cash prize.

Entrants may register at online or go to relative sports committee in your district or capital city sports & physical culture office. Registration deadline is May 30, reports Capital city Public Relations department.

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"2016 UB Marathon": register now!, April 29


Four Mongols running at Sri Chinmoy Ten and Six Day Races

April 29 ( The 21st Annual Sri Chinmoy Ten-Day Race have started on Tuesday, April 19 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York. This race is held concurrently with the 19th Annual Sri Chinmoy Six-Day Race which started on Saturday, April 23. Both races end on today and only few hours left to the finish. 

75 runners from 25 countries are competing at the races while Mongolia is being represented by four Mongols including B.Budjargal, Mountaineering and Marathon Master and S.Oyungerel, Doctor and Sports Master at 21st Annual Sri Chinmoy Ten-Day Race. Also J.Odgiiv, a veteran athletes of chingeltei district and T.Tuvshinjargal, athletes of Orhon aimag are successfully participating in the 19th Annual Sri Chinmoy Six-Day Race.

Sri Chinmoy founded the Marathon Team in 1977, and his vision, encouragement and intuition have been the guiding force behind its growth into the world's largest organizer of ultradistance races.

His innate understanding of the limitless potential that lies within each one of us led him to conceive of events that to others seemed beyond the bounds of possibility - the prime example being the 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence Race; started in 1997 and still the world's longest race.

The course is a very flat, scenic, 1 mile loop (Certification Code NY11008JG) in a pleasant park setting near the famous areas of the World's Fair of 1964 and close to the USTA facility, home of the US Open. There are many patches of green and trees, as well as close proximity to Meadow Lake. Temperatures in April in New York generally vary between 52º and 71º with extremes at 33º and 90º. In other words, plan for any conceivable weather condition, including rain and windy conditions.

  • B.Budjargal ranks 9th in the 21st Annual Sri Chinmoy Ten-Day Race with 873,8 km. 
  • S.Oyungerel ranks 7th in the 21st Annual Sri Chinmoy Ten-Day Race with 787,0 km. 
  • J.Odgiiv ranks 12th in the 19th Annual Sri Chinmoy Six-Day Race by with km. 
  • T.Tuvshinjargal ranks 13th in the 19th Annual Sri Chinmoy Six-Day Race with 294 km. 

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Art, Entertainment

Salvador Dali and Picasso exhibition opens at Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts

April 29 ( Paintings and sculptures by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso are being showed at the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum in Ulaanbaatar today. 

Alexander Shadrin, a "great art" collector ranking fourth in the world, from Russia's Ekaterinburg, decided to show his collections here. Amomg them are famous "Four Dancers" by Picasso and "Horse Saddled with Time" by Salvador Dali.

Alexander Shadrin brought a goat to the exhibition opening. He stated that Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso were used to pet a goat.

"It has a deep meaning for opening exhibition in Ulaanbaatar. We found out an interesting story about Gala, a beloved wife of Dali. Her forefathers were descendants of Chinggis Khan. She was a descendants of Kazan residents. Kazan was territory of Tatars and the Tatars were the descendants of Chinggis Khan. That is why we opened the exhibition in Ulaanbaatar" he stated.

During the exhibition, a wonderful film-tour about S.Dali`s works to be displayed.  

The exhibition is open to the public from Apr 30 to May 29. Tickets is at MNT 10,000 for adults, MNT 7000 for students and MNT 3000 for children.  A part of the profit from the ticket sales will be donated to the Zanabazar Fine Art Museum.

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Portrait of a morin khuur master

By Michelle Borok

May 1 (UB Post) Jigjiddorj Nanzaddorj, "Jiigee" as he's known to friends and fans, is one of Mongolia's living national treasures. He is a young morin khuur (horse head fiddle) virtuoso and has been honored numerous times with top prizes in Mongolian performance competitions. He has received multiple honors from the Government of Mongolia for his dedication to the art of the morin khuur and his exceptional skill in playing the iconic Mongolian instrument.

Since 2007 he has been a prized member of the State Morin Khuur Ensemble of Mongolia, and in 2009 he co-founded the ethno-jazz band Arga Bileg. While performing with these two award winning musical groups, and accepting invitations for solo performances, Jiigee has traveled all over the world. He has brought the ethereal sounds of the steppe to stages in Japan, South Korea, Italy, Vietnam, Germany, and China. He has also performed for audiences at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

Jiigee was named a leading Cultural Officer by the Government of Mongolia in 2012 and he has lived up to that honor, exposing new audiences to the traditional and modern music that can be made with the morin khuur, taking the ancient instrument boldly into the 21st century.

Currently residing in the U.S., Jiigee has been performing live concerts on the East Coast and has also been busy recording for the score of the second season of the Netflix series "Marco Polo". The UB Post spoke with him to learn more about his art and where it has taken him.

Do you remember the first time you picked up the morin khuur?

When I was sever years old, I picked up my first morin khuur. I grew up in Orkhon Province, and I always dreamt of having a morin khuur of my own. One day, my father surprised me and bought me my first morin khuur. That first night I couldn't sleep, I was so excited. I woke up multiple times in the middle of the night just to make sure it wasn't a dream.

What role did music play in your family and in your childhood?

I am the first person in my family to pursue music as a professional career. My parents are public school teachers, specializing in history and Russian. My love of music started when my grandparents gave my father a bandoneon from Russia. It is a kind of concertina from Germany, similar to the accordion, but somewhat more complex in its sonic range. When I was six years old, I learned to played the "Uran Khas" waltz on that instrument in kindergarten for the New Year's celebration and performance at our school. But from seeing it on television and listening to the radio, I knew that I wanted to learn to play the morin khuur, so I began studying the morin khuur at age seven.

What is the most challenging thing about being a professional musician?

Being a professional musician is a big responsibility. Each day we must train and keep our minds properly structured. When I was studying at the Music and Dance College in Ulaanbaatar, I learned from about music notation, theory, and how to play from my teacher Yo.Batbayar, a State Merit Teacher of Mongolia. In 2007 I joined the State Morin Khuur Ensemble, where I learned what it means to be a professional musician. Our conductor Ts. Batchuluun trained me and taught me a lot.

What inspired you to begin incorporating different musical genres into such a traditional and uniquely Mongolian art form?

I've loved music since I was a child. I learned how to play the morin khuur at a very young age, and I don't remember why I chose the morin khuur. I first became involved with the Music and Dance College in Ulaanbaatar when I was in sixth grade. Once began music school, I started taking an interest in classical music, especially compositions for the cello. There was no understanding of classical music where I grew up, so I used to look for and listen to cassette tapes of well known classical composers and musicians. The college properly introduced me to those composers and musicians. In my opinion the music of these great composers and musicians influenced my playing style and inspired me. The sound of the morin khuur and the cello are resoundingly similar.

Your music and talent have taken you all over the world. What is it like to introduce foreign audiences to the sounds of the morin khuur?

The morin khuur is unique and sounds amazing. It's strings are made of horse tail hairs, and you must understand that the sound that comes out of a morin khuur is lively because no metal is used to make the instrument. This is the reason why I think the playing the morin khuur touches people profoundly.

You were invited to perform at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, a museum dedicated to the art and culture of Central Asia and India. How do performances like the one at the museum differ from performances with the State Morin Khuur Ensemble or Arga Bileg?

In my performance at the Rubin Museum of Art, I included traditional Mongolian long and folk songs, a solo morin khuur piece called "Tatlaga" , scores written by Mongolian composers, as well as two pieces written by international composers. I think the major difference from my performances with the State Morin Khuur Ensemble and Arga Bileg was in the form itself, as I performed mostly solo and in a piano duet. This was my second overseas duet performance with a pianist, and also the second time I got to perform with an international pianist. The first time was in Tokyo with a Japanese pianist, and this time was in the United States with Russian American pianist Anna Shelest.

Your Rubin Museum of Art performance helped you connect with producers of the Netflix series "Marco Polo" and you've finished recording sessions for music for the second season of the show. Are you a fan of the series?

It is inevitable that a morin khuur melody would play a role in the music score of a series that depicts a dramatic time in Mongolian history. The music for the series is recorded in New York City, and the fact that I happened to be living in the same city lent itself to an interesting coincidence. Being able to make the musical contribution of our Mongolian horse-head fiddle melody to a project of such tremendous scope makes me happy and grateful for this opportunity.

As my schedule keeps me fairly busy, I don't watch much television or many movies. In my spare time, I like to listen to music and attend concerts and musical performances. However, during the "Marco Polo" recording, I watched particular scenes to better understand the mood depicted in those scenes, as it helps to better emote and match my performance to the scenes.

You've played music for Mongolian films in the past, what was the "Marco Polo" experience like in comparison?

Most film music is similar. As far as Marco Polo is concerned, some parts I had to improvise, and that is different from following a composition or conductor. When I improvise, I play based upon the different feelings that are expressed in the film.

What does the future hold for your work? Will you continue to pursue a career in the U.S.?

While I'm in the United States, it's my objective to perform as much morin khuur music as I can, and I  would love to keep playing with other international musicians. I owe special thanks to Ariun Sanjaajamts, Reghu Raman, Bob Brockman, Peter Nashel, Eric Hachikian, Duotone Audio Group and Soundcat Studios for helping me pursue this goal. These people have helped me a lot for making the Rubin Museum of Art concert and the "Marco Polo" recording session possible.

My goal is to introduce the Mongolian morin khuur to as wide an audience as I possibly can. My dream is that one day the morin khuur will be accepted in the United States, and that my music could become eligible to one day win a Grammy. In this manner, people will learn that the morin khuur is a heritage that traces its roots back to Mongolia and not to China.

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