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Monday, January 2, 2017

[XAM attracting suitors; APIP calls off IPO; MNT falls 25% in 2016; Russia rejects Mongolia loan; and three guilty of Zorig murder]

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- HAPPY NEW YEAR -

Monday, January 2, 2017

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Gold producers eye Xanadu as Mongolia gets its act together

·         Xanadu Mines director Darryl Clark buys on-market

·         Xanadu: Three New Mineralised Porphyry Centres Identified at Kharmagtai

·         SouthGobi Resources Ltd.: Execution of New Deferral Agreement with CIC

·         Tavan Tolgoi investment consortium - still negotiating

·         MMC: Restructuring Support Agreements Signed

·         Cayman Court Approves All Restructuring Agreements, Adjourns Petition

·         MMC: Continued Connected Transactions with NIC, USS and M-Armor

·         Mongolia's APIP Calls Off IPO Citing Weak Economy, Negative News

·         Erdene Intersects 110 Metres of 9.3 g/t Gold at Altan Nar Project

·         Mongolia Energy (00276) to raise HK$15.6m from placing

·         MEC: Interim Report 2016

·         Prophecy Sells 10,000 Tonnes of Coal from Ulaan Ovoo to Erdenet Mining Corporation

·         Kincora closes oversubscribed offering

·         Kincora Grants Stock Options to Buy 2,056,300 Shares

·         Khan Disputes Tax Assessment Received by Dutch Subsidiary

Local Market

·         MSE Trading Report, Dec 28: Top 20 +0.31%, ALL +0.32%, Turnover ₮42.4 Million Shares

·         Zerged Leads in Stock Trading, BDSec in Treasuries Last Week

·         GoM sells ₮15 billion 39-week T-bills at 16.99% discount, ₮3.5 billion 52-weeks at 17.532% on MSE

·         No Primary Trading of Government Securities on January 3

Economy

·         Mongolia's MNT falls 24.8% in 2016 against USD; USD/MNT up ₮22.89 in December to ₮2,489.53

·         Mongolia Had $19m FDI Inflow in Nov., Ytd Outflow of $4.3b

·         BoM fulfills all US$20.1m bids at ₮2,480, CNY60m at ₮351.6, accepts all $14.8m USD swap offers

·         BoM issues ₮377.5 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +19.4% to ₮477.8 billion

·         SMI: Mongolian Economy Suffers as Business Activity Continues to Slow

·         Mongolia Pegs $1 Billion From India for Oil Refinery, Pipelines

·         Mongolia may default in 2017 without urgent foreign funding, warns Eurasia

·         Mongolian gov't approves plan to revive economy

·         Mongolia Faces Economic Winter

·         Russia effectively turns down Mongolian request for $1.6 billion loan

·         Mongolia asks Russia's VTB for $200m loan

·         Number of livestock animals in Mongolia reaches record high

·         Bangladesh cabinet approves inclusion of Mongolia as new APTA member

·         Economic crisis in Mongolia could force more children onto the streets

·         Once booming Mongolia facing an economic crisis

Politics & Legal

·         President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj extends best wishes upon entrance to 2017

·         Four Presidents of Mongolia greet the New Year

·         Three Guilty of 1998 Assassination of Mongolian Leader: Ikon.mn

·         Closed Mongolian court jails three for 1998 murder of democracy hero

·         Former Minister Bayartsogt deposited $9.2 million in Swiss account in 2013 says lawyer

·         MPs present bills on parliamentary bylaw, public hearing and presidential election

·         New version of Law on Development Bank presented

·         Mongolia celebrates 105th anniversary of National Independence Day

·         Mongolia's young democracy tested by economic crisis

·         Government proposes benefits for single parents

·         Mongolia's Self-Styled Female Parliamentary Candidates

·         ADB: Projects Signed to Improve Livelihoods and Services, Preserve Environment, and Promote Gender Equality

·         Mongolia's disappointing come down of 2016

·         2016 Review: Mongolia

·         Mongolia: wrestling with modernity

·         Time to phase out conscription?

·         De Facto: Strayed Transition

·         Mongolian detectives seize drug smuggler

Business

·         Corporate income tax of certain SME sectors to be 1 percent

·         10 MW solar farm now producing power in Mongolia

·         FRC grants licenses to six new NBFIs

·         Green Climate Fund approves $20 million funding for XacBank

·         IFC appoints John Law to Khan Bank board

·         SOCO Receives USD10 Million Partial Payment from PetroChina for Mongolia Asset Sale

·         Mongolian fashion brand Exclusive to compete on world market

·         Mongolian Cashmere Makes Its US Debut in Georgetown

·         Novosibirsk region has sent the first batch of products to Mongolia

·         Creative Learning Corporation Announces New International Sales in Italy and Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar

·         World's Worst Air Has Mongolians Seeing Red, Planning Action

·         Hazardous levels of air pollution hits three areas of Ulaanbaatar city

·         Mongolia to receive USD 50 million aid from China for new apartments

·         Despite frigid weather, Mongolians protest worsening smog

·         UB city approves ₮3.2 billion to reduce air pollution

·         Standing committee on petitions hold discussion on air pollution

·         Free nighttime electricity offered to ger district residents

·         World Federation of Trade Unions salutes demonstrations against air pollution in Mongolia

·         Mongolia Secures New Funding for Water Supply

·         'There's no way to dream': A glimpse of life in Mongolia's ger shantytowns

·         Spreading cheer in the ger district

·         Monument to 11th ASEM Summit erected in front of Sukhbaatar Square

Diplomacy

·         Mongolia, With Deep Ties to Dalai Lama, Turns From Him Toward China

·         Mongolia Vows No More Dalai Lama Visits After China Turns Screws

·         China urges Mongolia to learn lesson from Dalai Lama visit

·         China Beats Mongolia into Submission, 'Friend' India Watches

·         China Needs to Get Over the Dalai Lama's Visit to Mongolia

·         China Voice: Diplomatic hat-trick no accident

·         Mongolia achieves major milestone in its partnership with NATO

·         Emir of Kuwait pledges to help Mongolia in times of economic decline

·         Mongolian FM pays official visit to Bhutan

·         Russia, China launch construction of bridge across Amur river

·         Consultative meeting between Mongolia and India foreign ministries held

·         Mongolia and USA discuss cooperation in roads and transport sector

·         U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mongolia Unveil the Official Logo for the 30th Anniversary of U.S.-

·         Peace Corps Stories: Singing from Mozambique to Mongolia

·         Mongolia joins biosafety and biosecurity Project 53 of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative

·         Landlocked Mongolia considering permanent neutrality

·         H.E. Tsogtgerel Batchuluun (Mongolia), Global Sustainable Transport Conference (Ashgabat, 2016), 3rd plenary session

·         Mongolia and Russia to boost agricultural cooperation in four main areas

·         Prime Minister of Mongolia expresses condolences to Russia over Tu-154 plane crash

·         New Ambassador of Japan to Mongolia assumes office

·         General Consul to Kyrgyzstan receives his exequatur

·         General Consul to Ulan-Ude receives office

·         Mongolia and Laos sign agreement on diplomatic missions' land use

·         Mongolian tourist charged with rape, robbery in Istanbul

Health & Education

·         Mongolia to impose controls on GM foodstuffs

·         UNFPA donates medical equipment to hospitals

·         Attocube to enter Mongolian preschool education market

·         NSUACE (Sibstrin) Signed Cooperation Agreement with Mongolian University of Science and Technology

Culture & Society

·         Born in Mongolia, Raised in Japan: This Shanghai Bar Serves Up Diverse Drinks — To 8 People At A Time

·         Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project successfully organizes a national forum

·         Deported mother and daughter resume their lives in Calgary after leaving Mongolia again

·         Top ten facts about Mongolia

·         Christmas in Mongolia: And Christ pitched his tent among us

Nature & Environment

·         New app launched for natural disasters

·         Mongolia's nomad herders facing winter disaster as temperatures plunge

·         Dzud may affect up to 150,000 herders

·         Germany will support Mongolian protected areas with EUR 7 million

·         First documented snow leopard quadruplets caught on camera in Mongolia

·         Korean Air works to stop desertification with project in China and Mongolia

·         Telegraph: Animal photos of the year 2016

Sports

·         Memory Athletes Break 5 World Records at World Memory Championships

·         B.Gangaama becomes first Mongolian Seven Summiteer conquering Vinson Massif

·         News Agency names judoka D.Sumiya as Person of the Year

·         Sumo's next superstars? Why Mongolia is a wrestling powerhouse

·         Mongolian women muscle into sumo wrestling

·         Extreme winter sports get popular in Mongolia

Art & Entertainment

·         Miss World Mongolia thanks Mongolian supporters

·         'Snow Queen': Chinese, Russian, Mongolian Beauties Compete in Pageant

·         The Mongolian fashion world through the eyes of designer O.Urantsetseg

·         Cuban Classic Ballerina Draws Ovations in Mongolia

·         'It's like the end of the world, so vast it's oceanic': Otto Bell on Mongolia

·         Movie Review: The Eagle Huntress

·         Film Review: THE KUSBEGI (Mongolia) Documentary

Travel

·         Mongolia's Winter Festivals

·         Eternal Landscapes: Thank you 2016 for what has been a remarkable year

·         Top 5 Awesome Skills You Can Learn In Mongolia

·         Mongolia – one week we wish lasted forever

·         Travel: Quest for Snow Leopards in Mongolia

·         Four destinations for an authentic travel experience in 2017

·         Dinosaur Expedition to the Gobi

·         2016 Finale: To Mongolia and Back with Derek Mansfield

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

XAM closed 2016 +90.91% to A$0.21

Gold producers eye Xanadu as Mongolia gets its act together

BY PAUL GARVEY

December 30 (The Australian) Australian gold producers are among a host of mining companies that have taken a close look at Mongolian explorer Xanadu Mines in recent weeks, with a shortage of new discoveries, improving appetite for acquisitions and recent policy stability in Mongolia putting the nation's stalled mining industry back on track. Xanadu's Ulaanbaatar-based managing director Andrew Stewart told The Australian the company had hosted five visits in the past two months from mining companies interested in learning about its early-stage copper and gold projects in Mongolia.

The level of interest is a sharp improvement on recent years, he said, when the company would host just one to two such visits a year. He said Australian gold­miners in particular were showing renewed interest in Mongolia. "There are a lot of cashed-up mid-tier gold producers that are looking to expand," he said. "When you look at Australia, there just aren't as many options for those big discoveries."

The interest in Xanadu comes amid a series of recent moves on early-stage discoveries by larger mining houses. Newcrest Mining was forced earlier this month to double the price of its proposed investment in a stake in Brisbane-based, London-listed explorer SolGold after a rival investment proposal from another group, while BHP Billiton subsequently approached SolGold with a $US305 million ($423m) offer that was ultimately rejected.

SolGold owns the promising Cascabel copper-gold discovery in Ecuador.

Similarly, High Power Exploration — a company backed by billionaire mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland — is building its position in the San Matias ­copper-gold project in Colombia through its joint venture with Cordoba Minerals. Mr Stewart said the SolGold and Cordoba deals were an indicator of the growing interest in exploration projects. "There's a real lack of economic discoveries at the moment and certainly you can see that reflected in some of the M&A activity at the moment with SolGold and Cordoba," he said.

Mongolia had been shaping up as a new global hotspot for mining activity, but its international standing suffered amid a series of disputes between Rio Tinto and the Mongolian authorities over the tax regime surrounding Rio's massive Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit.

Link to article

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Xanadu Mines director Darryl Clark buys on-market

December 27 (Proactive Investors) Xanadu Mines (ASX:XAM) non-executive director, Darryl Clark, has bought 50,000 shares on-market for a consideration of $10,000.

The purchase lifts Clark's stake to circa 1.6 million shares.

Xanadu is the owner of Mongolia's largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit, has committed to spending more than $4.5 million on exploration across its advanced porphyry copper-gold projects in the world class South Gobi porphyry Belt in 2017.

The planned exploration programs, among the largest to be undertaken by a junior ASX-listed exploration company next year, will target the discovery of additional copper-gold deposits on the company's South Gobi porphyry projects at Kharmagtai and Oyut Ulaan.

Xanadu has already defined over 1.5 million pounds of copper and over 2 million ounces of gold resources at its flagship Kharmagtai copper-gold project.

Link to article

Link to XAM release

Related:

Awards Under the Xanadu Equity Incentive Plant, December 23

Back to Headlines

XAM closed +11.11% Wednesday to A$0.20

Xanadu: Three New Mineralised Porphyry Centres Identified at Kharmagtai

HIGHLIGHTS

·         Bedrock drilling delivers immediate success at Kharmagtai;

·         New drilling identifies copper and gold mineralisation under shallow (20 to 50m) cover in at least seven new targets;

·         High-density stockwork mineralisation intersected in three targets, including grades greater than 0.3% Cu and 3g/t Au over two metre intervals;

·         New gravity data enhance the prospectivity of the Kharmagtai copper-gold district;

·         A priority follow-up drill program to commence immediately; and

·         Drilling activities are fully funded from existing cash reserves of $9.8 million.

Xanadu Mines Ltd (ASX: XAM – "Xanadu" or "Company") is pleased to announce that first assays have been received from an undercover bedrock drilling program over the Kharmagtai copper-gold district, in the South Gobi region of Mongolia (Figure 1), as foreshadowed in the last Quarterly Report. The drill program consisted of 259 holes for approximately 11,140m of drilling designed to systematically test district-scale anomalies buried under shallow cover identified through 2015 and 2016, and new conceptual structural targets not previously tested by drilling.

Link to release

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1878 ends 2016 down 1.14% to HK$1.73

SouthGobi Resources Ltd.: Execution of New Deferral Agreement with CIC

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - Dec. 29, 2016) - Reference is made to the SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HKSE:1878) (the "Company") announcement relating to the interest obligations with CIC dated December 20, 2016. The Company today announces the execution of a new deferral agreement ("December 2016 Deferral Agreement") with China Investment Corporation ("CIC") for a revised repayment schedule of US$20.7 million of cash interest and associated costs originally due on December 19, 2016 ("December 2016 Deferral Amounts"). The key terms of the December 2016 Deferral Agreement include the below:

      i.        the Company will repay US$1.4 million of cash interest and associated costs monthly on average during the period from December 2016 to April 2017;

     ii.        the Company will repay US$14.3 million of cash interest and associated costs on May 19, 2017;

    iii.        the Company will pay a deferral fee at a rate of 6.4% per annum as a consideration for deferral; and

    iv.        at any time before the December 2016 Deferral Amounts are fully repaid, the Company is required to consult with and obtain written consent from CIC prior to effecting a replacement or termination of either or both of its Chief Executive Officer and its Chief Financial Officer; otherwise this will constitute an event of default for the convertible debenture between CIC and the Company signed in November 2009. Such consent shall not be unreasonably withheld to affect the exercise of fiduciary duties of the board of directors of the Company.

Link to release

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Tavan Tolgoi investment consortium - still negotiating

December 21 (news.mn) A Mongolian Government working group is continuing negotiations with a delegation from the Tavan Tolgoi investment consortium, consisting of 'Energy Resources', Japan's Sumitomo Corporation and China's Shenhua Group. The investment consortium was selected to implement the Tavan Tolgoi project in 2014 following a tender announced in 2010. Mongolia, however, could not finalise an agreement with them at the time.

At the meeting, the working group was presented with the Mongolian government's strategic plan, which aims to own not less than 51% of a joint venture for implementing the Tavan Tolgoi project and, also, 51% of the joint venture to construct a railway line between the Tavan Tolgoi mine and the Gashuun Sukhait border crossing with China.

They, also stressed that investment and cooperation agreement period must be for 22 years, which can be extended under certain special circumstances. The target market for coal from the Tavan Tolgoi mine is China - although third county destinations can be included.

Link to article

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MMC: Restructuring Support Agreements Signed

December 21, Mongolian Mining Corporation Ltd. (HKEx:975) -- The Company is pleased to announce that on 21 December 2016, the Company, certain Subsidiary Guarantors (as defined below) and the JPLs (as defined below) entered into a restructuring support agreement with certain Consenting Noteholders (as defined below), pursuant to which such Consenting Noteholders agreed to support the proposed Debt Restructuring (as defined below). Under the terms of the restructuring support agreement with the Consenting Noteholders (the "Noteholder RSA"), the Consenting Noteholders have undertaken to work in good faith with the Company to implement the Debt Restructuring as soon as possible.

The Company is pleased to announce that on 21 December 2016, the Company and the JPLs entered into a restructuring support agreement with QGX (as defined below), pursuant to which QGX agreed to support the proposed Debt Restructuring. Under the terms of the restructuring support agreement with QGX (the "QGX RSA"), QGX has undertaken to work in good faith with the Company to implement the Debt Restructuring as soon as possible.

The Company is pleased to announce that on 21 December 2016, the Obligors (as defined below, and which includes the Company) and the JPLs entered into a restructuring support letter with the Lenders (as defined below) and their agent, pursuant to which the Lenders agreed to support the proposed Debt Restructuring. Under the terms of the restructuring support letter (the "Lenders RSA"), the Lenders have undertaken to work in good faith with the Company to implement the Debt Restructuring as soon as possible.

Link to full release

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Cayman Court Approves All Restructuring Agreements, Adjourns Petition

December 22 -- This announcement (the "Announcement") is made by Mongolian Mining Corporation (In Provisional Liquidation) (the "Company") pursuant to Rule 13.09(2) of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Long Limited (the "Listing Rules") and the Inside Information Provisions under Part XIVA of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap. 571 of the Laws of Hong Kong).

Reference is made to the announcement of the Company dated 21 July 2016 in relation to the appointment by the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands (the "Cayman Court") of Mr. Simon Conway of PwC Corporate Finance Recovery (Cayman) Limited and Mr. Christopher So Man Chun of PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd. as joint provisional liquidators (the "JPLs") of the Company on a soft touch basis to assist the Company and its existing board of directors with the implementation of the proposed debt restructuring on an expedited basis (the "Debt Restructuring"). In order for the JPLs to have been appointed by the Cayman Court, a petition for the winding up of the Company (the "Petition") was required to be filed with the Cayman Court as a necessary pre-cursor to facilitate its application seeking the appointment of the JPLs. As at the date of this Announcement, no winding up order has been made against the Company.

Reference is also made to the announcement of the Company dated 21 December 2016 that (i) each of (a) certain holders of US$600,000,000 8.875% senior notes due 2017 issued by the Company, (b) the lenders under the facilities agreement dated 5 March 2014 with the Company and (c) QGX Holdings Ltd. which holds certain promissory notes issued by the Company have entered into restructuring support agreements with the Company and the JPLs with respect to the Debt Restructuring (collectively, the "RSAs"), and (ii) the application to the Cayman Court for its approval and sanction of the RSAs and the hearing of the adjourned Petition are to be heard before the Cayman Court at 10:00 a.m. on 21 December 2016 (Cayman Islands time).

The Company is pleased to announce that on 21 December 2016 (Cayman Islands time), the Cayman Court made an order approving each of the RSAs and authorising the JPLs to take all steps required to bring the RSAs into effect. The Company is pleased to confirm that all conditions to the effectiveness of the RSAs have now been satisfied and, accordingly, all provisions of the RSAs have become effective in accordance with their terms.

In addition and at the same time, the Cayman Court made an order adjourning the Petition generally and no further hearing of the Petition is currently listed to take place.

The Company will publish further announcements to update the shareholders and potential investors on progress of the Debt Restructuring as and when necessary.

Link to release

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MMC: Continued Connected Transactions with NIC, USS and M-Armor

December 28, Mongolian Mining Corporation Ltd. (HKEx:975) -- On 28 December 2016, the Group entered into the following agreements:

(i) Domestic Transportation of Fuel, Site Storage and Fueling Services Agreement between NIC and the Group, whereby NIC agreed to provide fuel transportation, site storage and fueling services to the Group for a period starting from 1 January 2017 until 31 December 2019, for a total consideration of up to MNT36,000,096,000 (equivalent to approximately USD14,475,426);

(ii) Service Agreement between USS and the Group, whereby USS agreed to provide office and camp supporting services to the Group for a period starting from 1 January 2017 until 31 December 2019, for a total consideration of up to MNT34,162,230,051 (equivalent to approximately USD13,736,431); and

(iii) Security Services Agreement between M-Armor and the Group, whereby M-Armor agreed to provide security services to the Group for a period starting 1 January 2017 until 31 December 2019, for a total consideration of up to MNT16,063,469,250 (equivalent to approximately USD6,459,026).

LISTING RULES IMPLICATIONS

NIC is an associate of Dr. Oyungerel Janchiv, a non-executive Director. As such, NIC is a connected person of the Company and the transactions contemplated under the Domestic Transportation of Fuel, Site Storage and Fueling Services Agreement constitute continuing connected transactions of the Company.

Each of USS and M-Armor is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MCS Holding which is in turn whollyowned and controlled by MCS Global (BVI) Limited. MCS Global (BVI) Limited is whollyowned and controlled by MCS (Mongolia) Limited which owns (directly and indirectly) a 100% shareholding interest in MCS Mining Group Limited, a substantial shareholder holding 34.89% of the issued share capital of the Company as at the date of the this announcement. As such, USS and M-Armor are connected persons of the Company within the meaning of the Listing Rules. Accordingly, the transactions contemplated under the Service Agreement and Security Service Agreement constitute continuing connected transactions of the Company, respectively.

As the applicable percentage ratios for the continuing connected transactions under the Domestic Transportation of Fuel, Site Storage and Fueling Services Agreement, Service Agreement and Security Services Agreement are expected to be more than 0.1% but less than 5%, the transactions contemplated under the Domestic Transportation of Fuel, Site Storage and Fueling Services Agreement, the Service Agreement and the Security Services Agreement are subject to the reporting and announcement requirements but exempt from independent shareholders' approval requirement under Chapter 14A of the Listing Rules.

CONTINUING CONNECTED TRANSACTIONS

Link to full release

Back to Headlines

Mongolia's APIP Calls Off IPO Citing Weak Economy, Negative News

By Michael Kohn

December 19 (Bloomberg) -- Ulaanbaatar-based property developer Asia Pacific Investment Partners has called off its planned IPO on London's Alternative Investment Market, CEO Lee Cashell wrote in an e-mail to shareholders.

* At the end of the book-building window it became apparent that orders fell significantly short of the $50m of funds targeted: Cashell

* "Investors expressed reluctance as a result of the current macroeconomic situation in Mongolia, exacerbated by a number of negative news items", including an IMF bailout, sovereign debt downgrades and delay in negotiations with China over a loan facility: Cashell

* APIP remains committed to listing on a major stock exchange in the medium term: Cashell

* NOTE: Mongolia's economy contracted 1.6% in the first nine months

* Mongolia Property Developer APIP to List Shares in London

(BFW)

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ERD jumps 14.9% Monday to C$0.54 on the announcement. Up further 7.41% since

Erdene Intersects 110 Metres of 9.3 g/t Gold at Altan Nar Project

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwired - Dec. 19, 2016) - Erdene Resource Development Corp. (TSX:ERD) ("Erdene" or "Company") is pleased to announce drill results from its 100%-owned Altan Nar Gold-Polymetallic Project ("Altan Nar") and Altan Arrow Gold-Silver Project ("Altan Arrow") in southwest Mongolia.

Highlights (see attached plan maps and cross-section for reference)

·         Altan Nar Gold-Polymetallic Project

o    Hole TND-101, testing a conceptual target at a structural intersection in the Discovery Zone, intersected:

§  110 m of 9.3 g/t gold, 32 g/t silver, and 1.4% combined lead-zinc, including:

·         14 m of 55.6 g/t gold (high of 155 g/t gold), 131 g/t silver and 5.65% combined lead-zinc, and

·         5 m of 24.8 g/t gold (high of 86.5 g/t gold), 49.8 g/t silver and 3.48% combined lead-zinc

o    Deep drilling at Discovery Zone North (extension of hole TND-31) confirmed narrow high-grade mineralization at depth

o    Union North potential expanded with 22 m of 1.57 g/t gold equivalent* ("AuEq") at 34 m depth (for details on AuEq calculations, see footnote (2) in Table 1 below)

·         Altan Arrow Gold-Silver Project

o    Maiden drill program intersected shallow, high-grade veins returning up to 2 m of 23.5 g/t gold and up to 2 m of 171 g/t silver

o    Wide intervals of near-surface, lower-grade gold-silver mineralization intersected

·         Bayan Khundii Gold Project

o    Drilling recently completed for nine holes at Bayan Khundii gold project surrounding heavily mineralized step-out hole BKD-60 announced in October 2016, with results anticipated in January 2017

"Hole TND-101 was heavily mineralized from surface to 170 metres depth, and includes the highest grades and most continuous zone, laterally and vertically, intersected to date at Altan Nar," said Peter Akerley, Erdene's President and CEO. "The results are a testament to what detailed exploration can uncover as we continue to test new targets at Altan Nar and throughout the district, while advancing our flagship gold project at Bayan Khundii."

Discussion of TND-101 Results, Discovery Zone, Altan Nar Project

Link to full release

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Mongolia Energy (00276) to raise HK$15.6m from placing

[ET Net News Agency, 23 December 2016] Mongolia Energy Corporation (00276) said it agreed to place 60 million new shares at HK$0.26 per share, representing a discount of about 7.1% to the closing price of HK$0.28, to Gold China Enterprises Co., Ltd.

The subscription shares represent around 3.19% of the enlarged issued share capital of Mongolia Energy.

The proceeds of about HK$15.6 million will be used as general working capital of the Group.

Link to article

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MEC: Interim Report 2016

December 19, Mongolia Energy Corp. Ltd. (HKEx:276) --

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT

Dear Shareholders,

On behalf of the board of Directors (the "Board"), I hereby present the interim results of Mongolia Energy Corporation Limited (the "Company") and its subsidiaries (collectively the "Group") for the six  months ended 30 September 2016 (the "Financial Period") as follows:

OVERVIEW

The Group's principal business is coal mining and exploration which is operated by our indirect wholly-owned subsidiary in Mongolia, MoEnCo LLC ("MoEnCo"). Our principal project is the Khushuut Coking Coal Project in Western Mongolia. We sell coking coal and thermal coal to our customers in the People's Republic of China ("China" or "PRC") and Mongolia respectively.

During the Financial Period, we continued our tightening measures and careful planning in our operation and production in response to the stringent market conditions, though coal price surged at the end of this period along with other positive economic signs. Approximately 451,400 tonnes of run-of-mine ("ROM") coal were produced and approximately 198,000 tonnes of coal were sold to our customers during this period.

RESULTS ANALYSIS

Link to full report

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Prophecy Sells 10,000 Tonnes of Coal from Ulaan Ovoo to Erdenet Mining Corporation

Vancouver, British Columbia, December 28 (FSCwire) - Prophecy Development Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCYOTC:PRPCFFrankfurt:1P2N) is pleased to announce that it has signed two coal sales and purchase agreements (the "SPAs") to sell a total of 16,000 tonnes of coal sourced from its 100%-owned Ulaan Ovoo mine ("Ulaan Ovoo") in Mongolia. 

The two purchasers were Erdenet Mining Corporation ("GOK") (for 10,000 tonnes) and Selenge Energo Heat Plant ("Selenge Energo") (for 6,000 tonnes). Coal deliveries sourced from the Company's existing Ulaan Ovoo coal stockpiles began in December 2016. Delivery of the 16,000 tonnes is expected to complete by February 2017.

GOK has been a major Prophecy customer and (excluding the current 10,000 tonnes) has purchased a total of 77,334 tonnes of coal since 2013. The Company expects to generate positive cash flow from the two SPAs. 

In recent months, Prophecy has received multiple, unsolicited written expressions of interest from parties in Russia, China, and India, relating to possible transactions involving sales from, or joint venture of, Ulaan Ovoo. 

While Prophecy considers Ulaan Ovoo to be one of its core company assets, the Company is responding to those expressions of interest and intends to evaluate any potential proposals received with a view to maximizing shareholder value. 

To date in 2016, the benchmark thermal coal price (i.e. Australian thermal coal, 12,000 Btu/lb, FOB Newcastle) has nearly doubled to over US$100/tonne from US$53/tonne in January. Prophecy is surveying existing and prospective customers with a view to possibly restarting Ulaan Ovoo in 2017. 

About Ulaan Ovoo:

Link to release

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Kincora closes oversubscribed offering

  • Two new institutions added as shareholders
  • Debt settled with HPX Techco Inc

VANCOUVER, Dec. 20, 2016 /CNW/ - Kincora Copper Ltd. (the "Company", "Kincora") (TSXV:KCC) is pleased to announce that it has closed the previously announced non-brokered private placement for gross proceeds of $532,584 through the issuance of 1,543,720 shares at a price of C$0.345 per share, subject to TSX-V approval.

Concurrent with, and on the same terms of, closing the non-brokered price placement 186,831 shares have been issued to HPX Techco Inc., an affiliate of High Power Ventures, on account of loans made in the course of the IBEX Transaction.

Proceeds from the offering will be applied to the advancing Kincora's exploration portfolio which includes a unique multi-target, multi-stage pipeline, between and on strike from Rio Tinto's largest global expansion project, the Oyu Tolgoi mine, and the Tsagaan Suvarga Serven Sukhait development project in the Southern Gobi, Mongolia, and for working capital.

All shares issued are subject to a four-month hold period expiring April 21st, 2017.

Sam Spring, President & CEO, commented: "We are pleased to close this offering following an approach from one of the leading junior natural resource investors, and also welcome a second new institutional investor to the shareholder register.

The raising and conversion of a small loan to HPX into equity caps off a busy period. Since last month, we closed the IBEX transaction to consolidate the dominant regional landholding in the Southern Gobi copper belt, announced our new team with an exceptional track record with Tier 1 porphyries, concluded field season activities, and started outlining our priority exploration targets and strategy to create value for shareholders.

We look forward to providing ongoing updates as we advance both our exploration and corporate strategy, and reengaging with the market outlining a new and exciting copper opportunity."

The Company paid finder's fees of $4,201 in connection with the offering.

Post the aforementioned offering and debt conversion Kincora has 50,352,510 issued shares with existing 2,947,500 warrants outstanding. The warrants have an exercise price of $0.54, expiry November 28 2018 and are subject to potential acceleration in term under certain circumstances.

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KCC closed 2016 gaining 2,025% to C$0.425

Kincora Grants Stock Options to Buy 2,056,300 Shares

VANCOUVER, Dec. 30, 2016 /CNW/ - Kincora Copper Ltd. (the "Company", "Kincora") (TSXV:KCC) has granted to directors and officers a total of 2,056,300 stock options under the company's stock option plan. The options have a four-year term from issuance date, with 50% of the total being exercisable at a price of 43 cents per share and the other 50% of the total being exercisable at 54 cents per share. The options will vest over a four month period from the issuance date.

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Khan Disputes Tax Assessment Received by Dutch Subsidiary

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 22, 2016) - Khan Resources Inc. ("Khan" or the "Company") (CSE:KRI)(CSE:KRI.CN) announces that its Dutch subsidiary, Khan Resources BV, has received a preliminary tax assessment from the Dutch tax authority amounting to 11.4 million euro's based on an assessed taxable income of 45.8 million euro's for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2016.

Management of the Company, along with its external advisors, are at a loss to explain the rationale for such an assessment and can find no factual basis that would underpin such a determination. The timing of the assessment is also unusual in that Khan Resources BV has not yet filed its tax return for the taxation year.

Khan Resources BV, as disclosed in prior communications, received US$14.9 million in May, 2016 as its proportionate share of a US$70 million agreement negotiated with the Government of Mongolia to settle an international arbitration dispute initiated in 2011. Khan Resources BV has received opinions from the Dutch affiliates of two Tier 1 global accounting firms that this amount should not be subject to Dutch income tax. Khan Resources BV has no other material sources of income.

Management will use all available procedures at its disposal to rectify this assessment in a timely manner.

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report, Dec 28: Top 20 +0.31%, ALL +0.32%, Turnover 42.4 Million Shares

December 28 (MSE) --

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Zerged Leads in Stock Trading, BDSec in Treasuries Last Week

January 2 (MSE) The period between 26 December 2016 to 28 December 2016, Mongolian Stock Exchange organised 3 securities trading sessions and made transactions worth total of MNT 21,240,396,535.67. The daily average turnover was MNT7.0 billion.   

SHARE TRADING:

531,151 shares of 58 listed companies worth of MNT148,933,665.67 were traded.  

MOST ACTIVE TRADED SECURITIES

 №

 

 Securities name

 Value /MNT/

1

APU

"APU" JSC

36,227,800

2

TTL

"Tavantolgoi" JSC

 23,625,500 

3

 HHN

"Kharkhorin" JSC

  22,020,900 

4

 MRX

"Merex" JSC

 15,915,840

5

GOV

"Govi" JSC

 14,074,550

MOST ACTIVE SECURITIES COMPANIES

 №

 

 Securities Company Name

 Value /MNT/

1

ZRGD

Zerged

53,099,435

2

GLMT

Golomt Securities

 44,517,389

3

BDSC

BDSec

 40,037,515

4

MIBG

MIBG

 30,551,337

5

STIN

Standard Investment

 25,766,820

GOVERNMENT SECURITIES TRADING:

185,255 Government retail bonds worth of MNT18,525,500,000.00 traded through one trading session. 

MOST ACTIVE SECURITES COMPANIES FOR GOVERNMENT SECURITIES TRADING

 №

 

 Securities Company Name

 Value /MNT/

1

BDSC

BDSec

15,079,600,000

2

BZIN

Daewoo Securities Mongol

  2,557,800,000

3

TNGR

 Tenger Capital

     800,000,000

4

NOVL

 Novel Investment

       35,000,000

5

GLMT

Golomt Securities

       33,200,000

26,335 government retail bonds traded through two trading sessions on secondary market of Government securities trading and total of 2,565,962,870.00 transaction has been  made.

MOST ACTIVE SECURITES COMPANIES FOR SECONDARY MARKET GOVERNMENT SECURITIES TRADING 

 №

 

 Securities Company Name

 Value /MNT/

1

NOVL

Novel Investment

3,812,317,540

2

BDSC

BDSec

  713,431,350

As of 28 December 2017, the market capitalization reached to MNT1,474,173,296,528.22 which indicated increased of 1.18% and "MSE ALL" index reached to 861.24 unit which indicated increased of 1.90% from previous week respectively. 

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GoM sells 15 billion 39-week T-bills at 16.99% discount, 3.5 billion 52-weeks at 17.532% on MSE

December 27 (MSE) On 27 December 2016, 39 weeks Government bonds /16.99 annual coupon rate/, 52 weeks Government bonds /17.532% annual coupon rate/ total worth  MNT18.5 billion traded at Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Bellow member brokerage companies participated in bonds trading as follows:

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No Primary Trading of Government Securities on January 3

January 2 (MSE) Primary market of Government securities trading has been holding every Tuesday at Mongolian Stock Exchange. On Tuesday, 3 January 2017, the primary market trading of Government securities will not be held.

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Wednesday, December 28 Close

 

12/28

12/27

12/26

12/23

12/22

12/21

12/20

12/19

12/16

12/15

High

Date

USD

2,489.53

2,486.98

2,490.11

2,490.24

2,490.34

2,489.68

2,488.82

2,488.49

2,489.30

2,488.17

2,490.34

12/22/2016

EUR

2,605.79

2,597.53

2,604.28

2,600.06

2,599.42

2,590.64

2,585.76

2,604.20

2,601.69

2,610.21

2,681.43

11/10/2016

JPY

21.19

21.20

21.25

21.20

21.17

21.16

21.08

21.21

21.06

21.15

23.49

11/09/2016

GBP

3,057.89

3,053.51

3,059.22

3,057.27

3,078.93

3,077.74

3,081.28

3,107.38

3,097.44

3,121.28

3,183.26

8/13/2014

RUB

41.03

40.87

40.89

40.92

40.96

40.73

40.31

40.30

40.29

40.36

54.32

6/27/2014

CNY

357.96

357.85

358.32

358.33

358.50

358.19

358.09

358.29

358.24

358.79

361.23

11/10/2016

KRW

2.06

2.06

2.07

2.07

2.07

2.09

2.09

2.10

2.10

2.11

2.14

12/08/2016

SGD

1,716.50

1,717.35

1,720.82

1,723.17

1,719.73

1,723.38

1,721.29

1,720.65

1,725.80

1,728.32

1,752.48

11/10/2016

CAD

1,834.45

1,838.80

1,843.16

1,846.26

1,853.55

1,862.70

1,855.32

1,865.57

1,867.86

1,870.59

1,896.38

12/14/2016

AUD

1,794.83

1,788.51

1,791.39

1,795.34

1,800.14

1,805.02

1,804.02

1,815.98

1,829.64

1,843.86

1,886.29

11/10/2016

HKD

320.89

320.51

320.93

320.85

320.85

320.78

320.48

320.46

320.64

320.66

320.93

12/26/2016

CHF

2,423.37

2,417.83

2,428.31

2,427.25

2,426.88

2,422.46

2,420.80

2,427.56

2,421.26

2,430.33

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,486 Sell ₮2,492), TDB (Buy ₮2,482 Sell ₮2,492), Golomt (Buy ₮2,482 Sell ₮2,492), XacBank (Buy ₮2,483 Sell ₮2,492), State Bank (Buy ₮2,486 Sell ₮2,492)

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

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Mongolia Had $19m FDI Inflow in Nov., Ytd Outflow of $4.3b

By Michael Kohn

December 28 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia had $18.6m of FDI inflows in November, according to preliminary data from the central bank.

* Mongolia had net outflow of $4.26b in Jan-Nov

* YTD current-account deficit at end-Nov was $458.2m, compared to deficit of $536m at end-Oct

(BFW)

Link to BoM release

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BoM fulfills all US$20.1m bids at 2,480, CNY60m at 351.6, accepts all $14.8m USD swap offers

Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2491.51 for USD20.1 million and weighted average rate of MNT356.11 for CNY60.0 million respectively. The BoM accepted bid offers of USD with a single rate of MNT 2480.00 and bid offers of CNY with a single rate of MNT351.60.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received selling bid offers of USD14.8 million of USD swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM accepted the bid offers.

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BoM issues ₮377.5 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +19.4% to 477.8 billion

December 28 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 377.5 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

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SMI: Mongolian Economy Suffers as Business Activity Continues to Slow

      Business confidence slumps

      Prices charged continue to fall

      Job losses continue as the economy struggles with recession

December 20 (World Economics) The Headline Mongolian Sales Managers' Index (SMI) for December was 37.0, almost unchanged from the level in November. The index is close to it's the lowest level in 8 months as winter conditions start to take hold. The Market Growth Index experienced another sharp drop during the month which has also been reflected in falling business confidence levels. The Sales Growth Index, improved marginally to 33.8, up by 0.4 on the November level. Sales managers are reporting that the weakness of the Tugrik is severely hurting their businesses as the Tugrik remained close to record lows in mid-December against the Chinese Renminbi. China remains Mongolia's largest trading partner. Sales managers are reporting that the weakness of the Tugrik is severely hurting their businesses as the Tugrik is now at its lowest exchange rate against the Chinese Renminbi for well over 10 years.

Sales Managers' Indexes Trends

Direction

Condition

SMI

Falling

Improving

Business Confidence

Falling

Worsening

Market Growth

Falling

Worsening

Sales Output

Falling

Worsening

Prices Charged

Falling

Improving

Staffing Levels

Falling

Improving

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Mongolia Pegs $1 Billion From India for Oil Refinery, Pipelines

by Michael Kohn

  • Refinery would boost GDP, reduce reliance on Russian fuel
  • India seen as key economic partner to boost ailing economy

December 19 (Bloomberg) Mongolia will seek approval from the Import-Export Bank of India to build an oil refinery and pipelines with $1 billion in infrastructure funding negotiated last year, a project that could boost the nation's gross domestic product by 10 percent.

The government intends to use $700 million of the loan for an oil refinery and $264 million for oil pipelines, according to a statement on its website last week. Prime Minister Erdenebat Jargaltulga has instructed relevant ministries to negotiate with the Ex-Im Bank of India, according to the statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed agreements last year to provide the $1 billion credit line to fund railroad and infrastructure projects in Mongolia. The Indian Ambassador in Ulaanbaatar Dr. T. Suresh Babu didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Mongolia is looking to India and other investment partners as its economy contracts and its debt burden grows. Last month, China backed off from talks with Ulaanbaatar over a loan package to help the economy after a dispute over the visit to Mongolia by the Dalai Lama.

The refinery, to be sited in Sainshand county, will have a capacity to process 1.5 million metric tons of oil per year. It will produce 560,000 tons of gasoline, 670,000 tons of diesel fuel and 107,000 tons of liquefied gas annually. The refinery could boost Mongolia's GDP by 10 percent, according to the statement.

Sainshand, located on the Trans-Mongolia railway, is planned to be a transportation hub. Mongolia's oil fields are primarily located in Dornod province in eastern Mongolia, about 545 kilometers northeast of Sainshand. PetroChina Daqing Tamsag Llc operates the oil fields and has produced 7.5 million barrels through the first 11 months of this year, according to the National Statistical Office. All of Mongolia's crude is exported to China.

The 20-year loan will have an interest rate of 1.75% and principle payments will be waived during the five years, according to the April statement.

Mongolia imported 346,500 tons of gasoline worth $172 million and 479,800 tons of diesel worth $219 million in the first 11 months of this year, according to the NSO. More than 97 percent of the petrol and diesel was imported from Russia.

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Mongolia may default in 2017 without urgent foreign funding, warns Eurasia

by Nyshka Chandran@nyshkac

December 20 (CNBC) A political snafu with the world's second-largest economy is no light matter for any country but for troubled Mongolia, it could mean a potential sovereign default.

The isolated Central Asian nation, facing flat growth and a budget deficit of 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, is in desperate need of foreign lending to meet debt repayment obligations next year and Beijing may be the only country willing to provide a soft loan, according to political risk consultancy Eurasia.

While President Xi Jinping's administration previously began talks on the matter, negotiations adjourned following a recent spat between the two neighbors, which could leave Ulaanbaatar at high risk when a $580 million bond issued by the state-run Development Bank of Mongolia matures in March.

"The suspension of China talks will increase concerns in the market about a possible default by the spring," Emily Stromquist, senior analyst at Eurasia, said in a note on Tuesday.

Last month's visit of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Mongolia sparked the ire of Beijing and resulted in fresh Chinese tariffs on Mongolian commodity shipments and a temporary closure of a key border crossing. "Since the incident, China has resumed all regular engagements with Mongolia with the exception of negotiations on the soft loan," Stromquist stated.

Since its 1951 annexation, Tibet has been viewed by China as part of the mainland and Beijing believes the Dalai Lama is seeking to divide the Himalayan region. But Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama, has repeatedly insisted that he is not pursuing Tibetan independence.

"Mongolia is holding out hope China will restart [loan] negotiations, but in the interim is looking for alternative financing that would resemble the kinds of terms, in particular low interest rates, that were on offer from China," Stromquist explained.

Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat's administration has been reaching out to other countries for help but the outlook appears grim.

"Previous talks with Singapore broke down after Mongolia deemed their lending conditions to be too strict and the interest rates too high. Japan offered financial support, but only through institutions such as the Asian Development Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), assuming Mongolia chooses to comply with the standard rules for engagement," Stromquist noted.

The United Arab Emirates, Russia, and India are among the other countries that Mongolia has contacted but they are likely to offer unfavorable lending terms because unlike China, they do not possess strong interests in aiding Mongolia, she continued.

Ulaanbaatar is in talks with the IMF to enroll in one of the institution's flagship Stand-By programs by February but that's primarily aimed at introducing more fiscal responsibility, not repaying debt.

"If talks [with China] do not restart shortly, or an alternative, acceptable financing arrangement can quickly be secured with another country, Mongolia is looking at a greater default risk," Stromquist said.

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Mogi: the plan is a detailed plan of what parliament approved

Mongolian gov't approves plan to revive economy

December 29 (Xinhua) The Mongolian government on Wednesday approved a detailed plan to revive the landlocked country's economy, which has been mired in a severe downturn.

Under the plan approved during a cabinet meeting, the Mongolian government is expected to start negotiations with other countries, especially neighboring ones, on long-term loans with low interest rates to reduce its debt burden and refinance its current loans.

Also, the Mongolian government and the Bank of Mongolia, the country's central bank, will determine terms to extend or refinance a 580 million US-dollar loan taken out by the Development Bank of Mongolia, which is due in March, and international bonds due in January 2018.

Now, Mongolia is facing a severe economic crisis due to the downturn of the global commodity market and its heavy debt repayment starting in March.

The cash-strapped country is negotiating with international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund on saving the loan from possible default next year.

Recently, Mongolian Parliament Speaker Miyegombo Enkhbold led a delegation of the country's top officials to wealthy Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, and Mongolia's neighbor Russia, to seek financial assistance.

Under this economic revival plan, the Mongolian government will also try to diversify its mining-dependent economy and improve the quality of veterinary services for its 61.5 million livestock herds and export meat abroad.

In the past, the frequently changing government rules and laws on foreign investment and mining have scared away international investors.

According to the new plan, the Mongolian government will also restore investors' confidence in the country and reduce bureaucratic procedures to obtain business licenses.

However, some analysts doubted the government's ability to follow through with the plan as in Mongolia, laws and regulations are often not fully implemented by authorities.

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Mongolia Faces Economic Winter

December 27 (Financial Tribune) Mongolia is in the depths of an unusually harsh winter that is decimating livestock and sending temperatures to minus 56 degrees Celsius. But an economic winter has also hit people like factory owner Jargalsaikhan.

The 40-year-old once thought Mongolia's economic boom would last more than a decade. He had had ambitious plans for the cement factory he started eight years ago, thinking that bank lending will keep flowing, CNA reported.

Then, the Mongolian economy collapsed, and his factory can barely survive now.

In 2011, riding on the global mining boom, Mongolia's economy expanded by a whopping 17.3%. But the economy crashed just as quickly as it expanded.

The World Bank estimates that Mongolia's economic growth will further slow to just 0.7% this year, from 2.3% in 2015.

Mongolia's currency, the tugrik, has also plummeted nearly 12% against the dollar this year. The economic crisis was caused by a collapse in commodity prices, mounting debt and years of off-budget spending.

But since coming to power in June, the Mongolian People's Party has announced an economic reform plan containing spending cuts. They have also asked the International Monetary Fund for help. The country's foreign minister has said he is confident an agreement with the IMF would be in place by February.

IMF aid could ease financial concerns for the country, as Mongolia will have to repay $1 billion in debt by 2018.

While the country awaits a bailout from the IMF, there are fears that many Mongolians could risk being dragged below the poverty line again as the economy sinks. The country's unemployment rate jumped to 8.3% in the final quarter of 2015, from 6.3% a quarter earlier.

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Russia effectively turns down Mongolian request for $1.6 billion loan

By Andrei Skvarsky

December 30 (EmergingMarkets.me) The Russian government has effectively turned down a request from its Mongolian counterpart for a loan of 100bn roubles ($1.62bn), according to a Russian cabinet report whose wording suggests the refusal was not definitive.

"With the aim of stepping up financial cooperation, the Mongolian side asked the Russian side to consider the provision of an easy-term loan of 100bn roubles. In the absence of information from the Mongolian side on the objectives of the requested loan and financial parameters for it that would be acceptable to the Mongolian side, it is impossible for the Russian side to process the request from its partners in practical terms," the Bankir.ru website quoted the report, published this week, as saying.

The request was made during Russian-Mongolian governmental talks in Ulaanbaatar on December 13, according to Bankir.ru, Interfax, Newsland.com and other Russian media resources.

Mongolia, which parted company with communism through a bloodless revolution in 1990, still owes Russia $3.8m as the remnant of an overdue $172.2m debt 97 per cent of which was cancelled under a Russian law signed into effect by President Vladimir Putin on January 31, 2016.

In 2003, Russia had written off an $11.1bn chunk of a Mongolian debt of $11.4bn. The $300m remainder was repaid practically immediately after that by Mongolia, a nation of three million populating an area six and a half times the size of Britain.

In 2010, Russia forgave an entire Mongolian debt of $180m.

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Similar:

Mongolia asks Russia to grant $1,6bn loan for unknown purposeConstruction.ru, December 27

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Mongolia asks Russia's VTB for $200m loan

By Andrei Skvarsky

December 30 (EmergingMarkets.me) Mongolia's government has asked VTB, Russia's second-largest bank, for a loan of $200m for buying Russian oil products, Russian media have said.

"The two sides expressed satisfaction with an export loan extended by the VTB bank to the Development Bank of Mongolia, which has enabled Mongolia to be supplied with Russian oil products," media stories quoted the Russian cabinet as saying in a report on Russian-Mongolian governmental talks in Ulaanabaatar on December 13. The report was published this week.

"The Mongolian side has asked the VTB bank to consider long-term financing to a sum of $200m with better terms for interest rates," the report said.

There has been no news yet about whether the request has been granted.

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Number of livestock animals in Mongolia reaches record high

ULAN BATOR, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The number of livestock animals in Mongolia has reached 61.5 million, a record high for the landlocked nation since it began to carry out a livestock animal census, the statistical office said on Tuesday.

The census was conducted between Dec. 8-17 in 16 rural provinces. The number of livestock animals increased by 5.6 million compared with that of last year, said Ariunzaya Ayush, chairwoman of the National Statistical Office of Mongolia .

According to preliminary result of the nationwide census, 45.3 percent of all livestock are sheep, against 41.6 percent for goats and 6.6 percent for cattle.

Among the rural provinces, Uvurkhangai province has largest number of livestock at 5.2 million.

According to the census, there are 223,700 herder households with livestock animals, an 7.5 percent increase than that of last year.

Experts said this record increase of livestock brings both good and bad news.

Ecological experts have repeatedly warned about expanding desertification and pastureland overgrazing caused mainly by an increase of cashmere goats as 64 percent of the Mongolian pastureland has been degraded.

The number of livestock animals to be kept by herder households should be regulated, advised experts. But Mongolia does not have any law or regulation restricting that number.

On the other hand, the Mongolian livestock sector is largely unproductive except for its cashmere goat herds, the main source of income for the thousands of Mongolian herders.

The government had tried to export meat to other countries including China, but was impeded by frequent outbreaks of livestock animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth, as well as low levels of veterinary services and food standards.

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Bangladesh cabinet approves inclusion of Mongolia as new APTA member

Unb, Dhaka, December 27 (The Daily Star) The cabinet yesterday approved the draft of the second amendment to the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) incorporating Mongolia as the new member, raising the total number of its member countries to seven.

The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the cabinet at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said the amendment to the oldest preferential trade agreement of the Asia pacific region is made to include Mongolia and rearrangement of the tariff regime under the agreement.

The Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), previously known as the Bangkok Agreement was signed in 1975 and later renamed as APTA in 2005.

Now, Bangladesh, India, China, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Laos are the members of the agreement.  The membership of Mongolia is likely to be finalised at the next ministerial meeting of the APTA billed for January 13, 2017 in Bangkok.

The draft also finalised a new list of tariff regime under the agreement.

Under the agreement, Bangladesh generally gives 10-70 percent duty free access to 598 items from APTA countries in addition 20-50 percent concession to four more items from LDCs.

As per the agreement, China gives 5 percent to 100 percent duty-free access to 2,191 items of APTA countries while India gives 5 percent to 100 percent duty free access to 3,334 items. 

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Economic crisis in Mongolia could force more children onto the streets

By Jeremy Koh

ULAANBAATAR, December 28 (Channel NewsAsia): Eleven-year-old Sumyabazar has lived at a shelter for vulnerable children since he was six.

Sumyabazar used to work in a market with his father, an alcoholic. Five years ago, his mother applied for him to live at Erdem Centre, a privately funded shelter.

The last time he saw his parents was about a year ago.

"When I miss my parents, I try to think of other things, like taking care of the other children here," he told Channel NewsAsia.

The centre was set up in 2006 to care for vulnerable children like Sumyabazar. Around 20 children aged between three and 18 live there. Most of them used to beg on the streets.

Unur, the co-founder of Erdem Centre, said that each of these children were vulnerable in different ways. "The behaviour varies from child to child. Some of them shout when they are brought in, others are so angry that they become aggressive, while others don't know how to communicate with other people or talk about their feelings."

Besides providing emotional support for the children, the centre also aims to educate them and protect them from abuse.

It's one of a few dozen charitable organisations that have been set up in Mongolia over the past decade or so to help vulnerable children.

There are no statistics on the number of street children in Mongolia, but according to some estimates, there were up to 4,000 homeless children in Ulaanbaatar a few years ago, some of whom lived in the city's heated sewers and underground pipes to avoid the bitter cold.

Many of them came from families plagued by alcoholism, and faced violence, abuse and exploitation on the streets.

But today, it is believed that the number has dropped to about a hundred, due to economic advances in Mongolia, an influx of charitable organisations, and the development of government-run child welfare services.

However there are fears that a widening debt crisis in the country could push the children back to the streets again.

"Due to the financial crisis, we see that more children are becoming active in begging," said Unur.

"In the past, they used to beg outside supermarkets and stay in one location, and they used to live in the sewers, but now they go to bus stations and board the buses with boxes to get money from others."

But some experts said they believe the situation can still be controlled.

Amaraa Dorjsambuu, a child protection officer from UNICEF Mongolia, said that the government was aware of the situation. "By the end of the 1990s, the government was not ready," she said.

"They were not expecting it to happen, but at the moment, the government is aware that it might happen and they're keeping an eye on it."

Still, with Mongolia going through its worst economic downturn since 2008, young children like Sumyabazar remain the most vulnerable in this long winter of struggle and economic hardship.

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Once booming Mongolia facing an economic crisis

By Jeremy Koh

ULAANBAATAR, December 26 (Channel NewsAsia): Mongolia is in the depths of an unusually harsh winter that is decimating livestock and sending temperatures to minus 56 degrees Celsius. But an economic winter has also hit people like factory owner Jargalsaikhan.

The 40-year-old once thought Mongolia's economic boom would last more than a decade.

He had had ambitious plans for the cement factory he started eight years ago, thinking that bank lending will keep flowing.

Then, the Mongolian economy collapsed, and his factory can barely survive now.

Mr Jargalsaikhan said: "I already laid off half of my 24 employees. I may have to carry out another round of retrenchment. And if the economic situation doesn't improve, I will have to close down the factory."

It is a story of boom and bust that is repeated across Mongolia.

In 2011, riding on the global mining boom, Mongolia's economy expanded by a whopping 17.3 per cent.

But the economy crashed just as quickly as it expanded.

The World Bank estimates that Mongolia's economic growth will further slow to just 0.7 per cent this year, from 2.3 per cent in 2015.

Mongolia's currency, the tugrik, has also plummeted nearly 12 per cent against the dollar this year.

The economic crisis was caused by a collapse in commodity prices, mounting debt and years of off-budget spending.

But since coming to power in June, the Mongolian People's Party has announced an economic reform plan containing spending cuts. They have also asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help.

The country's foreign minister has said he is confident an agreement with the IMF would be in place by February.

IMF aid could ease financial concerns for the country, as Mongolia will have to repay 1 billion US dollars in debt by 2018.

Senior Professor Oyun Luvsandorj from the National University of Mongolia's Business School said: "We are too dependent on mining, so we need to stop this reliance on mining and diversify the economy because as long as we are dependent on mining, the global economy matters a lot and if there's a global economic downturn, the Mongolian economy goes down too."

While the country awaits a bailout from the IMF, there are fears that many Mongolians could risk being dragged below the poverty line again as the economy sinks.

The country's unemployment rate jumped to 8.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2015, from 6.3 per cent a quarter earlier.

Professor Dulamsuren from the National University of Mongolia said, "The crisis has affected almost all Mongolians, and due to this crisis, a lot of factories shut down and also the unemployment rate has increased."

It remains unclear, however, just how severe the IMF bailout may be.

If the proposed terms seem too onerous, some say that Mongolia could turn to China, which has extended it some credit in recent years.

But that could mean giving China too much commercial and political leverage over Mongolia.

Either way, the government needs to move fast, as time is not on the side of Mr Jargalsaikhan and other struggling businesses across the country. 

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Politics & Legal

President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj extends best wishes upon entrance to 2017

Ulaanbaatar, January 1 /MONTSAME/ Upon the countdown to new year, the President of Mongolia, Mr Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj delivered a speech and extended good wishes to the people of Mongolia for the coming year.

He began his speech stating that 2016 has been a year full of historic events. He said "The leaders of Asia and Europe assembled in Mongolia, which country has responsibly organized the 11th ASEM Summit at home with success. This is an opportunity that can only be used by a country for once in a century. The milestone anniversary of the Asia-Europe Meeting was celebrated in Mongolia. The important decisions that would guide the Asia-Europe partnership in the forthcoming decade have been declared under the document Ulaanbaatar Declaration".

The President mentioned the key events of 2016, such as the parliamentary and local elections and Mongolia's astonishing participation in the summer Olympic Games.

He underlined that Mongolians had been celebrating the 105th anniversary of the restoration and consolidation of our independence.

Mr Ts.Elbegdorj noted "It is not important where you are welcoming the new year. How you are welcoming the new year matters the most".

He wished the world to become more peaceful in 2017, Mongolia to prosper with success and endeavor, and everyone to have their good wishes come true in the forthcoming year.

The President, at the end of his speech, raised a silver bowl of milk to the wellbeing, success and invincible windhorse of Mongolians.

The dignitary said "May the people of Mongolia thrive forever!".

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Four Presidents of Mongolia greet the New Year

December 28 (news.mn) In a gesture to symbolise national unity, all the three former Mongolian Presidents, have met together to share New Year greetings. The gathering took place earlier today (28th of December), when Mr P.Ochirbat, N.Bagabandi and N.Enkhbayar visited Government House at the invitation of President Ts.Elberdorj. It is first time, that all four Mongolian Presidents have celebrated the New Year together.

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Three Guilty of 1998 Assassination of Mongolian Leader: Ikon.mn

By Michael Kohn

December 27 (Bloomberg) -- An Ulaanbaatar court has convicted three people of the 1998 murder of Zorig Sanjaasuren, the leader of Mongolia's 1990 Democratic Revolution, according to Mongolian news website Ikon.mn.

* Panel of judges at Detention Center 461 found Ts. Amgalanbaatar, B. Sodnomdarjaa and T. Chimgee guilty of murder motivated "by greed".

* Trio received sentences of between 24 and 25 years: Ikon

* "I don't think anyone is being fooled by this sham of a prosecution," said Munkhdul Badral, head of market intelligence firm Cover Mongolia. "If this decision stands, the real killers are going to get away with murder," he said.

* MORE: Mongolian Murder Trial Begins Over 1998 Political Assassination

(BFW)

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Closed Mongolian court jails three for 1998 murder of democracy hero

By Terrence Edwards | ULAANBAATAR

December 27 (Reuters) A closed court in Mongolia has convicted three men of the 1998 murder of Sanjaasuren Zorig, a politician remembered for leading the East Asian country's peaceful transition to democracy.

Nicknamed the "Golden Swallow of Democracy", Zorig was credited with saving lives during anti-government protests in Mongolia in 1990. His murder has been likened to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and sparked a manhunt that involved authorities in Britain and Germany.

Zorig was Mongolia's minister of infrastructure and was widely expected to become prime minister of the fledgling democracy in 1998 when he was assassinated in his home at the age of 36.

Mongolian media identified the three suspects as B. Sodnomdarjaa, Ts. Amgalanbaatar and T. Chimgee, and said they had been found guilty of murder by a panel of judges on Tuesday after a hearing held behind closed doors since October. They were each given prison sentences of between 24 and 25 years.

Reuters was unable to reach the courts responsible for the verdict. The Ministry of Justice also did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not known how the three men had answered the charges, how they were represented in the court, or when they were arrested.

Mongolian deputy prime minister Tsend Nyamdorj questioned the decision to hold the trial behind closed doors. (Mogi: deputy speaker, not deputy PM)

"This is very a dangerous practice, in which a court reaches a verdict of murder in secret," he told parliament on Tuesday. "To me, it looks as if you are trying to hide the fact that you are being repressive."

Zorig's sister, Oyun, who heads the pro-democratic Zorig Foundation and is a former government minister, said in a statement sent to Reuters she and her family did not think justice had been done.

"We also requested that the case is de-classified and the court is open," she said. "Unfortunately, the request was not accepted."

Dale Choi, an analyst with Mongolian Metals and Mining, likened Zorig's murder to Kennedy's 1963 assassination.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," he said on Tuesday. "I think today's court ruling did not answer all these questions."

Police detained several people for questioning during the investigation, including Zorig's widow, Bulgan, who is alleged to have witnessed the murder.

Zorig's murder, though not widely known outside Mongolia, was central to the arrest of intelligence official Bat Khurts in London in 2010 after a warrant was issued by German authorities.

Khurts was detained for his involvement in the 2003 abduction and forced repatriation of Mongolian dissident Enkhbat Damiran, said by Mongolian authorities to be a suspect in Zorig's murder. Enkhbat eventually died in police custody.

Khurts was released by Germany in 2011 shortly before a visit to Mongolia by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and is now the head of Mongolia's General Intelligence Agency.

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Former Minister Bayartsogt deposited $9.2 million in Swiss account in 2013 says lawyer

December 19 (news.mn) A total of USD 9.2 million has, reportedly, been deposited into the Swiss bank account of former Deputy Speaker S.Bayartsogt's. The suspicious transfer was made on 27thof October, 2009. According to Ts.Tuyatsetseg, of the Mongolian Lawyers' Environmental Association, the multi-million dollar transfer to S.Bayartsogt's account was a 'bribe' from Oyu Tolgoi for an agreement, signed on 7th of October of that year. Lawyers presented a copy of the Credit Suisse banker's bill at a press conference earlier today (19th of December).

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that Ts.Bayartsogt had an offshore company registered on the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and a Swiss bank account in 2013. At the time, Mr. Bayartsogt confirmed the existence of the BVI company and Swiss bank account. At the time, there was over one million US dollars in the account; now, there are approximately two thousand dollars. The politician was contrite, admitting his failure to disclose the company and account as required by local anti-corruption regulations.

Since 27th of June, the Federal Court of Switzerland has reportedly been examining Ts.Bayartsogt for money laundering.

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MPs present bills on parliamentary bylaw, public hearing and presidential election

Ulaanbaatar, December 27 (MONTSAME) Draft amendments to the Law on Parliamentary Session rules of procedures, draft parliamentary resolution on adopting regulations for organizing public hearings, and draft law on presidential election of Mongolia were presented to the Speaker M.Enkhbold by O.Baasankhuu, N.Oyundari and N.Enkhbold MPs.

The draft law on presidential election of Mongolia has been initiated by N.Enkhbold, B.Batzorig, Z.Narantuya, N.Oyundari and D.Khayankhyarvaa MPs and has been developed in consideration of recommendations delivered by the General Election Committee and electoral specialists. General provisions about the presidential election in the Law on Elections are kept intact. The new bill elaborates provisions covering only for presidential election, and has 14 chapters and 104 articles.

The MPs considered that the parliament should pass regulations on the procedures of organizing public hearings on the levels of parliament, its committees and sub-committees.

As for the suggested amendments to the Law on Parliamentary Session rules of procedure, the law initiators have come up with a separate chapter to regulate the rules only.

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New version of Law on Development Bank presented

Ulaanbaatar, December 23 (MONTSAME) Draft new wording of the Law on Development Bank of Mongolia was presented to the Vice Speaker Ts.Nyamdorj on Thursday by B.Javkhlan, D.Terbishdagva, Z.Narantuya, M.Oyunchimer and B.Undarmaa MPs.

Although the main functions of the Development Bank, since its establishment, have aimed at funding projects for promoting the country's economic growth pursuant to related laws and regulations, the lack of certainty in the related laws and regulations has been pulling back from the performance of the bank, resulting in decline of budgetary and fiscal spheres.

The new wording of the law has been prepared based on the successful practices from other countries and in harmony with the development policies of Mongolia. If adopted, the law will facilitate the bank with possibilities to work independently from the politics, and with full transparency.

The law initiators have reportedly prepared the draft law in order to regain global investors trust in Mongolia and improve Mongolia's credit rating.

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Mongolia celebrates 105th anniversary of National Independence Day

Ulaanbaatar, December 29 /MONTSAME/ Today Mongolians are celebrating the 105th anniversary of declaration of the National Independence.

The National Independence Day is marked in Mongolia every year on December 29.

Exactly this day of the year of 1911, the Eighth Jebtsundamba Khutugtu (Javzandamba Khutagt) was proclaimed as the Bogdo Khaan, and a historical decision was made to form the government of Mongolia with five ministries.

The National Independence Day has been celebrated annually since 2008 under a decree of the third President of Mongolia N.Enkhbayar.

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President Paid Tribute to the State Stamp MonumentPresident.mn, December 29

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Mongolia's young democracy tested by economic crisis

By Jeremy Koh

ULAANBAATAR, December 29 (Channel NewsAsia): Thirty-nine year old Otgonjargal left her hometown in western Zavkhan province about 15 years ago to make a living in the capital Ulaanbaatar.

She sells clothes and other accessories beside a road, but business has never been as bad.

This year, her business has plunged 50 per cent as the economy shrank.

Some of her customers are no longer able to buy goods from her because they have not received their salary.

Otgonjargal blames the politicians for her ordeals.

"Of course I'm disappointed with the politicians because the value of our currency has gotten lower and lower, and even though I've never worked together with the politicians, from the outside, it's easy to see that they're not doing well."

She is not alone.

Many Mongolians are frustrated by the government's seeming inability to contain the economic fallout.

One said: "Our government is not doing well enough right now because it's filled with corruption, that's why I'm disappointed with politicians."

Another said that politics is really a concern in Mongolia now. Such grudges helped propel the opposition Mongolian People's Party to a crushing victory at the polls.

Political watchers say the results of June's parliamentary elections indicates widespread frustration with the economy.

The opposition Mongolian People's Party won in a landslide. It took 65 of the parliament's 76 seats, leaving the incumbent Democratic Party with only nine seats.

Opposition politician Ganbat Ganchil, the Chair of the United Patriots Party said: "The reason why we're facing the economic downturn and why the unemployment and poverty rate is rising is because of corruption. Also, due to this corruption, we're losing a lot of investors from overseas."

According to a poll conducted by the Sant Maral Foundation, Mongolia's major polling organisation, over one-third of respondents said they didn't trust any of the political parties to properly lead the country.

And 77 per cent stated that none of the parties accurately represented public opinion.

Mongolia gained independence from the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, and while the election outcome showed that democracy is at work in Mongolia, observers say the system is far from perfect.

Bolormaa Mashlai, Chairperson of the Women Leader Foundation said: "Democracy has worked out for 26 years, but what we need to do is to manage democracy, but what we did was to have too much freedom, and people are really disappointed by that because they expected too much from democracy, so we need to work on the people.

We need to make them more capable, educate them and provide them with more information."

Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia is a young democracy trying to sail through an economic storm.

And the current crisis will put to test not just the country's economic strength, but also that of its political system. 

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Government proposes benefits for single parents

Ulaanbaatar, December 27 (MONTSAME) At its irregular meeting on Monday, the cabinet discussed draft law on allowing benefits for single parents with many children, and resolved to submit it to the parliament. The bill outlines allowing benefits for parents with twins under 4 years of age and for mothers, beginning from their fifth month of pregnancy for the following five months, and monthly benefits for stay-at-home mothers with 0-3 year-old children, as well as quarterly benefits for single parents who have three or more children.

A total of MNT 72.4 billion was estimated to be spent for these benefits each year.

There are 531.1 thousand families with children in Mongolia, 16 percent of which are single-parent families.

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Mongolia's Self-Styled Female Parliamentary Candidates

by Manduhai Buyandelger

What can a study about women parliamentary candidates contribute to our understanding of democratic elections, gender transformation, and contemporary neoliberal self-making?

December 20 (American Anthropological Association) Elections and electoral campaigns in particular, have penetrated the public and private spheres, and continue to shape new subjects and subjectivities. In addition to the neoliberal capitalist demand for self-entrepreneurship and self-renovation, elections in Mongolia further push the candidates to engage in an in-depth self-polishing that speaks to the gender and class identities of the country's political leadership. The comprehensive self-making into eligible parliamentary candidates is especially notable in case of female parliamentary candidates in Mongolia. That is because, unsurprisingly, women candidates must fight to gain recognition and respect in a society where the default politician is male, and where gender roles and identities continue to transform..

Self-polishing

Since 2006, I have shadowed numerous female candidates for months leading up to as well as during the parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2012. During non-election times I also researched the impact of campaign preparations on everyday life.

Besides their formal campaign preparations, the female political candidates also engaged in long-term self-polishing and "self-developing" activities that were meant to shape them into fully "prepared" political candidates. "Self-development" was already a part of their high achieving career-centered lives even before they run for parliamentary seats. However, their efforts were also fueled by the 2007 parliament's repeal of the candidate quota that stated that all political parties must have 30% women in their candidates' pool. The parliament gave no explanation for the repeal of the quota, although rumors in political circles speculated that there were not enough prepared female candidates to make up the 30% pool.

While dismayed at the repeal of the quota, many women intensified their preparations even if "prepared" was a rather elusive term. To cover all odds, they embarked on comprehensive makeovers, ranging from beautification to earning advanced degrees and learning foreign languages. Being prepared became synonymous with becoming their ideal selves. Women treated their minds and bodies as maleable entities and strived to (re)make themselves into highly attractive, charismatic, and oyunlag (intellectful) individuals. I translate a Mongolian word oyunlag, which literally means "with intellect" as "intellectful." This is different from, although related to, intellectual, which implies social class.

"I need to recharge my brain, I am not ready [to compete] yet," said an executive at a successful TV station who was leaving to study for an advanced degree abroad, and who was planning to return two years before the next election to set up her campaign. "Why do you think you are not ready?" I asked her, surprised at how earnest she was about her need for an intellectual makeover. Post-graduate diplomas have become a part of the candidates' credentials. However, I rarely heard male candidates talking about their need for urgent intellectual revamp to strengthen their candidacy.

Many women also attended international capacity-building workshops in order to meet particular global leadership standards. "These strategies do not really apply to the Mongolian case," some women commented following workshops given in Mongolia in 2007 by Sara Simmons, a former director of strategy for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign later strategist for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. Still, many women attended these kinds of workshops at home and abroad to sharpen their campaigning skills.

Retrospectively, these women were realizing that they were welcome to test their stamina, hard work, and perseverance in competing for parliamentary seats, but only by almost fully accepting the rules of the male-dominated game. Attempts to challenge gender bias, whether individually or on an institutional level via quota implementation, carried steep costs.

Being intellectful

The Mongolian electorate ranks education (bolovsrol) as the number onecriteria for voting for a female Member of Parliament (National Committee on Gender Equality, 2010). In many voter outreach meetings, I heard voters declare that it was necessary to elect oyunlag people, and that female candidates had to be seheeten emegteichuud (female intellectuals).

There are many ways of being intellectful. Intellectfulness is not a trait associated exclusively with women, but because most women candidates capitalized on their professional and educational achievements more than on material resources, that they usually lacked, the electorate and the political parties also picked up their rhetoric. Many female candidates obtained degrees and certificates from Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and other top-ranking international universities in order to present themselves as intellectful candidates.

One of the quintessential ways to be intellectful is to write books, especially literature. One of my main interlocutors has written numerous books with each one expanding her voter base. First, she published a memoir about her student days in the US, then a conversational dictionary for tourists and hosts in the Mongolian countryside, and finally a sweeping historical novel about a community in rural Mongolia in the 1930s that found itself caught up in political violence. With each book she retooled herself as a writer and as a public individual. All of them sold well, but the last one, the novel, brought her nationwide acclaim. She used her book tours to gain popularity before official political campaigning began. In 2012, she completed her book tour just prior to the start of the electoral period and immediately launched her campaign while the public memory of her novel was still fresh. Proud of her success as an author, she also declared that she had taken no "dirty" money to finance her campaign—it was mainly financed by the money from her book sales.

There are also more nuanced ways of being intellectful, such as pointing out inconsistencies and loopholes in laws and decrees, showing an ability to measure and predict risks, winning difficult lawsuits, and responding effectively to attacks and accusations during campaign events. In Mongolia, these kinds of achievements and abilities are associated with torgon uhaan (silken intelligence), which tends to be naturalized as a distinctly womanly trait (men are thought to see the larger picture, but lack the precision and carefulness associated with "silken intelligence").

Looking the part

Appearance was at least as important as intellectfulness, to chagrin of some female candidates who cared less about their looks. Many of the women I met maintained meticulously polished appearances in public. Sharp western-style suits, dignified career dresses, and Mongolian deel (a robe with a sash) dominated the wardrobes of women candidates. Matching shoes and briefcases, expensive but understated jewelry sets, meticulous grooming and buffed skin, all implied class, status, and money. Some women added Botox, facelifts, and permanent make-up. Others took lessons to modify their "shrill" voices into more low-pitched and warmer voices to attract the electorate.

It is important to note that during socialism in Mongolia many material markers of upper class femininity, such as imported cosmetics, fashionable clothes, accessories, and perfume, among others, were available only to the political elite, who could travel internationally. Today, fashion and cosmetics flood the Mongolian market—consumption-based femininity is no longer exclusively an upper class trait.

Popular images of femininity and masculinity have also changed. During socialism, the state controlled media featured professional and award-winning women workers. The post-socialist media favored sexualized images of beauty pageant contestants, trophy wives, and fashion models, and limited male images to politicians, rich businessmen, and entertainers. Gender ideology became explicitly misogynistic; it assumed fundamentally distinct feminine and masculine norms or ideals. Femininity became sexualized, commercialized, and image-centric.

Like all women, female political candidates were immersed in this new commoditized and sexualized femininity, and had to navigate an often hostile and discriminating environment of male politicians, media, and electorate. The problem for female candidates was that as women they must satisfy feminine norms— physical attractiveness and "gentle" manners, among others—in order to be accepted. At the same time, such feminine characteristics tended to distract the voters and the media from candidates' professional and other achievements. Most women were in a double bind; they needed to cultivate their femininity, while also not allowing that femininity to override their achievements as professionals. Being indifferent to one's looks was not just harmful for one's candidacy—it was a transgression of dominant gender norms.

The female candidates' self-polishing must be understood as a careful and subtle maneuvering within the complexity of this transforming gender politics. They strived to achieve a femininity that would set them apart from beauty queens and trophy wives, one that would command attention and respect and create an ideal feminine political subject. The women candidates I studied used style to resist this oppressive order, not by symbolically breaking the rules and instituting their individual identity, but by displaying class and prominence through dignified styles and high status accessories.

As these self-polishing activities show, Mongolian democratic elections constitute a part of neoliberal governance, promoting as they do a continuous retooling of selves. Elections add to the shaping of gendered, classed, and political subjects who are open-ended, flexible, and who treat their bodies and minds as pliable and perfectible entities. In many nations it is the government and the corporate sector that promote self-development. In Mongolia, political elections further influence such engagements. Indeed, elections have become not just events to choose the country's next political leadership, but ongoing ad hoc governing processes that shape gendered selves, subjectivities, and social life itself.

Manduhai Buyandelger is an associate professor of anthropology at MIT. She is writing a book on experiences of women candidates in Mongolian Parliamentary elections.

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ADB: Projects Signed to Improve Livelihoods and Services, Preserve Environment, and Promote Gender Equality

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA (22 December 2016) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Mongolia today signed three grant agreements totaling $4.8 million for projects to promote gender equality, provide affordable sanitation for low-income communities in the capital, and build sustainable tourism in Mongolia's northern region at Khuvsgul Lake National Park.

The three projects are financed from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) funded by the Government of Japan, which over the past 17 years has supported more than 42 projects in Mongolia dealing with poverty alleviation, livelihoods, and the environment.

Signing for the Government of Mongolia was the Minister of Finance Mr. B. Choijilsuren, while ADB Country Director Yolanda Fernandez Lommen signed on behalf of ADB. Additional co-signatories and witnesses included Ms. S. Tungalagtamir, Director of the Population Development Department of the Ministry for Labor and Social Protection, and Mr. Ch. Batsansar, Director of the Special Protected Area Management Department of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. 

The gender project will promote the national agenda for gender equality in key development sectors. Over 1,400 central and local government officials, civil society, and media practitioners will receive training in gender policies, while an innovative media campaign will help sensitize the general population on gender equality.  

"Gender inequality is a significant constraint on economic growth and poverty reduction," said Ms. Fernandez Lommen. "Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals." 

At Khuvsgul Lake National Park (KLNP) in Khuvsgul Aimag, the JFPR funding will support the design phase for a proposed 4-year project for tourism and conservation. The park encompasses more than 1 million hectares of snow-capped mountains and Khuvsgul Lake, which supports 70% of Mongolia's and 1% of the world's freshwater. The park is one of the most visited destinations in Mongolia, and tourism is bringing much needed economic benefits, but sewage and litter are damaging the lake system. The technical designs will address tourism, livelihoods, and conservation in a sustainable and integrated manner, for subsequent implementation. The project will also build upon a JFPR-funded grant launched in 2015, which is piloting community-based tourism around Khuvsgul Lake. 

The third grant project will develop and pilot systems for the collection, transport, and treatment of waste, including affordable toilets for communities, in two pilot districts of Ulaanbaatar — Bayanzurkh and Chingeltei. About one quarter (over 750,000 people) of Mongolia's population resides in peri-urban communities termed ger areas, on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Many ger areas have little or no access to sanitation and water, and suffer from poor sanitation, disease, and low quality of life. The project will benefit around 6,000 people in 1,500 households. It will complement the long-term support provided by ADB and other donors to improve urban infrastructure and services in Ulaanbaatar, and will provide a model to scale up on-site sanitation in Mongolia. 

"These projects are aligned with ADB's broader strategy to help diversify the national economy, create jobs outside of the mining sector, and ensure opportunities for all, including people from disadvantaged backgrounds," said Ms. Fernandez Lommen. 

Established in May 2000, the JFPR provides direct grant assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable groups in developing member countries of ADB while fostering long-term social and economic development. 

"The JFPR forms a part of the strong working relationship between the Governments of Mongolia and Japan, and ADB," said Mr. Hiroshi Fukasawa, First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Mongolia. "The Government of Japan has been supporting the implementation of important projects in various fields that benefit the people and environment of Mongolia since the introduction of JFPR in Mongolia in 2002, including the projects for which these agreements have just been signed."

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 this month marks 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.

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Mongolia's disappointing come down of 2016

Author: Julian Dierkes, UBC

December 31 (East Asia Forum) It has been a momentous year both economically and politically for Mongolia. But not in a good way. Just five years ago Mongolia was flying high. It was the world's fastest growing economy with a wealth of resources to fuel further development, a solidly institutionalised democracy and a young population with a high standard of at least basic education. It seemed like the eternal blue sky was the limit.

Now, revenues derived from mineral wealth have receded into the distant future due to crushing public debt brought about by the previous government's populist spending, which leaves the new government with little room to make any decisions.

The deterioration of Mongolia's economic outlook is partly a global phenomenon and partly home grown. Commodity prices have declined and remained low over the past few years. This decline is linked to the slowing Chinese economy — lower commodity prices have had a heavy impact due to Mongolia's dependence on Chinese purchases of its resources. There is very little that Mongolians can do about this other than hope for a rebound of commodity prices, particularly for copper. A rebound in coal prices is looking increasingly unlikely given China's Paris Accord commitments to reducing coal usage for energy production.

Political decisions have exacerbated the situation further. The perceived slights of foreign investment over recent years and the drawn-out (re)negotiation of the giant Oyu Tolgoi project have slowed investment to a crawl. More damaging is the profligacy following the perceived 'easy money' of the US$1.5 billion Chinggis Bond in late 2012, which the government primarily used for populist measures like payments to children and pensioners, infrastructure projects and subsidies for mortgages. With the exception of some of the infrastructure projects, these payments have had no sustainable investment impact.

Another political error was the sale of Russia's stake in the Erdenet Mine to the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia just a day before the June 29 parliamentary election. As more background emerges about the sale, it is increasingly exhibiting all the signs of a corrupt attempt at profiteering.

There have been some successes in Mongolia's trade diplomacy. The Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan that was signed in late 2015 came into force in June 2016. It is an important milestone for Mongolia's economic integration into East Asia. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Canada was signed in September after years of negotiation.

The most noteworthy single event of 2016 was the parliamentary election on June 29. Given the dire economic situation, it may seem unsurprising that the governing Democratic Party (DP) was roundly dismissed by the electorate. But the magnitude of the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) victory came as a shock, taking 65 of the 76 seats available in the State Great Khural.

The run-up to the election had led to some fears about how voter frustration with the DP would be voiced. Would voters shy away from the polls? Would the voters who did vote opt for populists promising easy solutions?

Election day saw an almost 10 per cent increase in turnout compared to the last parliamentary election — 73.6 per cent up from 65.2 per cent in 2012 — and none of the noisiest populists won a seat in the new parliament. But the super-majority of the MPP was still not a rousing endorsement of the party's platform.

First of all, their platform was short on specifics. Second, the last-minute switch to a majoritarian election system led to a very lopsided outcome in terms of seats in parliament: the MPP only won 45.7 per cent of the popular vote compared to the DP's 35.6 per cent. Smaller parties have been almost entirely eliminated, with only one seat held by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. New Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat leads a government that finds itself heavily constrained by the dismal state of public finances. Few policy initiatives can be expected from this government.

While ongoing discussions with the International Monetary Fund may lead to some fiscal relief, the situation in late 2016 became more desperate after a spat with the Chinese government following on the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia in late November. Beijing's petulant reaction to anything involving the Dalai Lama — who is revered in Mongolia as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, including Mongolians — points to the foreign policy squeeze in which Mongolia finds itself between China and Russia. Its growing mountain of debt points to the risks that resource-driven economies continue to face.

It is in this context of uncertainty that Mongolia heads into 2017 with a presidential election looming in June.

Julian Dierkes is an Associate Professor and Keidanren Chair in Japanese Research at the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. He writes on Mongolian affairs at his blog, Mongolia Focus, and on Twitter.

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2016 Review: Mongolia

January 1 (GoGo Mongolia) ---

UNEXPECTED ELECTION RESULTS

MONGOLIA HAS SUCCESSFULLY HOSTED THE ASEM 11 

MONGOLIA LEFT RIO DE JANEIRO WITH FOUR MEDALS

14th DALAI LAMA`S VISIT HURTS RELATIONS BETWEEN MONGOLIA AND CHINA

MONGOLIAN TUGRIK HITS BOTTOM RECORD AGAINST US DOLLAR

MISS MONGOLIA MADE IT TO THE TOP 11 FINALISTS AT MISS WORLD 2016

ULAANBAATAR AIR POLLUTION REACHES HAZARDOUS LEVELS

COLDEST WINTER IN 100 YEARS AWAITS

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2016 Top 10 Events in MongoliaMontsame, December 26

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Mongolia: wrestling with modernity

by Peter Geoghegan

December 30 (Geographical Magazine) A few years ago Ulaanbaatar was a sleepy backwater – not anymore. Multinational corporations now sponsor star wrestlers, while amateurs often combine day jobs in the mines with training and competition. Mongolia's national sport is changing the country's image

Never accept a physical challenge from one of Mongolia's strongest men. Khulan's biceps are as wide as my thighs. He is standing outside his circular, canvas-topped ger flexing his muscles. Behind him the grassy steppe unfurls, framed in the distance by gentle rolling hills. It is late afternoon, the day's wrestling training is over, and Khulan fancies some fun.

'You do what I do,' he says, plucking a dumbbell off the ground as if they were made of foam instead of back-breaking weights. One in each hand, Khulan strides across the sandy scrub in front of the tents where he and the other wrestlers sleep. 'Now your turn,' Khulan smiles as he drops the bars at my feet, a couple of beads of moisture on his brow the sole concession to his effort.

I had arrived at the wrestling training camp a few days earlier, with a single rule: never say 'no'. Gingerly I pick up the weights. My thin arms feel as if they are being yanked from their sockets. Slowly, I began to shuffle along in Khulan's footsteps. Sweat stings my eyes. A canter that took him seconds, takes me almost ten minutes. But I manage it, almost collapsing with the dumbbells in front of him. 'Well done,' Khulan smiles again, and wraps an arm around my aching shoulders. 'You are becoming a wrestler.' 

NATIONAL PASTIME

Wrestling has been a part of Mongolian life for centuries. Cave paintings depict two men grappling with one another in front of a crowd. The Secret History of the Mongols, the 13th century chronicle of Genghis Khan, praises the virtues of the sport. Nowadays, mineral-rich Mongolia is one of the world's fasting growing economies, but wrestling remains a national obsession. In a nation of barely three million people, some 30,000 of them are active wrestlers.

Each July, in villages, towns, and cities across this vast central Asian state, wrestlers compete in the Naadam or 'games'. Although the sport is largely amateur, many wrestlers spend weeks before the Naadam sequestered away in training camps, honing their skills and their bodies.

I travelled to Mongolia to learn how to wrestle, and to learn about the wrestlers themselves. Despite being told by a wrestling expert on my second day in Mongolia that I was 'not fat enough' to fight, Khulan and his fellow wrestlers from the central province of Bayankhongor agreed to let me spend time at their camp, one hour's drive from the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

I arrive on a sunny Sunday morning. Dozens of wrestlers in brightly coloured, open-shirted tunics and tight-fitting briefs are sparring on the steppe. Each victor spreads his arms in the devekh, the 'eagle dance' that symbolises power, bravery, grace and invincibility. Men in hats and colourful deel, traditional knee-length tunic sashes, watch solemnly, their arms folded behind their backs.

In a nearby pagoda, a young man in dark sunglasses and flowing burgundy-coloured robes sits before bowls filled with hard biscuits and candy. The Buddhist lama has come to bless the wrestlers. Afterwards I am invited with him into a nearby ger for lunch. A plastic paddling pool filled with fatty lumps of lamb is passed around the crowded tent. The head of the camp gives a short address, he gestures towards the lama and then towards me. I can't understand what the senior wrestler says but I smile and say 'thank you' in Mongolian. I can stay for one week.

STARTING OUT

Our camp is in a former communist-era holiday centre. I share a room with a couple of younger wrestlers. The garish floral wallpaper has faded and the natty brown carpet does not quite cover all the floorboards. There is a hole in the window the size and shape of a 50 pence piece. On my first evening I go for a shower, naked, with some of the wrestlers. 'You'll be wrestling with me tomorrow', says one in broken English. He towers over me. I manage a fearful grin.

Next morning, the birds are singing at 6.30am as I walk out onto the steppe. A stubby, bald-headed wrestler takes it upon himself to teach me an early lesson, flipping me over and over onto my back. Mongolian wrestling is a combination of strength and agility – I feel like I'm severely lacking in both.

During the afternoon session the head of the camp approaches. He is a 'Falcon of the Nation', a rank signifying a quarter-finalist at the national Naadam in Ulaanbaatar. We are both 33, but could hardly be more different: The Falcon is a strong, silent John Wayne type, all muscles and cauliflower ears. I am scrawny and skittish. 'You have promise,' he says, much to my surprise. 'But you need to eat.'

So, I have little choice but to eat. Wrestlers' diets are the stuff of Mongolian legend. A typical breakfast comprises three slices of bread, a bowl of lamb stew and a gigantic plate of Russian salad. Lunch is similar, while dinner is supplemented by dozens of fried lamb meat dumplings, all washed down with gallons of salty 'milk tea'. Canteen seating is strictly by order of rank, with the Falcon at the head of the table.

While the lower orders share dorms, senior wrestlers sleep five to a ger. On my second evening I am invited into one of the TARDIS-like tents. Inside is surprisingly commodious. Wrestling costumes and even toothbrushes and toothpaste are held safe in the spokes of the roof, while tables filled with food, books and mobile phones dominate the floor. The air is filled with a sweet smell that turns out to be burning dried horse dung. A bottle of vodka is passed in one direction, a metal bowl filled with airag, a sharp-tasting fermented horse milk, goes in the other. One wrestler shows me photos of his wife and children.

'How does your wife feel about you leaving for more than a month to wrestle?' I ask.

'She doesn't mind. She is proud.'

Although their native province, Bayankhongor, is more than a thousand miles away, most of the wrestlers live in Ulaanbaatar. Among them is Khatnaa, a broad-shouldered 21-year-old who sits beside me at the bottom of the dinner table. He has a wife and young child in the capital, where he works as a physical education teacher. But he wants to leave the classroom behind, to set out in the import-export business. 'There is more money in that,' he says.

Wrestling is, in some ways, more than a sport in Mongolia. Increasingly, success is a gateway into politics and business. Many famous wrestlers have held high office since the democratic revolution replaced the world's second oldest Communist regime in 1990. Many more have become phenomenally rich.

Khatnaa's dream is to win a competition in one of Mongolia's 331 sum or counties. The previous year he lost in the penultimate round. 'Now I want to win,' he tells me one evening. A few days later he announces over his third bowl of lamb stew that he is leaving the camp, to go back to wrestle in his home village, Shinjinst. Would I like to go with him? I look at my bruised arms and legs. After several days of training, I am no closer to becoming a wrestler. 'Yes, please.'

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

The drive to Shinjinst in Khatnaa's four-wheel drive takes just under 24 hours. The first half of the journey – by day – is along rutted roads to Bayankhongor. The provincial capital is an unremarkable administrative centre. A socialist realist bust of a war hero dominates the main square. From there it is a night ride across the Gobi Desert. I fall asleep and am jolted awake by a heavy thud. It's 3.30am. The puncture will take a couple of hours to repair.

We finally arrive not long after sunrise. Shinjinst is a spartan affair, a few wooden houses amid a sea of tents. A horse drinks from a spluttering water fountain. Herdsmen are rounding up their livestock The temperature is already well over 20ºC. We rest in the town hall, which also doubles as the village's only hotel. In the next room a side of lamb is hanging, ready for the Naadam feast.

By 4pm a large crowd has gathered around the makeshift arena in the centre of town. Khatnaa's opening bout has come. His body is bronzed and toned after weeks of training. His first opponent looks less seasoned. He is tall and thin and wears jeans instead of the customary figure-hugging shuudag shorts. From the opening exchange it is clear who has the edge in strength and guile. Khatnaa grabs his opponent by the shoulders and pulls him to the floor. The men and women in long deels clap politely.

The pace slackens. Khatnaa has been grappling with his next opponent for ten minutes, feeling his way around for an opening. Their bodies twist one way, then another. 'Hurry up, hurry up,' shouts an aged man in a cowboy hat and purple deel from the sidelines. Almost instantaneously Khatnaa hits the deck.

Khatnaa's games are over. He walks back to the car, a look of real surprise on his face. He swears loudly in English. The following day I hitch a ride back to Bayankhongor with a newly married couple. They are moving to Ulaanbaatar for work. 'It is too hard to live in Shinjinst,' the husband says. 'Everyone is leaving.' His wife nods in agreement.

SHOW TIME

In July 1922, Mongolia's communist hero Damdin Sükhbaatar ordered a Naadam to mark the first anniversary of the Soviet-backed revolution. Every year since then, the Naadam has been held from 11 to 13 July with thousands of fans packing out the national stadium to watch the most popular event, the wrestling.

Mongolia has changed dramatically since the communist experiment ended. Many former nomads have sold their livestock and swapped the steppe for the city. Ulaanbaatar has tripled in size. Louis Vuitton and Swarovski shops cater for a burgeoning upper class made rich by the commodity boom.

The Naadam is different, too. Now billboards advertise global brands, while winners can expect to make thousands in promotional fees alone. There is a more overtly nationalist tone to the opening ceremony, as monks and athletes, marching bands and dancers in traditional garb, parade through the grounds. But once the zasuuls – the pointy hatted referees-cum-trainers – walk out onto the stadium turf, contemporary political differences disappear as the age-old wrestling contest begins. In the opening hours the field is crowded, with 512 wrestlers competing simultaneously. I spot the Falcon in a far corner, arms wrapped around a larger opponent. They sway this way and that for almost a quarter of an hour before the Falcon wraps his right leg around his opponent's left shin and pins him to the floor. I leap from my seat, to quizzical looks from my neighbours in the plastic seats beside me.

As the sun sets on the first day, the Falcon is still in the competition. But the following afternoon he is gone, dispatched by a nimble, younger wrestler. The stands fill up as the wrestlers are whittled down. At just after 8pm there is a tremendous roar as the final bout ends with one man standing. He is now the 'Undefeatable Giant of Nation'.

As I file out of the stadium, past the vats of frying dumplings and the hawkers offering everything from sunglasses to the chance to hold an eagle, I bump into some of the Bayankhongor wrestlers from the camp. They are all smiling and shake my hand vigorously. But there is no sign of the Falcon. He's already gone.

As we exchange farewells, I recall the last words the Falcon spoke to me when I left the camp. 'We will meet again. But next time I want you to be out here,' he said, gesturing to his barrel-chest, as if hewn from solid oak. I promised him I would. I'll really need to hit the gym before I come back to Mongolia.

This was published in the July 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

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Time to phase out conscription?

December 23 (UB Post) According to the CIA's World Factbook, Mongolia is one of 73 countries that have some form of conscription, or mandatory military service. Currently, the ages for compulsory and voluntary military service are 18 to 27. All males have a one year conscript service obligation in armed or air forces, or in law enforcement.

Men's conscription in the modern era started in 1912, a time when the country (under the rule of Bogd Khan) was trying to maintain its newfound independence. After 1911, the value of the military, and conscription as a byproduct, increased. During the threat of Japanese militarism in the 1930s, the role of the military was as important as ever. This all came to a head with the Battle of Khalkhiin Gol in 1939. However, the role of the military has dwindled since then, with the last active engagement of the army being in 1948. Mongolia's national security has depended on diplomacy rather than militarism. With countries with two of the world's largest armies for neighbors, Mongolia is limited in its capacity to protect its border in the event of a foreign invasion. Even though it is important for a country to have a military, building one up by conscription does not seem to be ideal for Mongolia.

One of the main arguments used for conscription is the potential character building that military service entails. Many people tend to be of the mindset that serving in the military makes a person more mature and stronger. While this can be true for some, mandatory military service in the country has been seen by many people as both physically and mentally damaging. The amount of hazing and "tough love" discipline that takes place in the military is common knowledge and, to a certain extent, is accepted. In previous years, there have been several reports of soldiers dying while carrying out their mandatory military service. Some reports even indicate that soldiers have been beaten to death by their superiors. There is potentially a myriad of unreported cases of abuse that have not been disclosed due to protecting state secrets. The problem seems to be that since every male is conscripted, individuals who are physically ready but not psychologically or mentally fit for service are still enlisted.

Conscription has also been unfairly and unevenly imposed on individuals. Since it is possible to make a payment to the government to dodge the mandatory one year of service, those who are in higher socioeconomic classes have the opportunity to avoid it. It is also possible for university students to opt out. Young men who are not able to pay are required by law to serve. This creates an inequality gap, in which young men from low income groups with no higher education are forced to serve in the military. The military could potentially offer opportunities to those men to improve their lives, but when service is forced upon them, it can be detrimental.

Aside from the negative aspects conscription has for many soldiers, it can also have a negative effect on the country's workforce. Men with higher education, who could be contributing to the economy and society in other ways, are wasting their time in the military. Realistically, young men are risking their mental and physical health, and their future careers as an extension, when fulfilling their mandatory service. Austria, for instance, has mandatory military service, but also offers alternate ways to fulfill their service, including opportunities in the civil sector. This allows individuals to choose how to fulfill their civic duty depending on their own preferences and abilities. It is a way of serving their country without having to enlist in the military. Reforming conscription to a system like Austria's could be an alternative to abolishing it outright.

To be frank, there aren't many solid arguments for conscription to continue. In a democratic country which prioritizes human rights, forcing a group of the population to serve in the military is unfair and not conducive to the ideals of the country. While some people might argue that many developed countries technically still practice conscription, such as Austria, a large number of them do not enforce conscription and their armies are primarily composed of volunteers. The most ideal path for Mongolia is to abolish conscription during peacetime, while increasing the salaries of volunteers. Building an army of volunteers creates a much more efficient and professional army, one capable of protecting the country. Abolishing conscription during peacetime still leaves the opportunity to change the system in the event of war. This, coupled with the reform of military standards, will help fully modernize the Mongolian Armed Forces.

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De Facto: Strayed Transition

By Jargal "Defacto" Dambadarjaa

December 25 (UB Post) In democracies, ruling power is transferred to political parties through elections. If the winning political party starts providing unfair and unequal services to society, the development of the country becomes delayed by multiple years, with a crippled economy, people living in poverty, and a few elites who keep getting wealthier. It happens regardless of whether the country has a rich history, long-lasting culture, or natural resources. Some  examples are Zimbabwe in Africa, Venezuela in South America, and Mongolia in  Asia.

MUGABE WILL BECOME PRESIDENT AGAIN

Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, is 93 years old and has been serving as the head of state since 1980. His political party, the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF), announced last week that they are nominating Mugabe for the 2018 presidential elections again. The leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing even called for making Mugabe president for life. Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe, serves as the head of Zanu PF's Women's League and is a member of Zanu PF's politburo. She is the second-most influential person in Zimbabwe, second only to her husband.

As Zimbabwe's political institutions (parliament, government, and its judiciary branch) serve the politburo and its associated businesses only, their national economy has basically gone bankrupt.

Zimbabwe's GDP per capita has fallen twofold since 1980, when the country declared its independence. Furthermore, basic public services have stopped. Zimbabwe had a cholera outbreak in 2010, which resulted in 4,300 deaths and almost 100,000 infections. The unemployment rate has reached 94 percent. Also, due to hyperinflation, people had to pay a 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note to get on a bus in 2009. Mugabe suppressed public protests, shedding blood and putting those who had different political views behind bars, and he assumed full control over the media.

Zimbabwe has the lowest global life expectancy, 34 for women and 37 for men. One-third of their population has fled the country. President Mugabe celebrated his birthday last year with a 92 kilogram cake, spending one million USD. He puts the blame for the economic crisis on foreigners and sanctions imposed by Western countries.

VENEZUELANS ARE STARVING

All stores are empty across Venezuela today, just like how it was in Mongolia in 1990. Venezuela is now using an ID card system for food purchases, imposing restrictions on when people can buy food. It is basically the same as restrictions on vehicle license plate numbers on weekdays in Ulaanbaatar. Venezuelans are queuing at stores starting at 3 o'clock in the morning, and can end up without being able to purchase anything. The flour they buy can be sold for a one hundred percent mark-up on the black market.

Last week, the BBC referenced a survey completed in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, which said that eight percent of its population was surviving on leftover food from others. The people of the country that leads the world in oil reserves are starving.

Since their democratic revolution in 1956, Venezuela has not managed to have a truly multi-party political system. Only a few political parties take turns ruling the country, and the economic institutions serve only them. It has led to the majority of people living in poverty and only a small group getting wealthier. The people who said that they needed one strong leader rather than many political parties elected Hugo Chavez as their president in 1998. At the time, Hugo Chavez was a 44-year-old military officer. After becoming president, he centralized all businesses under the government and set all prices. Following a hike in oil prices, the government's revenue increased. Using the income, they made advances in health and education services, and reduced poverty.

However, when oil prices declined soon after, the state-owned enterprises that were living on government subsidies went bankrupt. The private sector, which lost its competitiveness, could not be revived. As a result, their economy entered into a huge struggle and faced a shortage of consumer products.

After Hugo Chavez died of cancer in 2013, Venezuela went into a full political and economic crisis. President Maduro declared a state of economic emergency and centralized everything under the government. Nevertheless, people are still starving while crime rates soar. President Maduro believes that the current crisis was caused by the United States of America and other imperialists.

MONGOLIA'S CASH POLITICAL PARTIES

Mongolia replaced its socialist system with a democracy and a free market in 1990. During the transition, there have been many political parties that have formed and disbanded. Today, we only have two major parties, the Democratic Party (DP) and the Mongolian People's Party (MPP), who are taking turns. However, these two political parties have become extractive institutions that protect only the interests of their leaders and associated non-transparent businesses.

As these non-transparent businesses are now able to spend public funds and state loan financing, we are seeing less efficiency from public investments, witnessing our business environment deteriorate, and watching investment decline. For example, approximately 140 billion MNT has been spent in the last six years on dozens of projects to fight air pollution. But, the current reality is that air pollution levels are so high that they are posing real risks to human health. Although some of the culprits who embezzled public funds from those projects were arrested, they were soon after  exonerated despite the public's concerns. This tendency is often seen in corruption cases.

Our government is raising foreign funds through bonds, without any specific plans. B.Choijilsuren, the Minister of Finance, recently announced that Mongolia has to pay 6.6 trillion MNT for principal and interest payments on bonds in 2017, while the government expects state revenue in 2017 to be 5.9 trillion MNT. The payments Mongolia needs to make in 2018 will also exceed state revenue. The business groups who are closely associated with political parties and received bond financing do not care about the state's upcoming debt obligations.

Mongolia's political institutions have changed our economic institutions to make them fit their interests and needs, and are using them as their puppets.

As a consequence, our economy is in crisis, and it has become more difficult for businesses that do not have any links to political institutions to continue their operations – let alone improve competitiveness. They are now more interested in entering politics or freezing their operations and going abroad. Media outlet, who are supposed to be informing the public about these things, are now 75 percent controlled by politicians.

The DP has commenced elections to choose their next party leader. However, they have nominated five people based on how much money they have, rather than what work they have done and ideologies they follow. The DP is selecting its members on the basis of whether or not they have paid their dues and acquired party membership. Only 10 percent of their 180,000 members will be voting in the election for party chair.

An inclusive political institution must put its principles above wealth, and have their financing transparent. Furthermore, all members are supposed to be fully aware of where the political party aims to go, and how it intends to achieve its goals. Also, there must be a true leader who does what he says and is free of conflicts of interest. It is still doubtful whether or not the DP can become such an institution.

Extractive institutions that provide unfair and unequal services cannot offer people opportunities to invest, save, or take initiative. It leads to economic decline on a regular basis.

Please visit D.Jargalsaikhan's website at www.jargaldefacto.com.

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Mongolian detectives seize drug smuggler

December 28 (news.mn) Mongolian detectives have seized a man, who was trying to enter the Zamiin-Uud border crossing with 50 grams of narcotics. The incident took on 22nd of December close to the Chinese border. The drug is crystal methamphetamine or 'ice'. The man is a Mongolian citizen and is being held at detention centre number 0461. He now faces between 5-10 years in prison for drug smuggling.

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Business

Corporate income tax of certain SME sectors to be 1 percent

December 28 (Mongolian Economy) The government has decided to stick with the bill to amend the Law on Corporate Income Tax submitted to parliament, after deliberating whether to revise it. In doing so, parliament will re-discuss the initially submitted bill.

According to the bill, a business with sales income of no more than MNT 1.5 billion will have a corporate income tax rate of one percent in the following sectors: food, clothing and textiles, construction materials, agriculture and livestock.

The government stated its goal is to ease the tax burden on small and medium-sized enterprises, hoping to create jobs in these sectors. Should parliament approve the bill developed by the government, it will take effect starting January 1.

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10 MW solar farm now producing power in Mongolia

December 27 (SeeNews) - Earlier in December a 10-MW solar park, built by Japanese company Sharp Corp (TYO:6753) and partners, started power generation in Darkhan, northern Mongolia.

The country's Energy Regulatory Commission announced the start of operations about a week ago. Sharp partnered with Mongolia-based company Solar Power International LLC and Japanese firm Shigemitsu Shoji Co Ltd to build the park, using 32,274 photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The power plant is expected to produce 15.2 million kWh per year, avoiding nearly 14,750 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, the commission said.

Sharp had previously announced that it would supply the solar modules, mounting structures and other components for the park in Darkhan, one of the biggest cities in the country. Last week News.mn said that the Japanese firm had agreed to install 20 MW of PV capacity in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

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FRC grants licenses to six new NBFIs

Ulaanbaatar, December 22 (MONTSAME) At its meeting on Wednesday, the Financial Regulatory Commission granted operational licenses to six non-banking financial institutions with the minimum amount of share capital of MNT 800 million.  

The non-banking financial institutions have submitted their documents to FRC before setting the minimum amount of share capital at MNT 2.5 billion.

In March 2016, the Financial Regulatory Commission cut the threshold amount to MNT 800 million.

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Green Climate Fund approves $20 million funding for XacBank

Ulaanbaatar, December 20 (MONTSAME) After receiving Green Climate Fund (GCF) accreditation in October 14, 2016, Khas Bank submitted its first funding proposal for consideration at the GCF's December 2016 Board meeting in Apia, Samoa. The funding proposal was unanimously and enthusiastically approved by the Board on December 15th, 2016. Khas Bank is to receive USD 20.0 million in concessionary loans from the GCF to promote both the use and production of energy efficiency and renewable energy products in the domestic market. This information was published in an official website of Khas Bank on December 19.

The approved program for MSMEs, is an extension of Khas Bank's existing Business Loan Program for GHG Emissions Reduction and it is aimed at the Mongolian MSME market and covers all parts of the energy efficiency and renewable energy market supply chain. The goal of the loan program is to incentivize the installation, production, trade and use of these products in Mongolia through low interest rates. In addition, this program extension has a particular emphasis on promoting women-led business's access to climate finance, and 50% of the facility sub-projects will be women-led MSMEs. It is estimated that this program will reduce CO2 emissions by 1.2 million tons over eight years.

At this same board meeting, Khas Bank, represented by Mr. Amar Hanibal (President), and the GCF, represented by Mr Javier Manzanares (Interim Executive Director) signed the Accreditation Master Agreement (AMA), marking the completion of the accreditation process and making Mongolia the first commercial bank to sign this agreement with the GCF.

With this loan program, Khas Bank will be able to continue its support for Mongolian businesses seeking to become environmentally sustainable while also cutting energy costs and saving money.  Khas Bank is committed to being the right bank for its clients and for the planet.

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IFC appoints John Law to Khan Bank board

Ulaanbaatar, December 23 (MONTSAME) Representing Khan Bank shareholder International Finance Corporation (IFC), Mr. John Law has been appointed a member of the Board of Directors of Khan Bank.

The Board of Directors of Khan Bank consists of seven directors, including shareholder representatives and independent directors.

Mr. Law has nearly 30 years of experience in finance. He served as a Principal Banking Specialist in the Financial Institutions Group at IFC, and has held several top managerial positions at Citibank and J.P. Morgan & Co covering the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr. Law is a Senior Advisor at Oliver Wyman, a leading global management consulting firm that combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. He holds an MBA in finance from Indiana University in the USA.

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SOCO Receives USD10 Million Partial Payment from PetroChina for Mongolia Asset Sale

LONDON, December 20 (Alliance News) - SOCO International PLC on Tuesday said it received USD10.0 million from Daqing Oilfield Ltd Co on Monday as partial payment for the Mongolian assets it sold in 2005.

SOCO said the remainder of the USD52.7 million it was due to receive last month as a subsequent payment amount in the transaction is outstanding and past due. The oil and gas explorer said it intends to "fully enforce its rights for collection".

After receipt of the partial payment, SOCO said it has a cash balance of around USD91.0 million and is debt free.

The group said its two wells on the Te Giac Trang field, Vietnam, were drilled as per its approved batch drilling programme and both have reached a total depth.

The first of the wells, TGT-27P, was drilled to a total measured depth of 3,965 metres and the second of the wells, TGT-28P, was drilled to a total measured depth of 4,410 metres. Both encountered hydrocarbons throughout the Miocene and Oligocene reservoir horizons, and are currently being analysed to evaluate the initial perforation strategy, SOCO said.

SOCO said it was currently rerunning the liner on the TGT-27P well following the successful cementing of the liner on the TGT-28P well.

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Mongolian fashion brand Exclusive to compete on world market

December 28 (MONTSAME) In support of national brands, the MONTSAME national news agency is presenting the EXCLUSIVE brand striving to make a debut on the world market with "Made in Mongolia" label and to develop import substitution industrialization.

Down and feather coats with carded camel wool lining under the brand name "Exclusive" have already set winter trends not only in Mongolia, but also in neighboring Russia and China. 

It was South Korean actor and model Kim Bom who made the "Exclusive" coat a top fashion trend among Asian youth when coming out in it during a grand opening of the Caffe Bene world chain in Ulaanbaatar. The silk down coat of EXCLUSIVE is sewn with Canadian technology. Along with silk down and goose down coats, extra warm pants and jackets of Japanese "Heattech" technology as well as baby blankets made of carded camel wool are gaining even more popularity among consumers making the brand name EXCLUSIVE well-known.

Ms G.Maitsetseg, founder of EXCLUSIVE brand factory promises 100 percent guarantee of quality to her products. Satisfaction of clients and consumers is the most important for producers. The term Brand is itself the quality justifying trust, she explains. EXCLUSIVE company is proud of having a fashion designer who worked for such brands as H&M and C&A. Four or five brand new designs make collections of EXCLUSIVE richer and colorful every day.

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Mongolian Cashmere Makes Its US Debut in Georgetown

January 1 (The Georgetown Dish) Mongolian school friends Tosca Metz and Una Ganbold have turned a childhood dream into a reality with T&U, the cashmere boutique they recently opened on upper Wisconsin Avenue in the building formerly occupied by The Dandelion Patch.

"Our products are unique and authentic, made entirely in Mongolia," says Metz. "We carry three lines: Basic, Organic and Yama, which means goat in Mongolian, and the cashmere comes in over a thousand different possible colors. Our Yama line combines European styling with hand-made Mongolian wool. The coats are my favorite." 

This is the very first Mongolian cashmere store in the USA, though the parent company, Gobi which started in 1976, has locations around the world, including Europe, Asia  and the Middle East.

In addition to luxurious coats, there are capes, sweaters, vests, hats, scarves and socks for men and women. For the home, there are throws and blankets. 

The shop is open from 10:00 am - 8:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Stop by now and on January 13 for their grand opening when customers will receive 10% off thier purchases.

T&U is located at 1663 Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Tel: 202.338.0333

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Novosibirsk region has sent the first batch of products to Mongolia

The region has made the first delivery to Mongolia of meat, poultry, eggs and ice cream

December 28 (agro2b) About this informed the head of the Rosselkhoznadzor administration for the Novosibirsk region Alexey Sevastyanov. "The first batch of meat birds – 225 tons – sent to Mongolia, 214 thousand eggs, and sent to Mongolia and China 235 tons of ice cream" — said Sevastiyanov.

He noted that in the segment of agricultural production in Novosibirsk region previously supplied abroad, mainly feathers, as well as gammarus (small crustaceans used as food for fish).

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Creative Learning Corporation Announces New International Sales in Italy and Mongolia

Creative Learning Corporation announces sales of master franchises in Italy and Mongolia

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL (PRWEB) DECEMBER 30, 2016 -- Creative Learning Corporation has again expanded its international presence with new master franchise sales in Italy and Mongolia. These build upon sales announced recently of master franchises in Turkey, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Philippines and Madagascar as well as numerous individual franchises in Canada, and others in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Creative Learning Corporation (OTCQX:CLCN), owner and developer of the highly-popular children's education and enrichment programs Bricks 4 Kidz and Sew Fun Studios, is pleased to announce that Bricks 4 Kidz has again made significant in international sales, expanding further into Europe and Asia with new master franchises in Italy and Mongolia. Coming in fiscal year 2017, these sales of new master franchises in Italy and Mongolia build upon Bricks 4 Kidz's robust sales of international franchises in fiscal year 2016, which were the recently announced sales of new international master and/or individual franchises in Turkey, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Philippines, Madagascar, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Peru and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Bricks 4 Kidz is continuing its international sales efforts and expects to announce additional international sales in the near future. These sales result from the effort Bricks 4 Kidz has expended to expand and develop its international presence through sales and work with franchisees across the globe.     

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Ulaanbaatar

World's Worst Air Has Mongolians Seeing Red, Planning Action

by Michael Kohn

  • Dec. 26 action set amid smog five times worse than Beijing
  • Military opens its hospital as city medical care at capacity

December 23 (Bloomberg) If you think air pollution in China has been bad, just look at Mongolia.

Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organization -- and five times worse than Beijing during the past week's bout with the worst smog of the year.

Mongolian power plants working overtime during the frigid winter belch plumes of soot into the atmosphere, while acrid smoke from coal fires shrouds the shantytowns of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a brown fog. Angry residents planned a protest, organized on social media, on Dec. 26.

The level of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, in the air as measured hourly peaked at 1,985 micrograms a cubic meter on Dec. 16 in the capital's Bayankhoshuu district, according to data posted by government website agaar.mn. The daily average settled at 1,071 micrograms that day.

The World Health Organization recommends PM2.5 exposure of no more than 25 micrograms over 24 hours.

In Beijing, the year's worst bout of noxious smog prompted officials to issue the year's first red alert and order 1,200 factories to close or cut output. Earlier this week, PM2.5 levels exceeded 400 in the capital, and Chinese officials on Tuesday canceled 351 flight departures because of limited visibility. The highest daily average in the past week, on Wednesday, registered 378. Worse, the PM2.5 reading in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, exceeded 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter earlier this week, according to the China National Environment Monitoring Center.

Mongolia's contracting economic growth and a widening budget gap have left authorities few resources to fight the dangerous smog.

Tariff Eliminated

After first cutting the nighttime electricity tariff by 50 percent to encourage residents to heat their homes with electric heaters instead of raw coal or other flammable material that is often toxic, Prime Minister Erdenebat Jargaltulga announced Friday that the tariff would eliminated entirely as of Jan. 1. Longer term, he proposed building apartments to replace makeshift housing using a loan from China, doing more to encourage electric heating, and reducing poverty to slow migration to the capital, according to a government statement.

The conversion of ger districts, where hundreds of thousands of people live in makeshift homes including tents, into apartment complexes has so far been stymied by an economic crisis that has pushed the government to seek economic lifelines from partners including the International Monetary Fund and China.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Bat-Erdene Badmaanyambuu announced that a 50-bed wing of Ulaanbaatar's military hospital will open up for children with pneumonia, as city hospitals were filled to capacity, according to a statement on the government's website.

Public Anger

Public anger over the government's handling of pollution has been growing on social media, where residents share pictures of the smog, encourage methods of protection and call on the government to do more to protect citizens. The latest trend Friday had Mongolians changing their profile pictures on Facebook to show themselves wearing air pollution masks.

The air pollution protest next week was being organized for Sukhbaatar Square, the capital's central plaza. A crowdfunding campaign to purchase 100 air purifiers for hospitals and schools raised more than $1,400 in five days.

"The hospital I visited today did not have any air purifiers, even though 40 mothers were scattered along a narrow corridor, each with a sick baby in their arms," Onon Bayasgalan, an environmentalist who organized the crowdfunding campaign, said Thursday. "They sleep on fold out cots in the corridors, as the hospital rooms are full of pneumonia cases.''

Impending Crisis

Earlier this month, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned of an impending crisis if the smoke levels are not reduced, calling children under 5 and those still in the womb the most vulnerable.

"Children are projected to suffer from unprecedented levels of chronic respiratory disease later in life," the UNICEF report said, warning of the rising economic costs of these diseases unless "major new measures" are urgently enacted. "The alarming levels of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar during the long winter cannot be neglected any longer, as their short- and long-term negative health impact has been demonstrated, especially for children.''

A 2013 study by Canada's Simon Fraser University concluded that 10 percent of deaths in Ulaanbaatar were related to complications from air pollution.

"Most of my colleagues' children are hospitalized or at home struggling with respiratory problems,'' Lhagva Erdene, news director at Mongol TV station, said in an e-mail. "We feel helpless and frustrated for the inaction of our government.''

Neither the ministers for foreign affairs nor the environment replied to requests for comment.

Byambasaikhan Bayanjargal, who heads the Business Council of Mongolia in the capital, said he and his family try to stay indoors as much as possible and spend weekends outside the city.

"There have been shifting policies, and that is frustrating," he said. "There needs to be consistent policy and stability so businesses can find solutions to this problem.''

Friday's PM2.5 levels in northern Ulaanbaatar peaked at 932 at noon, while the monthly average for December so far was 518. Meanwhile in Beijing, where the government lifted its pollution warning Thursday, skies were clear and air quality improved.

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Hazardous levels of air pollution hits three areas of Ulaanbaatar city

December 28 (GoGo Mongolia) As of today at 9AM (Dec 28th), air pollution reaches hazardous levels areas near Tolgoit, Bayankhosuu and Mongolian National Broadcasting.

Levels of PM2.5 particulates was 1023 micrograms per cubic meter areas near Tolgoit, 753 micrograms per cubic meter areas near Mongolian National Broadcasting and 651 microgrmas per cubic meter areas near Bayankhosuu, according to the agaar.mn, an air quality monitoring website.

Levels of PM2.5 particulates, which are the most hazardous to health, in heavily polluted areas of Ulaanbaatar city exceeds 40 times above the recommended levels, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25. 

Moreover, very unhealthy air quality hits areas near Bukhiin Urgoo (Wrestling Palace) and Mongol Gazar. 

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT

Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. 

Households should close the window during the most polluted periods (from 6AM to 10AM and5PM to 9PM).

Moreover, residents should wear PM2.5 pollution mask regularly when go outside. Also, use of air conditioning is effective way to improve indoor air quality. 

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Mongolia to receive USD 50 million aid from China for new apartments

December 23 (news.mn) J.Erdenebat, Prime Minister of Mongolia has announced a new Government plan for fighting air pollution. Speaking in Ulaanbaatar earlier today (23rd of December), he said the Government needs to implement a number of actions to solve this serious annual problem. He made the following comments:

"First of all, We need to redevelop the 'ger districts' (80 percent of all emissions in the city comes from domestic stoves, practically all of which are located in these districts). We are planning to construct apartments in the ger district using a USD 50 million aid package from China.  Li Keqiang, Premier of China promised to give finance aid to Mongolia, when he visited Ulaanbaatar in July."

"Then, since, Mongolia cannot produce electricity from natural gas, the National Committee to Reduce Air Pollution approved cutting the electricity night tariff to zero from 1st of November, 2016. In addition, the Mongolian Government has approved MNT5 billion for the fight against air pollution in 2017, of which a total of MNT3.5 billion will be for the zero electricity night time tariff."

Referring to the previous administration, Mr Erdenebat concluded: "Mongolia 'burned' MNT130-140 billion for fighting air pollution, however it was unsuccessful. So, we have rejected the programme to distribute cleaner-burning coal-powered stoves to families."

It is, perhaps, worth remembering that the air pollution has been made more serious by the coldest winter conditions in ten years.

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Despite frigid weather, Mongolians protest worsening smog

By GANBAT NAMJILSANGARAV

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, December 26 (AP) — Hundreds of Mongolians braved frigid weather Monday to stage a protest in the country's capital demanding that the government do more to address worsening air pollution that they fear is sickening their children and shortening their lives.

The demonstrators gathered in a public square in front of government offices, holding banners with slogans such as "Let's give fresh air to our future children," ''Smog is silent killer" and "We can't breathe."

"We are desperate and we are organizing this demonstration to make authorities feel our frustration and anger," said Purevkhuu Tserendorj, one of the protest's organizers and a mother of two.

The air temperature hovered around minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

According to UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, air pollution is linked to the three diseases that have resulted in the most "lost life-years" in Mongolia.

The agency said in February that pneumonia and other respiratory infections were among the leading causes of death among Mongolian children under the age of 5. It said that the lungs of children living in highly polluted districts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital, do not function as well as those living in rural areas, with real risks of them suffering chronic respiratory diseases when they're older.

The protesters demanded that the government increase the number of beds in hospitals that have been overcrowded with sick children and develop a plan to reduce air pollution by 80 percent by 2018. They also urged the government to install air filters in kindergartens in the capital's slum areas, which are worst-hit by the pollution.

Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's coldest capitals, with temperatures sometimes falling to -40 C (-40 F) in January, the coldest month of the year. More than half of the city's 1.3 million residents have to rely on burning raw coal, plastic, rubber tires and other materials to stay warm and cook meals in their homes. Such areas, where residents live in traditional round tents that do not have centralized heating, have been shrouded in choking smog in recent days.

Responding to the protesters' calls, Mongolian Minister of Environment and Tourism Oyunkhorol Dulamsuren said that between 2011 and 2015, the government spent more than $37 million while international donors spent $47 million on measures aimed at curbing air pollution.

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UB city approves 3.2 billion to reduce air pollution

December 23 (gogo.mn) The Government is working to improve air quality by decreasing coal consumption and promoting brickette manufacturing plants, which replace coal. 

City Governor`s Office reports that about 10 brickette manufacturing plants are operating in Mongolia. For instance, Mon Watt LLC has performed experiment on German technology for two years, which can produce heat for 16 hours a day, accumulating cheap electricity at night. 

In addition, the Government has planned to cut electricity night tariff by 50 percent while approved MNT 3.2 billion for 2017 City Budget to reduce air pollution. 

National committee to reduce air pollution budgeted MNT 5 billion for 2017. Of which MNT 3.5 billion will be spent on night tariff discount, MNT 450 million will be spent on improved stoves and MNT 400 million will be spent on brickette. 

Moreover, the World Bank to invest MNT 7.8 billion for the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project (UBCAP). 

In scope of UBCAP, 200 air purifiers have supplied to 50 kindergartens in ger-districts, with total of 7500 children aged 2-5 years. 

Anti pollution masks were handed over to 40 thousand students of 51 schools, that are located in the most polluted areas of the city. Anti pollution masks, produced by the Erbum LLC, are capable of filtering out PM2.5 airborne particulate matter with up to 99 percent. 

The UN Children's Fund highlights that air pollution of Ulaanbaatar city exceeds 7 times above the recommended levels, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25.

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Standing committee on petitions hold discussion on air pollution

Ulaanbaatar, December 27 (MONTSAME) On December 26, the Standing Committee on Petitions of the State Great Khural ran an open discussion "Air pollution and Ulaanbaatar's Smog" at the State House. Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar has already exceeded the tolerable level in 5-6 times, highlighted D.Sarangerel MP, the head of the Standing committee.

The discussion was participated by the Standing committee members, officials from the Office of the President, Ministries of Environment and Tourism, Finance, Road and Transport Development, Health and of Energy, city administration, the General Agency for Specialized Inspection, the Academy of Sciences and NGOs.

In her opening speech, D.Sarangerel MP said the smog problem started in the 1990s in Ulaanbaatar. Today, not only Ulaanbaatar but also some minor settlements are affected by smog, she added.

It is considered that more than 80 percent of the smog comes from the chimney smoke of ger area households who burn coal for cooking and heating. The citizens of Ulaanbaatar are basically breathing polluted air for almost half of the total 365 days of a year. The amount of a toxic component called benzopirin, which causes cancer, has been observed to exceed the tolerable level in 14 times in Ulaanbaatar's smog, according to a study conducted by Chinese researchers.

The discussion coincided with the peaceful demonstration of parents who criticized the government and the city administration for their inability to take resolute measures for reducing air pollution.

"Air pollution is a problem of responsibility. Our citizens are demanding a certain effective decision on this", said D.Sarangerel MP.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Ms D.Oyunkhorol gave a presentation on "Measures taken to reduce air pollution, pressing problems and solutions", the Minister of Energy, Mr P.Gankhuu presented about preventive measures of discounting the nighttime power tariff for ger areas and challenges facing, and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr D.Ochirbat spoke on the ways to reduce air pollution impact on people's health.

In closing speech, D.Sarangerel MP said the discussion was attended by 58 people. "The problem of air pollution cannot be regarded in a politicized manner", she noted.

In order to reduce air pollution in Ulaanbaatar and other cities, it is necessary to limit the migration from the countryside to urban centers, to manage the disposal of unqualified vehicles and to undertake resolute actions against air pollution, in general, she underlined.

"The discussion results are to be submitted to the cabinet. The parliament plans to adopt a long-term program against air pollution", highlighted the head of the Standing committee on Petitions.

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Free nighttime electricity offered to ger district residents

December 25 (UB Post) On Friday, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat held a briefing on air pollution reduction efforts, and said that a number of projects to reduce air pollution have been carried out, but better outcomes have not been seen so far.

He pointed out that developing an electric heating system is of great importance to reducing Ulaanbaatar's air pollution, and that a decision has been made to provide ger district residents with free electricity at night.

The Prime Minister noted that the Government of Mongolia is working to execute the following actions to reduce Ulaanbaatar's air pollution:

1.    Promote construction projects to minimize ger district occupancy and spend aid provided by the Chinese government on ger district re-planning and household relocation, as discussed during Premier of the State Council of the People's Repoublic of China Li Keqiang's visit to Mongolia in July.

2.    Promote an electric heating system in Mongolia and provide residents with cheap electric heaters produced in Mongolia.

3.    Help support herders who have lost their livestock to dzud conditions and other natural disasters to address rural-to-urban migration resulting in increased air pollution in Ulaanbaatar.

4.    Promote people's effective initiatives to reduce air pollution

Prime Minister J.Erdenebat said that a budget of four billion MNT has been set for projects and programs to be implemented in 2017 to reduce Ulaanbaatar's air pollution.

Eighty percent of the budget will be spent on providing free electricity to ger distrcit households at night and addressing electricity deficits.

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World Federation of Trade Unions salutes demonstrations against air pollution in Mongolia

December 29 (WFTU) The World Federation of Trade Unions representing more than 92 million workers in the 5 continents salute the demonstrations against the air pollution in Mongolia.

The class oriented trade union movement struggles for high level living standards for the working class and the ordinary people with health, dignity and safety with respect and protection of the environment. The air pollution causes many problems to the citizens and especially to little children who suffer the most. Unfortunately the city's hospitals are filled to overflowing with sick infants.

The WFTU demands urgent and effective measures from the government in order to fully protect all people without exception and minimize the levels of the air pollution.

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Mongolia Secures New Funding for Water Supply

December 22 (LehmanLaw) Regional Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, Pacific and Latin American of Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MMC) Department of Compact Organizations, Ms. Fatema Z. Sumar has informed the Mongolia Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ts. Munkh- Orgil  that MCC's Board of Directors have decided to include Mongolia in a list of countries eligible to sign the Second Compact Agreement.

Mongolia's first MCC compact, a five-year, $285 million infusion of targeted development assistance from the United States was concluded on September 17, 2013.

The MMC's second compact agreement will be focused on creating comprehensive ways to create sustainable and suitable solutions for Mongolia's long-term development.

The MCC will cooperate with Mongolia to improve sanitation and water supply facilities serving the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar. The Board of directors of MCC believes that maintaining efforts to combat corruption in Mongolia will yield improvements for the economy. The preparations for the signing of the Second compact are underway and it expects to sign in 2017.

This is seen as an important development for Mongolia, as securing clean water and sanitation is a key element to attract Foreign Direct Investment. It is expected that new water and sanitation facilities will help to bring in new investments and help to diversify the Mongolian economy.

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'There's no way to dream': A glimpse of life in Mongolia's ger shantytowns

By Jeremy Koh

ULAANBAATAR: Narandelger and her family were herders who lived in Arkhangai Province about 500km away from Mongolia's capital.

But in 2010, they moved to Ulaanbaatar after a severe winter. Today, they live in a ger district on the outskirts of the city.

Gers (portable round tents) were originally built for the vast steppes of Mongolia, but today, hundreds and thousands of gers can be found in the suburbs of Ulaanbaatar. 

Many who live in ger districts are former herders drawn to the city by the promise of a new life, or pushed off their land by extreme weather.

As it is an informal settlement, the ger which houses Narandelger, 48, and her eight family members has no access to running water or toilet facilities.

"I don't really care about the dwelling and conditions here. My dream is to see my family living happily like human beings," she said. 

Narandelger and her family survive on just about US$122 a month through government handouts and odd jobs.

"In Mongolia, migration from rural to urban areas is very intense, especially to Ulaanbaatar city," said Professor Enkhtsetseg Byambaa, who is from the National University of Mongolia's Population teaching and research centre. 

She added that herders often move to the Mongolian capital due to the climate. This is especially so in the last decade, when there have been two to three harsh winters. 

It is estimated that about 40,000 people move to Ulaanbaatar's ger districts every year, but infrastructure is weak and underdeveloped.

Unemployment is also an issue. The unemployment rate in the ger district is estimated to be more than 60 per cent, triple that of other areas.

Prof Enkhtsetseg said: "Unemployment is a big problem - they came to Ulaanbaatar to find some jobs, to get more access, to get better opportunities. But especially in the last two, three years, there's been a big problem finding jobs, even temporary jobs ... For instance, alcoholism is one of the issues not only in Ulaanbaatar's ger area, (but also) especially in the countryside. Alcoholism is a big problem because the men don't have jobs."

The ger district is also not connected to the city's piped central heating system. In winter, when temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius, many burn raw coal, rubber and wood in coal stoves to heat their homes. As a result, Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's most air-polluted cities.

During last week's bout of smog, levels of particulate matter in the air rose to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organization, and five times worse than Beijing.

A Ulaanbaatar resident said: "I'm very concerned about the air quality. Mongolian air is really polluted right now, and there's a lot of smog which covers the sky."

But while that may be a concern for city dwellers, ger dwellers like Narandelger have more pressing concerns - getting by.

"There's no way to dream. Of course I want to live in an apartment but it's a big dream for me," she said. 

But this is a dream that looks more distant than ever now, amid Mongolia's deepening economic crisis

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Spreading cheer in the ger district

By Casey-Ann Seaniger

December 28 (UB Post) It has taken years to flourish, but this former dumpsite turned community park has been nothing but a labor of love for its founder S.Ulziitogtokh.

Ulziitogtokh, known affectionately by the local community as "Ulzii", first noticed the abandoned stone quarry seven years ago when it was being used by locals as a dumpster.

Ulzii was saddened by children playing in the dirty water covered in trash, and saw potential to develop the area into a positive community space.

"I saw people throwing their trash here, and I couldn't yell at them, so I started begging them," the 40-year-old philanthropist said. "I begged them every single day not to throw their trash here until they eventually stopped."

By 2012, Ulzii bought the land and with his family's help, started cleaning every last inch of the area.

Over the years, Ulzii built an office on site and dedicated his time to preserving the lake, planting trees and decorating the surrounds into a clean environment.

Nestled in the ger district at Denjin Hill, Nogoon Nuur "Green Lake" is now a thriving place for families and children to spend time in a clean, green space.

"After we planted 100 trees, I think people started to notice what a nice place it was," he said. "During spring and summer, the trees look very beautiful, and people thank me, so it's a nice feeling."

In summer, families hire paddleboats and paddle around the lake, and enjoy an ice cream from the canteen. In winter, the lake freezes over and becomes an ice skating rink.

More than 100 children visit every day, and the park is now a valued part of this community.

This month, Ulzii erected a Christmas tree in the middle of the ice skating rink in an effort to spread some New Year's cheer to kids.

"Mongolians give high importance to New Year's celebrations, it's a social time for us," he explained. "So I decided to set up a tree, I wanted a bigger tree to put in the middle but I couldn't afford it, but the kids still seem to like it."

Ulaanbaatar has a lack of public community spaces for families and children, but Nugoon Nuur is one of the few places bucking this trend.

Ulzii explains that many children who visit the park are from low-income families.

"People living in this area are poor, they have a monthly salary of around 200,000 MNT," he said. "The price to skate is very cheap, much cheaper than going to the city center, that's why they come here. A whole family can pay 5,000 MNT and have a fun day out.

"The park gives them a place to have fun as well as learn and make new friends."

His face lights up with a gentle softness and his eyes glisten when he speaks about the children who visit the park.

Over the years, Ulzii has developed friendships with many children from the ger district who consider the park their second home.

"I've become friends with many of the kids and I understand them more," he said. "A lot of them come here to get away from the problems they might be having at home or school."

Ulzii has watched young kids grow into teenagers and is worried about their future in this tough society.

"Some of the kids that came here five years ago are now teenagers who smoke and drink vodka," he said.

"It's very easy to choose the wrong way in those teenage years," he said. "But I believe there are no bad children."

Ulzii's next step is opening an educational development center where children, and especially teenagers, can come to learn art, music or play sports. He has already begun a book drive, collecting books to open a library at the site.

Creating art is one of his own passions. In his earlier life, Ulzii worked as a filmmaker and screen- writer and won an amateur filmmaking contest in Japan for his work "Friendship City Erdenet".

He hopes the educational center will also attract professional Mongolians to run lectures on topics ranging from health, going to university, politics and more.

"People living in this area, have a lack of knowledge about health, education, politics, and all sorts of issues,'' he said.

"I'd like to organize a lecture once a week to give residents in this area more knowledge so they are more informed about issues that affect them."

He also wants to work with local NGOs and international organizations and find new ways of encouraging young people rather than giving them handouts.

"Giving presents, clothes and cash to kids is not a good idea because it teaches them to take free things and not work,'' he said.

"Instead, we need to be thinking of positive ways to encourage young people, and of new ways to help them try and survive in this hard society."

Green Lake is not a big financial business and while it earns a very modest amount, Ulzii mainly relies on profits from an apartment block he owns to help prop up the community center.

"It's getting more difficult financially because I've spent most of my money on improving this place and decorating it,'' he said. "It's a bit hard on my family nowadays."

The Ger Community Mapping Center, a local NGO, describes Ulzii as a "change maker". The NGO's community ger tour includes a visit to No- goon Nuur.

Ulzii, who is married and has a 10-year-old son, lives at Green Lake in a tiny squared-off corner covered by a curtain.

A few other quirky residents live with him; his rabbit, some doves and a pair of ducks who love swimming in the lake in summertime.

At 40, Ulzii wants to remain a role model for young Mongolians. At his 2015 TedX talk, he spoke to youths and budding entrepreneurs about the importance of being rewarded for something you are passionate about.

He encouraged young Mongolians to pursue ideas that break the norms of what is successful.

"People always think about how to make money, how to earn money, that's all the talk in this society,'' he said.

"I'm not a millionaire or a billionaire but I believe we can be good role models. That's what it's all about."

Nogoon Nuur park is accepting donations of books, musical instruments and sports equipment. Ulzii is also accepting donations of masks (new) to hand out to children from the ger districts who visit the park. To donate or to find out more, contact Ulzii through his phone 9116 6366 or visit the Nogoon Nuur Facebook page.

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Monument to 11th ASEM Summit erected in front of Sukhbaatar Square

December 28 (Montsame) The sculpture named "Tengeriin Orkh" (Apex of the Sky), honoring the successful organizing of the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit at home in 2016, which year also marked the 55th anniversary of Mongolia's entry to the United Nations, was ceremoniously unveiled to the public on Wednesday.

The sculpture-monument is erected in the front garden of the central square of Ulaanbaatar. The Prime Minister, J.Erdenebat and the UB City leaders attended the ceremony.

Member of the Union of Mongolian Artists and painter Chadraabal Adiyabazar created the monument, symbolizing the connectivity between nations in light of the unity for cherishing our planet and scientific accomplishments of the humanity, getting his inspiration from the ancient heritage of Mongolian nomadic culture.

The Tengeriin Orkh is covered by embossment of the signatures of leaders of the 53 countries and international organizations, who have taken part in the 11th ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar, and the maps of all countries in the world.

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Diplomacy

Mogi: it's too lazy to say Mongolia has turned its back to the Dalai Lama. On average the DL visited Mongolia every 4 or so years since 1979. So he is good for another 4 years, exactly what the FM promised.

Mongolia, With Deep Ties to Dalai Lama, Turns From Him Toward China

By EDWARD WONG

December 30 (New York Times) Mongolia, whose rulers played a role in establishing the Dalai Lama centuries ago, no longer welcomes him.

Remarks by its foreign minister this past month were the latest sign that another country had withered under pressure from China over the contentious issue of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The minister, Tsend Munkh-Orgil, told the Onoodor newspaper that the government "feels sorry" for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Mongolia in November and that the Dalai Lama "probably won't be visiting Mongolia again during this administration," according to Bloomberg News. The Foreign Ministry confirmed the remarks, according to The Associated Press.

The reaction by Mongolia surprised some scholars because of the country's deep ties to the Dalai Lama, which date from the 1500s (Mogi: these scholars are idiots. The FM's comments are like promising to do something you already were gonna do anyway. Succumbing to China would've meant Mongolia stopping the visit, or even expelling him mid-visit. In fact, this was the opposite of giving in to China). Even the title alludes to those roots: Dalai means "ocean" in Mongolian.

The Chinese government had objected to the visit by the Dalai Lama, which began on Nov. 18 and took place over four days, even though it was not made at the invitation of the Mongolian government and was religious in nature. China canceled meetings with senior Mongolian officials in response.

China has long pressured countries, including Western ones, to ban visits from the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India. Chinese Communist Party leaders consider him to be an enemy who advocates Tibetan independence from China, although the Dalai Lama has said he seeks only greater autonomy for Tibetans.

In one sense, Mongolia's reaction to China, a neighbor that has the world's second-largest economy, was predictable. Mongolia is dealing with financial problems and is seeking a large loan from Beijing. Until a recent crash, the Mongolian economy had been growing fast, fueled by mineral extraction.

But, at the same time, Mongolia has tried to distance itself from China and Russia, and has become a United States military partner.

It is also a traditionally Buddhist country with ancient ties to Tibetan Buddhism and to the history of the Dalai Lamas, and the foreign minister's remarks alarmed some historians and Tibet advocates.

"This is part of a near-global collapse in diplomatic capacity to handle certain kinds of pressure from China, which is, of course, far more acute for small, landlocked neighbors than major powers," Robert J. Barnett, a historian of modern Tibet at Columbia University, said in an email.

John Delury, a China historian at Yonsei University in Seoul, posted on Twitter that Mongolia's reaction was "ironic given that it was a Mongolian Khan who invented Dalai Lamaness."

The Dalai Lamas arose from the actions of Altan Khan, a 16th-century Mongolian leader who controlled a region next to northern China, which was ruled by the ethnic Han emperors of the Ming dynasty.

Three centuries earlier, Kublai Khan, the founding emperor of the Yuan dynasty, an era when Mongolians ruled China, had become interested in Tibetan Buddhism and had taken on a Tibetan teacher.

But it was Altan Khan who made Tibetan Buddhism an official religion among Mongols. He did this when the head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as the Yellow Hat school, visited him in 1577. On that occasion, Altan Khan gave the spiritual leader the title of Dalai Lama. With Dalai meaning "ocean" in Mongolian and Lama being a Tibetan spiritual teacher, the title translates as "ocean of wisdom."

This bound the Mongols and Tibetans and established a relationship between Mongolian rulers and the Gelug school. Since then, the position of the Dalai Lama has been tied to complex politics in Asia. The two heads of the Gelug school preceding the one who visited Altan Khan were also given the Dalai Lama title retroactively.

The Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, the one who had received his title from Altan Khan, died in 1588 in the Mongolian region. A great-grandson of Altan Khan, Yonten Gyatso, was then named by senior Tibetan lamas as the Fourth Dalai Lama and the reincarnation of Sonam Gyatso. (Each Dalai Lama is considered a reincarnation of the previous one.) Yonten Gyatso has been the only Mongolian to be chosen as a Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama's Mongolia visit has raised another question. Many people have begun speculating over when and where the reincarnation of the current Dalai Lama, the 14th, will appear after he dies. The Dalai Lama, who is 81, has said that he may be the last of the Dalai Lamas, while holding open the possibility of a reincarnation — including one outside Tibetan regions, where Communist leaders would no doubt try to control any designated reincarnation.

Some people have said that the next Dalai Lama could be found in the Tawang region of northeastern India, home of the Sixth Dalai Lama. Tawang also happens to be a disputed region in the Himalayas that China claims as its territory.

But the Dalai Lama's recent visit suggests to some scholars that Mongolia could be the place to watch, especially given the history of the Third and Fourth Dalai Lamas.

"The interesting thing about the Dalai Lama visit was that it may be a signal that his reincarnation could appear there," Mr. Barnett said. He added that given China's hostility, this is "something that would be potentially disastrous for Mongolia."

A version of this article appears in print on January 1, 2017, on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: After Dalai Lama's Visit, Mongolia Breaks Ties. 

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Related:

Mongolia Capitulates to ChinaNew Eastern Outlook, December 26

Mongolia mends ties with BeijingChina Daily, December 22

Bullied by China over Visit by the Dalai LamaMongolia Focus, December 21

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Mongolia Vows No More Dalai Lama Visits After China Turns Screws

by Michael Kohn

  • Government 'feels sorry' for hosting Tibetan leader last month
  • Beijing says neighbor must learn lessons from incident

December 21 (Bloomberg) Mongolia's government pledged to extend no more invitations to the Dalai Lama after China signaled that a trip last month by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could derail ties.

"The Dalai Lama's visit by the invitation of Gandan Monastery negatively affected two countries and these two countries have a misunderstanding," Mongolian Foreign Minister Munkh-Orgil Tsend told the Onoodor newspaper Wednesday. "The government feels sorry for this,'' he said, adding that the Dalai Lama "probably won't be visiting Mongolia again during this administration.''

The Mongolian foreign ministry declined to provide further information when asked about the minister's comments.

China called off talks with Mongolian senior officials after the Dalai Lama's four-day visit to Ulaanbaatar beginning Nov. 18. Mongolia has been seeking soft loans from sources including China and the International Monetary Fund as it struggles with a $1 billion budget gap and looming debt repayments.

A traditionally Buddhist nation that has deep historical ties to Tibet, Mongolia has hosted the current Dalai several times since 1979. Past visits have been met with reprisals from Beijing, which considers the Dalai Lama to be a separatist leader and routinely condemns nations that give him a platform to speak.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing Wednesday in Beijing that China "attaches great importance to the explicit statement made by the Mongolian foreign minister."

"China's stand on Tibet-related issues is firm and clear," Hua said. "We hope that Mongolia will truly learn lessons from this incident, truly respect the core interests of China, honor its promise and make efforts to improve the relations between China and Mongolia."

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Related:

Mongolia not to allow future visit by Dalai LamaXinhua, December 20

Mongolian FM: Firmly supports One-China principleCCTV, December 21

Mongolia says Dalai Lama won't be invited againReuters, December 22

Mongolia says Dalai Lama will not be allowed future visitsAP, December 21

Dalai Lama will not visit Mongolia again: govtsAFP, December 21

Mongolia Bans Dalai LamaTransitions Online, December 21

Mongolia bans Dalai Lama future visits following Chinese wrathIB Times UK, December 21

Dalai Lama banned from entering Mongolia, says foreign ministerIB Times India, December 21

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China urges Mongolia to learn lesson from Dalai Lama visit

December 21 (Xinhua) China on Wednesday urged Mongolia to keep its promise not to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the landlocked country again.

"China hopes Mongolia will learn lessons from the Dalai Lama's visit last month and respect China's core interests," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing.

Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil on Tuesday expressed regret over the negative impact of the Dalai Lama's visit on Mongolia-China relations, saying the Mongolian government will not allow future visits, even in the name of religion, according to local media.

"China attaches importance to the Mongolian foreign minister's explicit statement... China urges Mongolia to honor its commitment and make efforts to improve bilateral relations," Hua said.

The Dalai Lama, a political exile with ambitions to split Tibet from Chinese territory under the guise of religion, paid a visit to Mongolia on Nov. 18-23.

Tibet-related issues involve China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and are part of China's core interests, the spokesperson said, adding that China's stance on these issues is firm and clear.

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Link to China MFA statement

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Mongolia should draw lessons from Dalai visit fallout: ChinaPTI, December 21

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China Beats Mongolia into Submission, 'Friend' India Watches

BY SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN

NEW DELHI, December 26 (The Citizen): Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first-ever Indian Prime Minister to visit Mongolia. He may also be the last, as Mongolia now wishes that he had never come.

Thereby hangs a sordid tale of how the cookie crumbled in the steppes; how the itinerant dream merchant fed false hopes to a credulous but friendly and trusting people; and, how Mongolia -- when squeezed by China to apologise for the Dalai Lama's visit and promise to never again invite him -- learned the hard way that India would neither come to its aid nor deliver on its promises. Beijing made Ulaanbaatar kowtow, and that was a resounding slap on New Delhi's face.

Our story begins in May 2015.

PM Modi travelled to Ulaanbaatar from China, told people in the land of Genghis Khan of Buddhism in India, and of Buddhism, among other civilisational links, being common to India and Mongolia. He also announced a credit line of $1 billion and assured the Mongolian leaders that India would extend support in diverse fields and increase exports to Mongolia. This was the text.

Pictures showed PM Modi patting a Mongol horse and trying his hand at archery – the symbolism of posing with a bow and arrow aimed unmistakably at Beijing. That underscored the subtext.

PM Modi's billion-dollar pledge came as a big boost to Mongolia, which is locked between China and Russia, and overwhelmingly dependent on the former. Time was when Mongolia was in a clover, with the Russians and Chinese competing to win them over; and, Mongolia could leverage its ties with one power for bargaining with the other. If Moscow failed to respond to a felt need, Ulaanbaatar could always seek Beijing's help; and vice versa.

Lately, that has changed. Russia and China have become allies and Russia too is more dependent on China as the greater power especially in the aftermath of the US-led sanctions triggered by the retaking of Crimea. As a result, Ulaanbaatar can no longer call on the Kremlin to help when Beijing is uncooperative. A poor country, with a GDP of about $ 35 billion, Mongolia now feels "trapped" between Russia and China, particularly with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the only show in the region.

This brings us to the subtext of PM Modi's visit: For New Delhi, it was a successful foray into "China's backyard". It was also a message to Beijing that should it seeks to step up its 'presence' in Sri Lanka -- which is India's "zone of influence" – then it should be prepared to face India in its own backyard. In fact, the $1 billion pledged by Modi was India's answer to the few billion dollars China was pouring into Sri Lanka.

The Mongolian leadership saw PM Modi's visit as the arrival of a "new power" that would be a counter to China. It was led to believe that it would enjoy India's support in standing up to China. Indian support, Ulaanbaatar felt, could be critical in the event of Chinese pressure becoming unbearable at a time when Russia can no longer come to its rescue.

The Prime Minister's visit gave rise to new expectations of economic as well as geopolitical gains. Mongolia naively saw India as a strategic friend that could help Ulaanbaatar stand up to Beijing.

This sense of strength and support which the Monglians (mistakenly) perceived they were drawing from India was palpable when I visited Ulaanbaatar in July. To be Indian was special. After all, Mongolia was expecting a billion dollars from India. "When will this credit line start flowing," was a question that men, and women, who matter kept popping at me. I had not the heart to disabuse them of their hopes and expectations, when they saw me as the one who had come down from the elephant which is out to slay the dragon.

The crisis erupted in November 2016.

The Dalai Lama, perhaps encouraged by New Delhi, went on a four-day visit to Mongolia. This was his ninth trip to a place where he is revered, and his photo is kept in many monasteries. China resented this provocation, objected to the Dalai's visit and warned Ulaanbaatar against hosting him. Ulaanbaatar, confident of India's support, defied Beijing to receive the Dalai Lama.

China struck swiftly with an unprecedented economic blockade. The sanctions paralysed Mongolia's economy and trade. China slapped a levy on Mongolian goods and trucks entering China. As Russia is too tied to China, Mongolia turned to India, and asked for the promised one billion dollars.

Ambassador Gonchig Ganbold, who met Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials, told a leading English daily: "It's important that India raises its voice against the unilateral measures China is taking against us which is hurting our people especially when severe winter is upon us." Silence, he said, could be construed as giving China a "pass" for its behaviour."

The MEA spokesman's response was: As a close friend of Mongolia, which India regards as its 'third neighbour' and 'spiritual neighbour', we are ready to work with the Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty.

However, Modi Sarkar was in a funk. There was no trace of the muscle the Prime Minister had displayed to much applause in Ulaanbaatar in May 2015. Any action to ease Mongolia's difficulties would have meant inviting China's wrath. Predictably, the political leadership turned a deaf ear to Mongolia's desperate plea for help.

As a result, on December 21, Ulaanbaatar apologised abjectly to Beijing. Mongolian Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil promised that the Dalai Lama will no longer be allowed to enter his country.

Ulaanbaatar fell in line and Beijing resumed the stalled talks for a loan of $4.2 billion. Without China's financial assistance, the Mongolian economy would collapse.

It is game, set and match to Beijing. This was an entirely avoidable fiasco arising from sheer misjudgment on the part of Mongolia, the Dalai Lama and the Government of India.

(The writer, an independent political and foreign affairs commentator, based in New Delhi has worked in China and had travelled to Mongolia in July for the Asia-Europe Editors Round Table.)

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Related:

Our friends the Mongols probably need our handDNA, December 23

India's Mongolia overture irks ChinaTribuen News Service, December 22

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China Needs to Get Over the Dalai Lama's Visit to Mongolia

It's Mongolia's right to invite a religious leader to visit. China is exaggerating the political significance.

By Bolor Lkhaajav

December 30 (The Diplomat) Since the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongolian Empire has allowed merchants, scholars, diplomats, and religious peoples from all over the world and treated them equally on a diplomatic and people-to-people level. A large number of Mongolia's population has practiced Buddhism in a way to bring peace, morality, and ethnic values to society. As religious rights are a fundamental part of democratic governance, Amendment Nine in Mongolia's 1992 constitution protects the "liberty, opportunity, and freedom of religious activities" of its citizens.

On November 18, 2016, the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia created somewhat expected tensions with the Chinese government. A number of press releases illustrated China's strong opposition to His Holiness' visit to Mongolia. However, the Communist Party of China (CPC) should recognize the reasoning behind the Dalai Lama's visit. These explanations will create a clear understanding of Mongolia's domestic and foreign policy in our contemporary geopolitical environment.

First and foremost, the Dalai Lama's visit is not a China-Mongolia bilateral issue. It is Mongolia's internal, domestic issue, concerning the people's rights under its Constitution. In accordance with the Mongolia's constitutional rights, citizens of Mongolia, particularly those who believe in Buddhism, have the rights to accept, allow, and appreciate the visit of His Holiness. The Dalai Lama was invited by the Center of Mongolian Buddhism, the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, and was accepted by the people.

If the current hostility stemmed from a bilateral issue, it would be logical for the two countries' foreign ministries to solve their differences. However, since this is a not the case, the antagonistic language released from China's Foreign Ministry has put a damper on people-to-people affairs. As for Mongolia's foreign policy, the Dalai Lama's visit is not concerned with Tibetan separatism. The Mongolian government believes in the one China policy, which includes Tibet and Xinjiang, and has always refrained from interfering in China's domestic affairs. On the other hand, the Mongolian people expect the Chinese government to acknowledge and respect Mongolia's Constitution and religious freedom.

However, it is understandable to some extent for the CPC to react in an unwelcoming way. Due to its own instabilities in the autonomous regions, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, the Dalai Lama issue is extremely sensitive to the CPC.

After the Dalai Lama's departure, the Chinese government has retaliated economically. Beijing has threatened to close its borders with Mongolia, to increase the economic hardship the country is going through. Also, as a method of "punishment," the CPC has increased import taxes, postponed high-level government meetings, and undertaken other financial measurements. In response, the Mongolian government has repeatedly clarified Dalai Lama's visit is a non-governmental affair. If government officials attended the religious ceremonies, it is their individual right as citizens to do so. Weeks later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has continued to issue press releases condemning Mongolia for its actions without showing respect for and acknowledging the constitutional rights of the peoples and religious freedom within the country.

From Mongolia' standpoint, it behooves Chinese foreign policy to accept and respect Mongolia's Constitution and citizen's rights to invite whomever they wish to conduct religious ceremonies. Therefore, these exaggerated reactions have allowed China to impose their national interest on Mongolia in an unsettling, harassing way, which a good neighbor shouldn't do. China's exaggerated reaction, once again, illustrates China's aggressiveness in its foreign policies toward its neighbors. Beyond neighboring Mongolia, China has condemned IndiaSlovakia, and the European Parliament for accepting visits from the Dalai Lama.

Finally, from a geopolitical standpoint, it is in the best interests of both China and Mongolia to continue their diplomatic, good-neighbor relations at both the government-to-government and people-to-people levels. Since 2015, China and Mongolia have concluded a number of agreements that are beneficial to both countries' economies, infrastructure, and agricultural sectors. Moreover, by maintaining a good neighbor status, the Russia-Mongolia-China trilateral can boost Northeast Asian economic initiatives in the upcoming years.

On December 20, 2016, to ease up the situation, Mongolian Foreign Minister Ts. Munkh-Orgil stated Mongolia's position on the issue and pledged that the Dalai Lama will not be visiting Mongolia again for the duration of his time in office. However, as stated above, the decision to invite His Holiness is protected by the Constitutional rights of the people, and it will continue to be protected. The CPC must recognize and respect Mongolia's Constitutional rights in this religious and internal matter.

Bolor Lkhaajav is pursuing a Master's of Arts in Asia-Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco, and was formerly a Security Analyst with Horizon Intelligence.

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Mogi: wow, not even pretending to have it written by an outside "expert"

China Voice: Diplomatic hat-trick no accident

by Xinhua writers Wang Zhuolun and Wang Huihui

BEIJING, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- In the final two weeks of 2016, Chinese diplomacy has scored an impressive hat-trick: normalization of relations with Norway, Mongolia's commitment not to allow Dalai Lama visits, and restoration of diplomatic ties with Sao Tome and Principe after the country cut relations with Taiwan.

This diplomatic treble was no accident. The seemingly unrelated cases share a similarity: recanting perceived challenges to China's core interests. They sent a strong signal to the world that the appeal of good Chinese diplomatic relations is rising and that respecting China's concerns is not empty talk.

The one-China principle, which concerns China's core interests and the feelings of its 1.3 billion people, is the unshakable basis for China to develop relations with other countries.

After Norway reaffirmed its commitment to the one-China principle and respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, China agreed to resume free trade negotiations and to promote investment in the Nordic country.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese criminal convicted of inciting subversion of state power, was an infamous decision by the Norwegian Nobel committee and resulted in China-Norway ties being frozen for six years.

Mongolia, learning lessons from the Dalai Lama's visit in November, promised never to allow such visits again, just one month later. Mongolia's move rings alarm bells for any countries that have contact with this political exile who attempts to split Tibet from China under the cloak religion -- such a move will severely jeopardize ties with China.

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Mongolia achieves major milestone in its partnership with NATO

December 19 (NATO) Mongolia graduated its second Staff Officers Course class and declared a new capacity for the faculty of the Mongolian National Defence University at a ceremony held on 13 December 2016 at the Ministry of Defence in Ulaanbaatar.

These achievements were made possible by NATO's Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP), which is "providing Mongolian officers the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills to carry out their duties in international peacekeeping operations," explained the Mongolian National Defence University President Major General Yadmaa Choijamts.

Part of Mongolia's partnership with NATO, DEEP has been increasing the impulse for reform, by actively supporting transformational change in the Mongolian professional military education system. This has helped to modernise teaching methods and carve out a niche for Mongolia as a provider in NATO and partner education and training community.

"Since it started in 2013, DEEP has been a tremendous success," said Minister of Defence Bat-Erdene Badmaanyambuu.

Echoing this sentiment in his address to the new graduates, Dr Sven Gareis, DEEP Academic Lead for Mongolia, stated that "Mongolian ownership and leadership became the characteristics of DEEP – which was the key to success."

Mongolia and NATO also conducted an annual review of progress achieved through DEEP at the Mongolian National Defence University on 12-16 December 2016.  "Educators passed the skills and experience gained through DEEP on to the rest of the faculty to transform the methods and the curriculum content of the Mongolian National Defence University in compatibility with western and NATO defence education standards,"  explained Major General Choijamts.

The programme has bolstered the Mongolian National Defence University's faculty and curriculum development efforts through the academic leadership of the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the contributions from institutions such as the German Staff College in Hamburg and the Slovak Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš.

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Emir of Kuwait pledges to help Mongolia in times of economic decline

December 22 (Montsame) On the second day of his official visit to Kuwait, Speaker of Mongolian parliament Mr M.Enkhbold paid a courtesy call on His Highness the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

The Speaker of Mongolian Parliament conveyed the greetings of the President of Mongolia to His Highness the Emir.

The Speaker underlined that the people of Mongolia are always grateful for the developments constructed on the financing of Kuwait, such as the road construction and the project on Taishir's Hydropower Plant.

Mr Enkhbold said the two countries have a lot  of opportunities for cooperation in mining, agriculture, tourism, construction and infrastructure.

In turn, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said "we always appreciate Mongolia's support for Kuwait in times of Iraq war.

The Emir noted that Kuwait itself has been facing some economic decline in regard to the fall of oil price. "Nevertheless, we are willing to give a helping hand to our Mongolian friends", he said. His Highness the Emir said that he recognizes the Speaker's visit to his country of great importance for strengthening cooperation and friendship between the peoples and the legislative bodies.

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Kuwaiti investors willing to finance projects in MongoliaMontsame, December 22

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Mongolian FM pays official visit to Bhutan

Ulaanbaatar, December 26 (MONTSAME) Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Ts. Munkh-Orgil paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan from December 20 to 23, 2016 at the invitation of his Bhutanese counterpart, Mr. Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

During the visit, the Minister paid courtesy calls on Mr Chimi Dorji, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Bhutan and on Mr Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan respectively.

Afterwards, Minister Munkh-Orgil had official talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bhutan, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji.

During the talks, Mr Damcho Dorji pointed out that the two countries are actively cooperating in many fields within the framework of bilateral or multilateral cooperation. Then he thanked Mongolia for its active work to launch an International Think Tank for landlocked developing countries in Ulaanbaatar. "Bhutan's government will ratify the multilateral agreement on the establishment of an International Think Tank for LLDCs", he stressed.

At the meeting, the parties discussed bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual concern. Also, the sides agreed to develop inter-parliamentary relations, to expand bilateral cooperation in spheres of agriculture and culture, to exchange veterinarians and traditional medicine specialists, journalists and media reporters and to organize exhibitions and film shows.

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Russia, China launch construction of bridge across Amur river

December 25 (RT) The construction of a long-awaited bridge across the Amur River, to connect Russia's Far East city of Blagoveshchensk with the northeastern Chinese city of Heihe has finally started after 28 years of negotiations.

"We've started the construction of the cross-border bridge. The governor of the Amur region and top officials in Heilongjiang province took part in the ceremony," a Russian official from the Amur region told RIA Novosti.

Construction officially started on Saturday after 28 years of negotiations between Russia and China. The new cross-border road bridge and its corresponding infrastructure will cost around $355 million and will be 19.9 km long. Some 6.5km of the bridge and road junctions will lie in China, and the remaining 13.5km in Russia, according to China's CNS agency. The length of the main suspension bridge will be roughly 1,300 meters and its width 14.5 meters.

"The bridge is an important link and part of the China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor. It will strengthen cooperation between the two regions, it will break the bottleneck of local development," Qin Enting, Heihe Communist Party Chief, said at the ceremony.

The territorial principle dominates the construction agreement, each country will construct the respective part of the bridge. Russian companies will make the connection between the two parts. When the construction is completed, the Russian side of the bridge will become the property of the Amur region, while the Chinese part will be owned by Heilongjiang Province. The bridge will contribute greatly to modernization of the transport system of the two regions, according to Heilongjiang Province Governor Lu Hao.

"Infrastructure projects are a priority and top leaders of our two countries are very supportive of such projects in the border area. Once completed the bridge will not only benefit the economy, but all aspects of exchange," governor of the Amur region, Alexander Kozlov said.

The bridge is expected to be built in three years and will open late 2019. The bridge will greatly facilitate trade between the two countries, since the route will be roughly 3,500km shorter. By 2020,cargo turnover is expected to increase 10-fold, from 300,000 to 3 million metric tons.

The agreement on the bridge's construction was signed in September last year. Works were scheduled to start in July, but were postponed. After the completion of the road bridge, a railroad bridge will be erected next to it.

The new Amur bridge will be an impressive engineering masterpiece, comparable in several aspects with the under construction Crimea bridge, which is expected to be opened late in 2018.

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Consultative meeting between Mongolia and India foreign ministries held

Ulaanbaatar, December 26 /MONTSAME/ The second consultative meeting between the Foreign Ministries of Mongolia and the Republic of  India took place on December 23, in Ulaanbaatar.

The Mongolian side was headed by D.Davaasuren, the State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Indian side- Pradeep Kumar Rawat, the Director of East Asia Division of Ministry of External Affairs of India.

At the meeting, the both sides exchanged views on issues of maintaining the frequency of political talks between Mongolia and India, implementing mutual visits, organizing joint events for the next period, boosting bilateral  economic and investment cooperation, and on regional and international issues of mutual concern in the framework of Mongolia and India strategic partnership.

Also, the parties elaborated issues on utilizing India's USD one billion loan in efficient industry, and on intensifying the bilateral cooperation in the fields of defense, security, culture, and education.

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Mongolia and USA discuss cooperation in roads and transport sector

Ulaanbaatar, December 28 /MONTSAME/ Minister of Road and Transportation D.Ganbat received Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt.

At the meeting, they focused on bilateral cooperation in the roads and transport sector.

Noting that the sides have been developing equal and mutually beneficial cooperation over 30 years, Mr Ganbat underlined that Mongolia-United States relations have elevated to the level of comprehensive relations. Then he stressed that construction of 176.4 km road linking Choir and Sainshand was done with funding from the Millennium Challenge Fund.

Minister D.Ganbat introduced plans for implementing mega infrastructure projects as new railways, new international airport, and transit and road projects. He told the US Ambassador Galt about projects that will be implemented by the Ministry of Road and Transportation in the framework of the Government's program for 2016-2020 and forwarded several proposals. Then Mr.Ganbat inquired about the Millennium Challenge Corporation's (MMC) upcoming Compact II contract to be signed with Mongolia, and whether the road and transport sector would be included; adding that his ministry is interested in cooperating within the framework of the second compact.

The proposals raised by the Minister included expanding the Choir-Sainshand road into a three-lane highway, upgrading the service facilities along the 620 km UB-Zamyn-Uud road, and expanding the UB-Darkhan road into a four-lane highway. He also noted that the project on connecting all the province centers to UB has yet to be finished, with 130 km of road between Gobi-Altai and Uvs provinces.

Ambassador Galt said that the U.S. Embassy focuses on the economic and social development of Mongolia, and highlighted the possibility of further cooperation in the roads and transport sector.

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U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mongolia Unveil the Official Logo for the 30th Anniversary of U.S.-Mongolia Diplomatic Relations

December 23 (U.S. Embassy) On December 23, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs D. Davaasuren unveiled the official logo for the 30th anniversary of U.S.-Mongolia diplomatic relations.

In addition to Ambassador Galt and Secretary Davaasuren, logo designer Ch. Altangerel – whose design was selected from over 160 submissions sent for the Embassy's logo competition – delivered remarks at the unveiling ceremony. Altangerel's logo will be featured throughout 2017 at programs and events marking the 30th anniversary.

In 1987, the establishment of the U.S.-Mongolia diplomatic relations was marked by the signing of a memorandum of understanding by U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Mongolian Ambassador to the United Nations G. Nyamdoo in the Treaty Room at the United States Department of State. 

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Related:

Mongolia and USA to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic tiesMontsame, December 26

New Year Greetings by Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl GaltU.S. Embassy, January 1

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Peace Corps Stories: Singing from Mozambique to Mongolia

By Jennifer Myung

December 27 (Peace Corps) I'm so proud!! I'm totally having a teacher moment right now.

Back in September, I connected with a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Mozambique who had just moved to Ulaanbaatar. We met for dinner and drinks to talk about international school teaching, but also spent good chunk of the time comparing and contrasting our experiences. She came out to visit me a few months later and I showed her my little town, my school, my classes. Over dinner one night with my site mates, she taught us this very simple but catchy song that one of her fellow Volunteers had written.

These last two weeks, my counterparts and I have been teaching the song in all the 8th grade classes. Both my teachers and my students have loved learning it and we've also used it as a tool to review present tense, past tense, WH questions ("who?" "where?" etc.) and irregular verbs. My 8a class has been by the far the best at learning the song so, with happy teacher tears in my eyes, I present to you "The Daily Routine" song:

My favorite part about the song is how it's traveled across the world from Mozambique to Mongolia through Peace Corps Volunteers. It attests to how global our work is and also how strong the Peace Corps network is around the world. So thank you to Sarah Hanson (RPCV Mozambique 2013-15) for inventing this little gem of a song, and thank you Sam Kruger (RPCV Mozambique 2013-15) for bringing it all the way to Mongolia!

"The Routine Song"

by Sarah Hanson

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Mongolia joins biosafety and biosecurity Project 53 of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative

December 22 (ISTC) On 12 December 2016, the National Committee on Biosafety of Mongolia formally agreed to participate in the European Union Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centres of Excellence Initiative Project 53 (EU CBRN CoE P53).  Furthermore, the Committee appointed Dr. S. Bayarkhuu as the EU CBRN CoE P53 National Focal Point.  A National Kick-Off meeting for Mongolia is planned at the end of January, 2017 in Ulaanbaatar, and Mongolian experts will participate in the Regional Kick-Off meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan at the start of February, 2017.

The EU CBRN CoE P53 project, entitled 'Strengthening the National Legal Framework and Provision of Specialized Training on Bio-Safety and Bio-Security in Central Asian Countries' currently involves active participation from Biosafety and Biosecurity experts in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and now Mongolia. 

The project was conceived and funded within the framework of the EU CBRN CoE (www.cbrn-coe.eu) initiative. The CoE currently covers 8 regions and 54 partner countries. The EU CBRN CoE Secretariat for Central Asia is based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It works in partnership with countries to encourage local ownership of CBRN action plans, policies and joint preparation of regional project proposals.

The ISTC's role is to support implementation of the project, working with the EU Team of Experts (SCJS, VERTIC, PHE and RIVM) and Teams of National Experts to support capacity and capability building amongst medical, veterinary, customs, food safety, legislative and first responder professionals in participating countries.

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Landlocked Mongolia considering permanent neutrality

By Jeremy Koh

ULAANBAATAR, December 30 (Channel NewsAsia): In the 13th century, Genghis Khan built the great Mongol empire through brute military force. But today, the modern Mongolian nation is a young democracy that would rather make friends than war.

Landlocked Mongolia shares borders with two major powers - China and Russia - and was, for various periods of in history, part of its neighbours. It gained independence from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. And in what is known as its third-neighbour policy, Mongolia has been cultivating new allies such as the United States and Japan in recent years.

"The third-neighbour policy is important for Mongolian independence. We're trying not to be under the pressure of our two neighbours. That's why we're trying to have more connections with others," said Professor Dashnyam Zolboo from the Mongolian Institute of International Affairs.

Although Mongolia is a vast Asian nation, it has just slightly under three million people, so it does have plenty of cause to be wary of encroachments by its immediate neighbours. China is the country's largest economic partner, absorbing 80 per cent of its exports and providing 30 per cent of its imports, while Russia provides all of Mongolia's energy imports.

As another safeguard against outside dominance, Mongolia also wants to adopt a formal policy of neutrality.

President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, one of the architects of democracy in Mongolia, believes a non-alignment position will best serve a desire for peace, security and balanced foreign relations for the country.

Professor Bayasakh JK, from the National University of Mongolia's School of Foreign Service, was one of the researchers who had advised the president on the concept of neutrality.

He said: "If something were to happen to our neighbours, we can say: 'Sorry, we'll not participate in that, it's their internal problem; we will not interfere in their domestic affairs.'"

The hope is that it will help set the minds of China and Russia at ease that Mongolia will not take sides.

"We're just trying to keep our ties with them very closely. We don't need to just follow any big powers, we're just trying to (create) our unique identity," said Prof Dashnyam.

Mongolia has yet to officially declare itself a neutral country although President Elbegdorj has asserted that Mongolia has essentially been neutral in all but name.

Some believe that it is in no rush to do that, especially now that Mongolia is battling the fallout of a debt crisis.

Prof Bayasakh said: "Maybe, for the first time in our trilateral relations … two of our big neighbours (are) friendly to us, so we should use this good opportunity to develop our infrastructure, our economic ties with both neighbours, (and) get some benefits from it." 

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H.E. Tsogtgerel Batchuluun (Mongolia), Global Sustainable Transport Conference (Ashgabat, 2016), 3rd plenary session

27 Nov 2016 - Statement by H.E. Tsogtgerel Batchuluun, Vice-Minister for Road and Transport Development of Mongolia at the 3rd plenary session of the Secretary-General's Global Sustainable Transport Conference in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan).

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Mongolia and Russia to boost agricultural cooperation in four main areas

Ulaanbaatar, December 22 (MONTSAME) The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry of Mongolia has finalized a deal with the Russian side on cooperation in four main areas, including improvement of livestock health, export of animal origin products, establishing crop farm and trans-boundary trades.

Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry P.Sergelen paid an official visit to the Russian Federation on November 18-20. He met the Russian Minister of Agriculture A.N.Tkachev and the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture E.V.Gromyko, Chairman of the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance S.A.Dankvert and Director of International Department of Cooperation O.V.Garshina.

The sides have reached certain agreements on resuming the joint program on improving health of Mongolian livestock, broadening the scope of Mongolia-Russia trade in agricultural products, increasing meat exports to Russia and implementing joint program on obtaining variety of crop sorts, as well as on export quotas for animal-origin goods to enter Russian territory.

The commencement of the second stage of the livestock health program has been negotiated during the 20th meeting of Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission held in Ulaanbaatar. Both sides pledged to promote companies and projects, which will contribute to boosting agricultural ties of the two countries.

The Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Mr Aleksandr N.Tkachev has officially notified of the ministry's interest to cooperate with the Mongolian side on protecting and preventing contagious livestock diseases in frames of the implementation of program on improving livestock health, through an official letter addressed to the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Mr P.Sergelen.

The official letter further said that the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance will send a preliminary report on results of an inspection, carried out on September 17-28 of 2016 at meat processing factories of Mongolia, by the end of December; and that the Russian side will assist Mongolia by studying feasibilities of increasing the amount of meat export to Russia, after considering the results of the above mentioned inspection and some required demand research on Russian market.

The Mongolian side is receiving from Russia 5 million doses of vaccine by December 25 out of the agreed total of 20 million doses within the scope of the Program on Improvement of Livestock Health.

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Prime Minister of Mongolia expresses condolences to Russia over Tu-154 plane crash

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat Tuesday visited the Russian Embassy in Ulaanbaatar  to sign the book of condolences over the crash of Tu-154.

On December 26, Head of the Government J.Erdenebat sent a letter of condolenses to Prime Minister of the Russian Federation D.Medvedev over the death of 92 passengers in the air crash of Russian Defence Ministry Tupolev Tu-154.

Mr. Erdenebat conveyed sincere condolences on behalf of the people and the Government of Mongolia and on his behalf to Prime Minister of Russia and to the friendly Russian people, the families and friends of the victims of the crash.

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New Ambassador of Japan to Mongolia assumes office

December 28 (GoGo Mongolia) On December 26, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Mongolia Masato Takaoka presented his Letter of Credence to the President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.

Following the ceremony, President Elbegdorj held a brief meeting with the newly appointed Ambassador.

President Elbegdorj congratulated Ambassador Mr. Masato Takaoka on his appointment and wished him success. The President noted: "As we know that our both countries are sharing intensive relations in various spheres thanks to strategic partnership. We enjoy good relations in political sector and exchange bilateral high-level visits. We greatly value our friendly relations with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. I have had over 10 bilateral meetings with Mr. Shinzo Abe.

We are very grateful that His Majesty the Emperor of Japan welcomed Mongolian delegates in Japan.

I would like to emphasize that the support and assistance provided by the Government of Japan during the years of democratic transition was important for the development of our country.

Mongolia and Japan established the Economic Partnership Agreement and now they are implementing construction projects of the new airport in Ulaanbaatar, construction project of a new hospital near the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences, training of a thousand Mongolian engineers in Japan and other fruitful projects.

Ambassador Mr. Masato Takaoka said: "I would like to express gratitude to you, His Excellency, Mr. President of Mongolia, for welcoming us and giving the opportunity to present my Letter of Credence shortly after our arrival in Mongolia. This testifies to the fact that the President and the Government of Mongolia attach great importance to the mutual relations between Mongolia and Japan.

Before leaving for Mongolia, I was welcomed by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and he conveyed his aspiration to make his effort to the development of the both countries.

Also, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that he attaches importance to the bilateral relations and expressed his interest to make more effort to strengthening this relationship. As you said, Mr. President, a numerous meetings were held between the President of Mongolia and the Prime Minister of Japan. I will put in my best efforts to expand this relationship".

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General Consul to Kyrgyzstan receives his exequatur

Ulaanbaatar, December 28 (MONTSAME) The newly appointed General Consul of Mongolia in Kyrgyzstan, Mr T.Ganbold has officially received his exequatur.

He presented the copy of consular patent to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Azamat Usenov on December 26.

Then two sides exchanged views on expanding bilateral relations and cooperation in all spheres.

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General Consul to Ulan-Ude receives office

Ulaanbaatar, December 23 (MONTSAME) The freshly accredited General Consul of Mongolia in Ulan-Ude of the Russian Federation, Mr D.Chadraabal has officially received his office.

He presented the copy of consular patent to the Head of the Government of the Republic of Buryatia, Mr V.V.Nagovitsyn on December 20.

During this meeting, the sides noted that the visa waiver agreement between Mongolia and the Russian Federation has resulted in increased flow of travelers and tourist and more favorable environment for promoting bilateral cooperation.

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Mongolia and Laos sign agreement on diplomatic missions' land use

Ulaanbaatar, December 28 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia, Mr L.Galbadrakh and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Laos, Mr Sengphet Houngboungnuang signed the Agreement on the Use of Land and Building for the Diplomatic Mission between the Government of Mongolia and the Government of the Lao PDR on December 26 in Vientiane, Laos.

The dignitaries gave congratulatory speeches. Present at the ceremony were, the Ambassador of Lao PDR to Mongolia, Mr Sialungon Seng-Uton along with the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos, and the Minister-Counselor at the Embassy of Mongolia to the Lao PDR, Mr A.Batsaikhan.

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Mongolian tourist charged with rape, robbery in Istanbul

Istanbul, December 27 (Daily Sabah) Mongolian national Tuvshinbayar E., 32, was arrested in Istanbul for rape and robbery after he allegedly stole the cellphone of a 22-year-old woman before raping her in the city's Şişli district on Dec. 23.

The victim, identified as A.Ç., was a German citizen of Turkish origin and was in Turkey as an exchange student. She was walking to the dormitory where she was staying after a night out in Istanbul's Şişli district when the suspect approached her and tried to steal her cellphone.

When she resisted, the suspect dragged her and hurled her down the 4-meter high wall of a mosque. He then took her to a shed in the mosque's courtyard and raped her, authorities said. The young woman suffered from a broken waist while police identified the suspect, who was staying in a house near the scene, by scanning security cameras overlooking the scene.

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Health & Education

Mongolia to impose controls on GM foodstuffs

Mongolia has great potential to supply its domestic food industry with pure ecological raw materials from its huge natural resources. Some members of the Mongolian Parliament have tabled a draft amendment to the country's food legislation to control production and import of genetically modified foods and raw materials.

By Mainbayar Badarch

December 20 (Food News) The amendment prohibits the planting and production of GM raw material and foods, establishes standards and controls for imports, and proposes new food safety legislation. The proposed effective date is January 1 2017.   

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UNFPA donates medical equipment to hospitals

December 30 (UB Post) Earlier this month, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) handed over equipment to state central hospitals and the National Center for Maternal and Child Health of Mongolia to support diagnostics and treatment services.

The equipment, worth 600,000 USD, were donated through the Cardiovascular Center, MCH and E-Health expansion, MON/005 National Program, funded by the government of Luxembourg and UNFPA. Four-day workshops are being organized to teach doctors and medical staff how to use and operate the equipment at the hospitals.

During the official handover ceremony, Health Minister A.Tsogtsetseg promised to focus on improving maternal and child health services and to do everything possible to improve their accessibility and quality. She underlined that UNFPA has played a major role in improving health care and services in Mongolia and expressed gratitude on behalf of the ministry and Mongolian public for donating medical equipment, which is believed to contribute significantly in the development of the health sector.

Representative of UNFPA Mongolia Naomi Kitahara responded that the efforts of the Mongolian Ministry of Health to improve maternal and child health is highly appreciated by UNFPA and remarked that it was possible to support projects to improve quality, accessibility and cost of health care and services provided at soum hospitals.

A total of 132 equipment and devices were distributed to local hospitals, in particular 21 fetal echocardiography apparatus, 21 patient monitoring devices, four pulse oximeters for infants, two infant incubators, 22 newborn phototherapy devices, 42 automatic pumps and syringes, 13 neonatal nasal continuous positive airway pressure therapy  apparatus, four sets of laparoscopic device and instruments, a comprehensive set of medical mannequin and necessary tools for training, a remote diagnosis and distance learning network server, and a distance learning video imaging, lighting and voice recording equipment.

These equipment came with 1,600 guidebooks and handbooks on midwifery infection clinical guidelines, telemedicine for maternal, child and women's health, and down syndrome.

As mentioned at the ceremony, UNFPA is currently carrying out projects to develop national capacity on quality maternal and women's reproductive health care at tertiary and secondary levels of care through the introduction of advanced services on prenatal diagnostics, high risk pregnancy management and sub fertility treatment.

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Attocube to enter Mongolian preschool education market

December 27 (The Korea Herald) Attocube announced on Dec. 19 that it recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mongolian Association of Private Pre-school Center concerning its entrance into Mongolia's preschool education market. Attocube is a startup company that develops diverse types of educational content using wooden blocks as well as IT-based smart toys. 

Based on the memorandum, Attocube will export approximately 1,000 sets of wooden blocks and related educational content. The company joined the economic mission sent to Mongolia in July, where it held a meeting with the Mongolian Association of Private Pre-school Center. This quickly led to local tests of educational toys and export negotiations. An Attocube spokesperson said, "One of the member kindergartens of the association is already conducting pilot classes based on our wooden blocks and workbooks."

In addition to its wooden cubes, Attocube's educational content consists of workbooks, picture books, role-playing books, and board games. Children arrange the wooden blocks into the configurations outlined in the workbook, which are then used to create stories or engage in role-playing activities. The blocks can also be used in conjunction with board games or textbooks to promote creative thinking.

To accompany its offline products, Attocube will be releasing online/offline products that can be linked to a smartphone within the first quarter of 2017. These products will involve arranging wooden blocks to re-create shapes that appear on the smart device's screen.

Attocube's products have proven effective in promoting multi-sensory learning for children three to four years of age by stimulating the senses of sight, touch, and hearing and engaging critical thinking skills. An Attocube spokesperson said, "Through the memorandum, we now have an opportunity to establish a significant presence in the Mongolian education market, where interest in preschool education is very high. And we will continue expanding our presence in key strategic markets overseas." Attocube receives support, including assistance with marketing, from the Gyeonggi Center for Creative Economy & Innovation in its efforts to enter foreign markets.

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NSUACE (Sibstrin) Signed Cooperation Agreement with Mongolian University of Science and Technology

December 23 (THE NOVOSIBIRSK STATE UNIVERSITY OF ARCHITECTURE AND CIVIL ENGINEERING (SIBSTRIN)) On October 28, 2016, the president of Mongolian University of Science and Technology Batar Orchibat visited NSUACE (Sibstrin). He arrived to Novosibirsk to take part in the forum "Russia – Mongolia. Cooperation 2016",  which took place in Novosibirsk on October 28-30. The aim of the forum was to strengthen commercial, economic, cultural, scientific and educational cooperation between two countries. During his visit Batar Orchibat had a meeting with the rector of  NSUACE (Sibstrin) Professor Yu. Skolubovich. The result of the meeting was signing of the agreement on cooperation between our universities.

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Culture & Society

Mogi: if ever in Shanghai. So, is she Mongolian or Japanese? Name is Japanese-y though

Born in Mongolia, Raised in Japan: This Shanghai Bar Serves Up Diverse Drinks — To 8 People At A Time

December 29 (The Salt, NPR) Born in Mongolia, raised in Japan, and settled firmly in Shanghai, Moe — her full name — runs one of the tiniest bars in Shanghai. But besides her name, Moe (pronounced "Mo-ee") has little in common with Homer Simpson's favorite barman.

She was 20 when she arrived in Shanghai, Moe says from behind the counter. "I went to many bars, I drank a lot, and I spent a lot of money. One day, I thought to myself: 'With all the money I've spent on drinking, I could open my own bar.' "

And so she did. Her bar, Moju, is tucked inside a line of shops along a quiet tree-lined avenue in the Changning district, just west of downtown Shanghai. In a city of 26 million, this bar has room for just eight people along a single counter.

The short, spry 30-year-old Moe designs her own bartender outfits and serves nothing but her own signature drinks, from a bloody mary made with her own truffle-infused vodka to a Korean sour made with pomelo tea and egg white.

On this evening, Moe mixes a drink to the sound of Dean Martin crooning in the background. She rattles a cocktail shaker in a frenzy, over her head, to her side and behind her back, before slamming it down on the bar with moves resembling those ofa Flamenco dancer.

Reservations are a must at Moju's. Customers come from all over the world, and Moe chats with them in Japanese, Mongolian, Russian, Chinese and English.

"For me, Shanghai means diversity," she says. "Everyone is from somewhere else. When something becomes popular in other countries, it quickly arrives here."

Yet to a city with such a mix of people, Moe has dedicated the simplest of New Year's drinks — she calls it sakura. "It took me half a year to get it right," she says, pushing the pink concoction across the bar.

She makes it with Botanist Gin, Cointreau triple sec, a twist of lemon and the bright pink syrup of the cherry blossom flower, an import from Japan. "There's an old Japanese tale about a sakura tree that lived for thousands of years. That's my hope for this drink," she says.

It's had a good start. In October, she entered her sakura drink in an international competition sponsored by Cointreau, and she beat out dozens of mixologists from around the world to win first prize.

"The other bartenders in the competition made very complex and sophisticated drinks," she recalls, but simple sakura beat them all.

And that's Moe's New Year's wish for 2017 — that inside this ever-changing and expanding metropolis in one of the biggest economies of the world, the secret to success is: keep it simple.

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Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project successfully organizes a national forum

December 27 (Sustainable Artisanal Mining Project, SDC) The Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, Mineral Resources and Petroleum Agency of Mongolia, and Sustainable Artisanal Mining (SAM) Project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation successfully organized the national forum "Stakeholder engagement in small-scale mining organization and formalization" on December 7, 2016, in Ulaanbaatar.

The forum participants discussed intensifying the small-scale mining formalization process by increasing stakeholder engagement. The forum focused on analyzing the current status of small-scale mining and developing recommendations for relevant parties in taking appropriate measures to resolve the issues encountered by small-scale mining.

The national forum was of crucial importance to introducing stakeholders to the current status of ASM, stakeholder engagement, and the functions of ASM organization and formalization, and the challenges facing newly appointed ASM citizen representatives and local government officials.The forum highlighted the importance of understanding that ASM is a subsector with the potential to contribute to employment creation, and a driving force to support household income and local economies, as well as the national economy.

The "Stakeholder engagement in small-scale mining organization and formalization" national forum participants committed to the following objectives:

Appreciating the efforts of relevant ministries, agencies, aimag and soum administrative organizations, the SAM project, ASM National Federation and ASM NGOs devoted to developing responsible small-scale mining;

Support for achievements in the organization of artisanal and small-scale miners, environmentally friendly mining operations, rehabilitation, occupational safety, public opinion, and cooperation during the process of developing responsible small-scale mining;

Noting the issues of perfecting the legal framework for responsible small-scale mining, securing human rights and gender equality, improving the livelihoods of small-scale miners, consummating social welfare and protection, improving the capacity of incorporating ASM issues into the implementation of local development plans, coordinating illegal mining operations, developing formal systems for marketing minerals collected by small-scale mines, and registering and formalizing small-scale miners are critical issues for developing responsible small-scale mining;

Acknowledging the importance of engagement from central and local government organizations, small-scale mining NGOs, the MSSMUU Association, the SAM Project, media, and each and every small-scale miner for developing responsible small-scale mining, defining the economic benefits of small-scale mining, public awareness raising, and creating formal reporting systems;

All recommendations will be submitted to the applicable ministries and government agencies for taking the next steps in putting plans into action.

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Deported mother and daughter resume their lives in Calgary after leaving Mongolia again

December 28 (CTV News Calgary) Months after they were forced to leave Canada, Ariunaa Demberel and Enky Ankhbayar are embracing the opportunity to resume their lives in their adopted homeland.

In September, the pair were deported from Canada after officials determined they had inappropriately entered the country in 2014 seeking refugee status as opposed to a humanitarian exception based on the fact Ariunaa's ex-husband allegedly kidnapped, beat and raped her in their native Mongolia.

The mother and daughter returned to Mongolia and immediately fled to Russia and then the Philippines on travel visas to avoid a potential encounter with Ariunaa's ex-husband who they suspected had been made aware of their deportation.

With the assistance of a worker in the office of Canada's Minister of Public Safety,  Demberel and Ankhbayar were issued temporary visas allowing the mother to work and the daughter to study in Canada. On Remembrance Day, the duo set foot on Canadian soil.

The two businesses that employed Ariunaa held her positions while she was overseas and she has returned to work. Enky has resumed her studies at Western Canada High School.

The recently issued visas are valid for two years but Demberel and Ankhbayar may apply for an extension.

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Top ten facts about Mongolia

December 29 (Daily Express) December 29 is Republic Day in Mongolia, celebrating their independence from China on that day in 1919. (Mogi: 1911 not 1919)

1. The present country Mongolia is roughly what the Chinese had called Outer Mongolia. 

2. With only three million people in its 604,000 square miles, Mongolia is the world's most sparsely populated sovereign state. 

3. The Mongol Empire founded by Ghenghis Khan in 1206 became the world's largest continuous land empire of all time. 

4. Mongolia averages 257 cloudless days a year…

5. …but the average temperature in its capital Ulaanbaatar is -1.7C (29.7F) which makes it the world's coldest capital city. 

6. In Mongolia there are 13 times as many horses and 35 times as many sheep as people.

7. "A Mongolian without a horse is like a bird without wings." (Old Mongolian saying) 

8. A traditional Mongolian musical instrument is the "morin khuur", a two-stringed cello made with one string of male horse hair and one female. 

9. A glass of tomato juice and vinegar with sheep eyes in it is considered a good hangover cure in Mongolia. 

10. Of Mongolia's 26 Olympic medals, 24 are for wrestling, boxing or judo. The other two are for shooting.

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Christmas in Mongolia: And Christ pitched his tent among us

The Consolata missionary tells how the tiny Catholic community celebrated the birth of Christ. "Underpinning the universe is this child in whom the Most High has decided to incarnate." The liturgy in the tent-chapel, children's poems, the recitation of the Nativity.

December 28 (AsiaNews.it) Arvaiheer (AsiaNews) - "Coming out of the tent we must be recognized not as those who have participated in one of the many festive seasons – that are very popular in Mongolia - but as people who have a new hope in their hearts and become shoots of a more humane and just society" urged Fr. Giorgio Marengo, a Consolata missionary in Mongolia.

Speaking to AsiaNews he describes how the small Catholic community of Arvaiheer (composed of 24 baptized and some sympathizers) celebrated the birth of Jesus. The novena, Christmas Mass, the poems recited by the children, a small representation of the Nativity, before returning home all "hand in hand". And "in the heart there is new hope: God has chosen this earth to dwell among us." Below his letter to our readers.

Christ is born in time, took on our human condition and in doing so has opened a glimpse of heaven into our lives. That sky immense above the long horizon of Mongolia or even contemplated "in glimpses", from inside the ger, the traditional Mongolian tent, which has no other openings if not the one at the top, round and divided into triangular sections. But today it is clear that is not the eternal or motionless circle of stars that support the universe, to which to the shape of the wheel symbolically alludes, but the sign of this Child in which the Almighty has decided to be incarnated.

And many have come into our ger-chapel on the night of the 24th and the morning of 25 to contemplate this mystery of the Almighty who has become a child. We had prepared with a novena and a moment of withdrawal the morning of the 24th, a pause to enjoy the wonder of the holy night.

The small Catholic community of Arvaiheer (24 baptized and some sympathizers) responded enthusiastically to this proposal in preparation for Christmas that we missionaries of the Consolata have proposed since our beginning. A meditation to introduce personal prayer, Eucharistic adoration and then time for confessions.

Then there was the Midnight Mass, presided over by the young Congolese missionary Fr. Dieudonè Mukadi Mukadi. From his words an invitation to the simplicity and humility of Bethlehem's newborn. Mary offers us her Son, knowing that it is no longer hers alone, rather he is for everyone. And if we want to welcome him into our lives, we must learn precisely from her and take her as our teacher of faith. Words that resonate deep in a culture that highly honors the mother and in which women occupy a prominent role in society.

On the morning of the 25th, there were very many, with a good representation of children from the neighborhood where the mission is located, on the outskirts of the capital of the Mongolian Uvurkhangai region. God is with us and has a human face, we may know him and so become more human, because we are all children of God. This is the main reason of the joy of today, it must also radiate on the other 364 days of the year. The elevation of the Eucharistic Body, Mass in the bright light that shines from the steppes radiates on the altar of the ger-chapel, passing through the round opening of the roof.

Coming out of the ger we must not be recognized as those who have participated in one of the many festive seasons – that are very popular in Mongolia - but as people who have a new hope in the heart and become shoots of a more humane and just society: if God was made man, each person has an immense dignity!

A Christmas concert concluded celebrations, before lunch for all. With a microphone in hand even the smallest got up the courage to sing rhymes learned at school and traditional songs. The larger ones have prepared a Nativity play, where the comet was held in the hands of a helper, who also provided the roof to the stable in Bethlehem ...

Then everyone returns to their ger or house, crowds of small children holding hands and defying the cold before the snowfall. Tomorrow [26 December] the usual activities will resume, but in the heart there is new hope: God has chosen this earth to dwell among us, even in the Mongolian steppe.

In Him we trust!

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Related:

Brad White ministers in MongoliaSGN Scoops, December 27

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Nature & Environment

New app launched for natural disasters

December 23 (UB Post) A new weather app has been developed to help Mongolians be better prepared in emergency situations including dzuds, floods and fires.

Anhaar smartphone app has been developed by the National Emergency Management Agency of Mongolia (NEMA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to help people across Mongolia stay safe in severe weather conditions, emergency situations and natural disasters.

Users of the app will find specific information on what to do during an emergency in a dzud, earthquake, strong wind, flood, storm or fire.

It also includes first-aid instructions to help sick or injured people, and a range of useful smartphone tools including a flashlight, strobe light, alarm sounds, and GPS location so users can send their location to emergency personnel.

"Anhaar app provides information on common hazards in Mongolia and instructions on how to stay safe," said Colonel P.Battogtokh, First Deputy Chief of NEMA.

"The easy and comprehensive content provides step by step directions and key contact information and emergency phone numbers in the event of an emergency."

Anhaar app is the first of its kind in Mongolia and is free to download in both English and Mongolian for Android and iOS users.

The app includes phone numbers of relevant emergency authorities for every aimag across the country.

The app has been designed to use new and innovative technologies to improve disaster awareness and preparedness in Mongolia.

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Mongolia's nomad herders facing winter disaster as temperatures plunge

December 23 (Reuters) Mongolia's traditional nomads are facing a natural disaster known as "dzud", where frigid temperatures and heavy snow cause widespread livestock deaths, threatening herders' livelihoods.

Mongolians are already struggling with an economic crisis which has seen the currency, the tugrik, depreciate rapidly, making household goods more expensive.

Weather forecasts for next week are predicting temperatures as low as between minus 40 and minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus 40-58 degrees Fahrenheit) in northern and eastern Mongolia.

Government officials have yet to declare a "dzud", but the current climate is ideal for the natural disaster, said Lamjav Oyunjargal, the director for forecasting at the Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment.

"Officially, conditions are very difficult in Mongolia. Mostly we talk about livestock because it's the main income of herder people in Mongolia, but it's also dangerous for humans," Oyunjargal said.

Dulaamsuren, who works at the National Emergency Management Agency in Bulgan province in remote northern Mongolia, said more than 3,000 local herders did not have enough supplies to last through the winter.

"We have enough hay until February or March, but we really should stock up more," he said, adding that the region was now under 40 centimetres (11 inches) of snow, four times the usual level.

The dzud of 2009-2010, one of the most severe in history, saw a total of 9.7 million livestock deaths. As many as 1.1 million head of livestock died last winter.

Winter began early when Mongolia was hit by a "cold surge" in November, plummeting temperatures to around minus 47 degrees Celsius (minus 52.6 degrees Fahrenheit), she said. By December 11, about 70 percent of the country was under snow.

"Already affected areas will get even more snow and colder temperatures," Oyunjargal said, adding the east and north of the country, an area the size of Egypt, were most vulnerable.

Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, and the extreme cold and snow storms of a "dzud" are a major issue for herders travelling between far-flung towns.

Amid the worst economic conditions since the global economic crisis, the capital Ulaanbaatar is working with international organisations to get assistance to herders.

The government has stockpiled hay and fodder for distribution, but resources are stretched thin as it negotiates with the International Monetary Fund to refinance debt.

Dzuds have become more frequent as a result of climate change, environmental groups have said, putting Ulaanbaatar under increasing strain in recent years.

The mass migration of out-of-work herders into the Mongolian capital over the last decade has seen the rapid expansion of "ger districts", makeshift neighbourhoods named after Mongolia's traditional yurt dwellings.

The residents are not connected to the city's urban heating system, forcing them to burn coal and other materials, including tyres or household waste, to keep warm, creating massive pollution problems.

According to official data on Friday, the air quality index in the northern Ulaanbaatar district of Bayankhoshuu reached a hazardous 1,854, with concentrations of breathable airborne particles known as PM2.5 at 927 micrograms per cubic metre.

The safe recommended level of PM2.5 is 10 micrograms, according to the World Health Organization.

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Dzud may affect up to 150,000 herders

December 23 (UB Post) Around 150,000 herders in the northern belt of Mongolia are at risk of losing their animals and livelihoods this winter as officials prepare to scale the dzud risk up to an emergency.

As temperatures plummeted to below -40 degrees Celsius in northern Mongolia and -56 in the West in recent weeks, the national State Emergency Commission dispatched authorities and aid groups to conduct risk assessments across the country.

A total of 110 soums in 13 provinces were identified as "at risk". The assessments found 153,000 herders lived in the affected areas and around 16,000 households with seven million livestock must move to new pastures immediately.

Unlike the last dzud, this one is expected to impact northern and eastern Mongolia. The most vulnerable are the 2,500 pregnant women, 26,000 children and 8,000 elderly people living in winter pastures.

A dzud is an extreme weather phenomenon unique to Mongolia that occurs when a large number of livestock, mostly cows, sheep and goats, die from starvation or cold. It usually occurs after a dry summer combines with heavy snowstorms creating an ice crust that makes it difficult for animals to dig through to reach grass.

This year, the dry summer in the northeast and late autumn rains means the dzud risk is high. Heavy snowfall from October has refrozen after more heavy snow in November.

Last week on a visit to Khentii and Dornod, risk assessors from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) found many herder households were already suffering from the dzud.

"A dzud is usually officially declared once a certain number of animals have died, which is likely to be around March next year," said UNFAO deputy representative in Mongolia, Kevin Gallagher.

"But if we look at livelihood impact, the dzud is already here. People are already facing hardship."

A third of Mongolia's population relies directly on livestock as their primary source of food and income. This means that without their animals, they will plunge into poverty.

Herders' lives depend almost entirely upon their animals: for milk, cheese and meat, dung for heating, and fur for clothing and to sell to cover their children's schooling.

On the UNFAO's visit, they met Buryat Mongolians who are regarded as leaders in herding practices and technology. The Buryats are struggling to recover after a large steppe fire destroyed pastures earlier this year, which was later followed by a drought. This meant pastures were inadequate for animals to graze on.

"The Buryat people have never struggled before, they've been able to sustain the harsh dzuds, but this year they are struggling because vast territory was affected by fire and destroyed the pastures,'' said UNFAO Mongolia Programme officer, S.Jigjidpurev.

In settlements like Dornod and Khentii, 90 percent of herders have bank loans that they are struggling to repay, according to UNFAO.

"This number (of bank loans) is quite unprecedented," Dr. S.Jigjidpurev said.

Dzuds usually occur in five-yearly cycles and last for two winters. Mongolia is still reeling from the 2015-2016 dzud which killed 1.2 million livestock and left tens of thousands of herders in poverty. The 2010 dzud was much more deadly, killing eight million animals and costing the government millions in aid response.

UNFAO rejected claims that herders were unfairly burdening taxpayers by not doing enough to protect themselves from the financial and social impact of dzuds.

Dr. Gallagher said the failing domestic and international market and the overpopulation of animals were to blame.

"The herders are doing the right thing; they are doing what they can. This is market driven and outside of their control," Dr. Gallagher said.

"They can sell cashmere and wool but they can't sell meat because the abattoirs are either closed down or broke," he said. "No-one's buying their animals."

Some herders are selling meat to the markets in Ulaanbaatar but others don't have the transportation or cash available to organize the sale, he said.

While experts cannot predict how bad the looming dzud will be, they are concerned about the levels of reserve fodder supply and predictions that snowfall will increase more than usual and the incoming La Nina weather cycle.

According to the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), current winter preparation status for livestock is 82.8 percent at the national level, but hay and fodder stockpiles at the local district level are only at 50 percent of what is required.

The government and herders have been stockpiling fodder since summer. Dr. Gallagher said individual herders could do better at improving their fodder supplies.

"This year, one of the problems uncovered on the visit to Dornod and Khentii is that the herders were harvesting grass and then it rained and spoiled the grass, which became mouldy. So yes, herders can do better at collecting fodder supply," he said.

Some herders, many of them elderly, only have a flock of four animals while other well-off herders have up to 1000 animals, he said.

The overpopulation of animals is a problematic issue for Mongolia. It not only leads to pasture degradation and overgrazing, but also raises questions about whether herders will be able to continue to sustain their livelihoods if markets change and if more people move from regional centers to Ulaanbaatar.

"The dynamics are beyond the herders; something else has to change,'' he said.

UNFAO's next step is funding market forces that will allow herders to downsize their herds.

While the government has approved 1.1 billion MNT (approximately 445,000 USD) in funding for emergency preparations for this year's dzud, the Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh convened a special meeting last week calling on international aid support.

Even though the government's preparedness for dzuds improved in recent years, capacity is expected to be much lower this year due to cost blowouts from the 2016 election, the economic downturn and the recovery of the last dzud only six months ago.

It is NGOs like Save the Children, the UN, Red Cross and other agencies that step in to fill the gap by delivering vital humanitarian aid.

In the 2015-2016 dzud, Save the Children Mongolia spent 1.1 million USD to assist 32,121 people affected by the dzud. The charity distributed fodder and cash grants to vulnerable families and helped fund hospital outreach programs in hard-to-reach communities.

The organization's Humanitarian Program manager E.Telmen warned that without aid this year, families would go without enough food, and many may be forced to cut costs on medical care and warm clothing.

"These households rely solely on animal fur for warmth, animal's milk to stay nourished, and income from the herd to pay school fees and provide health care for their children," E.Telmen said.

E.Telmen explained that the social impacts of dzuds are wide-ranging; from poverty and loss of livelihoods, to children missing school as they help their families tend to the herd, as well as a loss of identity from herders who lose their nomadic roots.

"Kids can also be stuck in the dormitories for long periods of time without contact with the parents, especially when parents are in their winter camps with no phone access."

But one of the biggest impacts of dzuds in recent years has been the mass migration of herders, who often have no skills to find employment, to Ulaanbaatar and regional centers.

UNFAO says this year's dzud will be no different with many herders likely to be pushed out of herding, leaving them with little option but to migrate to the city.

"As herders begin to face the deadly winter months, many will also be worrying if they can find new ways to survive in the city," Dr. S.Jigjidpurev said.

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Germany will support Mongolian protected areas with EUR 7 million

December 27 (Montsame) Germany and Mongolia continue their successful cooperation at protecting the country´s unique biodiversity. Germany will support the Mongolian protected areas' landscape with another EUR 7 million

Thereby, this year´s pledge is increased to EUR 13,5 million in grant funding for this innovative approach, which aims at improving management structures of natural spaces that deserve particular protection. EUR 6.5 million were already pledged during the successful governmental negotiations in Berlin, held November 23rd and 24th 2016. Germany provides Mongolia an amount totaling to EUR 25 million for the joint project "Biodiversity and Adaption to Climate Change".

The Mongolian contribution adds further EUR 3.5 million. An increase of the Mongolian contribution is being planned currently. D. Oyunkhorol - Mongolian Minister for Environment and Tourism - highlighted in a meeting with Dr. Christian Glass – Head of the Development Cooperation Division at the German Embassy – and Petar Gjorgjiev – Director of KfW Office Ulaanbaatar – the high importance of the cooperation. She stressed that with this project Mongolia's unique nature can be preserved, the livelihood can be enhanced and, simultaneously, the basis for sustainable tourism can be established.

As of now, the following 11 protected areas were selected this year with the aim to improve their management and park infrastructure with German and Mongolian support: Dornod, Gorkji Terelj, Khangai, Khan Khentee, Khustai, Onon Balj, Orkhon, Otgontenger, Tarvagatai, Ulaan Taiga und Zed Khantai. With the additional funding, protected areas in western Mongolia shall be supported. Possible measures in the Gobi region may also be assessed. The innovative approach based on the principle of competition, whereby protected areas with good management concepts can apply, remains valid. Dr. Glass stressed that the support for protected areas and their population by the Mongolian Government remains an important investment to the country´s future, even in times of financial challenges.

In 2017, the German–Mongolian Development Cooperation celebrates its 25th anniversary. Approximately funding of EUR 347 million were pledged by Germany within these 25 years. Supporting Mongolia in the priority areas "Biodiversity", "Energy Efficiency" and "Sustainable Resource Management", Germany promotes the country´s sustainable development and remains an important partner in the sustainable improvement of the living conditions of the Mongolian population throughout the country and the implementation of the "Sustainable Development Goals".

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First documented snow leopard quadruplets caught on camera in Mongolia

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The World Wildlife Fund released wildlife camera footage showing the first documented set of snow leopard quadruplets in Mongolia.

The WWF released footage this week the nonprofit said was filmed by a wildlife camera in Mongolia in September of this year.

The video shows the four cubs playing under the watchful eye of their mother.

WWF officials said researchers have previously observed mother snow leopards in the region with one, two, or three cubs, but the footage filmed in September marks the first time they have seen a set of snow leopard quadruplets.

Snow leopards are considered endangered, with only an estimated 4,080-6,590 remaining in the wild.

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Korean Air works to stop desertification with project in China and Mongolia

December 28 (Korea Herald) Korean Air is working to contribute to the fight against climate change with its Global Planting Project in China and Mongolia.

Since 2007, Korea's largest airline has been planting trees in the Kubuchi Desert in China. Over the past decades, employees have visited the desert every year to plant trees in the Korean Air Eco-Park. This year, 50 employees joined 70 college students to plant trees from Sept. 20 to 22.

The eco-park works not only to slow desertification, but also as an erosion control forest, keeping soil intact and preventing yellow dust from flying into the air in Korea, China and Japan, according to the company. By the end of the year, the eco-park of 4.61 million square meters in Kubuchi Desert will have 1.36 million trees.

Korean Air also established an eco-park in the Baganuur district of Mongolia. This year, Korean Air employees and locals gathered in desertified areas of Baganuur to plant trees in May. In 13 years, over 100,000 trees have been planted in the park of 440,000 square meters, earning an environmental award from the Mongolian government.

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Telegraph: Animal photos of the year 2016

December 30 (The Telegraph) ---

20 of 27:

Ellie Gelding: A horse has been spotted sporting a stunning blonde mane that looks like it could be a wig. The horse was photographed by Batzaya Choijiljav in Mongolia (or Manegolia?) where temperatures drop to -40 degrees during winter.

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Sports

Memory Athletes Break 5 World Records at World Memory Championships

December 19 (UB Post) The Mongolian memory team claimed 23 medals at the 25th World Memory Champion-ships, which took place in Singapore from December 14 to 18.

The Mongolian team, comprised of 23 athletes, won eight gold, 11 silver and eight bronze medals in total.

International grandmaster E.Purevjav won a gold medal in the names and faces category (junior), and N.Namuundari won a bronze medal in the names and faces (kids).

B.Shijir-Erdene, N.Munkhshur and N.Enkhsur secured gold, silver and bronze medals in the binary digits category (junior). In this category, B.Shijir-Erdene broke the world record by memorizing 4,635 digits.

In the binary digits category (kids), N.Namuundari secured a gold medal. She set a new world record by memorizing 2,805 digits.

International grandmaster E.Purevjav won a gold medal after shattering the world record in the one-hour numbers category (junior). He was followed by two Mongolian athletes, N.Munkhshur and N.Enkhshur. N.Namuundari earned a silver medal in the one-hour numbers (kids).

N.Enkhshur and B.Ariunsanaa won silver and bronze medalsin the abstract images category (junior), and O.Ganjiguur won a silver medal in the abstract images (kids).

International Grandmaster E.Purevjav, N.Enkhshur and N.Munkhshur won first three places in the five-minute numbers category (junior). N.Namuundari won a silver medal in the five-minute numbers (kids).

In the historic dates category, N.Enkhshur and Z.Tsetsegzul secured gold and silver medals. N.Enkhshur set a new world record after memorizing 88 historic dates.

N.Munkhshur, E.Lkhagvadulam and B.Ariunsanaa won first three places in the one-hour playing card category. N.Munkhshur break the world record after memorizing 1,560 playing cards.

A total of 232 competitors from over 30 countries competed in 10 different memory disciplines of the championships.

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B.Gangaama becomes first Mongolian Seven Summiteer conquering Vinson Massif

December 26 (Montsame) State Honored Athlete of Mongolia B.Gangaamaa conquered the summit of Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica, at 4,892 metres (16,050 ft) setting a record by achieving Seven Summits.

It lies in the north part of Vinson Massif's summit plateau in the south portion of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of Hollister Peak.It was first climbed in 1966. An expedition in 2001 was the first to climb via the Eastern route, and also took GPS measurements of the height of the peak.As of February 2010, 1,400 climbers have attempted to reach the top of Mount Vinson.

B.Gangaamaa has conquered the Mount Everest (8,848 m), Mount Aconcagua (6,962 m), Mount McKinley (6,194 m), Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m), Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) and Carstensz Pyramid  (4,884 m).

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News Agency names judoka D.Sumiya as Person of the Year

December 28 (news.mn) At the end of each year, professional press bodies traditionally award people and particular events of the past 12 months with titles. The News Agency has decided to name D.Sumiya, Mongolia's judoka and Rio Olympic silver medalist, as Person of the Year for 2016.

D.Sumiya, aged 24, became the fourth Mongolian women, to win medals from the Olympics in August at Rio 2016. World Number One D.Sumiya took silver in Rio; she also won bronze at the World Championships in 2015 in Astana, Kazakhstan. She won a medal at the Asian Championships and claimed nine World Cup victories. In 2015, she won gold in Tbilisi, Qingdao and Tokyo and has won the IJF World Masters three times in a row including 2016.

D.Sumiya became second women named as the Person of the Year by the News Agency. Previously, International Master and Woman Grandmaster chess player B. Munguntuul was named as the person of the year for 2014.

The News Agency has previously named the following people as "Person of the Year."

  • 2004 - the 69th Grand Champion of Professional Sumo Wrestling Asoshyoryu Dagvadorj,
  • 2005 and 2009 - President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, 
  • 2006 - former Deputy Prime Minister M.Enkhbold,
  • 2007 - Grand Champion of Professional Sumo, Khakukho M.Davaajargal,
  • 2008, 2012 - former the Governor of Capital city and Major of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul,
  • 2010 - former Prime Minister Su.Batbold
  • 2011 - the youngest State Honored Artist, the singer D.Bold as the person of the year
  • 2013 – former Prime Minister R.Amarjargal
  • 2014 - International Master and Woman Grandmaster chess player B. Munguntuul
  • 2015 – former Speaker of Parlianment Z.Enkhbold

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Sumo's next superstars? Why Mongolia is a wrestling powerhouse

By George Ramsay, Special to CNN

Story highlights

  • Photographer Taylor Weidman spent time at a sumo training camp in Mongolia
  • Young wrestlers were hoping to make a name for themselves at an upcoming tournament

December 28 (CNN) At a sumo training camp on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, tension was beginning to mount.

The World Sumo Championships was just days away. For the wrestlers in the Mongolian national youth team, a win would gain them global recognition. Acceptance into a Japanese "heya" (a sumo stable) might be just around the corner.

It's a moment that required weeks of preparation, as photographer Taylor Weidman -- who shadowed the Mongolian wrestlers in the buildup to the competition -- knows all too well.

"Wrestlers here would stay in small shared rooms or in dorms with bunk beds," Weidman said. "They would practice sumo technique once a day and also do other cardio and strength workout. Meals were huge. They stayed at this camp preparing for over a month.

"Wrestlers would eat big meals with lots of mutton and rice. Traditionally, I think sumo wrestlers are supposed to have two huge meals a day, followed by naps so the calories aren't burned off right away."

Sheer size is important in sumo wrestling, but it's not necessarily a trump card: agility, speed and technique are all important as well.

If the athletes are successful at the world championships, their lifestyle can become even more taxing as they look to climb through the international ranks of sumo wrestling and make their way in Japan.

"Trainees in Japan who are accepted into a sumo stable are called 'rikishi,' " Weidman said. "They wake up at around 5:30 in the morning to work out, then they cook and clean for the senior wrestlers in their stable.

"They have a strict set of rules they have to live by -- they can't drive cars, they have to wear traditional 'yukata' and 'geta' whenever they go out, they have to wear their hair a certain way."

Hunger to win

Japan has traditionally dominated the sport, and it's only in the past decade that Mongolia has emerged as such a dominant force. The past four "yokozuna," sumo wrestling's highest rank, have all been from Mongolia.

Although sumo isn't an Olympic sport, Mongolian athletes have scooped medals in judo and wrestling -- similar sports that have provided 17 of the nation's 26 medals in Olympic history.

Part of the reason for Mongolia's success in wrestling sports -- sumo in particular -- is because of the way they are embedded within Mongolian culture, Weidman explains.

"Mongolia has their own version of wrestling that virtually every boy grows up practicing," he said. "The sport translates well and has helped Mongolia win Olympic medals in wrestling and judo. It's very similar to sumo wrestling.

"The other reason that I've heard, talking to Japanese fans, is that Mongolians are simply hungrier to win in sumo. In Japan, sumo wrestlers, even champions, aren't particularly rich by national standards.

"In Mongolia, though, the same salaries seem much bigger. Sumo champions are also incredibly famous in Mongolia, and former champions have parlayed their sumo careers into careers in politics and business."

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Mongolian women muscle into sumo wrestling

ULAANBAATAR, December 25 (Channel NewsAsia): It is another cold wintry morning in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, but the chill is not stopping 16-year-old high school student Ariuntuya, who is training to become a sumo wrestler.

Her coach inspired her to pick up the sport professionally, she said: "I decided to become a sumo wrestler because this year I fought with her for the first time, and it was really cool."

Ariuntuya is aiming for her first sumo competition soon, and to make sure she's ready, she trains for about two hours every day.

Besides their training regime, female sumo wrestlers have to follow a strict diet to keep their fighting weight.

There are four weight categories from under 65kg to over 80kg, but because the heavier weight categories can be competitive, Ariuntuya is trying to keep her weight down.

"I don't want to be put in the plus-sized category, as they're much stronger," she said. "So I need to lose weight to get in the lower weight categories - it's easier to compete there."

While sumo wrestling may be Japan's oldest sport, Mongolian sumo wrestlers are among the very few foreigners who have reached the highest rank of the sumo hierarchy, the Yokozuna.

Women, however, can only participate in amateur events, so the prize money is negligible.

Sumo coach Tserenkhand said that initially, it was hard to get women interested in the sport because of a lack of understanding and the perception of Japanese sumo wrestling being about two naked people wrestling.

But that has changed, she said.

While there are no official statistics on the number of female sumo wrestlers in Mongolia, Ms Tserenkhand said more women from all sectors of Mongolian society are signing up to learn the sport.

"Sumo wrestling connects to our traditional wrestling styles because we have all sorts of techniques in our wrestling. Moreover, we have it in our blood, so most Mongolian women can really persevere. They have the drive to succeed," she said. 

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Extreme winter sports get popular in Mongolia

December 27 (Press TV, Iran) Extreme winter sports such as dog sledding are getting more popular in Mongolia.

The adventure activity involves people being pulled along frozen rivers and snowy slopes by teams of dogs, reaching speeds of up to 50 kilometers an hour.

Tour organizers say during the dog sled expedition, tourists will explore the Mongolian nature and its nomadic way of life.

The sport is not without risks. Tour managers should check the rivers daily to ensure it is frozen totally at all key points before beginning.

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Art & Entertainment

Miss World Mongolia thanks Mongolian supporters

December 23 (UB Post) Miss World 2016 concluded on December 18 and Mongolian beauty pageant A.Bayartsetseg received the People's Choice Award and Miss Talent award.

Below is a brief interview with A.Bayartsetseg.

Congratulations on a successful participation at Miss World 2016. How are you feeling?

Thank you. I achieved this great success thanks to the support of all Mongolians. After the grand finale, I participated in another event, that's why I didn't have a chance to express my gratitude to Mongolians until now. I tried hard to promote Mongolia during Miss World 2016. As a result, we updated our previous achievement at Miss World. Thank you for always stand by my side.

Your talent performance was amazing and you won the Miss Talent award. You took most votes on the MobStar app.

Actually, the organizers suddenly announced to collect the Miss Talent votes through MobStar mobile app, and we won. Mongolians voted for me within a very few days. My performance for the Miss Talent was different from other beauty pageants'. I combined dance and calligraphy writing with magic. That's why people liked it I think.

The announcement for the Top 11 must have been the hardest moment for you. Please tell us what it was like for you?

I was so nervous. Anyone could have been the 11th top contestant. The host of Miss World 2016 announced my name and said "the People's Choice Award goes to Mongolia". That moment was amazing. Mongolians are powerful when we are united.

Which countries' beauty pageant did you like the most?

It has been almost two months since I came to the USA. I became really close friends with Miss Indonesia. I shared a room with Miss Dominican, that's why we became friends too. They won second and third places of Miss World 2016.

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Related:

A.Bayartsetseg attains historic success for Mongolia at MISS WORLD 2016UB Post, December 22

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'Snow Queen': Chinese, Russian, Mongolian Beauties Compete in Pageant

December 28 (Sputnik) The 13th Sino-Russian-Mongolian International Beauty Contest "Snow Queen" was held in China on December 5-25.

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The Mongolian fashion world through the eyes of designer O.Urantsetseg

December 30 (UB Post) Designer of Ertnii Mongol Khiits fashion salon O.Urantsetseg, who won the Designers' Grand Prix at this year's Goyol Fashion Festival, spoke about her career and collection featured at the biggest annual fashion show in Mongolia.

Have you participated in Goyol Festival before? Goyol Fashion Festival is special every year, and different. How was this year's festival? Didn't you win an international award as well?

Goyol Festival was extraordinary. I took part in this prestigious fashion show for the second time this year with my second series of Nuudelchin Goyol (Nomadic Fashion), which brought me the Grand Prix. I'm feeling over the moon. I received the Best Newcomer Designer award last year, when I showcased my designs for the first time at Goyol Festival. Before that, I won the Grand Prix at the third international fashion festival for traditional clothing. In 2015, I competed in a South Korean competition for young designers from 30 countries and came in third place.

Many designers featured their designs at the Goyol 2016. How competitive was it?

Every designer who participated in the festival was strong. Mongolian fashion designers are really brilliant. They made each and every design unique while combining Mongolian traditional characteristics.

You showcased your Nomadic Fashion series at the Goyol 2016. Why did you name your series Nomadic Fashion?

Our ancestors were nomads. So I decided to make designs based on ancient Mongolian clothing. My second reason was to continue to preserve deel related culture to some extent. I want to develop ancient Mongolian clothing culture in conformity with the modern Mongolian fashion scene and make it even more glorious and glamorous without losing the culture. I design clothes with these intentions.

How many designs did you make for Nomadic Fashion 2 collection?

This collection consists of more than 40 deels. Around 20 to 30 of them were shown to the audience at the Goyol Gala Concert.

When did you first become interested in fashion design?

I was very interested in fashion and wanted to become a fashion designer ever since I was a child. Even when I was little, I always wanted to wear nice clothes. I never wanted to make clothes for everybody. I made clothes for myself, but had a completely different occupation. I decided to pursue a career in fashion in 2012. My very first clients were Member of Parliament S.Javkhlan, his wife and long-song singer G.Erdenechimeg. I believe that this too was a fateful event. S.Javkhan wasn't trying to wear the deel that I made so that he can advertise it. When I was a nobody, S.Javkhlan and his spouse came to me asking me to make them a Mongolian deel. It encouraged me a lot.

Ertnii Mongol Khiits fashion salon is rumored to have many illustrious clients. Do you have many famous clients?

Our fashion salon is very popular. I can't even take a day off during the weekends. Quite a few of my clients are celebrities. I don't like to reveal their names because there are people who are great even if they haven't become famous yet. People become more modest as they become greater. All my clients are great people. They all have their own unique traits.

Clients of which age group do you usually get?

My clients are from all age groups, starting from eight to 80-year-olds. There's no age limit. My deels are liked by people of all ages. Most of my clients become happy when they wear my deel – some even say they look five years younger. Girls, boys and young people told me that they originally thought deel made people look older and said that wearing my deel made them look more unique and fancier. The older you are, the deel can make you look much younger.

How many employees do you have at the Ertnii Mongol Khiits fashion salon?

We usually have around six to eight workers. We think and operate like a single person – we're an excellent team. That's why we're so happy to work all the time. All of them operate like they're a part of me. One person can't accomplish anything. No matter how fantastic my designs are, it wouldn't mean anything if it isn't made well. Making a Mongolian deel isn't easy.

 How many deels do you own?

There's a saying that goes, "the cobbler's children are always the worst-shod" (meaning: some professionals don't apply their skills for themselves). When I walk around wearing a deel I made, people ask me to sell it to them. Although I don't feel like selling the deel I'm wearing, I feel very happy that they want to buy my deel even when it has been worn, and I understand how much effort was put into making them. I refuse at first, but end up selling it anyway. There are many occasions when people insist on buying the deel I'm wearing even if I offer them to make the exact same one. I get so happy thinking that people are able to buy my old deel without thinking that they are old and worn by other people. It means that they like it so much that they don't care about these things. Some people uplift my mood by saying that I give off a positive energy. Some encourage me and say that the deel that I wore is better than a new one.

In recent years, local designers have been focusing more on innovative traditional Mongolian deel designs. In your opinion, how will the traditional deel design change in the future?

Mongolian national clothing must enter the global market. I had the will to make everyone wear our national clothing when I first started making deel. You can't make deel for the sole purpose of wearing it for a while – it isn't a temporary item. Deels need to be versatile, high-quality, sturdy, durable and have good color coordinated. My biggest ambition is to create a global brand of Mongolian clothing. The only way to do this is to make high-quality outfits. It would be so amazing if every Mongolian wears their national clothing – the deel. Clothing is a form of cultural heritage. It's clear that we wouldn't wear the same style of deel all the time. In the early days, Mongolians' lifestyle consisted of herding and hunting. The condition and living environment was different. The clothes of nomads exceed normal standards as they needs to be easy to move in, non-restrictive, comfortable, and durable during warm and cold seasons. Since the foundation has been provided well, all we need to do is develop it a little more.

 You talked about high-quality deel just now. Material is one of the most important part of making clothes. Where do you get your supply for deels?

Our salon doesn't have just one textile supplier. I like to find new Mongolian textile producers and test their goods on my own deels first. I also look into Indian, Chinese, Korean, Austrian, and Italian suppliers. After considerable research, I choose the best material for each deel.

Most Mongolians say that textiles from China are no good, but some are actually much better than those made in Italy. While testing out different cloth and textiles, I was surprised to find that some Italian materials are worse than those made in China, quality-wise. So there isn't a particular place or country that excels in fabric production.

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Cuban Classic Ballerina Draws Ovations in Mongolia

Havana, December 26 (Prensa Latina) The main ballerina of the Cuban National Ballet (BNC) Ginett Moncho received ovations during her presentation in the Nutcracker Suite accompanying the classic company of Mongolia, informed today the island''s embassy in Ulan Bator.

The Cuban artist was applauded several times last December 24 and 25 in the Theatre of the Opera, where she was invited ny the Ulan Bator Ballet.

In both performances, Moncho shared the pas de deux of the Sugar Fairy of the Nutcracker with artuist Altankhuyag Dugaraa, who is considered the most celebrated ballet dancer in the history of Mongolia.

According to a communiqué of the diplomatic mission, the specialized news media highlighted the presence of the BNC ballerina in the piece, stressing the general interpretation and the quality of the staging of the work.

Dugaraa, dancer and director of the company, participated recently at the 25th International Ballet Festival of Havana, where he danced together with Moncho in the National Theater and the Grand Theater of Havana, Alicia Alonso.

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'It's like the end of the world, so vast it's oceanic': Otto Bell on Mongolia

A new documentary about a young girl hunting with eagles in Mongolia's Altai mountains casts fresh light on this extraordinary, sparsely populated country and its threatened rural lifestyle

December 23 (The Guardian) It all started when I saw a spellbinding photo-essay about Kazakh eagle hunters. Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky was on walkabout in north-west Mongolia after national service and started photographing the next generation of hunters training their eagles. There are only about 250 of them left, mostly in the Bayan Ölgii region of the Altai mountains. He stumbled on this young girl, Aisholpan, who was training her father's eagle. They were profoundly beautiful images and had all the elements of a great film: amazing location, the world's largest species of golden eagle, and this angelic, strong, young girl succeeding in a male-dominated tradition. I got in touch with Svidensky immediately.

I was immediately struck by the vastness of Mongolia, the unending landscape. Over 10 months, we did eight trips, staying two to three weeks at a time. The area where Aisholpan and her family live is the most remote part of one of the least populated countries in the world. It's liberating to feel like you're at the end of the world: it's so vast it's oceanic.

The people are nomads, moving four or five times a year. They're herders: they follow the fresh grass, living in gers and supplementing this subsistence lifestyle with money from adventurous tourists. Each summer, a few tourists will spend a day or two living with them, sleeping with the family in the ger, like ducks in a row. People live with their extended family, in pods of two or three gers.

The warmth and hospitality of the people is incredible. If you ask for directions, you're courted with conversation, and invited in for tea and food. It's a return to a less complicated way of life: you wake with the sun, and go to bed with the darkness. There's no electricity, no running water. It's a very outdoor lifestyle. There is always something to do: collecting water, herding, skinning, cooking, hunting. There's a very transparent food chain, with a lot of goat meat and cheeses – mostly from right outside the door. When I arrived, they killed a goat for us as a welcome. Eating is a very communal affair.

Filming in -50C is an adventure. Equipment fails, and everything takes a lot longer, but somehow you don't feel the cold. Everybody is bundled up in layers and layers of fur. At night there are fires and everyone huddles together for storytelling and music. They play the dobra (a two-stringed guitar). It's magical.

Anyone who goes to Mongolia will have the adventure of a lifetime. There are English-speaking guides ready to take people from Ulaanbaatar into the mountains and tundra, learning about their way of life. I hope the film is a shot in the arm for tourism here.

Climate change is taking its toll. They have a new word, dzud, that's about 15 years old, for the harsh winter storms that now hit the region. They freeze herds solid: a herder can wake up and find his whole flock dead. There's no recourse, no insurance. More and more nomads are moving to Ulaanbaatar: there are three million people in Mongolia, and half of them live in the capital. A ghetto of gers has grown up on the outskirts of town, peopled with nomads who've been pushed off the land and are now looking for work as taxi drivers.

There's a great turkish restaurant in Ulgii called Pumakkale where we'd often go to get a kofte and fries. I still dream of that food; the best kebab and chips I've ever had! A lovely warm little place, with a bit of Wi-Fi – everything I could wish for!

The eagle festival is a celebration of this millennia-old tradition. Held in Bayan Ölgii in October, it's a way to understand the community, because it's so much part of their identity. There's pomp and ceremony. The more elaborate your furs, the more esteemed you are, because they show how successful a hunter you are. It's a feast for the eyes and a visual treat for photographers. The eagles are incredible, and nowhere else will you get so close to them.

Aisholpan broke the records and won the competition. She was the only female competitor, and beat 70 men. Many of them weren't best pleased, but that was a fantastic moment. She and her family are coming to my wedding in Northumberland next year. It was my first film and we've travelled the world together since. We'll be in each others' lives forever.

 The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell and narrated by Daisy Ridley, is in cinemas now

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Movie Review: The Eagle Huntress

The Eagle Huntress opens in New Zealand cinemas on January 5.

The Eagle Huntress (G, 101 mins) Directed by Otto Bell ★★★★ 

December 28 (Stuff.co.nz) A few years ago, a series of photographs by a young Israeli traveller named Asher Svidensky set the internet ablaze for a couple of days.

The shots showed a young girl, dressed in traditional Mongolian costume, working with an enormous golden eagle against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain-scapes.

I saw the photos at the time. And so to did Otto Bell. Who despite having never made a film before in his life, decided to pour his $80,000 savings into making one about the girl – Aisholpan Nurgaiv – and her remarkable life.

Aisholpan lives in the Altai region of Mongolia. The area is tough, bone-chillingly cold and apparently home to some of the friendliest and warmest-hearted people on earth. 

Aisholpan and her family allowed Bell and his three-person crew – as well as several hundred kilos of equipment – into their ger (yurt) for the summer season, during which Aisholpan would be learning from her dad the ancient art of raising and training Mongolian golden eagles as hunting birds.

And the kicker is, Aisholpan is the first girl to ever learn the skill. Eagle hunting has been an entirely male-preserve for literally thousands of years. Aisholpan, if she succeeds, will be the first eagle huntress there has ever been. And to do it, she will have to win over the protests of the assembled grey-hairs, who run the local eagle hunting competition with all the social progressivism of a 1970's small-town RSA.

Seriously. If Disney made this, you'd call it a wee bit contrived. But knowing it's a true story gives The Eagle Huntress an emotional kick that your average "family drama" producer would sell their residuals for.

The film is, of course, almost comically spectacular. You can hardly point a bunch of modern digital cameras at a young woman learning how to train an eagle – while on horseback – against a backdrop of the Mongolian tundra and the towering Altai mountains and not come home with some incredible imagery. But knowing what to shoot and then how to edit it together into a compelling and comprehensible narrative takes a real film-makers' skill. And there is no doubt that Bell – and his vastly experienced editor Pierre Takal, who has worked extensively with Morgan Spurlock – have made a formidably watchable and hugely likeable film.

The Eagle Huntress is a genuinely feel-good and inspirational film in an era in which we usually feel we should put "feel-good" and "inspirational" in quote marks, just in case anyone thinks we're being anything less than hiply bleak and ironic.

I'll also be quietly surprised if the The Eagle Huntress doesn't take home the documentary Oscar in March. "The Academy" is notoriously shy of anything too political or cerebral, so this real-life true-story of a young woman and her bloody great bird should be just about a shoo-in. Very recommended.

The Eagle Huntress opens in New Zealand cinemas on January 5.

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Related:

The Eagle Huntress review: Gonna fly nowThe Irish Times, December 22

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Film Review: THE KUSBEGI (Mongolia) Documentary

December 28 (Festival Reviews) Played at the November 2016 Best of Short Documentary FEEDBACK Film Festival.

THE KUSBEGI, 2min, Mongolia, Documentary
Directed by Johnny Cullen

A short film about Kazakh Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Kusbegi comes to us from Mongolia, boasting beautiful riveting imagery and opulent cinematography. A sample short for what could easy be a feature, Kusbegi tells a visual tale of the Mongolian Eagle hunters. The cinematography is utterly spell binding and the keen attention to visual details leaves the viewers' wanting more. 

Kusbegi merely wets the palate of what must be a rich, deep and complex culture of the Mongolian people. Their relationship with animals, tamed and untamed, is a remarkable alliance worthy of observation. Creating a deep and sensuous feel to the intimacy of a lone hunter in the pursuit of the necessary catch. The thrill, the patience, the focus- are all beautifully translated in this radiant visual masterpiece. 

While Kusbegi as a short film seems to lend itself to a larger, more fleshed-out feature film, the short is no less enjoyable. Subtle, bright and flawlessly cinegraphic, Kusbegi is a film to capture your heart. 

AUDIENCE FEEDBACK VIDEO of the Short Film:

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Travel

Mongolia's Winter Festivals

December 27 (Eternal Landscapes) For those who choose to travel to Mongolia in the winter there are definitely challenges (just the packing list can provide a headache!) but is it worth it? Yes! Not only does Mongolia produces a stunning natural show but there are festivals to enjoy and experience. 

If you're interested in travelling to Mongolia and considering a winter visit, then you probably do not want to look at the temperature at the moment … a cool -29 degrees in Ulaanbaatar. Brrr. But, on the up side, for those that do brave the winter the rewards are without limit.

Honest.

True, it's not for everyone (especially if you like to 'travel light'). But, for those who choose to travel at this time of year, not only does Mongolia produces a stunning natural show but there are festivals to enjoy and experience. Although it's 'out of season' local communities organize annual events in collaboration with tourist companies. These are in addition to the traditional festivals. 

Travelling in the winter in Mongolia you will feel that you have the country to yourself. I'll put this into perspective. Mongolia (18th largest country in the world, second largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan) received … 393,000 international visitors in 2015 (World Bank). And, most of those arrived in the summer. (If you need a comparison, Kazakhstan received 4,560,000 visitors).

So. Pack those thermals. And the fleece sleeping bag liner. And the wool socks. And the hat, scarf and gloves. And the down jacket. And come and visit and be beguiled by the beauty and colour and atmosphere and celebration.

Thinking About It?

Most of our guests have heard my philosophy behind our 'road trips' - that flying from place to place gives you no context, no real experience of the country or the people in-between.  The power of the landscapes is an integral part of any journey in Mongolia and that's what I'll encourage you to do  -  experience Mongolia's winter landscapes as well as the festivals. 

Tsagaan Sar - White Month - Mongolian Lunar New Year

Mongolia's Lunar New Year is known as Tsagaan Sar - White Month. It is one of the most important and traditional of celebrations in Mongolia and falls on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. 

Tsagaan Sar brings together family members and lasts a minimum of three days. In 2017, the year of the  Fire Monkey will finish and the Fire Rooster start. Tsagaan Sar also marks the end of winter as well as the beginning of a new year's cycle.

Khovsgol Ice Festival

One of the 'newer' festivals on the winter season scene.  Held at Khatgal to promote tourism outside of the main tourist season it focuses on the region's special features.  Don't get caught up in notions of authenticity - the Ice Festival features  a lot of local involvement. The festival draws local Mongolian spectators as well as westerners and the locals are always more enthusiastic.  

What to expect? There will be  a horse-sledge race (12km) and ice-skating race (up to 100km around a 6km circuit) and creative ice sculptures. Other scheduled events include a wrestling competition, ankle bone shooting and also evening entertainment.

Thousand Camel Festival

The camel festival is an annual celebration held in the southern Gobi organised by  a local NGO to help protect the Bactrian camel and the essential role it plays in the lives of the nomadic herders in the region. It is a celebration of the way of life in the harsh Gobi and a chance for the local herders to come together as a community at what can be quite an isolating time of year.

Highlights include camel races, camel polo competitions even a camel beauty pageant (although the criteria for the winning camel is never clearly announced or explained). As with most Mongolian festivals it includes a concert of traditional music and dance.

Nauryz Festival

Nauryz  means 'new day' and is the spring festival that is celebrated through Central Asia and falls on the spring equinox. It is essentially  a celebration of the coming of spring. In Ulgii in Western Mongolia, there is a two-day celebration with a colourful parade on the first day and horse racing and games on the second including bushkashi (also known as kolpar) where horse-mounted players attempt a tug-of-war to drag a goat carcass toward a goal. Competition is typically fierce! There is also a mini eagle festival.

Interested? Curious? Not too sure? Why not have a look through the Mongolia winter tours that we offer at Eternal Landscapes. Alternatively, just email me (jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk) - I'm always happy to be of help and all advice is free with no sales pitch. 

Unless I have mentioned otherwise, all images used throughout this post were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia you will also experience if you chose to travel with us.

Pack your thermals and come to Mongolia this winter and do something a little out of the ordinary.

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Related:

Celebrating Mongolia's Beautiful, Brutal Winter ColdTrue Viral News, December 25

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Eternal Landscapes: Thank you 2016 for what has been a remarkable year

January 1 (Eternal Landscapes) As 2017 arrives on our doorstep, what better way to say goodbye to the old one than with a review of a few of our 2016 Mongolian adventures and achievements (accompanied by photos taken by the EL team and our guests.)

Mongolia's Epic Sunrises and Sunsets

Mongolia is vast and with a population of over just three million, it is also the least densely populated country on earth. That basically means there's a whole heap of space and the stretching horizons form a stunning backdrop to Mongolia's epic sunrises and sunsets.

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I have always loved watching the sun rise or set - taking a little time out and slowing down - just watching the colours move through the sky.  And with little to no light pollution in rural Mongolia, you can watch as stargazing slowly transitions into daylight or vice versa.

Two of my favourite photos  were taken by our returning guest Marian - taken during her  three-week Landscapes of the East exploration. 

No filter required.

Sunset - Buir Nuur - Dornod Aimag

Sunrise - Shiliin Bogd - Sukhbaatar Aimag

Planting Our 108th Tree!

The Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project is located in Dundgobi Aimag in what is known as Mongolia's middle-Gobi - an area of desert steppe. Yes, I can hear some of you asking - isn't it the desert? Isn't it meant to be arid and dry? Well, yes and, no.  

Gobi Oasis is a family operated project  formed in 1975 - planting trees in the Gobi Desert to help stop desertification and erosion.  Although trees in Mongolia have a long growing period (Mongolia, on average, experiences only 90-120 frost free days a year) they help to bind the loose soil and thus are effective against erosion, help reduce wind, dust and desertification, attract rainfall and help build suitable conditions for biodiversity.

Each EL group typically plants a tree at the nursery - EL and our guests have now planted 108 of our own trees which represents around 3% of the total number of trees planted at Gobi Oasis. A single young tree can absorb 26 pounds of CO2 per year so we're (very) slowly doing out bit towards managing carbon emissions. 

 

And as the saying goes…'from small acorns …'

And here are our first two EL trees - 'Boss 1' and 'Boss 2' - planted in September 2011 and photographed in June 2016. You've come a long way baby!

Being Part Of The Community

Eternal Landscapes is not an NGO, charity and neither Turuu or I philanthropists. However, our love of Mongolia is genuine and our involvement is long-term. We are a micro-business so our level of support may be relatively small in the grand scheme of things but we think that it does help to make a visible and significant difference. And that involves being part of the local community.

Both of the below projects I have mentioned many times on the EL Blog. Sorry to be repetitious … but, here they are again!

Nogoon Nuur Community Project

I love this place immensely. There are few safe community spaces within the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar - especially community spaces where children can play. But, Nogoon Nuur (Green Lake) is bucking this trend.  

The whole vision is made possible by a committed individual, Ulzii. Ulzii has been committed to renovating this public space since 2012 and over this time has planted over 500 trees and focused on creating a  healthy, green, public space for Mongolian people, especially children in the ger area. 

As well as making financial and equipment donations, we also like to donate with our time. So, when the cry went out for help, we answered and went along to  help plant more trees and with landscaping and the building of a composting system.  I arranged for my female trip assistants that were available to go along and help provide some (female) manpower.

Terkhiin Tsaagan Nuur Rubbish Community Clean Up

For the past three years, Turuu and I have arranged for members of the Tariat community to spend two days clearing the north-shore (and surrounding area) of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park. We picked Terkhiin Tsaagaan Nuur initially due to the strength of our contacts there. We wanted a community involvement and Jargaa and Batbold (our hosts at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and owners of Surtiin Tulga Eco Camp) are at the centre of their local community. The end of clean-up party was rather monumental - sorry, the vodka was flowing so we have no photos. But, we were awarded our first EL Өргөмжлөл - Certificate of Merit or Tribute. An extremely proud moment.

Mongolia's 'eternal landscapes' (or views, views, views)
When I set up EL  I didn't know that I had to choose a name that worked with SEO (do a internet search if you need an explanation. I can't be bothered to explain). I mean, when you choose a child's name you don't have to worry about Google do you? For me, the name Eternal Landscapes made complete sense. Look it up in a dictionary. Eternal -  'without beginning or end; lasting for ever.' Yes, it could have been Eternal Horizons but it's the land that dominates here. 

And although a majority of international visitors are drawn to Mongolia to experience the way of life, the landscapes form a backdrop to that way of life and provide remarkable and ever-changing views. 

Here are just a few (very few) of the views that Mongolia provided for us in 2016  - all were food for the soul and made us all feel so much more alive.

The EL Manaikhan - The EL Family 
People often ask me about my love for Mongolia and why, out of all the roads I could have chosen, I followed this one. I mention that I couldn't it without the loyalty, the inspiration and the friendship of the Mongolian team that I have.

We're a micro business that call ourselves 'manaikhan - family.' With all the same stresses, strains and disagreements that all families experience. But, then also the support, the unity and the strength that a family can bring as well.

Added to the mix are the local people that we work with. Our friendships with them are genuine friendships - forged over time (no point in rushing!), mainly with tea and sometimes with vodka.

They are much as part of our team and the EL family as we are. Here are a few of the wonderful people we had the privilege of working with in 2016. 

Looking Ahead To 2017

If you like what we do and Mongolia is on your list, then why not pop across to the Eternal Landscapes Mongolia website and see what we're offering for 2017. Even better, book a trip before January 31st (deposit only needs to be paid) and you'll receive a 15% discount.

Alternatively, just email me (jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk) - I'm always happy to be of help and all advice is free with no sales pitch. 

Unless I have mentioned otherwise, all images used throughout this post were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia you will also experience if you chose to travel with us.

Wherever the road takes you in 2017 - Sain Yavaarai - Journey Well

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Top 5 Awesome Skills You Can Learn In Mongolia

December 31 (Travelers Today) Mongolia seemed like an unlikely place to offer useful knowledge which you can bring back home. But contrary to popular impression, there are a number of things you can practice during your long stay in Mongolia. The top 5 list of awesome skills in this article is arranged from the most intriguing to the most basic of skills.

Skill 1: Throat Singing

If there is any completely unique skill which you can learn mostly from Mongolia, it is their traditional throat singing. Better known as the Tuvan music in the Siberian borders, throat singing emphasizes 'overtones' - a monotonous guttural drone simultaneously pulsating with a high-pitched flute-like whistle. Just like any New Age music, Tuvan provides relaxing entertainment without poetic lyrics or musical instruments.

Skill 2: Brewing Cheese Liquor

For an environment that has a climate plunging below freezing temperatures from November to April, one can always wonder how they brew their liquor. Interestingly, Mongolian men have been drinking dairy moonshine since the time of Genghis Khan. Tourists venturing the steppes can learn how to brew 'kumis' from knowledgeable nomadic housewives.

Skill 3: Archery and Bow Crafting

As one of the top 3 manly skills, archery has been the mainstay of the Mongolian military until the introduction of gunpowder by Cossack neighbors. Although archery and bow craftsmanship has been relegated to traditional purposes, it still remains the deadliest weapon of its kind. One can learn how to craft the Mongol composite bow from several workshops in Dulaankhaan province.

Skill 4: Horsemanship

In most modern countries, learning how to ride a horse is optional. But in Mongolia, it's as crucial as an infant learning how to walk. As one of the top 3 manly skills in Mongol tradition, equestrian races are the primary educational requirement from children ages 6 to 15. Adults learn basic equine veterinary skills the way ordinary men learn to fix their car.

Skill 5: Wrestling

If there is one crucial (not to mention fun) skill one can learn in Mongolia, it is the art of wrestling. Of all 3 manly skills in Mongol tradition, 'Bok' virtually embodies all important values one can learn in athletic group activities. Bok is a grueling regimen but it is effective enough to be used as a basic self-defense.

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Mongolia – one week we wish lasted forever

(Where Would You Go?) Mongolia may be one of the coldest and less developed countries in the world, but it remains a unique destination for travelers who love wilderness and mesmerizing landscape. In this 7-day suggested itinerary, you will see most of Mongolia's key attractions. There are of course numerous other destinations in this country so you might want to mix and match the suggestions below to create your own Classic Central Mongolian itinerary.

Things to consider before travelling to Mongolia:

Language – Mongolian is the official language of Mongolia and is spoken by majority of the population. English is used widely in the city, especially in hotels, souvenir shops, tour agencies and rent a car companies. Many Mongolians in the rural area cannot speak English that is why it is recommended to learn a few important phrases before going on your trip. If you will join an organized tour, a local guide will be available to assist you.

Money and costs – Mongolian tögrög (or tugrik) is the official currency of Mongolia. Exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. You can exchange currency at the airport, hotels, malls, local banks, and money changers throughout Ulaanbaatar. ATMs are available in the capital, all accepting international credit cards and debit cards, so it's easy to withdraw your money in tögrög. Credit cards are commonly accepted at most tourist destinations. Out of the capital, cash is the preferred mode of payment.

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Mongolia. Check your country's travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Cases of robbery and assault have been reported by foreign travelers in Ulaanbaatar and other major tourist areas. Beware of individuals posing as police officers and always ask for their police identification if approached.

Health – Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before your trip. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines are the most common. Rabies vaccine is also recommended because there is a large number of stray dogs in Mongolia. Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. In case of medical emergency, there are a few hospitals in Ulaanbaatar that cater to foreign travelers. For life threatening condition, it is best to leave immediately for Beijing, China.

Etiquette – Mongolians are generally friendly, very direct and hospitable people. Most foreign visitors who come to Mongolia are pleasantly surprised to know that the locals welcome them wherever they go. There are, of course exceptions, but generally you can expect to be treated well. This also applies in nomad-run ger camps where nomads are now accustomed to seeing foreign travelers passing by. A handshake or simply nodding of the head one time is an acceptable form of greeting.

Tours – Join a group tour or do it your own? This is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions by foreign travelers. Mongolia is a vast, mountainous country and public transportation is limited. Therefore, hiring a jeep and driver is the best way to explore the country. You can definitely join group tours, especially if you are a first timer, but organizing your own trip gives you the most flexibility.

Detailed day by day itinerary: Mongolia – one week we wish lasted forever

Day 1: Ulaanbaatar

Day 2: Gorkhi – Terelj National Park

Day 3: Hustai National Park

Day 4: The Kharkhorin City and Erdene-Zuu Monastery

Day 5: Ugii Lake (Ogii Lake)

Day 6: Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes

Day 7: Ulaanbaatar

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Travel: Quest for Snow Leopards in Mongolia

The majestic snow leopard is one of nature's most efficient, yet beautiful, killing machines and there's no better place to see them up close than Mongolia. An estimated 1,200 snow leopards still live in the country and Tour Mongolia offers a trip to visit them. 

The 14-day trip will take you into the Altai Mountains on a quest to catch these elusive beasts in their natural habitat. Along the way, you'll meet tons of locals and even have the opportunity to dine with them in their homes. A few nights of the trip will find you playing the overnight guest of local nomads. 

One of the highlights of the trip is the opportunity to experience not just the snow leopards, but also the golden eagle. Many nomads in the Altai Mountains use them for hunting food and your guide will let you learn all about the process and see them in action while visiting a family of hunters on the road. 

The trip also includes museum stops and mountain trekking adventures. It's somewhat dangerous and reserved for skilled adventurers, though anyone in decent shape can probably make a go of it. 

At the end of your trek you'll finally get up close and personal with the oversized cats and watch them in action. It's a great opportunity to explore the country's local traditions while also seeing one of the world's rarest creatures.

Link to offer

Related:

The Quest for the Snow LeopardNomadic Expiditions

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Four destinations for an authentic travel experience in 2017

December 27 (AFP) Whether rubbing shoulders with the locals, admiring landscapes or packing in exciting excursions, vacations and the lasting memories they create are shaped by experiences. Here's a look at some of the countries on Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2017 list where travelers can expect an authentic travel experience. 

Mongolia

> Celebrate the Mongolian New Year with the locals

Travelers heading to Mongolia will no doubt be in search of authenticity. Try visiting around the time of the Mongolian New Year, or Tsagaan Sar, a three-day festival in January or February (depending on the lunar calendar). It's the perfect time to experience life with a Mongolian family as they exchange gifts, enjoy culinary specialties such as meat-filled dumplings, and take part in traditional celebrations. On the morning of Tsagaan Sar, a cup of tea with milk is traditionally offered to the gods by throwing it out of the window. 

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Dinosaur Expedition to the Gobi

May 21-June 3

Join legendary dinosaur paleontologist  Michael Ryan, Curator of vertebrate paleontology at CMNH, and CWRU's Director of Evolutionary Biology, Patricia Princehouse for 2 weeks of dinosaur hunting in the Gobi Desert!

To register, call Michelle Miller, Siegal Lifelong Learning Center, 216-368-8745

This expedition to Mongolia focuses on the conceptual foundations of paleontology and specifics of the evolutionary history of the Nemegt Basin in the Gobi Desert, and offers a practical introduction to field work using Cretaceous period (~145-65 million years ago) sediments to train participants in field research methods. Participants review and analyze the literature on Cretaceous dinosaur paleobiology and apply this knowledge doing fieldwork in the Gobi while learning paleontological techniques including surveying, specimen identification, collection of specimens, and excavation. The course also includes basic grounding in traditional and modern cultures of the Gobi and discussions of the intercultural skills needed to successfully carry out research in international settings. The course is led by vertebrate paleontologists from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and CWRU faculty.

Fees:

$3800 Adult
$3500 Student discount rate
CWRU college credit available for students of CWRU or other universities. (Call Patricia for details: 440-478-5292.)

Fee includes all room, board, and transportation within Mongolia. All accommodation is shared.

Participants are responsible for travel to and from Mongolia, books, laptop or iPad, and incidentals.

Please consult us prior to finalizing purchase of your airline tickets to make sure none of the schedule details have changed. If you would like to book additional nights in Ulaanbaatar prior to or after the expedition, you may do so directly with the Ramada Inn, but don't hesitate to ask us for help if you'd like!

Schedule:

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2016 Finale: Setting Adventure Travel Goals | To Mongolia and Back with Derek Mansfield

December 29 (Adventure Rider Radio) This is the time of year many of us are looking to make New Year's resolutions. It's a tradition in many countries, to set goals for self improvement or personal gain.

To Mongolia and Back: Derek Mansfield

We've heard some inspiring stories this past year… riders who have just decided to travel, for whatever reason, and in any way they could find to do it. They just did it. And not one person came back and said they didn't get anything out of it.

And in this episode, we have a story to share with you that isn't exactly a New Year's resolution, but it's a goal that Derek Mansfield set for himself, to travel to Mongolia because, well… that's what adventure riders do. 

Website: http://derekmansfield.com/

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Suite 303, Level 3, Elite Complex

14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1

Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
Email: info@covermongolia.com
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