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Tuesday, May 17, 2016
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Asia matters for Europe & Europe matters for Asia – Is it really so?
May 11 (European Public Affairs) A few weeks ago, Mongolia kicked off the first of several events and high-level meetings under one common name: the Asia-Europe meeting. Dozens of side events including civil society forum, youth forum, business forum and various meeting of 51 heads of state, including the European Union as well as the ASEAN Secretariat will take place. Such will occur in the country with a rich history situated at the crossroad of West and East as well as South and North. The visit of thousands of political and civil society delegates, journalists, students and tourists represents a huge challenge not only for Mongolia, a democratic state landlocked between two world's superpowers Russia and China, but also for all governments or interest groups attending the Forum. Mongolia, the country strongly hit by China's economic slowdown, has invested an enormous amount of financial and human resources in preparation of the Summit in order to present itself in the best light, thus attracting new investors, reinforcing economic diversification and bolstering sustainable economic growth.
However, the Summit is missing some important aspects such as feasible content, goal-oriented initiatives, multilateral projects and the will of its own members to move forward or act more flexibly. Europe, overwhelmed by an increasing number of internal headaches and painful discussions, accommodates the dynamics of Asian development with huge difficulties.
The voices from Mongolia vary on what the Summit means for the country. On the one hand there are experts, encouraged mostly by the officials, who highlight the long-term positive effects of Mongolia's rising international recognition in terms of economy and politics. In 2011, Mongolia was the fastest growing economy in the world with GDP growth reaching a shocking 17.3 per cent. In contrast, the Asian Development Bank forecasts the country's growth of barely 0.1 per cent in 2016 as the country has been deeply affected by the slowdown in China and by falling commodity prices. While looking at these future predictions, bringing new investors and economic diversification seems to be the only path towards sustainable economic growth or welfare. In term of politics, Mongolia is well-known as a democratic country fully determined to have a free market, rule of law and protection of human rights. However, the visage of the country was strongly hurt by the disputes between the government and international investors. Thus, the Summit represents an opportunity where the country could finally sit down with its old or new investors and say: "We are back in the game!" On the other hand, there is a civil society which represents and manifests in the interests as well as will of the country's citizens. Talking about the citizens of Mongolia, most of them are already annoyed by the Summit and the biggest show hasn't even started yet. Instead of importing hundreds of expensive new cars, alongside announcements about China's huge financial contribution, closing of kiosks and small businesses; people would rather see investments to hospitals, schools and infrastructure (sustainable, not only short-term replacements, repairs, and renovations). Whether the attraction and investments will at least reach the level of financial and human sacrifices is very doubtful at this moment. This year's ASEM Forum is extremely important for Mongolian diplomacy as well as President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj's intentions to promote Mongolia worldwide. However, is it equally important for other ASEM members?
The ASEM Summit is not only about the venue and country it takes places in; it is more about the resolutions, promises and challenges that should be addressed. These are, in fact, very doubtful in the case of this so called key forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia. The ASEM has doubled its number of members from original 26 to 53 which represents approximately 60 per cent of the world's GDP and 60 per cent of world's populations. The Summit is powerful, however only looking at the numbers it represents only the political dialogue where the meetings are more informal and interactive. Besides being a dialogue facilitator, a policy-making laboratory and contributor to Asia-Europe relations; it has no permanent secretary and no decision-making body. The Asia Europe Foundation, the only permanently established institution of the ASEM, has been extremely active strengthening Asia-Europe relations as well as fostering meeting point for intellectual, cultural, and personal interactions. However, the results of hundreds of interactive but still informal meetings, sessions, panels and dialogues are hardly measurable and thus, the promises from heads of states or government, senior officials, ministers and other participants are insufficiently advocated, evaluated and judged.
Both the EU and Asia have changed since the last ASEM meeting in 2014 at Milan. China's economy has slowed down while the EU's economy hasn't experienced any turbulent recovery. Europe has been hit by refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and the unity of its member states is more than questionable. The countries situated next to the South China Sea are alarmed by rising territorial disputes and China's increased efforts to reclaim the lands.
The Summit is determined to pay attention to major global issues, such as terrorism, weapons of mass-destruction, migration, climate change, human rights, in addition to the usual challenges around reaching civil society or wider public, enhancing trade or investment frameworks, crisis management and many others.Such a wide range of topics cannot be discussed in detail in only two days, especially when the Summit is attended by dozens of heads of state. Moreover, even with several side events focused on various interest groups; it's doubtful whether the results will be presented or the recommendations raised either to other groups holding meetings in Ulaanbaatar or to the public.
Finally, such an extensive Summit is expected to bring some promising results. In other words, the leaders, businessmen and civil society are expected to come up with challenging plans to connect Europe and Asia through multiple channels, thus developing two continents into a more interconnected and interdependent supercontinent. In reality the EU is still behind being named a pivotal initiator of big infrastructure or any other initiatives for its Asian partners. On the contrary, the European Commission and its initiatives, namely the Trans-European Transport Network and the Investment Plan for Europe, supports the ASEAN's "ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity" which could increase the opportunities for future mutual cooperation. Moreover, the leaders have agreed to cooperate, building five new platforms for cooperation in order to expand synergies between China's ambitious "One Belt, One Road" project and the Investment plan for Europe, and thus fill in Asia's infrastructure spending hole.
The seeds of cooperation have already been planted.
Business and trade is, and will be, a key backbone of Europe-Asia relations, therefore now we need long-term strategies, ambitious plans and projects, alongside the involvement of civil society in planning and decision-making process. To organise the Summit with approximately fifty heads of governments and thousands of senior officials, civil society representatives, members of parliaments, students as well as many others is a great challenge, but on the other side of the coin should be the achievement of tangible results and enduring cooperation. That should be of importance to Mongolia and all ASEM member states.
Police department briefs media on security measures being taken during ASEM events
May 10 (ASEM Mongolia) The latest weekly "ASEM Hours" media briefing was held by General Police Agency delegates, regarding the safety and security of the delegates during the ASEM Summit and its side events. Police Lieutenant colonel T. Lkhagvadorj, chief of the Policy Regulatory Section of the Public Safety department of the General Police Agency, and Police lieutenant colonel B. Erdenebat have attended the media briefing. They also briefed the media on security surveillance and regulation of traffic during the events.
The majority of the delegates, who are expected to come for the ASEM Summit on July 15-16, come under the category of officials requiring level one security. Therefore, during the said events the police contingent will be deployed in full and provide surveillance in key accommodation and venue facilities where the summit meetings will be held, as well as the roads leading to and fro from the venues.
Vehicles on the roads will be regulated according to their plate numbers during the summit and its side events and the working hour timetable of bigger trade centers will be revised. At other times, there won't be any other traffic or other regulations and restrictions.
During the briefing, journalists asked questions related to the safety, regulations and restrictions during the ASEP9. For instance, the journalists asked about the information in the social media that people who take photos and video recordings without permission from the windows of buildings in and around the central Chinggis Square would be held accountable, the officials said that this was a misinformation and if such an incident happens the person in question would not be called to administrative accountability, but if such actions happens then the photographers, with due consideration for safety and security, may be urged to stop their actions.
Regarding suggestions and complaints from the residents that the pedestrians were also subject to regulation during the meeting, the response was that the traffic police, for a certain period of time, had regulated the movement of pedestrians in keeping with the Article 19.1 of the Law on Special State Protection, according to which the traffic police provide support to the special service agents while carrying out their official functions and duties.
But some minor misunderstanding and disagreement had arisen during the said period between the police and the residents, which have been taken into due consideration by the related agencies and the police officers said that the faults would be revisited and amended in all future activities. They also appealed to the residents to uphold the honor and prestige of the country, follow the rules and regulations, and to respect the demands of the police officers.
ASEM partner European Broadcasting Union visits Mongolia
May 10 (ASEM Mongolia) Delegates from European Broadcasting Union (Eurovision), the official media broadcasting partner for ASEM, visited Mongolia between May 2-5 for a preliminary mission. The delegates debriefed their findings and possible scope of cooperation at the ASEM Media and Public Relations working group's weekly meeting on May 9 at the Foreign Ministry.
The delegates advised on the possibilities of pooling visual media and relaying broadcast in premises of the Media Center in Shangri-La Hotel, media areas at Chinggis Khaan International Airport, ASEM Villa , Summit and press conference venues, while exchanging views on how to enhance the infrastructure.
The company has been assigned to bring satellite equipment to make a live broadcast of the Summit, to provide the broadcasting personnel, and to broadcast additional programs under special requests. What's more important is they are planning to bring equipment that allows broadcasting in 8 different languages.
The EBU staff also reported that they visited several Mongolian media companies that provide fiber optic and satellite services to gauge their technical and human resource capabilities.
Currently, 13 member televisions of Mongolian Television Association has expressed their readiness to broadcast the ASEM Summit live.
Rio's $5.3 bln go-ahead fuels hopes of end to Mongolia's hangover
* Oyu Tolgoi extension could help energize investor confidence
* Will improve Mongolia's prospects, but will take time to kick in
* Economy seen growing less than 1 pct this year - ADB
By Terrence Edwards
ULAANBAATAR, May 9 (Reuters) Rio Tinto's long-awaited approval of a $5.3 billion extension for its giant Oyu Tolgoi copper mine is fuelling hopes of a revival at last for Mongolia, battered by a slowdown in neighbouring China that has left it deep in debt.
Oyu Tolgoi, one of the world's largest undeveloped copper projects, has been a bellwether for Mongolia since its discovery more than a decade ago. But as discussions with the government stalled in 2013 and prices collapsed, Rio put the flagship project on the backburner - and confidence in Mongolia crumbled.
Rio's decision to go ahead with the costly and complex expansion is a bet on copper's recovery for a miner that badly needs to recalibrate its iron ore-heavy portfolio.
Mining executives, government officials, diplomats and analysts say it is also a potentially game-changing boost for Mongolia that could spark the unblocking of other projects and restore investor trust, key steps for the country to meet debt repayments due from 2017.
"This is a vital vote of confidence in Mongolia," said David Paul, chief executive of Aspire Mining, which is raising money to study a rail line for its Ovoot and Nuurstei coking coal projects in the country's north.
The Oyu Tolgoi expansion could also be key to winning over the public - in some cases reluctant to compromise with foreign investors - to deals on troubled Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia's largest coal project, and the Gatsuurt gold mine owned by Centerra Gold.
The parliamentary speaker blocked a $4 billion investment deal for Tavan Tolgoi last April on the day investors including China Shenhua Energy, Japan's Sumitomo and Ulaanbaatar-based Mongolian Mining Corp were to sign.
Centerra Gold mine has been waiting on an investment deal for Gatsuurt since 2010.
"We do believe the project will enhance Mongolia's economic growth prospects by establishing the country as one of the largest sources of high-grade copper globally," said Andrew Fennell at Fitch Ratings, which downgraded Mongolia to B in November. "However, near-term pressures remain."
According to Fitch, Mongolian sovereign and sovereign-guaranteed entities face a combined $1.1 billion of external bond maturities in 2017 and 2018 - before extra cash from the underground mine begin to flow. First production is due in 2020.
Rating agencies have repeatedly downgraded Mongolia since it issued Eurobonds in 2012. According to the International Monetary Fund, its sovereign spreads are among the highest of all frontier economies; Fitch ranks Mongolia as one of the most indebted nations in the world.
Mongolia is recovering from a crippling hangover.
It was the world's fastest growing economy in 2011, according to the World Bank. At the peak of the boom, Ulaanbaatar was teeming with hopeful expatriates and sushi bars, promises of luxury hotels and even a Louis Vuitton boutique all jostled for a slice of the newfound wealth.
The capital is now instead dotted with unfinished skeletons of buildings where financing ran out: an incomplete Hilton Hotel and dozens of office buildings in the business district.
This year, as miners pull away from frontier projects, the economy will grow less than 1 percent, and as little as 0.1 percent, according to the Asian Development Bank.
The country badly needs to restart stalled projects if it is to cope with ballooning external debt - pegged at $21.6 billion at the end of 2015 by the central bank - and avoid default.
At the high-profile weekend celebrations at the Oyu Tolgoi mine, Mongolia brushed off worries of further hiccups and promised consistency for a project that will employ some 3,000 more people with its expansion - 95 percent of them Mongolian.
"We are partners, like husband and wife, and sometimes you have problems," said Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg.
Despite some lingering political opposition, he promised the outcome of Mongolia's legislative elections next month would not change the approach for a project that is vital for the country's future.
"Mongolia needs to see a sustained pick up in foreign direct investment," said Anushka Shah, analyst at Moody's. "And that will come from greater policy predictability."
Rio Tinto approves development of Oyu Tolgoi underground mine – Rio Tinto, May 6
Turquoise Hill's (TRQ) CEO Jeff Tygesen on Q1 2016 Results - Earnings Call Transcript – Seeking Alpha, May 6
Oyu Tolgoi underground mine project kicks off – Erdenes Mongol, May 6
Oyu Tolgoi announces approval of underground project – Oyu Tolgoi LLC, May 6
Photos: Oyu Tolgoi Underground Development Project Ceremony - Oyu Tolgoi LLC, May 10
Rio plans another big Mongolia expansion of Oyu Tolgoi – The Australian, May 10
Rio Tinto Says New Mongolia Output to Supply Into Copper Deficit – Bloomberg, May 8
VIDEO: Oyu Tolgoi May Boost Mongolia's GDP – Bloomberg TV Mongolia for Bloomberg TV, May 9
Copper's horde: Rio Tinto goes Genghis on the copper market – Business Standard, May 8
Will Rio Tinto's gargantuan mine be a burden or a boon for Mongolia? – Christian Science Monitor, May 6
Rio Approves $5.3 Billion Oyu Tolgoi Copper Mine Expansion – Bloomberg, May 6
How Tesla Motors Helps Drive Rio Tinto's Copper Expansion – Investor's Business Daily, May 6
Mongolia election won't impact Rio Tinto's $5.3 billion deal: mining CEO
BY KARIN STROHECKER
London, May 11 (Reuters) The outcome of Mongolia's election next month will have no impact on Rio Tinto's $5.3 billion Oyu Tolgoi copper mine extension plan, the head of country's state-owned joint partner in the deal said on Wednesday.
Earlier in May, Rio (RIO.L) gave its long-awaited approval for the costly and complex extension of Oyu Tolgoi, one of the world's largest undeveloped copper projects.
Rio is operator of the mine, which is 66 percent owned by Rio's Turquoise Hill arm and 34 percent owned by the Mongolian government through Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC.
The project hit hurdles when discussions between Rio and the government stalled in 2013 and prices collapsed, and there is still some lingering opposition in Mongolia over the extension.
"Politics is politics everywhere - there might be some individuals or some in parliament who will represent different political positions and opinions, and who will ... try and bring some more radical change into this investment agreement," said Davaadorj Ganbold, CEO of Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi.
"But no matter who wins the election - the major political parties do not have any political motivation to disturb, or bring any big large sensitive changes into this investment agreement now," Ganbold told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Changes to the agreement would be possible, he acknowledged, but only if mutually agreed between the business partners and without any political interference.
Mongolia's economy, which grew at the fastest rate in the world in 2011 but has since faded, depends heavily on copper exports to China and has been hammered by the global slide in commodity prices in the past few years.
The ruling Mongolian Democratic Party is expected to come under pressure at this year's elections, scheduled for June 29, after four years of slowing growth and declining foreign investment.
The landlocked country badly needs to restart stalled mining projects to cope with its ballooning external debt, and the new extension will employ some 3,000 people - 95 percent of them Mongolian.
While Ganbold was confident about the agreement with Rio, he said the global outlook for commodities, the new technology used for the underground extension of mines and the reality of operating in a remote area all posed challenges.
"Block caving technology is relatively new, and we cannot hurry this project and implement everything immediately and now, because we need to be careful," he said.
"It is one of the largest and one of the very first in the Gobi (desert), in the open steppes, which is a difficult environment to operate in from an infrastructure, safety and technical point of view," he added.
Mongolia set to pay $70 mln to end Khan mine dispute-source
ULAANBAATAR, May 13 (Reuters) Mongolia is ready to deliver a $70 million payment to Toronto-listed uranium miner Khan Resources, a government source said, wrapping up a seven-year dispute that tarnished the country's reputation as a hot mining destination.
The resource-rich country that relies on China to buy nearly all of its resources is settling disputes with miners one by one to help revive foreign investment after four years of economic decline.
Mongolian Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg has repeated the slogan "Mongolia is open for business" on visits around the world in the hopes rebooting the economy, which the Asian Development Bank projects will grow just 0.1 percent this year.
"We want to show that we're trying to improve our relationships and reputation," said a Mongolian government source. He said $70 million had been deposited into an escrow account for payment to Khan Resources on Monday.
The source asked not to be named as the transaction had not yet been completed.
Mongolia's Ministry of Finance was not immediately available for comment.
Last year, a Paris tribunal ordered Mongolia to pay about $100 million to Khan Resources as compensation for canceling its uranium-mining licences for the the Dornod uranium project in 2009 and handing it over to Russia's ARMZ.
At a meeting during a major mining conference in Toronto in March, Mongolia and Khan came together and settled on a payment of $70 million.
The dispute with Khan Resources wraps up just as Rio Tinto and its partners are set to resume work on a $5.3 billion expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine following a three-year delay due to disputes with the Mongolian overnment.
Investors are also keeping close watch on the Gatsuurt gold mine in Mongolia, where Centerra Gold Inc has waited seven years for mining rights.
Khan Announces Status of Settlement Payment
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 16, 2016) - Khan Resources Inc. ("Khan" or the "Company") (CSE:KRI) announces that Khan and the Government of Mongolia are actively working on the completion of documentation to allow the release of US$70 million to Khan. The funds are currently on deposit with an escrow agent in New York.
ERD closed +36.4% Monday on the announcement to C$0.45
Erdene Intersects 63 Metres of 5.3 g/t Gold at Bayan Khundii Gold Project, Including 3 Metres of 49.4 g/t and 5 Metres of 26.8 g/t Gold
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwired - May 9, 2016) - Erdene Resource Development Corp. (TSX:ERD) ("Erdene" or "Company"), is pleased to announce results from follow-up drilling on the recent high-grade discovery at the Company's 100%-owned Bayan Khundii Gold Project ("Bayan Khundii") in southwest Mongolia. Drilling in Q2-2016 has intersected additional high-grade gold mineralization including 5.3 g/t gold over 63 metres in hole BKD-17 in the Striker Zone, one of multiple high-priority targets within the Bayan Khundii prospect area. The results reported today are for the first seven holes of an extensive exploration program that includes a planned 30 diamond drill holes. Included with this release, for reference, are two plan maps and two cross-sections.
· Striker Zone depth and strike extension includes:
o Hole BKD-17: 63 m of 5.3 g/t gold beginning at 50 m down hole or approximately 35 m vertical depth
§ Includes 3 m section of 49.4 g/t and 5 m section of 26.8 g/t gold
§ Includes four 1 m samples with grades ranging from 1.2 to 2.6 ounces/tonne gold (37.5 to 81.7 g/t)
§ Hole located approximately 35 m down dip from Q4-2015 drill hole BKD-09 which returned 26 m of 5.9 g/t gold
o High grade gold now traced over greater than 90 m down dip
o Hole BKD-21 (located 47 m east of BKD-17) included 13 m of 2.1 g/t gold and 14 m of 2.0 g/t gold
o Hole BKD-22 (located 40 m southeast of BKD-17 and 40 m southwest of BKD-21) included 27 m of 1.9 g/t gold including 8 m of 5.7 g/t
· New zone intersected in Gold Hill area with 12 m of 2.3 g/t gold (upper portion of BKD-17)
· Hole BKD-19, the deepest hole drilled to date, intersected high grade gold at approximately 125 m vertical depth with 1 m of 26.3 g/t gold
· Visible gold observed in majority of the drill holes, and three trenches, completed to date; results pending
Kincora Copper well-positioned, as interest in Mongolia reawakens
May 13 (Proactive Investors) Copper porphyries like Oyu Tolgoi tend to occur in clusters focused on key geological structures within established belts.
One of the rub-offs Rio Tinto's (LON:RIO) planned expansion of the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia was a short run on the shares of Kincora Copper Ltd (CVE:KCC).
So what does this all mean for Kincora?
So is there news in the offing?
Tian Poh: Shareholder Update
While it has been a difficult period for commodity sector, we would like to take the opportunity to summarise the significant progress the Company has made towards our vision to be a cashflow focused business.
After the successful acquisition of a 478 million tonne JORC Compliant coal Resource in Mongolia (see the announcement dated 10 August 2015), we have signed 2 major MOUs with China partners to assess developing the deposit (see the announcements dated 15 and 17 December 2015).
We organised a site visit in Mongolia for our MOU partners, which occurred between 18th-21st April 2016, and also met high-level staff of regulatory departments and the Ministry of Energy.
We are on track to complete our pre-feasibility study for our Coal to Gas project and Gas Pipeline Network project around July this year. Initial findings are positive and we expect to be able to push forward to progress the development of the project.
We would like to express our gratitude for your support during this period and look forward to your ongoing support during the next critical development stage, which has a goal of delivering shareholder value.
The AGM is scheduled to be held on the 30th May 2016. Information for the AGM has recently been sent to shareholders and is available on our website, but please do contact our Company for any clarifications.
Thank you again for your patience and support for the Company.
Entree Gold Announces First Quarter 2016 Results
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - May 9, 2016) - Entrée Gold Inc. (TSX:ETG)(NYSE MKT:EGI)(FRANKFURT:EKA) ("Entrée" or the "Company") has today filed its interim operational and financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2016. All numbers are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.
Notice to Proceed Approval for Underground Development at Oyu Tolgoi
On May 5/6, 2016, formal 'notice to proceed' approval was given for the next stage of development of the world-class Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia by the boards of Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill"), Rio Tinto and Entrée's joint venture partner, Oyu Tolgoi LLC ("OTLLC"). Turquoise Hill announced that this was the final requirement for the re-start of underground development of the first lift of the Hugo North block cave ("Lift 1"), including Lift 1 of the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi joint venture's Hugo North Extension deposit.
OTLLC is targeting underground construction to begin in mid-2016.
Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property
Entrée has a 20% carried interest in two of the Oyu Tolgoi project deposits - the Hugo North Extension copper-gold deposit and the Heruga copper-gold-molybdenum deposit (the "Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property"). These deposits are the northern-most and southern-most, respectively, in the 12 kilometre-long Oyu Tolgoi series of deposits. The resources at Hugo North Extension include a Probable reserve, which is included in Lift 1 of underground mine development. A second lift for the Oyu Tolgoi underground block cave operation, including additional resources from Hugo North Extension, has been proposed but has not yet been modeled within the existing mine plan.
In Q1 2016, the Company remained focused on engagement with partners and other local Mongolian stakeholders, and on completing an updated technical report for the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property.
OTLLC is currently targeting underground construction to begin in mid-2016. This follows the $4.4 billion finance facility (with provision for up to $6 billion) that was signed by OTLLC in December 2015 for underground mine development at the Oyu Tolgoi project, including Lift 1 of the Hugo North Extension deposit. Formal 'notice to proceed' approval from the boards of Turquoise Hill, Rio Tinto and OTLLC was received and announced on May 5/6, 2016. All necessary permits have been granted. Turquoise Hill announced that the updated Oyu Tolgoi Feasibility Study was completed and it expects to release a technical report in the second half of 2016.
Exploration and development of the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property is under the control of Rio Tinto on behalf of manager OTLLC. The 2016 exploration program and budget for the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property has been prepared by OTLLC. OTLLC's exploration strategy is focused on developing a project pipeline in areas that can impact the current development of the Oyu Tolgoi deposits, seeking low-cost development options and continuing assessment of legacy datasets to enable future discoveries. Castle Rock on the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property is one of the identified priority targets that will be the focus of the future exploration program.
Under the terms of the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV, Entrée elected to have OTLLC debt finance Entrée's share of costs on the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property, with interest accruing at OTLLC's actual cost of capital or prime plus 2%, whichever is less, at the date of the advance. As at March 31, 2016, the total amount that OTLLC has contributed to costs on the Company's behalf, including interest, was $6.9 million.
The Company estimates direct expenditures of between $400,000 and $550,000 for the 2016 year to be spent on internal technical review, legal costs and general administration in Mongolia.
Xanadu: CEO's Presentation at AGM
May 6, Xanadu Mines Ltd. (ASX:XAM) --
Update on Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. Shareholder Loan and Short-Term Bridge Loan
HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - May 16, 2016) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HK:1878) (the "Company" or "SouthGobi") announces update on Turquoise Hill Resources shareholder loan and short term bridge loan.
Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. shareholder loan
On May 16, 2016, the Company and Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill") entered into a deferral agreement ("May 2016 Deferral Agreement") for a shareholder loan granted by Turquoise Hill with an outstanding loan principal of US$3.4 million and interest accrued up to May 16, 2016 of US$0.7 million ("TRQ Loan"). The key terms and conditions of the May 2016 Deferral Agreement are set out as follows:
· The Company agreed to effect monthly repayments on the last business day of each month in an amount of (i) US$0.15 million per month starting on May 31, 2016 and ending on April 28, 2017, (ii) US$0.2 million per month starting on May 31, 2017 and ending on December 29, 2017, and (iii) all remaining balance of obligations owing under the TRQ Loan on December 29, 2017 (collectively, the "Repayments," and each, a "Repayment"). Upon receipt of each Repayment by Turquoise Hill, the aggregate amount of obligations owing under the TRQ Loan shall thereby be reduced by such equal amount;
· Interest shall accrue on all outstanding obligations under TRQ Loan at 12-month US dollar LIBOR rate; and
· In the event that the Company fails to make any one of the Repayments in its entirety on or before the exact dates set out above, then the Company shall be in automatic and irremediable default of the obligations hereunder and under the TRQ Loan and shall immediately and irremediably lose all benefits of the May 2016 Deferral Agreement and all then outstanding obligations shall become immediately due and payable to Turquoise Hill.
SouthGobi Resources Announces First Quarter 2016 Financial and Operating Results
HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - May 16, 2016) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HKSE:1878) (the "Company") today announced its financial and operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2016. All figures are in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise stated.
Significant Events and Highlights
The Company's significant events and highlights for the three months ended March 31, 2016 and subsequent period up to May 16, 2016 are as follows:
· Operating results - The Company continues to operate under difficult market conditions as prices for coal remained weak in the People's Republic of China ("China") through the first quarter of 2016. The impact of these conditions on the Company's operations continues to be exacerbated given the Company's liquidity constraints. The Company sold 0.88 million tonnes of its coal products during the quarter compared to 0.18 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2015. The production for the first quarter of 2016 was 0.37 million tonnes, allowing the Company to position itself to meet its commitments under existing and expected new coal offtake contracts.
· Short-term bridge loan - On May 16, 2016, the lender of the short-term bridge loan signed a deferral agreement with the Company, in which the lender agreed to a deferral of repayment of all remaining amounts and accrued interest owing under the short-term bridge loan to July 30, 2016, with the interest rate remained unchanged at 8% per annum.
· Shareholder loan - On May 16, 2016, Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill") signed a deferral letter agreement with the Company ("May 2016 Deferral Letter Agreement"), in which Turquoise Hill agreed to a limited and circumscribed deferral of repayment of all remaining amounts and obligations now and hereafter owing under the Turquoise Hill shareholder loan ("TRQ Loan") to December 29, 2017. The Company has agreed to repay $0.15 million per month starting on May 31, 2016 and ending on April 28, 2017; $0.2 million per month starting on May 31, 2017 and ending on December 29, 2017, at which time all remaining obligations will become due. Interest shall continue to accrue on all outstanding obligations at 12-month US dollar LIBOR rate.
· Addition of a Director
Mr. Huiyi Wang: Mr. Wang was appointed as a Non-Executive Director on February 18, 2016.
· Going Concern - As at the date hereof, the Company, together with its strategic partner and significant shareholder, Novel Sunrise Investments Limited ("Novel Sunrise"), has developed and continues to execute a funding plan (the "Funding Plan") in order to pay the TRQ Loan, the short-term bridge loan and the interest due under the China Investment Corporation ("CIC") convertible debenture (the "CIC Convertible Debenture"), meet the Company's obligations as they fall due and achieve its business objectives in 2016. However, there is no guarantee that the Company will be able to successfully advance the Funding Plan or secure other sources of financing. See "Liquidity and Capital Management" in section "Financial Position and Liquidity" for details. As at May 16, 2016, the Company had cash of $0.8 million.
REGULATORY ISSUES AND CONTINGENCIES
Governmental and Regulatory Investigations
While the Company had various additional legal avenues available to it to continue defending itself, it has decided to and is currently seeking to resolve amicably the dispute giving rise to the Tax Verdict in a manner that is both appropriate having regard to the Company's limited financial resources and supportive of a positive environment for foreign investment in Mongolia.
SouthGobi Resources Announces Filing of Technical Report Supporting Update of Ovoot Tolgoi Resource Estimate
HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - May 15, 2016) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HKSE:1878) ("SouthGobi" or the "Company") announces the filing on SEDAR of a technical report in respect of the Company's previously announced, updated resource estimate for its Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine in Mongolia.
The technical report, prepared by RungePincockMinarco (RPM), supports the scientific and technical disclosure in the Company's news release dated March 29, 2016 and the Material Change Report dated April 7, 2016 in which the Company disclosed updated resources, estimated as of January 1, 2015 (and confirmed as at March 24, 2016) of 170 million tonnes (Mt) of indicated resources and inferred resources of 78 Mt, compared to 133 Mt of measured resources, 60 Mt of indicated resources, and 24 Mt of inferred resources estimated in 2012.
The criteria used to limit the resources are:
TerraCom: Completion of Debt Restructuring
May 16 -- TerraCom Limited (TerraCom or the Company) (ASX: TER) is pleased to announce a significant milestone in the restructuring of its balance sheet and the continued implementation of its previously communicated Strategic Plan.
Following extensive negotiations with its financiers over the past few weeks, TerraCom has successfully achieved the following:
5-Year Interest Only Bond
Positive Impact on Cashflow and Balance Sheet
Additional Working Capital Funding
Other Company Updates
Potential Listing on Asian Stock Exchange (Dual or Sole)
Eumeralla: Underwritten Rights Issue – Shortfall Notice
May 11 -- Eumeralla Resources Limited (ASX: EUM, 'the Company' or 'Eumeralla) advises that its fully underwritten renounceable rights issue of 9 new shares for every 8 shares held, at an issue price of $0.025 per share (Rights Issue), closed on 4 May 2016.
In accordance with Appendix 7A of the ASX Listing Rules, Eumeralla advises that it received valid acceptances for 9,869,080 new shares with a shortfall of 42,630,359 shares.
The Rights Issue is fully underwritten by CPS Capital Group Pty Ltd who is presently attending to placing the shortfall. Upon completion of the Rights Issue, the total funds raised will be approximately $1,312,486 before costs.
Eumeralla: Appointment of Director and Company Secretary
May 6 -- Eumeralla Resources Limited (ASX: EUM, 'the Company' or 'Eumeralla) is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicole Fernandes as Non-Executive Director and Jack James as Joint Company Secretary.
Ms Fernandes has broad executive and management experience, formally the Deputy CEO and Marketing and Communications Manager of a statutory authority, responsible for the management and operations of an industrial and business precinct.
She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has been a member since 2010. With a background in science Ms Fernandes has a BSc (hons) in biotechnology and has worked in government roles assisting biotech companies and developing State government policy on the commercial use of genetic technologies.
Ms Fernandes has 15 years' experience in working in government developing and implementing policies and strategies to drive performance across agricultural sectors and achieve innovative solutions for industry.
During this time, Nicole has worked in senior advisory roles to State Ministers and in various senior roles in government including policy, trade, and industry and community liaison.
Ms Fernandes is also a director of ASX listed The Carajas Copper Company (ASX: CJC), and Castillo Copper Limited (ASX: CCZ).
The Company advises that Mr Jack James has resigned from the position of Non-Executive Director effective 6 May 2016.
ASX: Removal of Mongolian Resource Corp. Ltd. From Official List
May 16 -- ASX's policy is that it is appropriate to automatically remove from the official list any entity whose securities have been suspended from trading for a continuous period of 3 years. The removal will take effect from the open of trading on the first trading day after the expiration of that 3 year period.
ASX's policy is explained in section 3.4 of ASX Listing Rules Guidance Note 33 Removal of Entities from the ASX Official List.
In accordance with this policy, Mongolian Resource Corporation Ltd has been removed from the official list by ASX under listing rule 17.12 from the commencement of trading on Monday, 16 May 2016.
Security Code: MUB
MSE Weekly Trading Report: Top 20 +5.52%, ALL + 2.99%, Turnover ₮236.8 Million Shares
May 16 (MSE) Mongolian Stock Exchange organized 5 securities trading sessions and made transaction of MNT47.3 million with daily average transaction of MNT236,839,827.30 in period between 06 May 2016 and 06 May 2016.
87,383.00 shares of 35 joint stock companies worth of MNT236,839,827.30 were traded.
Most actively traded securities
Most active brokerage companies
As of 06 May 2016, market capitalization was MNT1,310,699,642,648.95 which indicated increased of 3.42% and MSE ALL index reached 780.01 units which indicated increased of 1.39% from the previous week.
MSE Trading Report: Top 20 -0.39%, ALL +2.53%, Turnover ₮39.6 Million Shares, ₮397.6 Million T-Bills
May 16 (MSE) --
MIT-CSD System Made Available on Weekends Due to High Account Opening
May 16 (MSE) Recently, number of opening securities accounts were increased drastically, and it caused high workload for Mongolian Stock Exchange and brokerage companies as well. Based on requests of brokerage companies and residents for using the MIT-CSD system on weekends, Mongolian Stock Exchange provided safety and efficient working MIT-CSD system on weekends.
Note: New created accounts on weekend becomes active on next Tuesday. If you have any questions regarding the system, call +976-310520 ext. 4111, 4114, 4115
Change of Stock Names
May 13 (MSE) In accordance with the Order No.:187 of CEO of Mongolian Stock Exchange dated on 13 May 2016, following companies changed their names:
Tushig Uul Major Shareholders Launch Takeover Tender Offer
May 13 (MSE) Pursuant to the Clause No.: 57.1 of Company Law, the Clause No.:22.1 of Securities law of Mongolia, the Clause No.: 3.1 of Regulation of "Make offer to buy company's shares", Bayaraa.J, Batsaikhan.J, Bayantur.J, Baldan.S, Uuriintuya.B and Ganchimeg.L joint shareholders, who own 3,508,410 shares or 80.3 percent of "Tushig Uul" JSC making tender offer to buy rest of 837,360 shares from small shareholders at MNT493.0 per share in period between 2015.05.10-2016.06.10.
Baganuur Announces 9.87 Million Share Issuance
May 13 (MSE) According to the Company Law, Mongolian Securities Law and regulations of MSE and FRC, Baganuur JSC will issue addition 9,870,287 shares into market.
Registration date of preemptive rights start from 2016.04.11 until 2016.05.23
Contact information of specialist of Baganuur JSC:
Ptarmigan and Eden, Firebird, BDSec Visit MSE
May 11 (MSE) Delegations of "Ptarmigan and Eden asset management" Ltd, "Firebird Mongolia Fund" Ltd and "BDSec" JSC visited to Mongolian Stock Exchange and rang the 5,225th trading bell.
During the visit, Bolor.M, CEO of MSE presented information about policy and operation of Mongolian stock exchange and capital market and exchanged ideas of future market trend with delegations.
By the way, "Mongolia-London Business Forum" organized by Mongolian Stock Exchange London Stock Exchange Group on April 26-27 in London, UK in order to promote Mongolian capital market and companies to the foreign investors.
Mongolia 1Q GDP Growth Slows to 3.1% Y/y: Statistical Office
By Michael Kohn
May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia's gross domestic product grew 3.1% y/y in the first quarter, after expanding 4.1% in the same period last year, National Statistical Office says in statement
* Mongolia's economy grew 2.3% last year, according to data reported earlier by the agency
* GDP data is preliminary and was compiled by production approach at 2010 constant prices
* Loans outstanding were 11.6t tugrik at the end of April, a 5.4% decrease y/y
* Principles in arrears were 917.2b tugrik at the end of April, a 5% decrease m/m and 56.1% rise y/y
* Non-performing loans reached 1.06tr tugrik at the end of April, a 10% increase m/m and 42.5% increase y/y
* Total external trade turnover decreased 11.1% y/y in April; exports decreased 7.2% and imports fell 16.6%
* External trade balance was $484.6m surplus in the 1st 4mos of 2016 vs $418m surplus in same period of 2015
* Industrial production index was up 3.4% y/y
* Consumer price index increased 2.1% y/y in April
* Tax revenue in first 4mos of 2016 rose 0.9% y/y
Mongolia Jan.-April Copper Concentrate Exports Rise 34.4% Y/y
By Michael Kohn
May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Copper concentrate exports rose to 557,500 tons in 1st 4mos from year ago 414,700 tons, statistics office says on website.
* Value of copper concentrate exports fell to $637.4m from $667.4m
* Coal exports rose 18.6% y/y to 5.05m tons; value fell to $155.8m from $194.3m
* Gold exports rose 26.5% y/y to 4.3 tons; value rose to $168m from $133.3m yr earlier
* Crude oil exports rose 14.2% y/y to 2.9m barrels; value fell to $99m from $123.4m
* Total exports fell to $1.35b in Jan.-April from $1.45b yr earlier
* Exports to China fell to $1.1b from $1.2b, accounted for 82% of total
EBRD Lowers 2016 GDP Growth Forecast to 3.9% from 5%
Modest recovery seen in EBRD economies despite continuing pressures
May 11 (EBRD) Economies across the EBRD regions are showing modest signs of an upturn after five consecutive years of slowdown, but the recovery expected for 2016 is slightly weaker than forecast six months ago.
Real GDP Growth
EBRD Forecast in November 2015
Historic low ₮2,050.85/USD set March 28, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time
BoM MNT Rates: Monday, May 16 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM declines US$24.8m, CNY2.8m ask, $0.95m bid offers, accepts $49.5m MNT, $21.5m USD swap offers
May 12 (BoM) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on May 12th, 2016, the BOM has received selling bid offers of USD 24.8 million in a rate between MNT 2016.11-2017.93, buying bid offers of USD 0.95 million in a rate between MNT 2005.00-2011.29, selling bid offers of CNY 2.8 million in a rate with MNT309.80 and buying bid offers of CNY8.0 million in a rate between MNT307.00-308.20. The BOM did not accept any bid offers.
On May 12th, 2016, the BOM has received MNT Swap agreement buying bid offers equivalent to USD 49.5 million and USD swap agreement selling bid offers equivalent to USD 21.5 million from local commercial banks respectively and the BOM accepted all of the bid offers.
BoM issues ₮27 billion 1-week bills at 10.5%, total outstanding +7.8% to ₮127.35 billion
May 16 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 27 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
ADB $287 Million Investment Program in 2016 Targets Economic Management and Infrastructure
ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA, May 12 – ADB confirmed its assistance program for Mongolia in 2016 at $287 million, comprising concessional loans from its own and market-raised sources, and grants.
A priority this year is a major investment in the Ulaanbaatar electricity transmission and district heating network and a landmark project to support people with disabilities to find jobs and improve their living standards. In addition, a grant will be provided to help communities become more resilient to future disasters. This follows recent assistance from ADB's Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund to help the country cope with the impact of the 2016 dzud.
In the year to date, ADB has already approved three loans, including one to strengthen the governance and management capacity of state-owned assets manager, Erdenes Mongol. Other loan assistance has been committed to improve border crossing points at Zamyn-Uud, Altanbulag and Bichigt and to provide wastewater treatment plants in Arvaikheer, Dalanzadgad, Sainshand, and Tsetserleg.
New investments will build on existing assistance, amounting to $953 million, which includes 23 loans, 12 grants, and 35 technical assistance projects. Projects under way include modernization of ger areas in Ulaanbaatar, construction of water and sewerage systems across Mongolia, connecting isolated western Mongolia with neighbors through an international standard highway, supporting agribusinesses, improving health services, and skills development programs to boost job opportunities.
In Mongolia, ADB approvals amounted to $305.5 million in 2015, including 4 sovereign loans for $275 million, trade financing totaling $8 million, 2 grant projects for $6 million and 16 technical assistance grants totaling $16.5 million. Total approvals amount to $2 billion since the country joined ADB 25 years ago.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.
Mogi: how may dams in Russia affect Lake Baikal and how many are in Mongolia? Answer for Mongolia is 0
Russian government proposes intriguing solution if Ulaanbaatar halts plans for hydropower dams on the Selenga River.
May 13 (The Siberian Times) The World Bank has assured Moscow that it has suspended plans to finance two major projects on the river, which environmentalists fear would cause major damage to the world's oldest and deepest lake.
Funding from the bank was seen as a important to the building of two out of three major dams, one on the Selenenga, and one on the Orkhon River, a tributary.
Greenpeace was among the groups calling on the World Bank to block funding because of the threat to Baikal which contains 20 per cent of the world's unfrozen freshwater.
Director of international cooperation at the Natural Resources Ministry, Nuritdin Inamov, said: 'Colleagues from the World Bank have heard us, and we have received a letter from Washington.
'The World Bank freezes the work on the project and, moreover, at the moment we are preparing the visit of a World Bank delegation to Buryatia and Irkutsk region so the representatives of the World Bank can hear the opinions of local citizens.'
He stressed: 'We are working on this issue with the Mongolian side and the World bank, which is one of the anticipated sources of financing for this work, as well as with representatives of UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which provided assistance in providing an expert assessment.
'A meeting with Mongolian partners in Ulaanbaatar is planned for sometime between 20-29 May in order to impact the Mongolian side's position on the need to conclude work on this project by abandoning it.'
He made clear Russia is ready to offer major assistance to Mongolia in exchange for an abandonment of the hydro schemes.
'We're not just saying no to projects, we're offering options that would make it possible to preserve Baikal, preserve good relations with Mongolia and resolve these energy and economic issues,' said Inamov.
Moscow is offering Mongolia alternative options to supply Russian electricity, he said. 'Russia has excess capacity at power plants. It is possible to increase the capacity of the Gusinoozersk-Darkhan power transmission line, a new power line could be built.
'Mongolia could be offered the position of transit country for supplies of Russian electricity to China. This would enable Mongolia to earn cash for transit.' The issue is important because of a fall in the level of water in the lake which is of acute concern to ecologists.
Mongolia has argued that the lowering is for natural reasons and that the construction of a reservoir would make it possible to regulate the outflow of water from the lake. 'Russia is opposed to such an approach, because the natural flow is disrupted,' said Inamov.
The representatives of Greenpeace Russia believe that the position of the World Bank is important also because it can convince the Chinese authorities, who are funding the construction of the hydro project on the Eg river.
The construction has already started. It violates the previous agreement between Russia and Mongolia that the works will start only after the project will be approved by Russian side and will not harm Baikal.
The struggle around the construction of the hydro power plans on the Selenga and Orkhon started in 2012. At the time, the WWF opposed the project as it would undermine the population of sturgeon, omul and other valuable fish species of Lake Baikal.
The conflict worsened in 2014, when Mongolia deported a Russian ecologist, who opposed the construction of the HPP on Selenga. In 2015 Russian Ministry of Natural Resources warned of a devastating impact on the ecosystem of Lake Baikal, which is already facing severe challenges. The position of the Ministry was backed by President Vladimir Putin.
The level of Lake Baikal on 18 April 18 was measured at 455.72 metres, compared with an official minimum acceptable level of 456 metres. It is even lower than the lowest point of last year. In 2015 Baikal water level decreased to 455.86 metres and then started to increase. The forecast for this year is that in late May the level can decrease even more.
Thought to be 25 million years old, Lake Baikal stretches for 650 kilometres (400 miles) through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. It is up to 1,700 metres deep.
Guarded Confidence in Mongolian Democracy
A high court ruling on the country's electoral system has thrown Mongolia into political turmoil.
By Julian Dierkes
May 13 (The Diplomat) On June 29, 2016, Mongolians will be voting for a new parliament, the State Great Khural, for the seventh time since the country's democratic revolution in 1990. In its 2016 assessment of political transformation towards democracy, the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Transformation Index (BTI) ranked Mongolia 30th among 129 developing and transition countries. This is significantly ahead of other nations in post-Soviet Eurasia and a great improvement from the country's 41st rank in 2010.
The BTI summarizes Mongolia as a "defective democracy," though approaching "democracy in consolidation." Thus, the institutional trappings of democracy are well entrenched in the country. One aspect that remains in flux, however, is the electoral system.
The 2012 parliamentary election was contested with a mix of proportional and majoritarian representation and parliament sat on the basis of that election. Yet, on April 21, 2016, Mongolia's high court rejected the use of party lists to determine the 28-seat portion of parliament to be elected by proportional representation. While this has not declared the 2012-16 parliament to be illegitimate, it has thrown the coming election into turmoil.
No time realistically to revamp the election system
The argument that has been made against proportional representation is that voters do not elect their representatives as they have no influence over the party lists that are used in assigning seats. Since voters in many countries that use party lists for proportional representation do not seem to feel disenfranchised en masse, this appears to be a very literal interpretation of Mongolia's constitution.
But given the constitutional nature of the dispute, parliament is unlikely to override the high court decision through legislation. It appears more likely that the General Election Commission will revert to the electoral system used last in 2008, i.e. the unusual plurality-at-large or block vote. Under this system, the 21 provincial ridings and the six ridings of the capital are assigned from two to four seats each by population. Voters within these ridings cast as many votes as there are seats in their riding. In the end, this system will elect 76 members as it has in the past.
The other likely alternative to a reversion to the 2008 electoral system could be a postponing of the election. This has long been under consideration given that Mongolia is hosting the Asia-Europe Meeting in mid-July 2016, an occasion for many heads of state and government to arrive in Ulaanbaatar from all over Europe and Asia.
Choices between these likely options will be made outside of rules explicitly envisioned by the constitution and elections laws. On the one hand the electoral system has been declared unconstitutional, on the other hand legal deadlines pertaining to the election have passed and there is no time realistically to revamp the election system.
Increasing sense of arbitrary persecution by authorities
But, somewhat disconcertingly, there have also been voices that are calling for disregard for the high court decision. While the court's ruling was puzzling given that the current parliament was constituted partly through proportional representation four years ago, and many Mongolians see this very much as a political decision, blatant disregard of a high court ruling regarding something as fundamental as the electoral system would seem to be a very dangerous step. It would establish a precedent of a matter pertaining to one of the fundamental institutions of democratic parliamentary elections, addressed outside of the constitutional framework.
The turmoil surrounding the electoral system comes amid growing worries about the instrumentalization of law enforcement agencies by those in power. The Democratic Party (DP) had emerged from the 2012 election with anti-corruption rhetoric as an important element in their campaign. Yet, over the past four years, anti-corruption enforcement seems to have focused exclusively on personal and party opponents of certain DP officials and many describe an increasing sense of arbitrary persecution by authorities. At the same time, corruption does not seem to have been curbed in any significant way. Again, the bigger concern here is about an abuse of power and of elements of the justice system, for political purposes.
Possible election outcomes
It is unclear whether the challenges to the electoral system will have a significant impact on the outcome of the parliamentary election, whenever it is held. Presumably, any kind of majoritarian electoral system will benefit incumbents and personally prominent candidates, but whether these benefits will accrue disproportionately to any of the parties contesting the election is not obvious.
Overall, it is hard to look at the past four years of DP-led governments and think of this period as very successful for Mongolia. Thus it seems most likely that the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) will win the election though recent polling suggests that the MPP may not be gaining as many votes as one might guess.
The likely election victory thus seems more probably as a plurality rather than a majority. Since that suggests a coalition government, the plausible partner for the MPP would be the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). This constellation seems even more likely as the two parties were negotiating a formal electoral alliance prior to the deadline for the registration of coalitions on April 29, though finally decided against it.
The challenges above present some clear worries about the ongoing political transformation of Mongolia. Yet, 25 years of electoral democracy is a significant legacy. It has to be hoped that Mongolians will make their voices heard about and through the electoral system to emerge from the current crisis with a reinforced dedication to democracy.
Mongolia in the Panama Papers
By Julian Dierkes
May 9 (Mongolia Focus) Since the #PanamaPapers scandal broke there has been speculation about any Mongolian entanglements in the dealings of the Mossack Fonseca law firm. With the release of further information on May 9, that speculation has been fed by some limited bits of information.
As deplorable as the seemingly endemic nature of corruption is in Mongolia, it's also very unfortunate that most discussions of this challenge veers into conspiracy theories, rumours, and accusations. The quality of discussions about corruption, nor the evidence of actual corrupt practices has continued to decline under the DP government which had come in with many rhetorical pointers to anti-corruption.
I do not intend to contribute to any kind of rumour-mongering with this post, but I do want to consider the implications of the appearance of some names in the PanamaPapers.
I should thank UBC PhD student Damdinnyam for reminding me of the release of the data and thank some Twitter followers also for helping me identify some of the names that have popped up, and understanding the implications.
Prominent Names that Appear in the Panama Papers Release
Depending on how the search on the ICIJ database is configured, somewhere around 40 names linked to Mongolia appear.
The temptation is to search for recognizable and prominent names first and, perhaps not surprisingly, some such names can be found.
Caveat: Offshore ≠ Illegal
However, it should be remembered that appearing in the Panama Papers is not an indication of anything illegal at all. All it suggests is the existence of a tie to an offshore company. There may well be legitimate uses of offshore companies that involve complex investments in multiple jurisdictions and they need to move capital associated with these investments around. However, there are also many other uses that may be technically legal, often euphemistically referred to as "tax planning", but surely contravene the spirit of tax law that generally structure taxation to be fair and to include (dis)incentives for certain kinds of economic or other behaviour such as investment tax credits, etc. In the case of legitimate use of offshore companies, it would certainly behoove individuals associated with such companies to explain what legitimate use this investment was aimed at.
I acknowledge that I'm approaching the question of the existence of offshore companies with some preconceived notions about these structures. I also acknowledge that in my interest in the nature of these financial investments, I may be engaging in some relative balancing of the right to privacy of individuals (such as those named here), and the (public) desire to understand mechanisms that may be used for corrupt and other illegal purposes, especially when corruption is seen as such a significant problem in the Mongolian context. Individuals and their right to privacy should be borne in mind, however.
As the disclaimer on the Panama Papers website states:
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.
The four most prominent names that appear in the database are:
· Chuluudai B, son of Ulaanbaatar mayor Bat-Uul E
· Batbayar D, former Sumo champion (as 旭鷲山) and former MP for the Democratic Party (2008-12)
· Bum-Erdene Kh, as an associate of Batbayar's in "Abros Co.", but also listed as a commissioner on the website of the Financial Regulatory Commission
· two daughters of former MP and PM S Bayar, Badamkhand and Nandin
Again, all these individuals should be considered innocent in a legal way until any evidence emerges that there is anything illegal or underhanded about the companies they are involved in.
In Chuluudai's case, the relevant company, "Strategic Mines" seems to have only existed from June 2011 to November 2013.
Batbayar is associated with Abros Co which appears to have been set up in Aug 2007 and is listed as "active". Note that Aug 2007 is almost a year before Batbatar was elected to parliament in 2008 and served until 2012.
Bum-Erdene is associated with the same Abros Co. Seeing as it is listed as "active" his association with the Financial Regulatory Commission makes this connection particularly curious.
Bayar's daughters are associated with Linnock Holding which existed for a year, Oct 2014 to Oct 2015, and Gold Wellen Inc which existed from Aug 2013 to Oct 2014. This is long after Bayar's prime ministership.
Where offshore companies are used for illegitimate and perhaps illegal purposes, two particular uses come to mind:
· tax evasion
A reduction in taxation seems to be the main purpose of offshore companies in such prominent cases as the father of British PM Cameron.
Yet, is "tax planning" a plausible motive in the Mongolian context? With a flat income tax of 10% it seems to me that an individual would have to have amassed a significant fortune before the costs of paying the advisors and structures that are required for an offshore company. Somehow, I'd have to suspect that tax reduction is not the primary aim of Mongolians who maintain offshore companies, though this is not an area I specialize in in any way, so I hope that others can enlighten me about this.
The greater fear in the case of Mongolia is that offshore companies are part-and-parcel of corruption schemes where shell companies and complex transactions may be used to hide the movement of funds to officials or decision-makers. That would clearly be an illegal activity, and certainly an illegitimate one. It is noticeable that a number of the records associated with individuals above point to company names that are at least inspired by names commonly used in the mining industry.
For example, the record that is associated with Chuluudai points to him as a shareholder in something called "Strategic Mines". Some of the records associated with less prominent individuals have similar names.
Of course, there are names beyond those that appear at first glance in the Panama Papers. For example, a search for Ulaanbaatar addresses leads to numerous addresses that seem to be linked to names that appear to be foreign names, be they Chinese or "Western".
More Evidence Please!
Obviously, individuals named deserve a chance to explain themselves, and are entitled to a legal assumption of their innocence. I sincerely hope that the journalists involved in the analysis of the Panama Papers will be able to follow on the concreteness of the indications offered in the Papers by building up a greater understanding of the legitimate uses of offshore companies, or by pointing to concrete evidence of less-than-legitimate, perhaps even illegal use of such constructions. A greater understanding of different financial instruments will help inform debates about corruption and make strategies to curb corruption more effective.
From 'Minegolia' to a country in crisis: Mongolia looks to reverse its fortunes
ULAN BATOR, May 8 (The Globe and Mail) Chimgee remembers the days people crowded in front of her meat market stall, waiting to buy from her storage locker jammed to the ceiling with beef, goat, sheep, camel and horse carcasses.
"It was full, and people would line up here to buy from me," she said. "People would say, 'Buy from Chimgee! Buy from Chimgee!'"
After they finished buying meat, they might head downtown to pick up a condo, or a new Rolls-Royce. After all, they lived in "Minegolia," a country about the size of Quebec and so jammed with mineral resources that respectable people talked about a future as the next Qatar or Brunei, with fabulous wealth shared among a population of just three million.
Theirs was a Canadian story, too: Canadian miners made up a large percentage of the foreign investors prepared to pour in capital.
Growth of 17.5 per cent in 2011 made a gilded future look inevitable. The International Monetary Fund expected the country's gross domestic product growth to keep roaring at 14 per cent through 2016. It wasn't hard to find people who thought it could double that performance.
But in a few short years, Mongolia has gone from Asia's golden child to its binge-drinking adolescent, with government borrowing to make payroll, cash-short consumers reduced to bartering for goods, and observers openly talking about the possibility of either a sovereign default – national bankruptcy – or a massive bailout.
Hurt by China's teetering economy and nationalistic domestic policies that scared off foreign investment, today's Mongolia is epitomized by the idle construction crane, which has become a monument to an economy stalled by the unrealized dreams of just a few years ago.
It's all visible from Chimgee's shop, on a hill overlooking Ulan Bator, a city that now boasts a Porsche dealership even as shoppers struggle to buy meat.
"This is the hardest it has been in 20 years," said Chimgee, who like most Mongolians goes by one name. Her storage locker stands virtually empty as she shows a handwritten ledger. The tally one recent morning noted nine sales, only two paid in full. The remainder pleaded to settle up later.
"They don't have cash, so they ask for credit and have a hard time paying back," Chimgee said. "When will this crisis end?"
For millenniums, Mongolia's wealth and power came from its grasslands, and the throngs of horses and livestock they fed. But its ticket to modern wealth lies beneath the steppe. Of the 90 naturally occurring elements on the periodic table, "Mongolia has commercially exploitable quantities of 85. It's a shopping centre for minerals," said Steve Saunders, an international public policy consultant who first travelled to Mongolia in 1994, and has been the long-standing president of the North America - Mongolia Business Council.
It is perched on the border with China, which buys just under 90 per cent of Mongolian exports. It was in a privileged position when China itself was still growing.
But as China's growth has faded, taking commodity prices with it, Mongolia has offered one of the most vivid examples of the broader reckoning under way.
After plummeting by 87 per cent in 2014, foreign investment in Mongolia fell a further 39 per cent last year.
Trade in February fell 20 per cent from the year before, with coal exports tumbling by a third and iron ore by two-thirds.
From August, 2015, to February, 2016, foreign reserves contracted by more than 30 per cent. Several recent long-term government bond offerings have failed; investors have instead piled into 39- and 52-week bonds with interest rates above 14 per cent.
Public sector debt reached more than 80 per cent of GDP by the end of 2015, and has only increased since then.
"The good news is, it seems like we are at rock bottom. There is no way that we can go down from here," said Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt, a Mongolian banker and businessman who is chief executive officer at Ard Financial Group.
But next year could be even tougher, with roughly $2-billion (U.S.) in maturing public and private sector debt, in addition to a $2.3-billion currency swap agreement with the People's Bank of China that also comes due in 2017.
At banks, the publicly disclosed non-performing loan ratio has reached 8 per cent (a further 8 per cent of loans are in arrears).
Christopher de Gruben, a real estate investor who founded Ulan Bator-based M.A.D. Investment Solutions, recently conducted an audit of a local bank. He found it held much of its collateral in real estate – where prices are nosediving after a massive overbuild.
In Ulan Bator, a city with roughly 200,000 housing units, about 37,000 units stand empty. One local investor estimates that space equal to 120 per cent of current demand has opened in the past 18 months, at a time when companies are so mired in debt that executives are deferring payments of their own salaries.
At some lenders, people are trying to settle debts with offers of livestock or apartments.
None of it bodes well.
"We could be heading to a trifecta crisis," said Mr. de Gruben: a currency crisis, banking crisis and a "sovereign crisis when the government is not able to repay its debts." Maybe it's best, he said, if the country declares bankruptcy.
"We need a proper crash to reset the clocks at zero and start again."
Or can Mongolia pull through?
The answer lies partly in the Gobi Desert, an 800-kilometre drive south of Ulan Bator, where a cluster of sky-blue buildings marks the biggest economic project to ever descend on the country.
The Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, once promoted by Canadian Robert Friedland and now owned by Rio Tinto PLC, has brought Mongolia promise and trepidation in equal measure. It could one day account for a third of the country's economy.
But for years, it was the subject of bitter fights between Mongolian leaders and industry as they tussled over who should receive the mining spoils.
The process frightened away the foreign investors once eager to pour money into the country. The number of expats in Mongolia dropped from 12,000 in December, 2012, to 6,800 in December, 2015.
But now with its economy faltering, Mongolia has sought to reverse its course. The country has a new investor-friendly prime minister, who last year settled matters with Rio Tinto, clearing the way to build the underground phase at Oyu Tolgoi, which is expected to constitute 80 per cent of the mine's value. Project financing was concluded in December.
In March, the country settled a legal dispute with Khan Resources Inc., a Canadian company whose uranium mining licence the government revoked in 2009, before transferring it to Russian interests.
And now, the country is approaching an economic pivot point. On Friday, Rio Tinto and Vancouver-headquartered minority partner Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. gave the green light to proceed with the $5.3-billion underground construction at Oyu Tolgoi.
In Ulan Bator, it's been a barely kept secret.
"The preparatory works are under way," and contracts will be awarded in coming weeks, said Byambasaikhan, chief executive officer of Erdenes Mongol, a state-owned investment holding company that manages the Mongolian interest in Oyu Tolgoi.
"In a few weeks' time, you will see contacts being awarded."
On May 15, the Mongolian government will face a deadline to pay a $70-million settlement to Toronto-based Khan Resources. The country already offered to give back Khan its mine, according to a source with knowledge of negotiations, who said Khan refused. Grant Edey, Khan's chief executive officer, declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.
But, he said, if the settlement comes through as promised, "it's a tremendous step forward for them to say that we're a good regime, we're back, we've got good laws and we want to attract investment."
First, however, Mongolia will have to find ways to solve its money woes, a task that will fall largely on leaders not yet known, as Mongolians prepare for a June election.
Many believe "they will do an IMF deal after these elections," a bailout of several billion dollars to right the ship, albeit with conditions, said Peter Morrow, the well-connected former CEO at Mongolia's Khan Bank, who is now a partner at advisory firm NovaTerra Consulting.
Mr. Morrow believes "the last four years will turn out to be a very good thing for Mongolia, in terms of the learning curve."
Mr. Ganhuyag, meanwhile, isn't backing away from the term he coined to describe Mongolia: the "wolf economy," a place with its own particular ferocity in a continent populated with tigers and dragons.
"We need to be really dumb to not make this the richest economy on the planet," he said. "With trillions of dollars in mineral resources underground, I just can't think of a way for us to stay poor."
For now, though, Mongolia is struggling to dig out even the least valuable of those resources, like the coal left beneath Nalaikh, a Soviet-era town next to the remnants of a once-prosperous mine. Today, thin cattle scrounge for grass between mounds of mine tailings.
On a recent day, nearly two dozen men were midway through an 18-hour shift, lowering a coffin-like sledge 120 metres into the earth, and pulling it back full of dripping black coal.
Wet product isn't worth much – but neither, these days, is the dry stuff. The coal is burned for heat in Ulan Bator, the coldest capital city on earth. But in some homes, even coal has grown unaffordable.
With falling demand, prices have been cut in half. This past winter, Nergui, a local coal boss, cut production, too, by more than 40 per cent at his operations.
Workers could once make more than $50 a day. Now they're lucky to make $15.
Things aren't much better for their boss.
"There are days I barely break even," Nergui said.
"If the economy was doing well, people would have money to spend and they would probably choose electric heat for their homes. But at the moment, people don't have cash to buy coal. So they are staying in cold gers," he said, referring to the traditional round structures also known as yurts.
Information about CIRDI's Mongolia Project
By Julian Dierkes
May 16 (Mongolia Focus) iPolitics' James Munson recently published an article that is critical of the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) in a number of important aspects: project selection, information about projects, and broader issues about Canadian development assistance, and links with economic interests.
Given my involvement in CIRDI's IMAGinE Mongolia activities, I tried to offer some comments on these criticisms on the iPolitics website, but was rebuffed by commenting technology, so I reproduce these here:
Munson raises several important and interesting questions in this article, questions that come up repeatedly in conversations among academics such as myself, and staff who are involved in CIRDI programs.
In my case, I am involved in the Integrated Management and Governance in Extractives (IMAGinE) Mongolia project. Note that Mongolia is a country of focus for Global Affairs development assistance.
Our activities were approved as a CIRDI project late last year. After we had submitted a proposal for these activities, the proposal was reviewed (following CIRDI's selection guidelines) and we received a lot of feedback on our proposal that looked very similar to the kind of feedback I would expect to receive on an academic paper, for example, anonymous reviewers who questioned various aspects of our proposal, from assumptions to methodology, and feasibility, etc., but also ultimately recommended approval.
While our Mongolia activities are still ramping up (I'm writing this comment from Ulaanbaatar in fact) our project team is eager to share information and lessons from our project, and to share these with beneficiaries in Mongolia and beyond, as well as with the Canadian public and academic colleagues. We want to communicate about the impact of our project activities in the same way that we're eager to share and disseminate the results of our research as academics.
As I have long collaborated with graduate students in maintaining a blog focused on contemporary Mongolia, Mongolia Focus, we are adding some of our observations about our CIRDI activities to this blog as well, to complement the information that is provided on the CIRDI webpage. Note that we're intent on "thinking out loud" in these posts (as is appropriate to a blog, I think), not to provide definitive answers or conclusions. As we are expanding our IMAGinE activities, we are continuously looking for indicators of the impact that these activities are having. We will also continue to share aspects of this impact measurement in blog posts as this is an area of direct interest overlap between academic research and development interventions.
I believe that the involvement of several Mongolian graduate students strengthens our project significantly in terms of an appreciation for the Mongolian context we're operating in, but also in terms of conducting activities that meet requests by and needs of Mongolians. Of course, we have also solicited input from Mongolians more broadly on the specifics of our activities through needs assessments. Mongolians are able to make their own decisions about resource-led and other economic and social development, and we aim to provide them with more and better information to analyze the choices that they have in making policy. Ultimately, in a democracy like Mongolia, better information will allow citizens and policy-makers to make more robust decisions which will allow them to address poverty and inequality through development that they deem appropriate and want.
Beyond the immediate aims and activities of CIRDI and my involvement in these, Munson and some of the critics he includes in his article raise questions that are important to ask about Canadian development assistance more broadly. I find the lack of access that Canadians have to information about publicly-funded development projects surprising, to say the least. Yes, broad outlines of projects can be found, but information about specific activities is generally not made available by development organizations. Maybe Canada's leadership in the International Aid Transparency Initiative will bring some change in this regard.
Global Affairs' reporting requirements could do with significantly less bureaucracy and be reconfigured toward greater openness about process and impact that would be of interest to at least some Canadians, I think. More open policy-making is something that the Liberal government aspires to, and it seems to me that development assistance is an area where that openness could improve policy-making significantly, including by deepening the conversation about criteria for selection of target countries or target sectors as well as a discussion of specifically Canadian contributions to global poverty alleviation and, now, the Sustainable Development Goals.
iPolitics reported that a development policy review is imminent, so I hope that many of these discussions will be raised in that context. I certainly am eager to contribute to such discussion.
UB Railway gearing up for bigger international role
May 10 (Mongolian Mining Journal) E.Odjargal finds out from L.Purevbaatar, Director of Ulaanbaatar Railway JSC, the role it expects to play in the planned economic corridor between Asia and Europe through Russia, Mongolia and China.
The three countries of Russia, Mongolia and China plan to include all means of transport in the economic corridor between Europe and Asia. How can Mongolia use its railway network in this?
We in North-East Asia have not yet established a model of international cooperation, while countries in South-East Asia have formed ASEAN and also other organisations to cooperate in specific spheres such as transport. Mongolia will have an important role when similar regional cooperation associations are established in North-East Asia, identifying priority areas of cooperation, and determining their administrative and operational structure. Our biggest contribution would be in offering our railway network, built at considerable cost to run in the most difficult conditions of Manzhouli, the Mongolian steppe and Siberia, as part of a regional strategic railway.
Government authorities of Russia, Mongolia and China have agreed that an economic corridor along the regional railway network will be a major part of the projected road map for North-East Asian and Eurasian cooperation. The corridor will facilitate transport and trade and, besides the railway, will comprise gas and oil pipelines, energy lines, highways and flights.
How is the Northeast Asian railway network so important?
The Trans-Siberian Railway in the north and the BAM road behind it connect Europe and Asia. Three railways -- trans-Mongolia, trans-Manzhouli, and trans-Korea -- will be linked to the main line and maybe also the Trans-Amur Railway. Several side or local routes will be connected to the Trans-Siberian to form the largest railway network in North-East Asia. Russia, Japan and South Korea plan to use this network to feed and supplement their seaborne trade. Maybe one-third of this trade will now be on land. A cargo ship from South Korea and the Far East takes two months to reach Europe, but test runs have shown it can be done by rail in 18 days at the most. Quick delivery is essential for efficient trading.
Isn't there competition between the Russian-sponsored Eurasian economic corridor and China's Silk Road initiative?
Yes, there is. The Silk Road railway to Europe, passing through Kazakhstan, will be shorter. Incidentally, China has transformed its old Railway Ministry into a corporation. This corporation has determined that the north-easternmost point of the Silk Road will be where the Manzhouli Railway ends.
China will treat the Trans-Siberian Railway as the Silk Road's northern part. This is where we come in. Ulaanbaatar Railway has always been accepted as a connector to the Trans-Siberian, but now China has suggested that the proposed narrow-gauge railway it will build from Tavan Tolgoi to Gashuunsukhait use the Silk Road railway network with access to the sea. Thus we have a choice between going north and south.
It is not just China, particularly its Shanghai region, that will use the northern railway. Other countries such as South Korea, Japan, and others in the Pacific region will also be able to transport their freight through it.
How much freight is currently carried over the railway in Mongolia?
A conference was held in Sochi in the beginning of March to discuss this year's international freight transport targets for railways. There it was decided that Mongolian railways will carry 6.2 million tons of transit freight to China, of which 5 million tons would be iron ore. The total volume is one million tons more than in 2015. Freight from Russia to Mongolia will total 1.5 million tons, showing a 45% increase over 2015. This year Russia will send 2.5 million tons of crude oil to China through Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar Railway expects to earn more than $50 million as transit fees.
Ulaanbaatar Railway has been used since 1950 to carry freight between Russia and China. Now it can be a similar important part of a North-East Asia railway network. However, before it can take up added responsibilities, Ulaanbaatar Railway must undergo comprehensive technical and operational upgrading.
Are you clear about what is needed? Where will the money come from and how would the renovation be done?
We have planned technical upgradation to increase the carrying capacity of Ulaanbaatar Railway to 48 million tons by 2020, half of which will be in transit freight. We shall also have dual gauges along the track – the Mongolian (and also Russian) and the standard one used in China -- and these can be changed automatically as the locomotive approaches. The Mongolian Government and the Russian Federation Government had paid $125 million each to increase the capital of Ulaanbaatar Railway and this is now being spent on renovating containers, and upgrading signalling facilities and track maintenance. All this work should be completed by December 2017, by which time our capacity will reach 34 million tons, an increase of 6 million tons over the current capacity.
The Moscow Institute for Transportation and Development Policy offered us three different blueprints for increasing capacity to 48 million tons, and we have made our choice. This calls for having automatically operated dual-gauge tracks, building new crossings with remote control facilities, and also for a new railroad around the Bogd Mountain. When our capacity does reach 48 million tons, our revenue from transit freight transport will increase substantially, likely reaching over $80 million.
How has Russian Railway, which is a co-owner of Ulaanbaatar Railway, responded to the upgrading proposal and programme?
The main purpose of our visit to Sochi was to meet with the new management of Russian Railway. The two Governments had already discussed and agreed on the need for extensive upgrading and the Russian Government had asked the Moscow institute to prepare the project. As I have already said, we chose one from among three they submitted and informed our co-owner, Russian Railway, of this, along with a proposal and a request for its support to help Ulaanbaatar Railway develop its potential to become part of an important international transport corridor. In Sochi, the Russian Railway management informed us that they approved the railway development plan until 2020 and have asked for details of the technical and financial support required from Russia. Their only condition has been that railway management and policy are not affected by political developments in Mongolia.
Will the three countries sign the transit agreement any time soon?
At Russian initiative, a meeting has been scheduled in Tokyo in May to discuss transit freight transportation issues. Cooperation between Russia, Mongolia and China is moving forward smoothly, and their talks on these issues are held under the auspices of the UN. The agreement is expected to be signed at a meeting in Tashkent later this year.
Nikkei Asia Prizes 2016: Dogmid Sosorbaram, Mongolia's singing democracy crusader
ULAANBAATAR, May 8 (Nikke Asian Review) -- Dogmid Sosorbaram was born in 1958 into a nomadic family in southern central Mongolia. As a child, he passed many hours sitting astride his horse and singing songs while he watched the moon. This experience instilled in him a love of Mongolian music that would eventually set him on the path of political activist.
As a university student, Sosorbaram majored in theatrical performance. He graduated in 1982 and joined the national theater as an actor. But Mongolia at the time was a satellite of the Soviet Union, and Sosorbaram was forced to perform in dramas praising socialism. "I was tired," he recalled.
His desire for freedom of expression spurred him to join the burgeoning fight for democratization.
Sosorbaram was a key figure in the pro-democracy movement, which gathered steam in 1989. Reciting poems and singing songs at political rallies, he played an important role in unifying opposition parties into the currently governing Democratic Party.
Sosorbaram served as opening speaker at the party's first national convention in February 1990. The country peacefully transitioned to a democratic system the following month.
While many of his fellow pro-democracy campaigners went on to become political leaders, Sosorbaram has returned to the field of arts. "I would lose my soul as a human being if I stepped away from the things I love," he said.
In recent years, Sosorbaram has been working to pass on Mongolia's traditional arts to the younger generation. The Domog folk band, led by Sosorbaram, won the Grand Prix at the 2013 World Championship of Folklore in Bulgaria and he was given the title of "maestro."
His interest in politics, however, has not waned. Appearing on a talk show in early April, he chided Mongolia's leaders, saying, "There are more and more politicians who do not think about the future."
Well-versed in both culture and politics, Sosorbaram is keeping a close eye on where his beloved country is heading.
IFC Supports Green Tourism and Retail Expansion in Ulaanbaatar
May 10 (IFC) -- IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is providing $6.5 million in financing to MMC Polaris LLC to build an international-standard hotel and retail space in the Yarmag district of southwest Ulaanbaatar. The hotel-retail development will expand Ulaanbaatar's economic and tourism activities and help ease congestion and pollution in the central business district.
The project is aligned with Ulaanbaatar's 2020 Master Plan, which aims to promote a secondary city-center in the area of Yarmag en route to the city's current and new airports, according to IFC.
MMC Polaris LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mongol Micron Cashmere LLC, one of Mongolia's leading cashmere processing businesses.
"IFC's long-term financing will contribute to strengthening Mongolia's tourism infrastructure, which will help drive local economic growth and diversification," said Mr. Battogoo Choindon, executive director of MMC Polaris LLC. "In addition to financing, IFC is assisting our hotel to meet international environmental and social standards, including green building design principles."
The hotel is the first project in Mongolia to meet IFC's Green Building Standards.
"IFC's financing affirms our long-term confidence in Mongolia's economy, and the success of this Ibis Styles hotel will catalyze much-needed modern hospitality and retail services in a newly developing area of Ulaanbaatar," said Tuyen D. Nguyen, resident representative for IFC in Mongolia. "During its construction and operation, this project is generating jobs and creating business opportunities for local small and medium enterprises."
The retail floors of the building will open in late 2016 and the hotel is expected to open in early 2017. The three-star property will be operated by Accor Hotels, an international operator, and will be the first Accor-managed hotel in Mongolia.
KEPCO KDN Signs MOU to Establish 50MW Solar Power Plant in Mongolia
May 13 (Business Korea) Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) KDN announced on May 12 that it has signed an asset management agreement and memorandum of agreement (MOU) with Moshea Eco Energy and Idea Bridge to establish a 50MW solar power plant in Mongolia on the 6th.
Under the agreement, it will set up the largest 50MW eco-friendly clean energy power plant at new airport in Mongolia. The new airport region has been troubled over serious air pollution caused by thermal power plants nearby.
An official from KEPCO KDN said, "Converging the capability and expertise in new electricity ICT technologies, including energy new industry areas, we are planning to expand our global businesses further."
Shinhan Card to Provide Big Data Consulting for Golomt Bank of Mongolia
May 12 (Business Korea) On May 11, Shinhan Card held a signing ceremony for Code9-big data consulting with Golomt Bank of Mongolia in Seoul.
The signing ceremony was attended by Shinhan Card president Wi Sung-ho, Golomt Bank president Ganzorig Ulziibayar, etc. Golomt Bank, which is one of the largest banks in Mongolia, currently has a total asset of 2.2 trillion won along with 113 branches.
According to their agreement, Shinhan Card is to provide big data consulting with regard to the Mongolian bank's credit card business. The South Korean credit card company is planning to concentrate on customer segmentation methodology such as the Code9, data mining and analysis algorithms and the like in that the Mongolian credit card market is still in its early stage.
The cooperation between the two companies marks the first case of financial big data consulting service export from the South Korean financial sector. Shinhan Card is expecting that it will become a chance for it to find out if its big data analysis models work well in global emerging markets.
Government loan plan set to spark livestock vaccine surge in Mongolia
May 5 (Animal Pharm) The Mongolian government has cut theinterest rate on loans handed out to farmers in the country's large livestockindustry to encourage herders to spend the extra cash on vaccines and livestockhealth improvement.
The country is famous for its roaming ...
Link to article (requires subscription)
Young Mongols: Urban Planning & Pollution
April 15 (Young Mongols) What do urban planning, pollution, and gers have in common? And, what is a ger?!
Badruun Gardi and Munkshure Erdenebat explain how a population influx to Mongolia's capital city of Ulaanbaatar have made it one of the most polluted cities in the world…and what they're doing to fix it.
Getting to know Ulaanbaatar: a district guide
Park to meet Mongolia's leader next week
May 13 (Yonhap) President Park Geun-hye will meet with her Mongolian counterpart, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, in Seoul next week to discuss bilateral ties, Cheong Wa Dae said Friday.
The meeting, which will take place next Thursday, will be an opportunity for the two countries to expand bilateral ties, the presidential office said.
The Mongolian leader will arrive in Seoul next Wednesday for a three-day visit. It marks the first time that he has visited South Korea since taking office in 2009.
"The trip will be an opportunity to solidify two-way relations as Mongolia has achieved remarkable development in various areas, such as politics, economy and culture," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Mongolia has made significant headway in the realm of democratization and the economy since the landlocked country pushed forward economic reform and made the transition to a market economy in the early 1990s.
Seoul and Ulaanbaatar established formal diplomatic ties in 1990.
Abe looks forward to possibly meeting Putin again at ASEM
Abe, Putin agree to advance Japan-Russia territorial talks
SOCHI, Russia, May 7 (Japan Today) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Friday to seek to resolve the decades-old territorial row that has barred the two countries from signing a postwar peace treaty, renewing efforts via frequent dialogues and closer economic cooperation.
"I have a sense that we are moving toward a breakthrough in the stalled peace treaty negotiations," Abe told reporters after his three-hour meeting with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The talks included a 30-minute session where the leaders talked one-on-one, according to a Japanese official.
"We agreed to resolve the peace treaty issue by ourselves as we seek to build a future-oriented relationship. We will proceed with the negotiations with a new approach, free of any past ideas," Abe said, although he did not offer any specifics regarding the path ahead.
The Japanese official said the "new approach" did not mean a change in Japan's stance to seek resolution on the ownership of the disputed islands—Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan as well as the Habomai group of islets off Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.
The disputed islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan's surrender in August 1945.
As Japan believes only talks between the nations' leaders can move the territorial issue forward, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavnov said Abe and Putin have discussed in their talks concrete dates for Putin's visit to Japan.
A plan in 2014 for the Russian president to visit Japan was put off after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March that year, souring Russia's relations with Western countries and Japan.
Abe and Putin also agreed to hold a meeting of senior officials on the territorial dispute in June, Lavrov told reporters following the Abe-Putin talks.
In the meeting, Putin invited Abe to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September, which will bring together business and government representatives to discuss the economic potential and investment opportunities of Russia's Far East and the Asia-Pacific region.
Abe showed willingness to participate, saying the Japan-Russia cooperation in the Russian Far East is important, according to the Japanese official.
In addition to their meeting in Vladivostok, Abe said he also looks forward to a possibility of meeting Putin in July on the fringes of the Asia-Europe summit in Mongolia, as well as in September at the time of the Group of 20 summit in China and in October during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the official said.
North China city offers fellowship to Mongolian students
HOHHOT, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Erenhot, a city on the China-Mongolia border, will offer fellowships to students from Mongolia to study in the city, confirmed local authorities on Sunday.
Starting from this year, a total of three million yuan (about 460,000 U.S. dollars) are to be distributed annually. So far 433 Mongolian students have received the money.
According to the city education authorities, Erenhot, in north China's Inner Mongolia, has received more than 3,000 students from Mongolia since 1998. There are more than 400 in the city currently.
Mongolia launches nationwide vaccination to tackle serious measles outbreak
ULAN BATOR, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Mongolia launched a nationwide vaccination campaign on Thursday to combat a serious measles outbreak, targeting 18-30-year olds.
According to the Mongolian Health Ministry, as of May 6, a total of 19,194 measles cases were recorded nationwide and 59 infants died of measles infection.
The ministry said most of the infected were students and infants.
United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) provided the current batch of measles vaccines for around 624,000 young people in Mongolia.
Vaccination centers have been set up in universities, colleges and family clinics in the country.
The Mongolian government hopes the campaign, which will last until May 25, would contain the outbreak and reduce infection cases.
The current measles outbreak started earlier this year, and spread to all provinces and cities of Mongolia. Kids have been prevented from going to kindergartens and schools in some badly-hit regions. The capital city of Ulan Bator is most seriously hit.
Two years ago, the Mongolian government claimed that measles had been eliminated in the land-locked country.
The public and non-governmental organizations have criticized Mongolian health institutions for not being fully prepared for the current outbreak.
ACMS: This Month in Mongolian Studies - May 2016
"This Month in Mongolian Studies" is a monthly listing of selected academic activities and resources related to Mongolia. This list is based on information the ACMS has received and is presented as a service to its members. If you would like to submit information to be included in next month's issue please contact the ACMS at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or the editor, Marissa Smith, at email@example.com.
This publication is supported in part by memberships. Please consider becoming a member of the ACMS, or renewing your membership by visiting our website at
mongoliacenter.org/join. Thank you!
Turkic mound in Mongolia to be converted into museum
Turkey's official development agency TİKA will be converting a mound in Mongolia into a museum
May 15 (Yeni Şafak) The Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) announced that they will be converting a Turkic mound, Mayhan Uul Kurgan, belonging to the ancient Göktürk Khanate, in collaboration with Mongolian authorities.
The kurgan in the Bulgan province of Mongolia will be converted into museum and protected by TİKA.
Veysel Çiftçi, TİKA coordinator for Ulan Batur, said that the kurgan is the only source on ancient Turks' understanding of art.
A kurgan is a tumulus, a type of burial mound or barrow, heaped over a burial chamber, often of wood. They are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves.
The Göktürk Khanate was first established in 552 by the Ashina clan of the Göktürks in medieval Inner Asia. The khanate survived until 744, when it was overthrown by the Uighurs.
LIVE from 10th Annual International Mongolian Studies Conference, Washington D.C.
May 14 (Mongolia Live) Hey Guys! We're live for the first time from Washington D.C. attending the 10th Annual International Mongolian Studies Conference.
Mongol Empire history Professor Ho from University of Maryland College Park, has never been to Mongolia before, but knows pretty much everything about it.
Incredible photos capture harsh reality of life in remote Mongolia as family makes gruelling 100-mile trek across mountains in -40C conditions
· Hundreds of Kazakhs brave temperatures of -40C between February and April each year during spring migration
· Stunning pictures show their gruelling 100-mile trek across the Altai mountains in remote part of western Mongolia
· Kazakhs are famous for their eagle hunting and make the journey with camels, sheep, goats, cows, horses and yak
May 10 (Daily Mail) These incredible photographs show the harsh reality of life in remote Mongolia through the eyes of a family embarking on a gruelling spring migration.
Hundreds of Kazakhs brave temperatures of -40C between February and April each year as they make the 100-mile trek across the Altai mountains in western Mongolia.
Photographer Timothy Allen captured these stunning pictures after linking up with a family - Shohan and his wife Perna - who move six times a year between seasonal camps in Bayan Ulgii Province.
He joined the same family last year, becoming the first outsider to walk with Kazakhs - famous for hunting with eagles - on their spring nomadic migration.
Link to article (with photos and video)
Following the Music in a Changing Mongolia
May 11 (NBC News) Ulaanbaatar fills a mountain valley. Mongolia's capital is a snarl of Soviet housing blocks, boomtown high rises, traffic, smog, and shopping.
As you move away from the city center, concrete gives way to dirt roads and informal yurt settlements, home to an estimated 70 percent of the city's population. Abruptly, Ulaanbaatar ends. It is surrounded by thousands of miles of pristine countryside.
In the past few decades, hundreds of thousands of nomads have crossed the threshold from country to city. They've left the land, pushed out by climate change and overgrazing, drawn to the city by school, an income, and a connection to the world outside this vast, landlocked state. Nearly half the country's population of roughly 2.9 million now lives in Ulaanbaatar.
With Raw Music International, our goal is to tell stories of change through music. Can you hear this massive social upheaval? What does urbanization sound like?
Deep in the countryside, you don't hear much of anything at all. Over a month of searching, we couldn't record a good example of Mongolia's chief musical export - throatsinging, or khoomei. Plenty of people tried, but what started majestic usually ended with red-faced hacking coughs and, upon recovery, requests for a tip.
It is in the cities, paradoxically, that traditional music thrives. Musically inclined former nomads, freed from the task of survival in one of the world's harshest environments, wear traditional dress and play weddings and festivals. Traditional music programs are popping up in universities and high schools.
Perhaps it's a form of museumification - a living art turned into a tool for nationalism and nostalgia. But, despite the challenges and indignities of urban life, no one was complaining on cultural grounds. Education and opportunity trump tradition.
In Mongolia, we saw urbanization not as world historic change, but as a series of hard, individual choices. And we heard it, a tension between memories of a glorious past and hope for an uncertain future, in the few bits of music we were fortunate enough to record.
Cyrus Moussavi is a filmmaker and founder of Raw Music International, a documentary series about music around the world. For more from Mongolia, visit www.rawmusicinternational.com
Link to article (and video)
How popular is Russian in Mongolia 26 Years After the Fall of the Soviet Union?
By Bulgan B
May 10 (Mongolia Focus) The May 9th Victory Day has revived the Mongolian love for Russia once again. Mongolians were watching the Victory Day parade and Mongolian social media was trending on any story which relates to the Great Victory. Wreaths were laid at the monuments of Zaisan hill in Ulaanbaatar, remembering the Soviet soldiers who defended the world from the Nazis. The case of the Lavrov jeans is forgiven and forgotten. Although I didn't plan it to coincide with May, my quick poll on Russian language use in Mongolia seems nicely timed.
The Russian language has been revered as a language of class, education and identity in Mongolia. A quick (social media) poll to the question "In addition to your mother tongue Mongolian, what other language do you speak/use?" suggests English is taking over from Russian as the preferred second language in Mongolia. However, Russian language holds a strong root in Mongolian society and culture. Considering the rise of China globally and the China-Mongolia relationship it is interesting to note that the Chinese language did not quite make it to the top 5 foreign languages in the poll.
In order to group the Russian-speakers by generations (with the aim to examine a hypothesis that new generation is choosing other foreign languages over Russian) I ran parallel polls on Facebook and Twitter and asked participants which generation they belong to. The majority of participants were from the 1970s and 80s with a total of 61 out of 85. The number gradually declined in the 90s represented by 16 and 2000s with 1 participant. Surprisingly, a low number of 7 selected the 60s (in opposition to my guess that older people are more likely to know Russian). But this could be explained by the fact that many from this generation do not use Facebook as a main platform of engagement.
Russian still is a very useful language to establish connections and make friends with the people who are running the show in Mongolia, as those generations from 60s to 80s are in decision-making positions in the government and business sectors. But for Mongolians, I think we should learn our Mongolian language well, and then as boastful as we are of our linguistic abilities, we could learn (at least) Russian, Chinese and English to survive and thrive as Mongols.
Christianity in Mongolia
A look at how a foreign faith is adapting to Mongolian culture.
By Martin de Bourmont
May 10 (The Diplomat) Tsogoo paces when he talks, like the American preachers on satellite television. Tonight he tells the men about King David and the importance of daily payer. "David was a powerful, intelligent man," says Tsogoo. "But he prayed every day. He knew he could not live well without God's guidance." He enjoins the men to pray whenever they must make a decision, no matter how important or trivial.
The Khovd City Men's Fellowship does not meet at six every Thursday night just to listen to Tsogoo. They meet to discuss spiritual matters in the company of other men they trust. The meetings take place in a small yurt, orger, behind a wooden house on the edge of Khovd City's sprawling ger district. There are no lamps to illuminate the ger and only a small stove to keep them warm in the winter. Around the stove are rickety orange benches with no backs. When someone begins to speak, the others lean in to listen.
They are usually a small group, rarely more than ten. Each meeting has its share of new faces. The visitors come for many different reasons. Some are curious; they want to know the meaning and purpose of this "foreign" religion taking up residence in their province. Others are desperate, suffering from unemployment, alcoholism, illness or all three, searching for a path or a leader to guide them to peace and recovery.
According to Mongolia's 2010 National Census, 41,117 Mongolians — 2.1 percent of the country's population — adhere to Christianity, usually of the Protestant variety. Although Nestorian Christianity existed in the Mongol Empire, where Christians sat in the emperor's court, Christianity did not truly penetrate the Mongolian heartland until the early 1990s. After the fall of the USSR, missionaries of various denominations began to enter the former Soviet satellite state in search of potential converts.
While one might expect Christianity to grow primarily in Ulaanbaatar, Christian communities now exist all over Mongolia. Khovd City, the capital of Mongolia's remote Khovd province, does not seem a likely base for a nascent Christian community. Home to approximately 28,000 people, Khovd City is located in Mongolia's far west, about a day's drive from the almost equally remote Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Tsogoo, now a physics professor at Khovd State University, was not born into a family of Christians or a community of believers. He discovered Christianity as a young man, when one of his friends returned from Ulaanbaatar with a strange book and a new faith. His friend encouraged him to read the Bible and he soon became fascinated by its teachings. A few years later, Tsogoo declared himself a Christian and committed himself to acquainting his fellows with the Bible and its doctrines. The Men's Fellowship is a means of doing so.
As a Fulbright English teacher at Khovd State University, my first encounters with Western Mongolia's Christian minority began when I met Robert Keroac in the autumn of 2014. Keroac is one of the region's small crop of long-term expatriates and an active member of the Khovd's tiny Christian population.
Keroac first arrived in Mongolia in 1998, convinced that God was calling him to work there. While living in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics, Keroac met and befriended a group of Mongolian athletes. "Mongolia would not leave my consciousness after that," he says. After two years of prayer, Keroac finally resolved to visit Mongolia on a one-month tourist visa. In 1999 Keroac decided to remain in Mongolia permanently.
After spending a year learning Mongolian in Ulaanbaatar with his wife Hazel, Keroac began touring the country in the company of his language teacher. After visiting eight provinces and 20 villages, Keroac and his wife resolved to move to Zereg soum, or district, in Khovd province.
"We were asking God what we should do," Keroac told me one afternoon in his Khovd City ger. "We got to this little village 100 miles south of Khovd City, Zereg, there the village leadership gave us a party and an oil painting and… immediately invited us to live there. We thought that might just be our answer to prayer."
Keroac and Hazel would spend the next ten years working in Zereg as English teachers. In their spare time, they strove to "live the Gospel and teach interested parties about the Bible."
Keroac and Hazel soon discovered they were not the only Christians to inhabit the region. "Various evangelical groups had been coming to do short-term work since 1993 for between two weeks or three months," says Keroac. "They would travel around and distribute literature, most of which ended up as rolling paper for tobacco or in fireplaces."
Khovd's first denominational churches were established in 2003 and 2005. Norwegian missionaries founded the first of these, the Norwegian Lutheran Mission, in 2003. In 2005, Korean Baptists opened Khovd's first and only Baptist Church. The goal of these groups, says Keroac, was "to set up churches on indigenous, sustainable principles."
The Korean Baptists, for instance, began their mission by sending short-term teams to Khovd in 2002 and 2003. "They would go and work in an area see if they could find people who were interested and leave them with Bibles and Bible study material," says Keroac. Once the Korean teams found ten people with a serious interest in Bible study, they sent a teacher to live in Khovd with the goal of eventually establishing a church.
When the Keroacs finally left Zereg and moved to Khovd City in 2011, they found eight Christian churches. "My wife and I visited each church in Khovd and introduced ourselves," says Keroac:
"It was in the summer, which is when the numbers are the lowest. We saw an average of 15–20 people in each church. In winter, my own church averages something like 30. Some days there might be 40 or more. It's easy to say that we saw probably 120 people in churches and they were the diehards."
Today, they belong to Khovd's Uguumur Hair, or "Abundant Love" church, where Keroac is a member of the leadership council. However, Keroac believes the council's existence does not suggest the church adheres to a rigid hierarchy. "There's no sharp divisions of labor," says Keroac. "Everybody pitches in. They recognize that anyone who professes to believe in Jesus will necessarily pull their weight and look for things to do. The leadership council tends to have people who have been Christians for at least five years. There's no one pastor. Several men share the responsibility of preaching the major addresses. Friday night Bible studies are shared between men and women."
Unlike the Norwegian Lutheran Mission and the Korean Baptist Church, the other six of Khovd's churches are nondenominational and administered by Mongolians. Two of the Mongolian churches emphasize the importance of "spiritual gifts" such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, and the discernment of spirits. While the other churches accept these believers as legitimate Christians, the validity and importance of "spiritual gifts" remains up for debate.
Like Uguumur Hair, each of Khovd's eight churches elects a leadership council to represent its members. These leadership councils meet once a month to share information and discuss potential joint projects.
Last year, the churches organized a joint charity program with the approval of the city government. Once a month, each church would work with its local district governor to collect donations. They collected two kinds of donations: in kind and cash. With the cash they bought food and candy for children. They also bought warm clothing, children's toys, and good used furniture.
Tsogoo's Men's Fellowship is another project that unites Christians from Khovd's different churches. When he launched the Men's Fellowship, Tsogoo wanted to create an opportunity for men to meet and discuss their lives without depending on alcohol to speak frankly. In a country where one in five men binge-drinks on a weekly basis, few Mongolian families remain unaffected by the devastating impact of alcoholism.
When Tsogoo launched the Men's Fellowship in 2012, it had only three members. It was only after a year of weekly meetings that he managed to draw other men to the Fellowship. Many of the men who now regularly attend the Fellowship meetings are or were once alcoholics. Not only do they drink to excess at least three times a week, many are drunk at work or in other situations where they might pose a serious danger to themselves and others.
Chinbat, a former herder, is one of the Men's Fellowship's most regular attendees. He became interested in Christianity after he fell off of his camel, breaking his back and confining himself to a wheelchair. Unable to work, Chinbat receives a stipend from his church. Now, he uses the Men's Fellowship as a forum to help young men avoid making the same mistakes that cost him his mobility and independence.
Alcoholism and a man's responsibility to his fellows are constant themes among Khovd's Christians. At each of Khovd's eight churches, women continue to play a major role in the leadership councils. Men, according to Keroac and Tsogoo, have been reticent to take on leadership roles in the churches until recently. This strikes me as peculiar; while I have met many female Christians in Khovd, I have yet to meet one who admits to having a leadership role in her church.
In any case, it is clear that the men take inordinate pride in organizing events and activities. On April 16, 2015, I attended a Men's Fellowship meeting during which the men present happily recounted the success of a Christian-themed concert. Around 150 people attended this concert, which, according to those in attendance at the Men's Fellowship meeting, was entirely organized by men.
When I asked Keroac about this concert, he confirmed that concert had in fact been led and organized by the men of Khovd's Christian churches. "In fact," he continued, "when I went, women were coming up to me and saying how great it was the men were finally taking charge of something."
Whatever success Khovd's Christian churches may have with regard to combating alcoholism and motivating men to take charge of their lives, not all of Khovd's residents see them as a positive force.
Purevsuren, an English instructor at Khovd University, briefly attended some of Khovd's churches at their inception, when his then-girlfriend was exploring Christianity. Today, Purevsuren views Mongolian Christianity with a skeptical eye.
"Yes, churches can do good things," he says. "They teach right attitudes. Some alcoholics go and stop drinking. But some people also go because they want something from the church. They don't really believe in God. We also worry about brainwashing. We cannot always know what is going on inside those churches."
Purevsuren is the product of a secular society. Although he did not experience the bans on religious practice maintained by the communist Mongolian People's Republic, he grew up in the 1990s, when the constitution of a newly democratic Mongolia vowed to protect religious freedom and practice while limiting proselytism.
As a firm believer in the separation of church and state and the importance of keeping religion as a secondary force in the lives of individuals — behind citizenship and Mongolian culture, that is — Purevsuren does not believe that religious diversity will always be positive.
"Now it is okay because we are in the middle time," he explains. "These religions are not too big. I am afraid one day maybe they become very big and there will be conflict."
Whether or not these fears are justified, Mongolian Christianity's schizophrenic nature continues to perplex. Neither entirely foreign nor native, it may one day be as Mongolian as the Men's Fellowship's austere ger.
Martin de Bourmont is a freelance writer, translator, and graduate student based in Paris.
Five Myths about Genghis Khan
Undoubtedly one of the most controversial historical figures is the founder of the Mongol empire - Genghis Khan. He's been accredited with countless atrocities, the destruction of entire empires, cultures and nations, but also many acts of heroism and deeds that contributed to the development of civilization. Genghis Khan is a hero in Mongolia, some parts of China and Central Asia, while also a symbol of absolute evil in Iran, Uzbekistan, Russia and Ukraine.
Recently, world famous historian, English professor and Nobel prize nominee Frank McLynn, attempted to present a clear historical view of the historical figure and achievements of the Mongolian Khagan in his book Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy. In it he tells of the 5 most widespread myths about the ruler.
Myth 1 - Genghis Khan was an evil tyrant
While analyzing the numerous Mongolian, Arabic and Persian sources, McLynn discovered that Genghis Khan was not a bloodthirsty tyrant. Medieval chronicles describe him as a complex individual, who reacted depending on the situation and his mood. Of the khan the old authors wrote that he was clever, prescient, kind, stoic, tempered but with an iron will.
He was a multifunctional person with all the qualities of a great warlord. In terms of the claims that he was a tyrant, McLynn reminds us that the ruler lived during the Middle Ages, when absolute monarchy was the norm of rule and earning and keeping the crown required tough measures.
Myth 2 - The cruelty of Genghis Khan was boundless, bordering psychopathy
This is McLynn's most controversial thesis. The author justifies the actions of Genghis Khan with the fact that the emperor was a product of his time, when murdering several thousand prisoners was within the range of normal. He even gives the examples of Basil II, or Bulgar Slayer, who blinded 14 000 Bulgarian prisoners of war; as well as the Western Europeans of the First Crusade, who killed the Muslims in Antioch and Jerusalem. But there's no mention of the fact that roughly 53% of the cities in Asia that existed before Genghis Khan are nothing but archaeological ruinstoday.
Myth 3 - Genghis Khan's "surrender or die" policy was a crime against humanity
The Mongols believed they were the chosen people to rule the entire world. Despite their huge ambitions, they turned out to be a minority in comparison to their mighty conquests. According to McLynn, this policy was born of the constant need to fill gaps in their undefeatable army and to protect against uprisings in the provinces that had become part of the empire while they were on the march.
Myth 4 - The Mongols' success was due to their vast army
According to McLynn, this is the biggest myth about Genghis Khan. Up until the ascension of Kublai Khan, the Mongolians always faced an enemy that outnumbered them. An example includes the conquering of 100-million-strong North China by Mongolia's 2 million.
Myth 5 - Nearly all of the populations of Asia and Eastern Europe descent from Genghis Khan
Geneticists have found that about 0.8% of the population of Asia have an identical Y-chromosome, showing the possibility of a common ancestor living around the year 1000 A.D. This means that about 0.5% of the world's population has a common ancestor and that Genghis Khan has 16-17 million descendants.
The Khan had a massive harem but a difference of 2 centuries puts the theory at odds. The fact that the population on Earth was so low initially and is so huge now, links everyone, more or less, to a shared ancestor, writes the author. [learn more...]
The slow and deadly dzud in Mongolia
May 14 (BBC News) So far this year, more than one million animals have been killed by the dzud. The word conjures up an image of a mythical monster, but it is a peculiar weather phenomenon and the fear of herders on the Mongolian steppes, as journalist Helen Wright reports.
The piles of dead, frozen sheep and goats lie stacked against the rocks, just out of sight.
They are victims of the dzud, an unseen and brutal natural disaster unique to Mongolia where a summer drought combines with a harsh winter and vast numbers of livestock die from either starvation or cold.
The last dzud in 2010 killed eight million animals. It is thought to descend in five-yearly cycles and each time it wreaks havoc.
"We are trying so hard to keep them alive," 50-year-old herder Bayankhand Myagmar says, talking about her dead sheep and goats. "But nothing we do is working."
In Mongolia it hasn't rained since last July and this winter temperatures dropped to as low as -50C for days on end. Snowfall covered up to 60% of the country and fell heavier than usual.
The dzud is made worse by overgrazing and a creeping desertification. Without rain grass is unable to grow across the vast steppes in summer and the millions of animals that live on them cannot put on enough weight to survive the winter cold. So they die. This winter more than 255,000 people have been affected by the dzud.
When an animal's health is more important than its owner's
Bayankhand lives in Uvs Province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) west of the country's capital Ulan Bator. She has been a herder since 1990 and this is the worst dzud she has lived though. She has already lost more than 450 of her 700 animals.
Sitting inside her ger, a traditional round house, which she shares with her disabled daughter and son, she cries as she says: "If we lose all of the animals, we will have nothing to live on."
The family are putting the animals' health above their own and 20 of the weakest animals stay inside the tent. But outside, several sheep are tied to the ground and their sides heave as they struggle to breathe.
Bayankhand says she gets up four to five times a night to check on her remaining animals as they tend to sleep in a pile and can suffocate.
She has already sold her car to pay for more hay this winter and is now in debt with local markets after buying more.
"What will we do if we lose all of them?"
Aid officials warn that nobody pays attention to this silent killer, but the impact is severe.
Herders rely on their animals for almost everything: for meat and milk, they burn their waste to heat their homes and sell their skins to buy food and pay children's school and university fees. Losing their animals can mean they fall into poverty.
Often, with no other choice, they migrate to a district centre or the capital, which is home to more than half of the country's 2.8 million people. But there they have no skills to get a job.
The emergency begins when meat gets cheap
Dogoonoo lives with 13 others in three small gers in Uvs Province. The 72-year-old started this winter with 230 livestock but 210 of those have died since January.
"Watching the animals die is breaking us apart," she said. "But even if I have only one animal left, I will do everything in my power to keep it alive."
Aid agencies in the country say if there is a summer drought, then there will be a dzud the following winter. But several are now trying to change when a dzud is officially recognised and the triggers for help are released.
This year the government has not called the situation in the country an emergency, so it is less easy to appeal to international organisations for help.
"In Mongolia there seems to be the attitude that you don't look forward if a bad winter is predicted, because that only encourages the bad dzud," Kevin Gallagher, deputy representative in Mongolia to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, says.
He would like the triggers to start after a summer drought but before the snow starts to fall, as well as when the price of meat drops to 25% of its value. When this happens banks start to recall their loans to herders, which eventually means herders are left without feed to buy for their animals. This trigger already occurs in other parts of the world.
Last autumn, as winter approached, herders slaughtered millions of their animals to try and sell them for meat. They already knew the weak would not make it through. This caused the price to drop from $75 to $25 for a sheep as the market became oversaturated and the cycle of insolvency for herders was set off.
Even though the coldest months have now passed new grass will not grow on the steppes until late May and an estimated 1,000 animals a day will continue to die until then.
So with each dzud, the traditional lifestyle of the herders on the steppes becomes that much more unfeasible.
Mongolia Approves Vast Reserve for Snow Leopards
A new national park will conserve an intact habitat for the rare mountain cat.
May 8 (TakePart.com) Snow leopards—among the world's rarest big cats—got some good news when the Mongolian parliament recently voted to create a nature reserve in the Tost Mountains of South Gobi province, along the country's southeastern border.
Korean Air's tree planting campaign for 13 years
May 12 (The Dong-A Ilbo) Baganuur is situated some 150 kilometers east of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Residents in this city, which has no single decent forest that can help break winds mixed with earthen dust, are waiting for solonggos (Mongolian words meaning "the country of rainbow," referring to Korea), who will leave them "green gift" every year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 200 executives and rookie employees from Korean Air staged volunteer activities to plant trees in desolate land in Baganuur, which is undergoing gradual desertification process. Baganuur desperately needed sand-breaking forests because dust from nearby mines directly passes through the field before reaching the village. With a tree planting campaign for 13 consecutive years since 2004, Korean Air is presenting forests in deserts in Mongolia and China as part of its "global planting project."
Braving unfavorable weather conditions with temperatures plunging to subzero instantly amid storm, Korean Air employees and Mongolian students formed groups of three to five people and concentrated on planting seedlings. Small and thin seedlings standing 1 to 2 meters that have been planted in tens of thousands of holes in wilderness stood up stoutly by enduring gusty winds and storms. "It is great because we develop love for the planet earth while planting trees," a 16-year-old Mongolian girl said while carrying water through seedlings of her height.
Korea's largest airline has planned more than 100,000 trees in land extending a total of 440,000 sq. meters, including some 10,000 trees such as poplar trees and Dwarf Elm planted this year. The company has been managing growth of the trees since 2013 by hiring local forestry experts. To help increase residents' income since last year, Korean Air has planted ChaChargan trees, which are used as raw material for vitamin supplements.
May 7 (Global Voices) With shock package Leicester City recently crowned champions of England and the UEFA Champions League final not until May 29, Global Voices decided to turn to Mongolia and Bayangol FC for its football fix this weekend.
The startup club co-owned by Welsh football coach Paul Watson and his famous comedian brother Mark, is overseeing the development of a squad made up mostly of Mongolian players looking for a shot at professional glory in their homeland.
After a reality show covering the club's development and player recruitment drive on local television, Bayangol FC have attracted interest from some of the world's biggest media outlets.
But as Paul Watson explained in an interview with Global Voices, the club's biggest challenges — including staying in the Mongolian Premier Division — are still in front of them.
Global Voices: How did Bayangol FC come about?
Paul Watson: I was approached in 2013 by Enki Batsumber, a Mongolian football lover who had been in the US for a decade and just returned to Ulan Bator. His dream was to set up a Mongolian club that stood as an example for honesty and transparency and encouraged the development of local players.
At the time Mongolian football was mired in corruption and the official Mongolian Football Federation league had six teams and no promotion or relegation – games were contested with no crowds really and nobody cared. Enki set up a breakaway league that had 20 teams and games broadcasted on YouTube.
Bayangol was formed as a club to inspire local people to not just watch the English Premier League, which they do in their thousands, but to come out and watch local players.
So we formed the club as part of a reality TV show on the Mongolian channel NTV with open trials and players from all over Mongolia with vastly differing backgrounds became the core of our team.
Shortly afterwards, the Mongolian Football Federation chief was found guilty of corruption and a new, young regime was put in charge, so Bayangol joined the official league in the Second Division.
GV: What is Mongolian football culture like?
PW: Mongolians love football and thousands are in fan clubs for Man United, Man City, Barcelona, Liverpool and others.
They pack into bars at unsociable hours to watch games live on bad feeds and go wild. But there's been a long-standing belief that Mongolian football isn't worth watching.
The national team is struggling badly and lost to East Timor heavily to end their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign before it had started.
However, the new Mongolian Premier League is growing and getting more and more attention.
This year Bayangol will be supported by the Man City fan club of Ulan Bator so we hope to have 100 plus fans at least at our games singing!
GV: You have been crowdsourcing funding for the club in recent months. How is the club funded as a whole?
PW: The club runs as a charity pretty much.
We have one main sponsor, Study UK Mongolia, who organise football and English language camps in Mongolia, and the rest of the running costs come from a small group of us who invest our own money.
Other clubs in Mongolia are owned by big corporations or oligarchs but we're a people's club and are funded by football lovers, none of whom are rich!
GV: Some of your players have been in the past victims of trafficking. Tell us a bit more about that.
PW: One of our players Ochiroo Batbold, a young Man United fan who idolises Wayne Rooney, was the victim of a scam where he was told he could get a trial for LA Galaxy if he transferred money to an 'agent'.
His family, who live in one of the poorest districts of Ulan Bator borrowed the money and lost $6,000.
They risked losing their house.
Fortunately we crowd-funded and supporters from all over the world came forward to reimburse him.
After that we heard from a Scottish journalist in Bishkek who was friends with a Nigerian player, Olewale, who'd suffered something similar.
He had been brought to Central Asia on the promise of his big break with a Russian club but had in fact been held effectively captive by a minder while he played for a small team in Tajikistan and gave his wages to his handlers.
He escaped to Kyrgyzstan and became friends with the journalist David McArdle who wrote a great piece for a website called the Diplomat.
We got talking and decided we could give Wale a chance to start afresh in Mongolia and we can't wait to welcome him.
Over the last few weeks we've also had two Nigerian players with us who were signed by clubs in Mongolia who then let their visas expire and refused to pay them their wages.
They were cut adrift and had no way of appealing as they were now illegal immigrants.
They even had nights sleeping rough. They are training with us and the club has put them in an apartment but a new league ruling means they aren't allowed to play this season, leaving them in limbo.
We are going to help them find a way out of their predicament.
GV: Ulan Bator is known as the world's coldest capital. What happens to football in the winter?
PW: It's true that Ulan Bator gets bitterly cold, temperatures get down to -30 in winter.
After October until March everyone plays futsal indoors as there's no indoor full-sized pitch.
While futsal is a great game, it does hinder their 11-a-side team when they play national games and haven't been on a full-sized pitch for months.
We're talking to various people who want to help get an indoor facility built.
GV: How are Bayangol FC doing in the league and who are their biggest rivals?
PW: Bayangol lost in the play-offs last year but we were told just 10 days before the start of the season that we had been promoted as another side refused to take their Premier League place.
As a result we've had very limited time to prepare for a much higher level of football.
We are going to welcome a great young UEFA A License coach to the club in Shadab Iftikhar but he won't arrive until after the first game against the 2014 champions Khoromkhon, so it could be a tough start to the campaign but we believe we can hang on in there and stay up.
The current champions and the team to watch are Erchim, the Power Plant No 4 team who won the Super Cup 6-0 last week. They are very strong and have a fantastic manager – Tulga Zorigt – and nine Mongolian national team starters.
GV: Where do you see Mongolian football in ten years time?
PW: I think that Mongolian football is growing fast and that in ten years time we will see Mongolian sides doing well in the AFC Cup and the national team finally winning a few matches.
There's so much talent and promise in the country and now with a forward-looking Federation in place and a new, exciting league I think it will go from strength to strength.
Mongolia sows the seeds of a new national pastime
A national judo star and an English accountant have joined forces in an unlikely quest to bring the game of cricket to one of the world's most remote nations
May 13 (ESPN) Battulga Gombo is a Mongolian judo hero, tall, powerfully built and with the slightly mangled ears that characterise many devotees of martial arts. He has represented his country in many international competitions, including once winning a world championship bronze medal for Sambo, a Russian combat sport. But now he is something else: an evangelist for Mongolian cricket.
Gombo's infatuation with the game began 11 years ago. Visiting his wife, who was studying at Monash University in Melbourne, he saw cricket being played for the first time: in parks and streets, and then at the MCG, in a game being played to raise cash for tsunami victims. It was less alien than he had imagined: cricket reminded Gombo of matka, a Russian bat-ball game he played growing up in Mongolia; only, it had more depth. "The teamwork and the strategy was very intriguing," he says. And the whole ethos of cricket reminded Gombo of judo.
"Judo is not only a martial art. There is great philosophy behind it: the judoka must respect his or her opponents, the referee and the mat. In my opinion, this is very similar to the spirit of cricket and they are both one of the greatest sports in the world," Gombo says.
In 2009, Gombo returned to Melbourne, where his wife was studying for her PhD. A friend in Australia gave Gombo a copy of Don Bradman's How To Play Cricket, which he devoured. While he was there, Gombo attended the Cricket Coach Accreditation Course by Cricket Australia, becoming Mongolia's first ever qualified cricket coach.
"At first I just played cricket for fun. Then I got the idea to teach the sport to youngsters in Mongolia because I realised I needed to share the feeling of playing cricket, the teamwork and the fun. Soon my dream started turning into reality and I started understanding how big a responsibility this was."
Gombo took the task of spreading word about the game upon himself. In 2007 he founded the Mongolian Amateur Cricket Association (MACA). In 2012, with no regular funding, he started cricket outreach programmes to orphanages, schools, police training facilities and rural youth centres. He remains Mongolia's only qualified coach.
His challenge can seem overwhelming. Even now, nine years after MACA was formed, there are no proper grounds to play on in Mongolia. But to cricket lovers every field in the country is a cricket ground, even if they don't realise it yet: the country has bounteous vast flat areas, the grass perfectly mown by goats to make it ideally suited to playing.
Gombo has already helped achieve much, using cricket to do good in a country with deeply entrenched poverty. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and home of Mongolian cricket, suffers from particular problems. About half of the 1.4 million who reside in the city live in informal areas: they are exposed to temperatures below -40 Celsius, and have no public water, heating or sewage. While in theory the Mongolian cricket season is between May and October, even in summer snow can sometimes drift over from Siberia.
Notwithstanding the climate, Gombo leads cricket training sessions at some secondary schools and an orphanage centre in Ulaanbaatar. While adults remain oblivious to cricket, about 400 children have played the game so far. Seventy return for training every week, playing on an artificial soccer pitch surrounded by a running track, with plastic equipment Gombo sourced from Australia. Gombo runs most of the training sessions himself, though a small coterie of adult cricket evangelists have emerged in Mongolia, who sometimes help him with training.
Foremost among those is Chris Hurd, an Englishman who moved to Mongolia five years ago to set up an accountancy firm. Even accountants are allowed to dream. And, together with Gombo, Hurd's dream is to build a cricket ground in Mongolia. It will be called the Mongolian Friendship Cricket Ground.
The ground will be in the National Park of Ulaanbaatar. The vision is not merely of a wonderful place to play but a perfect setting from which to spread the word about cricket. A couple of thousand children visit the park every day; if Hurd and Gombo have their way, they will all be exposed to cricket and have the opportunity to play the game. The aim is for the first proper game to take place in May 2017, and the ground to not merely host games for Mongolian children but to also develop into an idyllic location for touring teams in search of something exotic.
Just before work on the project began, Gombo made a pilgrimage to Burkan Khaldun, the mountain in the bend of the Kherlen River where Genghis Khan was born. Gombo placed a cricket ball on top of the great pile of stones that marks the summit. He consulted the lamas and vowed to start construction, which has been undeterred by snow, blizzards or the need to truck equipment across the desert to reach Ulaanbaatar.
There is just one snag: this grand plan requires cash, and lots of it. US$121,000, to be exact. Half of this would pay for the construction of the ground; the rest would fund development, including satellite facilities, an outreach travel fund to allow underprivileged children to reach the facilities; also cricket kit, a basic pavilion and changing rooms. Using Gombo's fame from judo and Hurd's tenacity, the two have already found an eclectic array of financial backers, with a hefty contingent from England and Australia. The artist Emma Trenchard has donated a series of paintings depicting The Mongol XI.
"You can say we have run on donations made by good-hearted people," Gombo says. So far the campaign has raised $34,000, with another $10,000 pledged - a formidable effort, but still short of the $63,000 they need to finish building the ground. Donations from around the world are gratefully received.
Hurd is already planning the next steps for Mongolian cricket. "Once we have a focal point, we will help orphanages and others develop nets, then teams will come to use the pitch and nets for games and practice. Perhaps these teams will become sponsored by companies that then get involved in helping the kids in more than just cricket. The aim is to create a new community with cricket at its core that brings together well off and badly off, expat and Mongolian. I think we both hope that forming a new community around cricket will lead to innumerable friendships across social classes in Mongolia, between expats and Mongolians, and of course in time with the outside world."
Over his years coaching Mongolian children the game, Gombo has been touched by their enthusiasm and joy for the game. "All of them just enjoy the game in general and have lots of fun. They always say 'Let's play' to me and ask me 'Can we play?' They are so excited to learn about cricket and play it. The most important thing about the game is to enjoy it and have fun. That's what cricket's all about. I think the kids understand this and they come every week to learn and have fun with their friends."
He hopes that the Mongolian Cricket Seed Appeal will kick-start the wider development of cricket in Mongolia. The country is not one of the 105 members of the ICC, but Gombo envisages that they will soon become an Affiliate member. However, the requirements for that status - including having eight senior teams playing in structured competition, four junior teams, and annual income of at least $2500 - are tough, especially considering that non-members like Mongolia are not eligible for any funding from the ICC.
If Mongolia becomes an Affiliate member of the ICC, the children in Ulaanbaatar might soon dream of representing the country in international matches: as an Affiliate, Mongolia would be eligible to enter regional qualification for ICC events, thus getting to the bottom of the pathway for events.
For now, all that can wait: Mongolia just needs to finish its first ground. Earthworks started last week, and if further funds are found, Gombo hopes that it will just be the start of Mongolia's cricketing odyssey. "My dream is to spread the great game and establish clubs and set up a national XI which can play against other international teams," he says. "I think it is a big responsibility because all the kids and all the cricket lovers believe in me and encourage me. This is why I will do my best and carry on."
Donations can be made here
More information here
Over 1,000 compete at China-Mongolia friendly sports meet
HOHHOT, China, May 7 (Xinhua) -- More than 1,000 sports lovers from both China and Mongolia participated in a friendly sports meet that kicked off on Saturday in Erenhot, a border city in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Participants, mainly from China's Erenhot and its neighboring city Zamin-Uud of Mongolia, will take part in a variety of sport events, such as futsal, basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, table tennis and some entertaining games, organizers said.
The friendly sports meet debuted in 2014, aiming to promote communication and culture exchange between Chinese and Mongolian people.
Erenhot has been a hub for China's economic, trade and cultural ties with Mongolia.
Genghis Khan Polo and Riding Club, Mongolia
May 6 (Genghis Khan Polo and Riding Club) Saddle up and ride in some of the most unspoilt, rugged and breathtaking landscapes on Earth. Join the open trail for an unforgettable polo and riding camp in the untamed frontiers of the Mongolian steppes.
Bride's Story Cosplayer Heads to Mongolia for Extra-Realistic Photo Shoots
Previously visited Uzbekistan
May 15 (Anime News Network) Cosplayers are known for their dedication, but it's unlikely you know one as dedicated as Matsuri. An avid fan of manga artist Kaoru Mori, and in particular her work A Bride's Story, she spent years recreating Amir's elaborate dress and embroidered it by hand.
Matsuri also made Amir's headdress, boots, and accessories.
She's finally finished the costume, but where to take the photo shoot? Japan's drab urban landscapes, forested terrain, and ubiquitous ocean just wouldn't do. Nope, she had to go to Mongolia for extra authenticity.
In 2015, Matsuri visited Uzbekistan for a photo shoot in a studio in Tashkent. Although a 19th-century house like one from A Bride's Story had been recreated there, she still wanted to go to Mongolia to capture the nomadic lifestyle still prevalent there. She reports that a woman and girl in Uzbekistan and a young boy in Mongolia all became engrossed in the Bride's Story manga she brought.
She also recreated the costume of Prince Yurul from the Mongol-set manga Shut Hell.
Matsuri says she likes A Bride's Story for its cute character designs, its Central Asian setting, Mori's deep research into nomadic culture, its detailed artwork and its cinematic panel layout. She plans to collect her photos into a book for sale at this winter's Comic Market (Comiket). Consumed as she has been with location and studio shooting, she has no plans for attending events in cosplay, although she likes meeting fellow Bride's Story fans, so she's open to the idea — as long as it's not in the summer. (That dress gets hot.)
Mongolia documentary earns major recognition
MIDDLEBURY, May 16 (Addison County Independent) — A lot of people think filmmaking involves shoots in exotic locations with a pampered cast and crew.
Middlebury's Sas Carey and Fred Thodal will quickly set them straight.
The two friends spent three weeks in a frigid province of northern Mongolia last summer shooting a documentary on nomadic reindeer herders taking their animals for their annual migration to even colder climes. The filmmakers roughed it, riding assorted quadrupeds through the frigid landscape, overnighting in tents while powering their equipment with a solar panel.
Festival guide: why you need to see a 'mini Naadam' in Mongolia
May 16 (Intrepid Travel) Mongolia's annual Naadam Festival is a centuries-old tradition that dates back to the era of the great Khans and their dynasties. Wrestling, archery and horse racing—the three skills that Chingis Khan considered essential for any Mongol warrior—are showcased today at the country's largest celebration of the "three manly sports".
Heads up though: Naadam is not as it once was. The modern spectacle feels increasingly like a performance for tourists and foreign dignitaries rather than the cultural pillar it has been since its inception in 1920. Today many locals retreat to the country's rural plains to watch the events on television with their families, while thousands of international tourists flock to Mongolia for the 3-day festival each July. And while many come to experience its unique cultural showcase, some argue that the sports themselves—the historic crux of the events —have become secondary to the performances. More and more, efforts are being allocated towards the grand the opening ceremonies and creating a carnival-like atmosphere.
Travellers still keen to experience a truly authentic Naadam Festival will not be disappointed though. They simply need to know where to look. In the weeks leading up to the headline event in the country's capital, Ulaanbaatar (UB), several of the smaller surrounding provinces host what locals refer to as "Mini Naadam." In the absence of bright stadium lights, admission prices and national media coverage, these grassroots events truly capture the Mongol spirit. They are hard to find, but impossible to forget. Often tucked between towering mountains and rolling expanses of green hillsides, they can easily missed. But when you find one—well, you'll know.
Last year I spent three weeks in Mongolia, and I was lucky enough to experience two "Mini Nadaams." One was in the province of Ikh Tamir and the other was in the Tuwshruuleh region. Even though I'd arrived to Mongolia most excited about the headline Nadaam competition in UB later in the week, it was at these two events that I developed a true understanding of this remarkable festival.
Our group had just departed Lake Khovsgol, a beautiful mountainous region stretched along the border of Siberia. We made our way south towards our homestay in Shine-Ider. Almost 5 hours into the trip, our driver spotted some commotion off of the highway, which immediately caught all of our attention. (On the roads that wind across the wild plains of Mongolia, you are lucky to see another car or person every few miles.)
We pulled off to the side of the road and ambled up a rocky path towards the foot of the mountains. It was mere minutes until we set eyes on the Ikh Tamir Mini Naadam. Children were running everywhere, playing makeshift carnival games, dodging their elders on horseback as if each was competing in his or her own unique obstacle course. Vendors sold everything from traditional threads to khuushuur dumplings, and old friends piled into Gers (yurts) to sip from jugs of Airag, fermented horse's milk that serves as the national drink over the summer. There was a certain aura about this place, from the moment you sat down on the rough and well-worn grass, you immediately felt like you are part of something special.
The announcer took to the microphone. The wrestling was about to begin.
We took our seats on the border of the ring, which had been formed within a circle of spectator vehicles. The locals watching from their cars were quick to blow their horns at any spectators caught standing. We learned to stay low and out of their line of sight.
With little fanfare, 8 wrestlers paraded onto the field and commanded the crowd's attention with each pounding step. Before the matches got underway, all the wrestlers participated in the traditional "Eagle Dance" (Devekh), which symbolizes power and bravery. They were paired with an opponent and matches began simultaneously.
There are no weight classes at the Naadam festival. Young boys are paired up—and subsequently tossed to the ground—by grown men. We watched four sets of matches which were happening simultaneously. It was hard to know where to look as men in traditional garb circled each other and grappled their opponents to the ground. Three of the matches finished within one minute of starting, but one resilient pair kept going. One boy appeared content to dismiss the notion that bigger means better.
His name was Buyanbaatar. At centre stage, he grappled with a man clearly much older and broader than himself. Together, they drew the attention of the crowd, who began buzzing as a Disney-quality underdog story emerged right before our eyes. The two tussled for several minutes before, after a tense grapple, Buyanbaatar slammed him to the ground. The whispers of the crowd began immediately, and while applause is not customary, you could tell his fellow townsman were impressed with this valiant showing.
Humble in victory, Buyanbaatar calmly participated in the traditional celebratory eagle dance and patted his opponent on the rear—a sign of solidarity and respect. He then went to the side to await his next match. It was at this time we asked our local guide Tem to translate a conversation and learn more about this young wrestling prodigy.
Dressed in his traditional wrestling robes, Zodog sleeves and Huudag bottoms, Buyanbaatar told us the gentleman he had just defeated was 35 years old. He acknowledged that, while an underdog in the match, with no age or weight classes you must learn early on to accept whichever fighter is put in front of you.
For Buyanbaatar these situations were not unfamiliar. He has grown up around wrestling and is even studying physical education at the university in Ulaanbaatar. The name, Buyanbaatar actually translates to "graceful warrior," which is as good a sign as any that he was born into this. Competing in his home province gave him and his family great pride, but, like any young wrestler, he still hopes to take his talents to the national level someday.
As rain began to pour down and the festival came to a brief halt, I reflected on where we were and what we had just witnessed. The mini Naadam at Ikh Tamir was a shining example of Mongolian culture and the true spirit of this historic competition. These wrestlers, archers and horse racers are not here on display for tourists. They are local heroes participating in traditions that are so vital to their Mongolian culture. These are not athletes vying for a paycheque, or sponsorship deals. Rather, they are warriors competing for pride, for themselves and for their country.
The Naadam Festival is one of the most pure and honest cultural celebrations that I have experienced anywhere in the world. Today, travellers can choose to enjoy it alongside thousands of other spectators, crammed into stadium seating. Or, if you know where to look, you can watch from the front lines, surrounded by the country's spirited people, vast hillsides and rugged landscapes. If you are anything like me, when you are faced with these two roads, you will always opt for the one less travelled.
Want to check out Naadam? There are two departures on our Wild Mongolia trip will be visiting during the festival: 28th June and 10th July.
UNTIL THERE - A Mongolian tale
Written, directed & edited by Lea Amiel
Director of photography : Nicolas Libersalle
Cast : Deegii Hurd
Little girl : Solongo Byambasuren
Voice over / translation : Bouzhigmaa Santaro
Suite 303, Level 3, Elite Complex
14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1
Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
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