Friday, February 17, 2017

[KCC resumes fieldwork; GDP growth beats estimates; Mongolia put on downgrade review; and MPs form mining lobby group]

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Friday, February 17, 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



Int'l Market

·         Kincora to drill two targets in the next six months

·         Khan Disputes Second Preliminary Tax Assessment

Local Market

·         MSE Trading Report, Feb 15: Top 20 +0.33%, ALL +0.12%, Turnover ₮39.7 Million Shares, ₮513 Million T-Bills

·         MSE Trading Report, Feb 16: Top 20 -0.48%, ALL -0.4%, Turnover ₮173.4 Million Shares, ₮1.8 Billion T-Bills

·         GoM offering ₮8 billion 52-week t-bills at 17.911% discount on MSE

·         Ard Securities Increases Its Capital to ₮2.0 Billion


·         MNT sets another low vs AUD

·         BoM issues ₮126 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -13.4% to ₮329.9 billion

·         BoM declines USD, CNY bid, USD ask offers, and MNT, USD swap offers

·         GoM auctions ₮37.5 billion 52-week t-bills at 17.911% discount from available ₮45 billion

·         IMF negotiations continue following Finance Minister's visit to USA

·         Mongolia's 2016 GDP slowest in 7 years as investments fall

·         Dale Choi: GoM spot on 2016 growth forecast with 1% realisation, all multilaterals miss

·         Moody's may cut Mongolia rating as bond default fears rise

·         Mongolia January Coal Exports Double to 2.63M Tons in January

·         Inflation rises to 3.3%, NPLs up 18.1% YoY in January

·         8% mortgages to continue under new agreement with Mongol Bank

·         Researchers review state of economy at BoM/NUM forum

·         A bullish case for copper

·         China Mulls Resuming Coal Output Curbs for Six Months

·         Spot iron ore slips but holds near 30-month high

·         PRECIOUS-Gold rises on weaker dollar, political uncertainty

·         Oil down 1 percent despite news OPEC could extend output cut

Politics & Legal

·         Defacto Review: Erdenet, IMF, Parliament Fall Session

·         Mongolia votes to nationalise former Russian copper mine stake

·         Fuel price surge highlights importance of reducing dependence on imports

·         MPs set up lobby group for responsible mining

·         2 Mongolian drug smugglers caught in north China

·         Speaker's country tour heads west

·         Cabinet revises regulation on establishing agreements with foreign organizations

·         Making social accountability part of Mongolia's DNA

·         Gender-based violence under media spotlight

·         Minimum living standard level for 2017 approved

·         FM presents results of Elbegdorj's participation in Davos

·         All debt issues in emergency sector resolved

·         'Academician' titles granted to seven scientists

·         Citizens warned not to join G-Time pyramid scheme

·         AmCham Daily Newswire for February 15, 2017

·         AmCham Daily Newswire for February 16, 2017


·         Mongolian border crossings to close for three days during Tsagaan Sar

·         'Ulaanbaatar Railway-2030' forum

·         Businesspeople from Mongolia and East-Siberian region of Russia meet

·         SMEs to cooperate with IT incubator companies

·         Mongolian livestock: 20 million young expected

·         IFC and Mongolian Government Partner to Promote Green Buildings

·         Tengri kick starts the year with sustainable fashion project

·         Direct Line: Export Opportunities in Mongolia's Agribusiness and Livestock Sector

·         Shipping rate request from Egypt to Mongolia by Multimodal


·         ADB-funded project to help reduce UB air pollution

·         Stove and water heaters to have new standards

·         Sanitation facilities of 3,000 ger district households to be improved

·         'You can taste it in the air': your stories of life in polluted cities

·         UB Mayor's Office supports Plastic Bag Free Day

·         Let's get "Mongolian blue" back!

·         "I love studying, but it is frightening to walk alone in dark streets"


·         Energy minister authorized to negotiate energy sector cooperation agreement with Russia

·         Prime Minister and Turkish Ambassador discuss economic ties

·         Cabinet approves guidelines for Mongolian delegation to 34th UN Human Rights Council meeting

·         Irkutsk Governor plans big business with Mongolia

·         Foreign Minister visits Mongolian Embassy in Moscow

·         Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil visits alma mater MGIMO in Moscow

·         Mongolian Consul General to Irkutsk presents his patent

Health & Education

·         AIDS/HIV on the rise in Mongolia

·         Private hospitals to get government financing for hemodialysis treatment

Culture & Society

·         A New Generation of Reformers: 2017 Asia Foundation Development Fellows

·         Berkeley Event: Evolution of the 20th century Mongolia/China border, in maps

·         Airport officials seize horse genitals from Mongolian travelers

·         National Museum displays Yuan banknote and other archeological treasures

·         Experience the biggest folk music festival of Mongolia

·         Celebrate Tsagaan Sar With Locals

·         "Tsagaan Sar 2017" tourist event to take place

·         Asian Access: Thank you from Mongolian Leader Chinzorig

Nature & Environment

·         European Union brings relief to Mongolian herders affected by extreme winter conditions

·         Mongolian herders need aid to weather second big freeze: Red Cross

·         Red Cross respond as Mongolian herders struggle to survive winter Dzud amidst rising livestock deaths

·         Harsh Mongolian winter risks livelihoods of herder families

·         Mongolian herders reel under dreaded 'dzud' weather

·         Providing forage to 137 soums to overcome difficult winter

·         Earthquakes in Mongolia

·         Talking Ursus arctos, from Glacier to Gobi, with Whitefish biologist Doug Chadwick

·         Snow leopard and cubs shown in rare camera traps footage

·         The Hidden Cost Of Cashmere


·         DeFacto Interview: Sazali Bin Abdul Samad, 10-Time World Bodybuilding Champion

·         Wrestling World Cup: Mongolia, Iran complete demolition job

·         Sapporo-2017 Farewell Ceremony in Ulaanbaatar, MGL

·         Blood, sweat and ice: The scariest experience of an extreme marathon runner

Art & Entertainment

·         Mongol TV brings 'The Voice' to Mongolia

·         Mongolian film wins Cinema for Peace Award in Berlin

·         Seven-year-old Mongolian girl wins gold at 'Ciudad de Huesca'

·         Fourth annual "Best of New Exhibits" opens


·         Lake Khuvsgul judged safe to host Ice Festival in March

·         Eight weird travel-related records, from biggest giant prawn to tallest human tower




Int'l Market

KCC dropped -2.17% Thursday to C$0.45

Kincora to drill two targets in the next six months

Kincora expects to drill two targets within the next six months

February 15 (Proactive Investors) Explorer Kincora Copper Ltd (CVE:KCC) has resumed field activities as it looks to expand the near surface target area at its Mongolian prospects.

The company has completed analysis of two high priority drill targets: Bayan Tal, an Oyu Tolgoi-style (OT) target; and East Tsagaan Suvarga (East TS), a brownfield Tsagaan Suvarga-style (TS) target.

A better understanding of surface geology at East TS and further modelling of ground magnetics at Bayan Tal is expected to refine drilling programs under shallow and shallow-to-moderate cover at the respective projects, Kincora said

"Kincora's exploration strategy is to advance the portfolio along the development curve," said Sam Spring, president and chief executive officer of Kincora said.

"In the next six months this is expected to include drilling two targets that provide analogies to the existing two large-scale copper mines in the belt with encouragement of our geological models likely being a major value-add milestone," Spring said.

"The team is continuously looking to improve the quality of our landholding through the addition of new strategically important licenses and ground that does not fit our target exploration profile will be relinquished. We are in the favorable position of currently exploring to confirm additional scale potential at our East TS target, after which we will provide further details on our plans for the 2017 field season," he revealed.

Shares in Kincora were up 1.1% at C$0.465.

Link to article

Link to KCC release

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KRI closed flat Thursday at C$0.04, +33.3% YTD

Khan Disputes Second Preliminary Tax Assessment

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 15, 2017) - Khan Resources Inc. ("Khan" or the "Company") (CSE:KRI)(CSE:KRI.CN) announces that its Dutch subsidiary, Khan Resources BV, has now received an amended preliminary tax assessment from the Dutch tax authority. As announced on December 22, 2016, the initial assessment amounted to EUR13.4 million based on a taxable income of EUR45.8 million for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2016. The amended preliminary tax assessment amounts to EUR3.3 million based on a taxable income of EUR13.2 million.

Management of the Company along with its external advisors are of the opinion that the amended assessment remains in substantial error. As disclosed, Khan Resources BV had previously received opinions from the Dutch affiliates of two Tier 1 global accounting firms that Khan Resources BV should have nil taxable income for the subject taxation year. In addition, Khan Resources BV has not yet filed its tax return for such year and is unable to determine the basis for the Government's assessment.

Khan Resources BV 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. The taxable income assessment of EUR13.2 million appears to be a direct translation of the US$14.9 million received from Mongolia into Euros at a historical rate, without deduction for basis and losses, however the assessment does not include any details for the determination.

Mr. Grant Edey, Chairman and CEO of Khan, commented "We believe that this second assessment is groundless and is very disruptive to our objective of returning the funds received from Mongolia to our shareholders. It appears that the Dutch authorities have disregarded any nexus between the funds received from Mongolia and our investment in Mongolia and have chosen to treat the funds in a manner similar to found money."

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

Link to release

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report, Feb 15: Top 20 +0.33%, ALL +0.12%, Turnover 39.7 Million Shares, 513 Million T-Bills

February 15 (MSE) --

Link to report

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MSE Trading Report, Feb 16: Top 20 -0.48%, ALL -0.4%, Turnover 173.4 Million Shares, 1.8 Billion T-Bills

February 16 (MSE) --

Link to report

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GoM offering 8 billion 52-week t-bills at 17.911% discount on MSE

February 16 (MSE) Buy order of 52 weeks Government bonds with annual interest of 17.911% starts from 17 February 2017 until 21 February 2017 through brokerage companies.

Click here to see detailed information of 52 weeks Government bonds

Link to release

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Ard Securities Increases Its Capital to 2.0 Billion

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, February 9 (Ard Financial Group) Financial Regulatory Commision of Mongolia approved Ard Financial Group's investment of MNT1.5 billion in its subsidiary Ard Securities, bringing the Company's statutory minimum capital to MNT2 billion. This new funding enables Ard Securities to continue on its path to a market leadership position amongst investment banks, advisory companies and securities brokerages.

Ard Securities celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2017. It has achieved several important milestones in 2016 such as:

  • Net profit of MNT157 million on the sales of MNT622 million;
  • Ranked among top 5 securities companies on MSE in terms of trading volume;
  • Successful participation in the privatization of Mongol Post on behalf of its customers;
  • USD600,000 financing for Hunnu Air via private placement of a commercial bond;
  • M&A advisory to Investor Nation JSC and Ard Financial Group JSC prior to their imminent listing on the Mongolian Stock Exchange planned for 2017;
  • Initiated a public campaign to increase retail investors' participation in the domestic capital markets;
  • Launched Ard Academy to provide financial education to our investors and promote investment in equities and bonds.

Our goal for 2017 is to build upon a positive momentum gained and become one of the leading brokerage and investment advisories in Mongolia, and continue on our path to make Mongolia a nation of investors.

Established in 1997, Ard Securities is licensed by the Financial Regulatory Commission to operate as a broker, dealer and underwriter of securities. Previously Ard Securities operated under "Bats Invest", "Monet" and "Monet Capital" names.

Ard Financial Group is a diversified financial services holding company with an aim to increase its shareholders' value through investing and developing leading financial services companies in Mongolia. Our investment portfolio consists of companies such as Mongol Post, Ard Insurance, Ard Credit, Ard Securities, Ard Life, Ard Assets, Ard Management, and Equity Investment Trust (EIT).

Please, feel free to contact us with further enquiries.

Link to release

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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: Thursday, February 16 Close










































































































































































Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,478 Sell ₮2,488), TDB (Buy ₮2,480 Sell ₮2,488), Golomt (Buy ₮2,477 Sell ₮2,487), XacBank (Buy ₮2,478 Sell ₮2,487), State Bank (Buy ₮2,472 Sell ₮2,486)

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

Link to rates

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BoM issues 126 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -13.4% to 329.9 billion

February 15 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 126 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

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BoM declines USD, CNY bid, USD ask offers, and MNT, USD swap offers

February 16 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2469.31 for USD2.4 million and asked weighted average rate of MNT2483.53 for USD9.6 million and bid weighted average rate of MNT357.45 for CNY45.0 million respectively. The BoM did not accept any bid offers.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received buying bid offers of USD1.0 million of MNT swap agreements and selling bid offers of USD20.0 million of USD swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept any bid offers.

Link to release

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GoM auctions 37.5 billion 52-week t-bills at 17.911% discount from available 45 billion

February 15 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 52 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 45.0 billion MNT. Face value of 37.5 billion /out of 37.5 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 17.911 %.

Link to release

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IMF negotiations continue following Finance Minister's visit to USA

February 14 (UB Post) Negotiations between the Government of Mongolia and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continue as reported disagreements about potential austerity measures persist even after the conclusion of Finance Minister B.Choijilsuren's three-day working visit to the U.S. on February 9.

It has been reported that the IMF requires the government to cut its budget and reduce its structure. This has reportedly been the main issue of contention, as Mongolian officials are said to be less than eager to shrink the government's structure and cut its already reduced budget.

One of the main issues that the IMF has focused on is the role and operations of Development Bank of Mongolia (DBM). IMF representatives have stated that the legislation regulating DBM has to be improved, and that DBM must not operate outside of the consolidated state budget. The IMF requires that DBM follow the operational models of development banks around the world, be independent from political bureaucracy, and work to reduce financial risk.

Reducing the state's budget deficit has also been at the forefront of the discussions between the two sides. Lifting Mongolia out of its current economic crisis by cutting government spending to decrease the budget deficit has been a focus of the discussions.

Early reports following the October 2016 visit of an IMF delegation indicated that the IMF could offer a loan of 1 to 1.5 billion USD. More recent reports seem to signal a preliminary 440 million USD loan designed to help resolve the balance of payment difficulties Mongolia is experiencing is more likely. This loan could help to stabilize the wildly fluctuating MNT exchange rate. According to the IMF, loans to resolve balance of payment difficulties give countries breathing room to implement adjustment policies and reforms that will restore conditions for strong and sustainable growth, employment, and social investment.

These discussions mark the third time the IMF and Mongolia have cooperated to lift the country out of economic difficulty. Mongolia implemented IMF programs in 1991 and 2009, receiving a total of 195.7 million USD in loans. The IMF has provided Mongolia with financing for 136.6 million USD in regular loans.

Most reports and statements made by government officials seem to indicate that the negotiations and discussions will be finished by the end of this week. Finance Minister B.Choijilsuren stated in the past that his ministry expects it to be clear if Mongolia will be enrolling in an IMF program or not by February 15.

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UPDATE 2-Mongolia's 2016 GDP slowest in 7 years as investments fall

* Growth hit by slowing foreign investment

* Rise in coking coal prices help stem slump

* Austerity measures could tip country into recession - analyst

ULAANBAATAR, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Mongolia's economy grew at its slowest pace in seven years in 2016, and it may slip into recession when austerity measures imposed on the country for a debt bailout are rolled out.

The landlocked country's once booming mining sector has been hit by falling commodity prices and a rapid decline in foreign investment.

The National Statistics Office announced on Wednesday that gross domestic product expanded 1 percent in 2016, at less than half the pace of the previous year.

Mongolia saw double-digit annual growth over 2011-2013 as foreign investors rushed in to take advantage of its vast and mostly untapped mineral deposits, but since last year it has been embroiled in an economic crisis caused by government overspending and declining revenues from commodity exports.

Mongolia's currency, the tugrik , lost nearly a quarter of its value against the dollar last year, prompting interest rate hikes and austerity measures.

"With third quarter growth going negative for the first time since the global financial crisis, we could have easily hit a recession in the fourth quarter," said Badral Munkhdul, chief executive officer of market intelligence group Cover Mongolia.

The 2016 full-year growth rate was higher than some forecasts, with the International Monetary Fund predicting zero growth for the year. The economy grew 2.4 percent in 2015.

"The government should not be patting themselves on the back just yet for beating international forecasts," Munkhdul said, adding that Mongolia "got very lucky" as a result of a surprise increase in coking coal prices last year.

The cash-strapped country is in talks with the IMF and China to help refinance billions of dollars of debt as it scrambles to meet a $580 million sovereign-guaranteed debt payment due in March.

A deal with the IMF is expected to be announced soon after lawmakers voted last week to meet one of the key conditions of the bailout. "Mongolia is transitioning away from a debt crisis and potentially into a growth crisis, as IMF-imposed austerity in isolation could tip the country into recession," said Nick Cousyn, chief operating officer for Ulaanbaatar-based brokerage BDSec.

Government officials have also held talks with Beijing for crisis relief, which would likely include an expansion to its currency swap arrangement with the People's Bank of China.

The government is cutting costs where it can, and is even closing embassies in Indonesia and Brazil as well as consulates in Japan and China.

Earlier this month, citizens also promised to donate their own cash, rings and even horses to make ends meet. Delays to mining and infrastructure projects, caused in part by political uncertainties, have also held back growth.

"The government needs to privatise assets and move infrastructure projects forward in order to grow the economy," said Cousyn. "The first order of business should be the completion of their rail project into China, which would provide much needed export growth."

Link to article

Link to NSO report

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Dale Choi: GoM spot on 2016 growth forecast with 1% realisation, all multilaterals miss

1% does not really matter as living standards, key assets continue to deteriorate

February 15 (Mongolia Metals & Mining) According to National Statistics Office of Mongolia (NSO), real growth of GDP by preliminary calculation in 2016 was 1%.

(Source: NSO)

The realisation is 30 basis points away from Mongolian Government 's forecast(1.3%) and 50 basis points away from BoM's forecast of 0-1%.

All multilateral missed : forecasts for 2016 growth by IMF, 0%; World Bank, 0.1%;ADB, 0.3%; EBRD,1.7%; Also we, Mongolia Metals&Mining missed big time: ~-0.9-1.9%%(most bearish) as well as APIP, 3-4%(most bullish); consensus of Mongolian economists polled by Bloomberg TV Mongolia 0.06%was also 94 basis points away;

However, key point on 2016 result remains: indeed economy is more resilient than expected, also recent commodity prices recovery, agriculture have helped; still, overall, my key points stands -  economy is deteriorating as shown by continued decline of family cash income and residential apartment prices; +1% does not really matter that much, DP legacy; but 2017 growth will be fully attributed to MPP

      Gives more credibility to GoM's plan for 3% growth in 2017: Forecasts for 2017 growth: IMF, 1%; World Bank, 2%; ADB, 1.4%; EBRD,3.2%; GoM, 3%;

      Economic Recovery Plan: by implementing major projects reflected in ERP, Mongolian authorities plan for exports to reach US$4.9b by 2019, imports US$4.4b , total external trade turnover US$9.3b, FDI is expected to recover to US$1.7-2b per year resulting in economic growth of 3% in 2017, 5.1% in 2018 and 7.1% in 2019

      Key challenge for 2017: GoM must deliver >=3% growth by implementing ERP. 1% here and there does not really matter.

      Forecast : if GoM delivers ERP, 3% will be done


I will provide more detail and commentary later on.

Link to MMM page

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UPDATE 1-Moody's may cut Mongolia rating as bond default fears rise

Feb 15 (Reuters) Ratings agency Moody's put Mongolia on review for a downgrade on Wednesday, citing concerns about the financing of an upcoming $580 million government-backed bond repayment.

The Development Bank of Mongolia's (DBM) bond falls due on March 21, but there are worries that it lacks the funds to make the repayment itself and the government will have to step in.

Ulaanbaatar has been in talks with China and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance, but investors are concerned that any bailouts might not be negotiated in time.

Moody's said the presence of an "irrevocable and unconditional government guarantee" on the DBM bond meant it would consider a missed payment a default by the Mongolian sovereign which is currently rated Caa1, deep into junk.

"The as yet unresolved issue of how that maturity will be financed poses a near-term threat to Mongolia's credit profile, notwithstanding ongoing discussions with the IMF," Moody's said in a statement.

It added that it would downgrade the rating if it thought actions to support DBM "would damage the Mongolian government's own credit profile and borrowing capacity, including by depleting foreign exchange reserves."

On Wednesday the DBM bond was showing a bid of 97 cents in the dollar, with a yield as high as 34 percent.

The government's own 2021 bond meanwhile lost 0.6 cents to trade at 107.75 cents, while its 2022 issue lost 0.5 cents.

Mongolia, a vast country of just three million people, has been under increasing strain.

Its once booming economy has ground almost to a halt and its currency, the tugrik, lost nearly a quarter of its value against the dollar last year, prompting interest rate hikes and austerity measures.

At the end of last year, it had $1.3 billion of total reserves, including gold and IMF Special Drawing Rights, but is estimated to have $1.7 billion in external debt maturing in 2017, excluding a swap line with the People's Bank of China.

Moody's said it would decide whether or not to cut the rating within three months. It has already cut it twice in less than six months. 

Link to article

Moody's announcements:

Rating Action: Moody's places Mongolia's Caa1 ratings on review for downgrade, February 15

Rating Action: Moody's places Development Bank of Mongolia's Caa1 rating on review for downgrade, February 15

Rating Action: Moody's reviews seven Mongolian banks for downgrade following sovereign review, February 16

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Mongolia January Coal Exports Double to 2.63M Tons in January

By Michael Kohn

February 16 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia exported 2.63m tons of coal in January, compared with 1.16m tons in the same period a year earlier, for a 127% increase, the National Statistics Office says on its website.

* Value of the exports increased to $169.3m compared with $34.3m a yr earlier, an increase of 394%

* Copper concentrate exports fell 4.3% to 133,700 tons from 139,700 tons; value fell to $137m from $177.8m, a 23% decrease

* Crude oil exports fell 24% y/y to 592,600 barrels; value rose to $30.7m from $24.6m yr earlier

* Total exports rose to $428.5m in Jan. from $329.1m yr earlier, an increase of 30%

* Value of exports to China was $393.1m, which is 92% of the total value of its exports


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Inflation rises to 3.3%, NPLs up 18.1% YoY in January

By Michael Kohn

February 16 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia's gross domestic product grew 1% y/y in 2016, slowing from 2.4% in 2015, according to a release from the National Statistics Office.

* 2016 Economic growth was 3.1% in Q1, 1.4% in 1H, -1.6% in first three quarters

* 2016 data is preliminary reading

* Consumer price index increased 3.3% y/y in Jan.

* Loans outstanding were 12.4t tugrik at the end of January, a 5% increase y/y

* Principles in arrears were 945.7b tugrik at the end of January, a 4.6% increase m/m, and an increase of 0.7% y/y

* Non-performing loans totaled 1.05t tugrik at the end of January, a 0.4% increase m/m and 18.1% increase y/y

* Tax revenue increased 20% at the end of January y/y

* Total external trade turnover increased 34% y/y in January; with exports increasing 30% and imports increasing 39%

* Foreign trade balance was surplus of $151.4m in January compared with a surplus of $130m in the same period yr earlier

* Industrial production index was up 18% y/y

* Total revenue and grants to the general govt budget were 440.6b tugrik, while total expenditure and net lending reached 465.9b tugrik, a deficit of 25.3b tugrik ($10.2m)

* GDP data compiled by production approach at 2010 constant prices


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8% mortgages to continue under new agreement with Mongol Bank

February 14 (UB Post) A new procedural agreement regarding mortgage loans was signed between Mongol Bank and several commercial banks on February 10, allowing the eight percent mortgage program to continue.

In accordance with the new procedural agreement, the commercial banks will be cooperating with Cabinet, Mongol Bank, and the Mongolian Mortgage Corporation to continue the low interest mortgage loan program.

Chief Executive Officer of Golomt Bank U.Ganzorig said, "Our bank believes that we must increase financing. Currently, there's a long waitlist for the program. A lot of construction companies have built apartment complexes with the understanding that the eight percent mortgage loan program would continue."

The CEO of Golomt added that the sale of apartments has come to a standstill. Mongol Bank initiated the signing of a new agreement to increase real estate sales.

"Golomt Bank issues six to seven billion MNT in mortgage loans monthly, yet there are still many people waiting to be approved for a loan. We issue mortgage loans in accordance with the procedures set by Mongol Bank," added U.Ganzorig.

"Mongol Bank approved new procedures for the mortgage loan in October 2016. The agreement is in the process of being signed by all participating organizations. Today, commercial banks have signed the agreement, allowing the mortgage loan program to sustainably resume," said L.Enkhdelger, a public relations officer at Mongol Bank.

As Mongol Bank officials have noted, the main change made to the loan's procedures concerns repayment conditions. Statistics show that the repayment of the low interest mortgage loan has been very favorable. Since October 2016, 118.8 billion MNT in mortgage loans has been financed by Mongol Bank.

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Researchers review state of economy at BoM/NUM forum

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) On February 10, forum under the theme "Current state and perspectives of the Mongolian economy" was co-organized by Bank of Mongolia and National University of Mongolia upon the initiative by the Economic Research Institute of Mongolia. 

Opening the meeting, N.Bayartsaikhan, Governor of the Bank of Mongolia said "The today's meeting is divided into two parts, including reports of the economic researchers and the Bank of Mongolia's report on the current situation of the economy. We need joint effort to revive the economy".

The participants of the event noted that the subjects discussed of the meeting are well-timed during the current economic situation. In particular, G.Bumchimeg, researcher at the Economic Research Institute delivered a speech named "Things to focus on the foreign banks in the Mongolia's financial sector". She said that "Economic liberalization is expanding followed by the increasing global integration. In this connection, the percentage and level of foreign investment and participation of foreign banks in the transitional or developing economies have been growing in the past three decades". 

She further noted that it is necessary to pay attention on several issues concerning the legal environment and financial sectors of the country to enable foreign banks to operate in Mongolia. In particular, a term for "foreign bank' included in the Banking law should be clarified, because it is  not clear whether the 'foreign bank' is foreign-invested bank or is a bank established from the 100 percent foreign owned banks. For that reason, it is indispensable to coordinate legal environment and pave the way for the activity"

Afterwards, B.Altantsetseg, Director of NRCC Company made a presentation "Basic survey of determining factors of exchange rate". In his presentation, she said "The currency fluctuations in Mongolia is higher compared to countries with floating exchange rate and the official reserve fluctuation is greater than countries with fixed exchange rate. This shows that the macroeconomic fluctuations are higher and effects of monetary policy measures to the exchange rates are comparatively lower".

Some other speeches were made during the forum, on topics: Survey on SMEs' Transaction cost, Large Bayesian Vector autoregressive model: empirical evidence in Mongolia, Coal Market Study, Strees Testing Household Sector in Mongolia, Factors determining exchange rate, Study of Mongolian Middle Class, Mongolian Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) and Policy Analysis, Consideration of foreign bank entry on domestic banking markets and Developing a Dynamic CGE model of the Mongolian Economy. 

Following the speeches, participants of the conference commended the quality of studies made by the lecturers. In conclusion, the participants agreed that the main purpose of the meeting is to show that joint efforts and public-private partnership are the most important features in order to revive the economic growth.

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A bullish case for copper

Strikes and other supply constraints fuel long-term optimism

February 16 (The Economist) DURING the commodity "supercycle", prices largely marched up and down in unison, fuelled by the strength (or weakness) of demand in China. Since last year commodities have again been on a tear, but for more idiosyncratic reasons. In the case of copper, strikes and supply disruptions in two of the world's largest mines have helped push prices this week to their highest level in 20 months. This fits into a narrative of longer-term potential supply shortages that has investors licking their lips over prospects for the red metal.

A strike that began on February 9th at Escondida in Chile, the world's largest copper mine, has been compounded by a dispute between operators of Grasberg, another huge copper mine, located in the Indonesian province of Papua, and the government. That led to a halt in copper-concentrate production there, too, on February 10th. The two account for 9% of mined copper supply.

Robert Edwards of CRU, a consultancy, says a one-month shutdown at both mines would remove about 140,000 tonnes, or 0.7% of the world's output this year. He adds that labour contracts amounting to 14% of production are up for renewal this year, raising the spectre of further strikes. The possibility that disruptions in 2017 could increase from 2016, at a time of robust Chinese demand, has pushed up prices recently (see chart).

In Chile, BHP Billiton, operator of Escondida, has clashed with the workers' union over benefits. This week, both sides were toing and froing over whether to take part in informal mediation talks convened by the government. The union wants to preserve benefits from the previous labour contract and extend them to new workers. BHP is resisting.

Juan Carlos Guajardo, a Chilean analyst, says the stakes are raised by the introduction of a new labour code in April that will dismantle curbs on the power of unions and protect existing benefits. Both sides want the best possible deal before the new law takes effect. The union also wants compensation for the hardships of the past few years of falling prices, while BHP seeks to bring the labour productivity of the mine up to rich-world standards.

The Indonesian stand-off could be just as fractious. On January 12th the government said that if Freeport-McMoRan, an American firm that operates Grasberg, wanted to keep an exemption allowing it to export copper concentrate despite a 2014 ban on ore exports, it would have to convert its decades-old "contract of work" into a new mining licence. Freeport says it will do so as soon as Indonesia attaches to the licence the same guarantees of fiscal and legal stability that the current contract affords. The two sides remain at loggerheads, so Freeport has started sending Grasberg workers home.

Analysts believe that the government's pressing need for tax revenues means it may seek a compromise. But damage has already been done. Rio Tinto, Freeport's partner in Grasberg, says it is reconsidering the option to increase its interest in 2021.

In both Chile and Indonesia, swift resolutions are as likely as long-term disruptions. But in the meantime, they bolster the case of those who believe the red metal has a stellar future. On February 16th McKinsey Global Institute, a consultancy, joined the fray, singling out copper as a commodity for which demand could grow strongly over the next two decades, because of Chinese demand and its importance to electric vehicles and wind- and solar-energy units. It also predicted that supply would be constrained by the depletion of copper ores after 2025. Copper bulls will be snorting with excitement.

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Here's Why the World of Copper Is Transfixed by a Strike in ChileBloomberg, February 16

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China Mulls Resuming Coal Output Curbs for Six Months

  • NDRC is said to consider reinstating restrictions from March
  • No decision made yet; some mines and areas may be excluded

February 16 (Bloomberg) China may not be done trying to manage coal prices.

The world's biggest producer and consumer is considering reinstating output restrictions to avoid the return of a glut after it eased limits during winter, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The National Development and Reform Commission may resume curbs that cap output at an equivalent of 276 days of capacity after heating season ends in mid-March, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn't public.

The NDRC, the nation's top planner, didn't respond to a faxed request for comment and nobody answered calls to its press office Wednesday.

China sent coal prices and mining shares on a tear last year after President Xi Jinping's government imposed output restrictions aimed at easing an oversupply and supporting indebted miners. As production slumped, officials scrambled late in the year to boost output ahead of peak winter demand. The possible reinstatement of curbs comes as benchmark coal prices have fallen more than 10 percent from their recent peak in November.

"The NDRC probably expects a decline in coal demand as the winter heating season ends, and so they are attempting to limit supplies so a new glut doesn't emerge and knock down prices," said Laban Yu, head of Asia oil and gas equities at Jefferies Group LLC in Hong Kong. "The policy is likely flexible and NDRC may change it again according to supply and demand."

The NDRC is considering reinstating the production limits for six months, with some mines and areas possibly excluded, said the people. No decision has been made yet, they said.

Australian miner Whitehaven Coal Ltd. surged as much as 6.8 percent to A$2.97 in Sydney on Thursday and was at A$2.93 as of 10:47 a.m. local time. On Wednesday, China Shenhua Energy Co., China's largest coal producer, advanced 3.1 percent to close at HK$16.72 in Hong Kong. China Coal Energy Ltd. climbed 3.7 percent to HK$4.25. Both companies rose to the highest since Nov. 14.

Price Targets

Thermal coal futures traded on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange added 0.7 percent to close at 535.20 yuan a ton. Coking coal futures in Dalian fell 0.9 percent to 1,214 yuan a ton after earlier rising 0.5 percent.

Spot coal with an energy value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram at the port of Qinhuangdao, China's benchmark grade, was at 605 yuan a ton as of Feb. 13, down almost 14 percent since the start of November, according to data from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association. Prices rose 73 percent in 2016.

The NDRC wants coal prices in a range of 500 yuan to 570 yuan a ton, according to Yu at Jefferies. China Shenhua sees a "reasonable range" for prices between 550 yuan and 660 yuan and warned prices may fall back to 370 yuan without government restrictions, according to a Nov. 1 report from Citigroup Inc.

A resumption of restrictions now may support prices again if demand growth is sustained, according to Argonaut Securities (Asia) Ltd.

"The policy will effectively set a floor for coal prices," said Helen Lau, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Argonaut. "Reinforcing the 276-working-day restrictions, even partially, will have an immediate impact to supply recovery and market sentiment."

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Spot iron ore slips but holds near 30-month high

February 15 (AFR) Iron ore futures in China fell more than 1 per cent on Wednesday after reaching a record high in a rapid rally spurred by rising steel prices that some market participants feel may have been overdone.

Both commodities had started their rally shortly after China returned from the Lunar New Year break this month, with mills replenishing iron ore stocks hoping steel demand would strengthen as construction activity picks up.

"Margins at steel mills have increased primarily from higher steel prices, but also as metallurgical coal and coke costs have declined," Commonwealth Bank of Australia analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

The most-active rebar on the Shanghai Futures Exchange closed down 0.8 per cent at 3391 yuan ($US494) a tonne, after touching a two-month high of 3458 yuan earlier.

Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange dropped 1.3 per cent to end at 697.50 yuan per tonne, after initially peaking at 718 yuan. That matched the highest intraday level for the most-traded contract reached in October 2013, when the exchange launched iron ore futures.

"As China's activity normalises after the Chinese New Year holiday period we expect restocking demand to fall and prices to decline," Dhar said.

"Chinese steel demand expectations have supported steel and iron ore prices this year, but not to the extent that prices suggest."

Stocks of imported iron ore at China's ports reached 126.95 million tonnes on February 10, the highest since at least 2004, according to data tracked by SteelHome.

Strong iron ore futures prices had helped boost bids for physical cargoes, pushing up the spot benchmark above $US90 a tonne this week for the first time since 2014.

"While prices looked overvalued at above $US90/tonne, we see little on the horizon that can drag prices lower," analysts at ANZ said in a note.

Iron ore for delivery to China's Qingdao port slipped for a second consecutive day, down 0.7 per cent to $US91.05 a tonne on Wednesday, according to Metal Bulletin. The spot benchmark on Monday hit its strongest since August 2014 at $US92.23.

Chinese mills were still not actively buying iron ore from the ports, despite their inventory levels falling to about ten days' worth compared with at least 20 days before the Chinese New Year holiday, a mill source in north China told Metal Bulletin. At current price levels, steelmakers are taking a more cautious approach with buying.

As for seaborne coking coal prices, they continue their downward spiral, according to Metal Bulletin. "Sellers of seaborne coking coal are banking on the recent drop in prices to encourage more buyers to make spot purchases and stem the decline," market participants told MB.

Coking coal prices, which had been trending downwards since December, saw the pace of their decline pick up this week. Metal Bulletin's cfr China premium hard coking coal index fell $US1.66 per tonne on Wednesday to $US159.23 per tonne, its lowest since early September. "The ample supply is affecting market sentiment and demand is really just moderate at best," a seller source told MB.

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PRECIOUS-Gold rises on weaker dollar, political uncertainty

* Dollar falls after 10-day winning streak

* SPDR Gold Trust holdings rise for 11th day

* Palladium touches highest since Jan. 24

By Peter Hobson

LONDON, Feb 16 Gold rose on Thursday as the dollar weakened after a 10-day winning streak and investors took the opportunity to buy bullion as a hedge against political uncertainty in the United States and Europe.

Spot gold rose 0.7 percent to $1,241.18 an ounce by 1557 GMT and is up about 10 percent from a mid-December low.  

U.S. gold futures gained 0.7 percent to $1,242.10.

Concern over U.S. President Donald Trump's policies, as well as elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany this year, have fuelled gold's rise to a peak of $1,244.67 on Feb. 8.

But the prospect of a higher dollar and U.S. Treasury yields after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said that U.S. interest rates may need to be raised in March pushed gold to $1,216.41 on Wednesday, its lowest since Feb. 3.                                  

A stronger dollar makes gold more expensive for holders of other currencies, while higher yields increase the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. Higher interest rates would lift yields further.

"It's a tug of war between a higher probability of a U.S. rate hike in March and upcoming elections around Europe, which are creating uncertainty and demand for safe assets," said Jens Pedersen at Danske Bank.

Signs of faster economic growth and inflation in the United States and Europe are also driving demand for gold as an inflation hedge, Pedersen said.        

U.S. residential construction and employment data on Thursday showed that the economy continued to rebound.           

Adding support to gold prices, SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased its bullion holdings for an 11th consecutive day on Wednesday.         

"Despite soaring U.S. equities and a stronger dollar, gold is managing to hold its ground as dips are being bought," INTL FCStone's Edward Meir said in a note.

In other precious metals, palladium was up 0.3 percent, at $791.72 an ounce. Earlier in the session it touched $794.90, its highest since Jan. 24 and just shy of a 21-month high.

The metal used in emission-controlling catalytic converters for the automotive industry has risen 17 percent this year.

But car sales in the United States and China in the first quarter are likely to disappoint investors and cause a correction that could drive prices below $700, said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.

Silver was up 0.3 percent at $18.04 an ounce. Platinum was 0.6 percent higher at $1,016.

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Oil down 1 percent despite news OPEC could extend output cut

NEW YORK, February 16 (Reuters) Oil prices reversed gains to trade nearly 1 percent lower on Thursday but continued to hold in a tight range as the market weighed swelling U.S. inventories against possible renewed efforts by major oil producers to reduce a price-sapping glut.

Crude futures rose earlier after sources said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may consider extending its oil supply-reduction pact with non-members and might even apply deeper cuts if global crude inventories failed to drop to a targeted level.

By 10:34 a.m. ET (1534 GMT), Brent crude LCOc1 was down 48 cents, or 0.9 percent, at $55.27 a barrel while U.S. light crude CLc1 dropped 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $52.85 a barrel.

Prices have traded in a tight $5-range since OPEC and other exporters including Russia agreed last year to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to reduce a price-sapping glut. The deal took effect on Jan. 1 and lasts six months.

OPEC's supply pact could be extended by May if all major producers showed "effective cooperation", an OPEC source told Reuters.

"There's a good chance and high odds that the group (OPEC) decides that they want to continue this process," Energy Aspects analyst Richard Mallinson said.

Most producers appear to be sticking to the deal so far but it is unclear how much impact the supply reductions are having on world oil inventories that are close to record highs.

U.S. oil inventories have risen sharply in the past six weeks, with crude and U.S. gasoline inventories hitting all-time records last week, the U.S. Energy Department said on Wednesday. Analysts say that the market is setting up for a possible fall if inventories do not start to decline soon. [EIA/S]

"The market's response to yesterday's stats suggests it continues to focus on forward expectations of further rebalance through production cuts and increased demand, but doesn't have any oomph to push higher," said Gene McGillian, manager of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

"But the massive overhang over oil and gasoline inventories continues to put doubts in the minds of the bulls."

The anticipation that OPEC's cuts - and surprisingly high level of adherence to those production reductions - will start to reduce inventories has kept traders heavily invested in futures contracts betting on more gains.

As of last week, non-commercial traders had a net long position of 477,000 U.S. crude contracts, just short of the previous week's level that represented a record long position in oil futures, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

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Politics & Legal

Defacto Review, February 12

February 13 (Jargal Defacto) Discussed topics:

1. Parliament takes Erdenet shareholding

2. IMF and Development Bank

3. A look back on Parliament

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Mongolia votes to nationalise former Russian copper mine stake

By Terrence Edwards

Feb 16 (Reuters) Mongolia plans to nationalise a 49 percent stake in a copper mine sold to a domestic private firm last year, bringing one of Asia's biggest copper producers under full control in a move its former Russian owner said could deter foreign investors.

The country's parliament voted to nationalise the Erdenet mine last week after a probe by lawmakers concluded the June 2016, $400 million sale by state-owned Russian holding company Rostec to little-known Mongolian Copper Corp (MCC) was unconstitutional as it was agreed without lawmakers' approval.

Erdenet, which produces 530,000 tons of ore annually, is one of Asia's biggest copper and molybdenum mines and a top tax contributor to the country's $12 billion economy. The sale to MCC was sanctioned by former prime minister Chimed Saikhanbileg.

The parliament's intervention comes as Mongolia, sandwiched between Russia and China, struggles to take advantage of vast mineral wealth, with investors deterred by inconsistent laws and tax rules. Russia has been involved in the mine since 1978, but sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea have encouraged it to liquidate overseas assets.

The country has been involved in a spat with miner Rio Tinto over the giant Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit. Mongolia was also forced to pay $70 million compensation to Canada's Khan Resources after international arbitration ruled it had illegally revoked a uranium licence.

A parliamentary working party concluded the sale violated financing laws because of the involvement of multiple shell corporations controlled by Mongolia's largest private lender, Trade and Development Bank (TDB), and its staff.

The working party said the deal placed too much risk on the bank, violating banking laws, and also used borrowed funds from the central bank.

Both MCC and TDB deny wrongdoing.

The bank's chief executive officer Onon Orkhon said it only provided underwriting services, in addition to "partial financing" referring to a $75 million bridge loan to MCC.

M. Munkhbaatar, MCC's chairman, said in a statement emailed to Reuters that no domestic or international laws had been violated during the purchase. The parliament's actions represented "increased state intervention in the economy," he said.

Meanwhile a letter addressed by Sergei Chemezov, the chief executive of Rostec, to the country's prime minister said any decision to intervene in the sell-off could damage Mongolia's reputation, warning any move to challenge his firm's sale could end up in court.

Any efforts to change the deal could result in claims for damages and court costs in the Singapore international commercial court, Chemezov wrote in the letter, dated the day before last week's vote and reviewed by Reuters.

A Rostec spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the veracity of the letter when contacted by Reuters. The spokeswoman said the deal was completed in accordance with international law and the firm had already received payment.

A spokesman with Mongolia's Foreign Affairs Ministry denied knowledge of the letter, adding that a visit to Moscow by foreign minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil this week had no connection with Erdenet. 

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Fuel price surge highlights importance of reducing dependence on imports

February 14 (UB Post) A sudden surge of 80 MNT to 150 MNT in the retail fuel prices of four large fuel importers shocked the nation. Prices rose despite Cabinet's explicit action to prevent sudden price surges by reducing petroleum import tax. The Ministry of Mining explained that an increase in the international market price for petroleum ultimately caused domestic retail prices to rise. The unexpected rise in the price of petroleum further highlights Mongolia's dependence on its two neighbors, specifically in terms of energy. What can Mongolia do to avoid being at the mercy of the international market?

It is reported that Mongolia imports 94 percent of its petroleum from Russia. In 2016, out of 1.2 million tons of petroleum imported from Russia, state-owned Rosneft supplied 800,000 tons. This leaves Mongolia at the mercy of the international market and, more specifically, at the mercy of the Russian government. Any time the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which Russia is a leading member of, makes any changes to its production output, the price of petroleum inevitably fluctuates in Mongolia. This has proven to be an obstacle for ensuring national security. Something as vital as energy has an immediate and direct effect on the financial wellbeing of the entire nation. No matter how friendly our relations are with Russia, depending on another country for something so vital would leave any nation vulnerable. This dependence only enhances the unbalanced relations between the two countries. Since Rosneft is a state- owned company, the threat of cutting off access to fuel, while not likely, still remains in the punitive arsenal of the Russian government.

Cabinet has taken some precautionary steps in hopes of avoiding a major increase in prices, yet those steps have been proven to be ineffective. Small moves, such as lowering the petroleum import tax, are only short-term moves to keep fuel prices down to appease the general public. To their credit, the cabinet has been discussing more long-term solutions to Mongolia's energy dependence problem. A one billion USD loan was offered to Mongolia by India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mongolia in 2015. Discussions by Cabinet on how to spend the money led to the proposal of building an oil refinery in Sainshand soum in Dornogovi Province. Studies estimated that such a refinery could generate annual revenue of 1.2 billion USD, and net profit could be as much as 43 million USD. The plan for the refinery includes the capacity to process up to 1.5 million tons of petroleum annually, and producing 560,000 tons of gasoline, 670,000 tons of diesel fuel, and 107,000 tons of liquefied gas meeting Euro 4 and Euro 5 emission standards. Studies estimate that the proposed factory could contribute to a 10 percent increase in the country's GDP and a two-fold increase in revenue generated by the natural resources processing sector. Some analysts forecast that the factory could result in a one billion USD decrease in the import of petroleum and reducing spending on foreign fuel by 20 percent, which could result in an 18 to 25 percent decrease in the MNT's currency exchange rate against the USD.

Since its preliminary discussion, no new developments have arisen regarding the proposed refinery. It is possible that Cabinet will focus on the refinery later this year. There are many who believe the proposed refinery should be at the forefront of the government's agenda, especially now that we have seen what effect surging international market prices for petroleum can have on the country. It is unrealistic to expect the country to immediately meet all of its domestic demands, but building a refinery capable of cutting imports by 20 percent is a good start. According to the Petroleum Authority of Mongolia, Mongolia has proven petroleum reserves of 2.3 billion barrels, and is estimated to have 3.1 billion barrels of oil-in-place. Judging by these reserves, it is possible for at least 50 percent of the nation's demand to be met domestically in the future. Since Rosneft supplies the majority of Mongolia's petroleum, there is bound to be at least some pushback from the Russian government on producing fuel domestically. However, with the correct management, the government has the capability of implementing future projects to build up the country's petroleum industry.

Alleviating dependence on Russia for fuel is an important objective that will help the country avoid falling into the boom and bust cycles it already experiences with the other resources it exports. The construction of an oil refinery would undoubtedly benefit both the economy and national security. Whether the project is carried out with a loan from India or not, the responsibility for stimulating growth in the petroleum industry rests on the government's shoulders.

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MPs set up lobby group for responsible mining

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) A lobby group to support responsible mining was established by some parliament members.  MPs A.Undraa, N.Amarzaya, Ts.Garamjav, Ya.Sodbaatar, O.Sodbileg, G.Temuulen and J.Bat-Erdene initiated the lobby group to raise an issue of responsible mining development at legislative level within legal framework.

They consider the mining sector - one of the main economic pillars should be developed in a responsible and transparent manner, meeting modern standards and requirements and to be in harmony with the long-term development goal. To realize it, relative laws and regulations should be improved, opening and closing of mines, and rehabilitation should be executed with high quality as well as natural resources should be utilized properly and effectively through introducing advanced technology.

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2 Mongolian drug smugglers caught in north China

February 15 (Xinhua) Two passengers from Mongolia were arrested in northern China's Inner Mongolia for smuggling drugs, according to local customs Wednesday.

One of the suspects, Enkhjargal, was caught Saturday evening when  taking a train from Beijing to Ulan Bator via Erenhot, with police seizing 72.57 grams of methamphetamine from his luggage. He allegedly bought the drugs for 10,500 yuan (about US$1,529) in Beijing.

Another suspect, Nyamjav, was caught Sunday at the customs in Erenhot.  Nyamjav was carrying 53.65 grams of methamphetamine and 0.84 grams of cannabis, which he allegedly bought in Beijing for 7,500 yuan.

Erenhot is the biggest land port between China and Mongolia. Last year customs in Inner Mongolia handled three cases involving Mongolian suspects carrying drugs via route Erenhot.

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Speaker's country tour heads west

February 15 (UB Post) Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold, accompanied by a delegation of Cabinet and Parliament members, are paying a working visit to Zavkhan, Uvs, Khovd and Bayan-Ulgii provinces from February 13 to 15.

During Speaker M.Enkhbold's meeting with residents of Uliastai in Zavkhan Province, he introduced them to laws that were approved during the fall session of Parliament, the nation's current economic situation, and the state's ongoing and upcoming projects in place to deal with economic challenges.

The Speaker noted that Parliament is focusing on economic recovery, pursuing foreign investment, strengthening discipline, and enhancing the legal and regulatory environment for banks, finance, taxes, and welfare.

Uliastai residents told the Speaker and his accompanying delegation that the ruling political party in Zavkhan dismissed a lot of senior local government officials and replaced them with their party's supporters after province government elections took place last year.

They also said that unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing Zavkhan, and asked Speaker M.Enkhbold to continue supporting senior welfare, to implement health projects and programs in the province, and to focus on creating jobs for Zavkhan's young people.

The city's residents asked Cabinet members about what measures the government is taking to build the Zavkhan and Telmen Thermal Power plants, complete Uliastai-Ulaanbaatar road construction, and open a regional milk processing plant.

Deputy Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry J.Saule pointed out that the region's capacity to provide raw materials will be of significant importance to establishing a plan for opening a milk processing plant. She told the meeting's attendees that Zavkhan's government needs to put together a proposal to present to the ministry, and the ministry will study the possibility of opening a plant in Zavkhan if essential requirements are met.

Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu said that construction of the Telmen Thermal Power Plant has begun, despite tough negotiations for a concession agreement and later changes made to the agreement in 2016.

The Energy Minister noted that when he met with Shine Asia Mining Group to discuss the cost of the power plant, they said that they would continue construction. He added that the 2016-2020 government action plan includes the construction of the Zavkhan Thermal Power Plant, and that a South Korean loan of 130 million USD will finance power plant construction and renovation projects in 10 provinces being launched this year. Zavkhan Thermal Power Plant Project will be one of the projects financed.

Deputy Minister of Roads and Transportation B.Tsogtgerel noted that completion of the Uliastai-Ulaanbaatar highway is also outlined in the 2016-2020 government action plan, and that financing to complete the road's construction will be resolved.

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Parliament Speaker works in rural provincesMontsame, February 15

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Cabinet revises regulation on establishing agreements with foreign organizations

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) The relations concerning the agreements the central and local government administrative bodies establish with foreign organizations are governed by Regulation on Establishing Agreements Between Organizations. On February 15, the cabinet approved the revisions of this regulation.

In compliance with the original regulation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is obliged to review the contents of new deals, administering relations, effectiveness and relevance of new agreements, to be established by Mongolia's government bodies with international organizations. The Ministry also checks if the agreement is in accordance with intergovernmental agreements of Mongolia and similarity of drafts in both languages.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reviewed 63 agreements in 2015 and 79 in 2016 to make comments and give necessary recommendations to the agreement parties. A critical amount of mistakes and shortcomings were detected, to be specific, non-compliance with the Mongolian laws and regulations and international agreements, abuse of authority by local and state administrators, duplication of objectives that have already been agreed under international agreements, errors in the development of agreement drafts and preparation of unnecessary deals just to organize visits.

The revisions of the Regulation had been developed in order to reduce occurrences of above mentioned errors.

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Making social accountability part of Mongolia's DNA


February 8 (World Bank Blogs) Mongolia has made good progress in its economic and political transitions during the last two decades, but this growth has not been fully translated into improved quality of public services, particularly for the poor and vulnerable. Despite the government's legal and regulatory reforms to improve transparency and citizen participation in the management of public funds, the pace of implementation is still lagging.  

As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?

As a successful young democracy, Mongolia's made progress on multi-stakeholder dialogue, having strong CSO participation on development issues over the last 5 years.  But such dialogues have not been effectively translated into improved governance. Social accountability needs to be supported and mainstreamed, particularly in public service delivery.

Building on results of previously successful development projects in the country, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the World Bank (WB) believe that with a comprehensive approach to social accountability in Mongolia, real change can be achieved. This is why they are supporting the Mainstreaming Social Accountability in Mongolia (MASAM) project with a focus on the Education and Health sectors in 10 aimags (provinces) and 3 districts of Ulaanbaatar, targeting poor and vulnerable communities.

Social accountability refers to the broad range of actions and mechanisms beyond voting that citizens can use to hold the state accountable and make it responsive to their needs, as well as actions on the part of government, civil society, media, and other societal actors that promote or facilitate these efforts.

MASAM is seeking to deliver an innovative approach to build capacity of local stakeholders by putting them on the driver's seat in defining the focus of the project interventions. The goal is to build a new style of collaborative engagement between governments and citizen groups so that they jointly prioritize their most pressing service delivery problems and find ways to solve them by using social accountability as an engagement vehicle to drive the necessary changes. The project expects to institutionalize an active multi-stakeholder collaboration among public administrations, local citizens' assembly representatives, service providers, CSOs, media and communities in local level in such a way that – even after MASAM is long gone – social accountability becomes part of the DNA of the relationship between local governments and citizens in the selected areas.

Since the project launched in November 2015, over 650 people representing local key stakeholders have gained a better understanding of social accountability, and have organized multi-stakeholder groups who are now working with national NGOs with knowledge and experience in this area. Through this partnership, local groups have designed specific interventions and successfully applied for grants from the MASAM program. They are now ready to implement their projects to improve service delivery in Health and Education.

In parallel, MASAM works with the Cabinet Secretariat, line ministries, national and city sector agencies so that reliable and user friendly information is available to facilitate social accountability. Their involvement will also ensure that feedback emerging from social accountability tools at the local level provides valuable input into policy on Education and Health. 

You can find more information on the project and on Social Accountability in Mongolia in the recently launched

After the June general election in Mongolia, political will from the national government and new local governments' leadership has already been secured, and the project's objectives are now part of the 2016-2018 National Action Plan of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). 

All partners involved are committed to ensuring that MASAM makes a long-lasting impact on the quality of Education and Health services for all, contributing to Mongolia's equitable and sustainable development.

What do you think of MASAM's approach? Feel free to share your experience on mainstreaming social accountability in public services in the comments below.   

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Gender-based violence under media spotlight

By Casey-Ann Seaniger

February 15 (UB Post) A new program aimed at the media's reporting of gender-based violence plans to raise journalistic standards and shine a light on the seriousness of domestic violence in Mongolia.

The Press Institute of Mongolia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have teamed up to deliver several activities over the next year to encourage journalists and the media to not only cover more gender-based violence stories, but to be conduits for increasing public awareness through sensitive and compelling storytelling.

Domestic violence is considered "one of the most serious, prevalent and persistent human rights violations in Mongolia", according to the UNFPA.

Figures show that one in five families has a violent relationship, one in five women suffer from physical violence, and one in two children and one in four seniors are victims of violence.

In Mongolia, 88.3 percent of domestic violence is against women and 64.6 percent is against children. As of 2015, a total of 80 people died and 3,299 people were injured in the last five years as a result of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is under-reported, largely due to the fact that the topic remains taboo in Mongolian society, said D.Munkhchimeg, a journalism teacher with the Press Institute of Mongolia.

The UNFPA has stated, "There exists the prevalent, traditional perception that [domestic violence] is a private family matter, something better settled within the confines of the family without external involvement."

But there are hopes that the newly amended Law on Combating Domestic Violence will be a positive step forward in shining a light on this serious issue.

The newly amended law makes domestic violence a criminal offense for the first time in the country's history, and marks significant positive action toward protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable.

The next step for the Press Institute and UNFPA is delivering training to journalists to not only encourage more reporting on domestic violence, but more importantly, to ensure that the media's reporting is sensitive to victims.

"We've seen some bad cases recently, when a leading Mongolian newspaper and website printed a lot of information about a victim and even published a photo of the apartment in which the victim lived," D.Munkhchimeg said.

"We also see cases where media stories mention what clothes a woman was wearing and question whether or not she had a sexual favor [sic] with someone. When journalists are not trained properly and they write something wrong or insensitive like this, the public could blame the victim."

Putting an end to this type of victim-blaming, as well as knowing how to sensitively interview victims of domestic violence, including protecting their identity, is part of the training journalists will receive from the UNFPA and Press Institute's media training program.

The Press Institute says there are currently no Mongolian media protocols or guidelines for responsible and sensitive reporting on women impacted by violence. "It's something we are working on and these trainings are the first step," D.Munkchimeg said.

She added, "The purpose is to train journalists and to raise public awareness about gender-based violence. If we expand journalists' knowledge about the issue, they can start the right dialogue with the community."

Other goals for the program include organizing a journalism competition for compelling reporting on gender-based violence and forming a media network focused on gender-based violence, the Gender-Based Violence Reporting Group for Journalists. The group held its first meeting on February 13, at the Press Institute, and discussed the Domestic Violence Law and ways in which the media can continue to report on gender-based violence.

In 2015, there were 1,356 cases of domestic violence registered, and the number of domestic violence cases reported to the police increased by an average of 26 percent from the same period in previous years.

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Minimum living standard level for 2017 approved

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) The National Statistical Committee approved minimum livelihood guarantee level to adhere in 2017, which came into force on February 06. Head of Cabinet Secretariat J.Munkhbat introduced it to yesterday's cabinet meeting.

The minimum level of livelihood will be MNT166500 in western region, MNT173500 in forested area region (Khangai), MNT166200 in central region, MNT165700 in eastern region and 185300 in Ulaanbaatar city. The renewed rate was increased by MNT3200 in central region, MNT2700 in forested area region, MTN2000 in eastern region, MNT1700 in western region and MNT1600 in Ulaanbaatar city.

The level is used as a standard for providing material assistance or monetary aid to citizens, altering the amount of pension and allowance of social insurance and social welfare. A relevant law states that 'Minimum level of livelihood' refers to a minimum level of consumption expressed in monetary value. The minimum level of consumption is the amount of goods and services defined by consumer basket of food and non-food items that are necessary to sustain living.

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FM presents results of Elbegdorj's participation in Davos

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) -Ts.Munkh-Orgil, Minister for Foreign Affairs presented a result about Ts.Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia participation of the 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland on January 17 to 20. The result will be discussed by the National Security Council of Mongolia.

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All debt issues in emergency sector resolved

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) The Cabinet meeting held on February 15 and resolved all issues concerning the debt and payment generated in the State Reserve and Emergency sectors of the country. The debt issues included costs of goods to be distributed from state reserve and restoration, mission payment and bonuses to citizens, employees of emergency and other special servicemen, who worked in epidemic zone areas, recovery from damage and for urgent restoration measures.

The Government charged the Finance Minister to release MNT1.7 billion from the Government reserve fund and Deputy Prime Minister to take measures to make amends for goods indicated in the resolution within the third quarter of this year.

In the scope of the resolution, 'UAZ-31519" vehicles will be supplied to the Department of rescue and firefighting of Tosontsengel soum of Zavkhan aimag, 'UAZ-22069' vehicles to Zoonosis study center of Khovsgol aimag, Health center of Naranbulag soum of Uvs aimag, Inter-soum hospital of Undurkhaan soum, and a special vehicle for disinfection and cleaning to the Department of Food and Agriculture of Sukhbaatar aimag.

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'Academician' titles granted to seven scientists

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) On February 7, some scientists have been granted a title of Academician, in pursuance to an order by the President of Mongolia and as submitted the President of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

N.Begz, T.Gan-Erdene, Ch.Dorjsuren, Sh.Demberel, A.Bakei, D.Sangaa and D.Tseveendorj have been bestowed the title upon. Chief of Staff of the President Ts.Bayarsaikhan presented them the certifications and badges.

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Citizens warned not to join G-Time pyramid scheme

February 16 ( MP O.Baasankhuu submitted letter to the General Prosecutor of Mongolia and the State Justice Advisor M.Enkh-Amgalan, demanding to conduct examination on G-Time Corporation LLC. 

He stated on the letter that: 

Recently, G-Time networking have spread quickly among people and hundreds of citizens have joined the business. However, now they are in condition which they may face economic and material losses in further. 

Therefore, as General Prosecutor of Mongolia, I want you to establish a working group to examine the real situation, immediately stop the networking if there is any criminal situation and to prevent citizens from becoming victims of crime. 

Besides Director-General of G-Time Corporation LLC J.Marat was banned to cross Mongolian border on Feb 10th. Currently, no details have been delivered yet. 

Moreover Financial Regulatory Committee considered G-Time networking as illegal, socially dangerous and fraudulent activity, warning citizens not to join the businesses.

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AmCham Daily Newswire for February 15, 2017


Mongolian embassies overseas to close

Summary: Parliament's Security and Foreign Policy Standing Committee convened to discuss the closing of Mongolian embassies and consular offices. The Mongolian embassies in Indonesia and Brazil, and the Mongolian consular offices in Osaka (Japan) and in Hailar (China) are scheduled to close within the first half of this year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the closing of the diplomatic offices will be temporary, carried out in response to the nation's economic situation, and that they will be re-opened as the economic situation improves.

Keywords: diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs | The Century News /page 1/

MPP reviews the results of Parliament's fall session

Summary: Parliament's Chairman of the MPP Caucus D. Khyankyarvaa and MPP Vice Chairman B. Saranchimeg held a press conference to discuss the results of the fall session. D. Khyankyarvaa stated, "As of the first two months of the year, state revenue was  580 billion MNT more than planned and expenditures decreased by around 100 billion MNT. SMEs were granted tax breaks and will be able to import equipment free of customs tax. Senior citizens will receive a bi-annual grant from the state and before Tsagaan Sar, 122,000 seniors will receive in total 20.5 billion MNT. The pension loan interest rate will be lowered from 18% to 15%, and significant changes have been made to the pension program. Members of our party and the public have proposed making Erdenet Mining Corporation a more transparent joint stock company. We will discuss and finalize the matter of creating the opportunity for companies and citizens to own stock in the company."

Keywords: MPP, state revenue, budget reform | Daily News /page 5/


AmCham rolls out its 2017 priorities and advocates for strong and growing private sector

Summary: The American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia released its 2017 Roadmap for Growth, and Chairman of the AmCham Mongolia Jay Liotta spoke about the organization's plans for 2017 and the critical problems that the country is facing today.

Jay Liotta stated, "The members of our Board and Directors and myself see that the private sector, the current businesses in Mongolia, is one the most viable solutions to addressing a large number of  Mongolia's social, economic, and health issues. In order for Mongolia to prosper, the business sector must develop. Based on this philosophy, we drafted our roadmap for growth. The roadmap focuses on main four strategic areas: greater access to financing, economic diversification through the development of agriculture and renewable energy, U.S. franchising, and improvements in the legal and regulatory environment. Stability in the legal environment will attract investment and will also support the private sector. The government should be involved in the private sector by setting the necessary regulations for a given sector. Mongolia experienced rapid economic growth, and due to critical policy mistakes, the economic growth stalled in a very short amount of time. In order to revive the economy, approving new laws and regulations will not be enough. It takes 3-4 to fully implement a law, and the legal environment must be stable. This revives the interest of investors and attracts them. We must start now. AmCham strongly believes in the rule of law, and we have observed that the legal environment changes with each new administration. The current situation will not foster growth. If Mongolia wishes to be successful, the business sector must flourish."

Keywords: AmCham, Roadmap for Growth | The Official Gazette/ page 1,11,12/

Housing prices drop

Summary: A study of the housing market was carried out by Tenkhleg Zuuch at the request of the Bank of Mongolia, with results released this week. The housing price index for January was -1.93%, a decrease of 2.83% in housing prices compared to last month, and a decrease of 7.18% compared to last year. The price index for new apartments was 12.71%, a decrease of 2.43% compared to last month, and a decrease of 4.65% compared to last year. The price index for old apartment's stands at -8.02%, a decrease of 0.31% compared to last month, and 6.31% decrease compared to last year.

Keywords: housing price index, real estate | Today /page A7/


MAK exported 5.4 million tons of coal from Nariinsukhait in 2016

Summary: Mongolian Gold Corporation (MAK) announced that 5.4 million tons of coal from the Nariinsukhait mine was exported in 2016. One-third of the coal from Nariinsukhait is coking coal and the rest is energy coal. Vice President of MAK G. Tsogt noted that coking coal is currently sold for 340 CNY per ton at the mine and prices might increase. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi currently sells coking coal at the Tavan Tolgoi mine for 59.3 USD per ton, and is set to sell coal at the Baruun Tsankhii mine for 71.5USD.  The price at the border for Energy Resources' coal stands at 120 USD per ton.

MAK is building cement and lime factory at Khukh Tsav, which is expected to be finished by the end of the 1st quarter of the year. The factory is expected to produce 100,000 tons of lime annually and one million tons of cement each year. MAK announced that they are also preparing to introduce the Tsagaan Suvarga copper-molybdenum mine to the market and that they are currently researching financing.  

Keywords: MAK, Nariinsukhait mine, coal |

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AmCham Daily Newswire for February 16, 2017


Speaker of Parliament visits Khovd Province

Summary: The Speaker of Parliament, M. Enkhbold, is continuing a visit to the western region with a stop in Khovd Province. While meeting with the citizens of the province, M. Enkhbold introduced the legislation approved by Parliament during its fall session. M. Enkhbold stated, "Economic growth has been in decline for the past 11 quarters. In the last five years, FDI fell from 4.6 billion USD to 180 million USD and the foreign currency reserve has been cut in half, reaching 1.3 billion USD. The legislations passed by the Parliament are designed to improve the economy in a short amount of time, create growth, and improve the economic situation." The Speaker highlighted that he believes that with the implementation of mega-projects and increased exports, economic growth will be 3% in 2017, 5.1% in 2018, and 7.1% in 2019. For the first time in two years, growth in exports reached a positive amount in terms of trade balance, and foreign trade reached 1.6 billion USD. The Speaker of Parliament promised to resolve the infrastructure issues for three key projects in Khovd, with cooperation from parliament members engaged in the projects and the region.

Keywords: Speaker of Parliament, western provinces | The Official Gazette /page 2/

Cost of living data for 2017 determined

Summary: Cost of living data for 2017 was reviewed during Cabinet's regular session, and minimum costs of living were determined to help set policy for social welfare and the minimum wage. The National Statistical Office approved the 2017 minimum costs of living, set by region, and determined that it is consistent with the figure that has been used by government agencies since February 6. In 2017, the minimum cost of living is 166,500 MNT in the western region, 173,500 MNT in the highlands region, 166,200 in the central region, 165,700 in the eastern region, and 185,300 MNT in Ulaanbaatar. The updated cost of living data shows slight increases of 1,600-3,200 MNT compared to last year. The minimum cost of living is used for calculating the state's contributions for social welfare grants.

Keywords: Cabinet, cost of living, minimum wage | The National Post /page 1/


Economy sees slight growth

Summary: The National Statistical Office announced that in preliminary look at economic performance in 2016, Mongolia's GDP grew 1%. Comparing GDP in 2010 with data collected for the end of 2016, GDP reached 16 trillion MNT, an increase of 154.6 billion MNT. The growth in GDP is higher than forecasts from the IMF, World Bank, and ADB, but the percentage of growth is the lowest rate of growth recorded in the last seven years. Economists highlight that the growth is a positive sign during difficult times, and attribute the 1% to the development of the private sector. Agriculture was responsible for the majority of GDP growth, with contributions also coming from the intensification of projects in the mining sector. ADB forecasted growth of 0.3% in 2016 and World Bank forecasted 0.1% growth. 

Keywords: economic growth, NSO | The Official Gazette/ page 11/


Moody's to reevaluate Development Bank's credit rating

Summary: Moody's credit rating agency announced that they will reevaluate Development Bank of Mongolia's credit rating. Currently, Development Bank's rating is CAA1, the same rating given to Mongolia. Moody's confirmed the bank's baseline credit at CA. Moody's reported that the reason for the reevaluation is the scheduled payback of the bank's 580 million USD bond debt. The bank's credit rating will be negatively affected if the bank defaults on the loan, which would influence the country's credit rating. By the time, the bank's credit rating is reevaluated; the state's negotiations with the IMF are expected to be finished. The reevaluation will also assess the ability of the IMF program agreed upon to mitigate Mongolia's short-term risks and mid-term reliability. The Moody's review is set to be complete in three months.

Keywords: Development Bank, credit rating, Moody's |

Ambassador Galt says U.S.-Mongolia foreign policy will not change considerably

Summary: In an address marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the United States of America, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt stated, "One of the biggest events to commemorate the anniversary is the Philadelphia Orchestra scheduled to come and perform in June, marking the first time a U.S. orchestra will be visiting Mongolia. Over the past 30 years, the relationship between the two countries has developed considerably, and it will continue to develop in the future. Every new administrations have their own agendas but U.S.-Mongolia foreign policy will not change considerably." Ambassador Galt noted that the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the U.S. Embassy to enlist Mongolian workers in the H2 visa program, and the process of considering the request is ongoing. The Ambassador noted that her main priority is supporting the economic growth of Mongolia, and that the U.S. Embassy is cooperating with AmCham to encourage American businesses and investors to explore the possibility of investing in Mongolia. Another priority for the Ambassador is the development of the agricultural sector. She noted that through the USAID Reach Program, over 500 Mongolian companies have received up to 25 million USD in loans. Mongolia has requested consideration of a visa-free travel agreement with the U.S., and Ambassador Galt noted that Mongolia must fulfill many requirements for the request to be met, but that it is a long-term goal for U.S.-Mongolia relations.

Keywords: U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Galt, foreign relations |

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Mongolian border crossings to close for three days during Tsagaan Sar

February 15 ( According to an inter-governmental agreement, the Mongolia-Chinese border crossings will be closed from 27th of February to 1st of March for the traditional spring festival 'Tsagaan Sar' (White Moon). The Mongolian 'Tsagaan sar' holiday lasts for three days.

The agreement does not affect the railway entry crossing at Zamyn Uud; the international train schedule will not be affected.

This year, Mongolia and China celebrate Lunar New Year at different times: Chinese Lunar New Year was held on 27-29th of January. In most years, the festival coincides in the two countries.

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'Ulaanbaatar Railway-2030' forum

February 16 ( The 'Ulaanbaatar Railway-2030' forum will be held at the Blue Sky Hotel on 17th-18th of February and is being organised by the Ulaanbaatar Railway Mongolian-Russian joint venture. More than 280 delegates from Mongolia and other countries will participate in the event to discuss a plan for the development of the Ulaanbaatar Railway to 2030.  The Ulaanbaatar Railway has been contributing to the Mongolian economy for 68 years since its establishment in 1949 in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement with Moscow.

The company is planning to increase its cargo transport capacity to an annual average of 53.6 million tonnes by 2030 from the current 20 million tonnes. Furthermore, Ulaanbaatar Railway is expecting to increase the technical speed of passenger trains by 1.4 times and the number of passengers to 3 million by 2030.

Ulaanbaatar Railway runs the 1110 km long railway connecting Russia to China, this being part of the shortest route connecting Asia with Europe. Nearly 10 percent of total transit transportation to and from Asia to Europe and the Russian Federation passes through Mongolia.

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Businesspeople from Mongolia and East-Siberian region of Russia meet

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) On February 14, The Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and East-Siberian Chamber of Commerce and Industry co-organized a meeting involving businesspeople from Mongolia and Russia.

The representatives from 26 entities of Irkutsk city of Russia attended the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the visit by S.G.Levchenko, Governor of the Irkutsk region to Mongolia.   

Organizers of the meeting underlined that the event provided an opportunity for the participants to find their business partners through roundtable and individual meetings. During the event, members of the Board of Directors of the Mongolia-Russia Friendship Society conveyed a request from Mongolian entrepreneurs and business entities to the Russian side on decreasing the import duty. Because, the comparatively higher rates of customs duty Russia imposed on importing products from Mongolia put burden on Mongolian business entities.  

Russian companies engaged in mining, construction, woodworking, chemical industry, road and trade network, production of food and alcoholic beverages, agriculture, freight forwarding and machinery promoted their products and services during the event. They expressed their willingness to supply Russian products and goods on the Mongolian market.

At the meeting, L.A.Kurbatova, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in Irkutsk pointed out "Mongolia and Russia maintain good relations and this business meeting will play a great role in the development of mutually beneficial ties".

Ts.Amarsanaa, Director of Mongolian "Bilegt Khairkhan Consulting" construction company, which was participating in the meeting said "Our Company conducted a meeting with the heads of some Russian construction and metallurgy companies to exchange views on future cooperation"

As such, Mongolian and Russian business entities agreed to promote the each economy by reciprocally supplying their products and strengthening bilateral cooperation.

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SMEs to cooperate with IT incubator companies

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) The National Information Technology Park aims to encourage cooperation between IT incubator companies and small and medium enterprises. On February 16, a meeting, involving some SMEs was organized targeting to it.

'Aravt' business group member companies were introduced to IT incubator companies and learned more about online marketing.  The membership of the 'Aravt' business group, established in 2013, includes 36 companies.

Chair of Incubator Business Development Center P.Narantsetseg "- Today, it is impossible to run business successfully without information technology.  Small companies have the possibility to promote the company in their home country as well as abroad using internet development. However, many companies have inactive websites developed by non-professional companies. In the first place, we plan to make professional web pages for companies in Ulaanbaatar in collaboration with the Department of Industry and Innovation of the capital.

'Aravt' business group members said that start-up companies face financial problems in promoting their activities on TV or newspapers, as advertisement costs high, therefore, they were seeking for new ways of internet advertising.

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Mongolian livestock: 20 million young expected

February 15 ( A total of 61 million livestock have been enduring an extra harsh winter in Mongolia. The official number of animals will be updated once livestock have finished giving birth to their young this spring. Preliminary estimates are that a total of 20 million young livestock will be born from March to May.

However, as of 14th of February, the ongoing 'Dzud' (the Mongolian term for harsh winter conditions) has resulted in the loss of 75 thousand livestock. More than 100 soums of 10 provinces currently are experiencing Dzud conditions.

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20 million newborn livestock expected this yearMontsame, February 15

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IFC and Mongolian Government Partner to Promote Green Buildings

Ulaanbaatar, February 16, 2017 – IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development (MCUD)  to jointly develop mandatory regulations and voluntary policies to encourage and promote green buildings in Mongolia. The partners will also generate awareness and promote knowledge exchange of sustainable buildings. 

Mongolia is one of the most urbanized countries in Asia with 72 percent of its population living in cities. About 60 percent of urban residents live in gers or traditional tent dwellings. A significant number of buildings, new and old, still rely on inefficient household stoves or coal-based heating systems. These are economically inefficient and also directly contribute to severe air pollution in winter.  Improving building designs through mandatory and voluntary measures can result in substantial benefits by reducing monthly utility bills, improving public health, and cutting down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

"This cooperation recognizes a strong partnership between Ministry of Construction and Urban Development and IFC to promote energy efficiency in the building sector," said Lkhamsuren Shukhert Vice Minister of MCUD. "With IFC's support, we believe we will have a clear path of how to improve energy-efficiency regulations in Mongolia, based on market research and survey results in the coming months." 

MCUD is mainstreaming sustainable building in the construction sector. The Government of Mongolia aims to reduce heat losses from buildings by 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2030, compared to 2014 levels. Energy-efficient buildings will help the government achieve these targets. 

"IFC and MCUD share a common belief that building efficiency makes sense for the environment and for business." said Simon Andrews, IFC's Country Manager for China, Korea, and Mongolia. "Together with our key partners, we will pave the way for an energy-efficient building sector in Mongolia." 

IFC is widely recognized as the premier global-development organization in the building resource-efficiency space due to its extensive global experience in green-building regulations and facilitating access to finance for green-building owners and developers. IFC's EDGE green-building certification is helping builders worldwide to implement energy-efficient technologies into their buildings, thus helping to save resources and reduce GHG emissions. Over these past years, IFC has successfully provided advisory services and implementation support for mandatory green-building/energy-efficiency regulations in several countries in the region, including Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam. 

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Tengri kick starts the year with sustainable fashion project

February 15 (Knitting Industry) British fair trade luxury knitwear brand Tengri has been selected as one of Selfridges' Bright New brand ambassadors to take part in the Material World sustainable fashion project. The platform aims to advance conversations around developments in sustainable fashion design and retailing, sharing stories of best future-gazing design and production, while honouring the strengths of traditional textile manufacturing practice, in the UK and beyond.

As part of the project, the company addresses the problem of the overwhelming popularity of materials such as cashmere, which has resulted in the over-grazing of land and, in some instances, the maltreatment of animals. The solution could be using unexpected yet equally as luxurious materials that have a transparent supply chain and which benefit the communities in which they are created.

Over the next two months, the brand will be showcasing its latest capsule menswear collection in store, where shoppers can discover, experience and buy from new creative brands pioneering sustainable materials in fashion, design and retailing. The collection includes signature pieces such as the Tengri Chevron Coat, the Gauntlet sweater, and The Mariner sweater, created in collaboration with menswear label, Harry Stedman. An exclusive range of knitwear has been created in line with the event including a contemporary Varsity Jacket, and special edition marl beanies and scarves. The coveted staples featuring socks, scarves and beanies will also be available in store.


The collection was based on the theme of Warrior. The company was inspired by the nomadic traditions in Mongolia and equally Celtic symbols and insignia seen on shields, castles and other battle paraphernalia. The collection reflects what it means to be a modern-day warrior today, according to Nancy Johnston, Tengri founder and CEO.

"We wanted to show the interconnected nature of the world and how sustainability is a practical alternative to so many of the wasteful practices of today's fashion industry. I think this is the real battle we face today. Our collection is very upfront about the journey of the material from yarn to garment. The design of each piece includes a little bit of symbolism to represent a journey, as seen in the Chevron or Insignia coat and our Emblem scarf. Each uses pure, undyed and all-natural Noble Yarns, made from yak fibres," explained Ms Johnston.

Road to success

The idea behind Tengri was conceived by Nancy Johnston, a social entrepreneur, when she was travelling with friends and staying with herder families in Mongolia. Nancy became fascinated by the delicate and interwoven relationship between people, animals and the land, developing a deeper understanding and respect for the bond between the herder families' livelihoods, their yaks, and the Mongolian landscape. This experience inspired Nancy to set up Tengri and back in London.

The company launched a Crowdfunder campaign in 2014 to raise funds for its ethical fashion projects in the UK and Mongolia. The campaign, which did not reach its financial goal, aimed to raise enough funding to enable us to purchase an increased amount of noble fibres from yak nomadic herder families in Mongolia.

"The campaign definitely helped to raise Tengri's profile and, although we did not reach our target, we were overwhelmed that so many supporters reached out and invested in Tengri directly. In fact, this meant we exceeded our target, and the funding helped us work with even more nomadic herders in Mongolia, supporting 4,500 families," commented Ms Johnston.

Sustainable choice

The London based company's products are made with yak fibres. As well as being 100% sustainably sourced, Tengri Noble Yarns are as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, hypoallergenic, resistant to water and odours, and more resistant to pilling than other luxury fibres, according to the company.

Through participation in this project, the brand says it wants to make it simple for everyone to create change. "With greater awareness of the issues around sustainability, and retail shops stocking better products, it will be easier for more people to buy sustainable products that do good," said Ms Johnston.

"In the short term, it would be great if the Material World project inspires more people to think about where their clothes really come from and how it is made. It can be hard to resist what seems like a bargain – "fast fashion" – but there are reasons why a garment is so cheap. If more customers ask questions about the origin of their clothing, they can make better-informed choices and use their buying power as an easy first step to creating change. Brands will respond positively."

Future plans

"As a lifestyle brand, we're exploring collaborations beyond fashion. We've recently collaborated with Savoir Beds to create a bed of unrivalled comfort, made with heritage craftsmanship and applying new technologies to our premium and rare yak fibres," said Ms Johnston.

"This type of project proves that luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. And we're working on more exciting developments in the world of sustainable luxury powered by nature and technological innovations."

Material World project

The Selfridges Material World – What on earth are you wearing project explores the materiality of clothes and their effect on our world. The project focuses on eight materials and problems associated with their production and their use in everyday life. These include wool, cotton, leather, linen, plastic, denim, cashmere, and viscose.

The project selected eight designers as Bright New brand ambassadors, who with their products aim to contribute to finding the solution to these problems. In detail, the issues and challenges are discussed in the short film produced by Sara Andreasson and Anna Ginsburg.

Further reading

Luxury knitwear brand crowdfunds Mongolian Yak wool project

Sustainable consumer choices on the rise?

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Direct Line: Export Opportunities in Mongolia's Agribusiness and Livestock Sector


March 9, 2017

Topic: Export Opportunities in Mongolia's Agribusiness and Livestock Sector

Host: U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Jennifer Zimdahl Galt


      Dr. Murali Bandla, Regional Manager, Asia & Pacific for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (APHIS/USDA)

      Representative from MSM Group/John Deere on Cropping in Mongolia

      Representative from Mercy Corps International on Livestock Export Program

      Mr. John McDaniel, Economic and Commercial Section Chief, U.S. Embassy in Mongolia

      Dr. Michael D. Richmond, Senior Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy in Mongolia

Date and Time (Washington, DC): March 9, 2017, 6:00 pm - 7:00 p.m. U.S. EST

Date and Time (local): March 10, 2017, 7:00 am - 8:00 a.m. Ulaanbaatar Time

Brief Description of Call: Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt invites you to join a discussion about opportunities for U.S. exporters in Mongolia's agribusiness and livestock sector. Endowed with ample fertile soil and pasture, Mongolia is well suited for agricultural cultivation, and Mongolia's government has committed to developing a competitive agricultural export market. Situated next to an insatiable Chinese market and close to high-end Japanese and Korean consumers, Mongolia will need to incorporate new technologies and best practices to develop into a competitive agricultural exporter. U.S. agribusinesses and livestock producers, with experience in similar climatic conditions to Mongolia (such as Idaho, Nebraska or North Dakota), possess the products, technologies, and know how that can transform the Mongolian agribusiness sector. Ambassador Galt and the participants will talk about current efforts by the U.S. government and other organizations to improve Mongolia's technical agricultural capacity, including an initiative to support the creation of a cattle export sector requiring new technologies and equipment that U.S. suppliers can provide. In addition, financing options available to U.S. exporters will be discussed.

Please RSVP by March 8, 2017 by clicking here.

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Shipping rate request from Egypt to Mongolia by Multimodal

(FreightNet) The enquirer requires a shipping rate for rice to be despatched by Multimodal and arrive no later than 25/02/2017. The consignment is departing from Egypt and arriving at Mongolia. Full details of this shipping rate request can be found below.

Only Premium members with an office in Egypt or Mongolia can respond to this rate request.

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ADB-funded project to help reduce UB air pollution

February 14 (MONTSAME) The Urban Transport Development Project in Mongolia by the Asian Development Bank had been discussed since 2009.  The project was finally backed by Parliament in April 2015.  Among the efforts to solve traffic jams in Ulaanbaatar, and in spite of the relatively small number of vehicles compared to densely-populated metropolitan cities, building a subway system seemed like the most practical approach.  However, it would require 30 years, while a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system would only require 7 years for complete construction.

The Bus rapid transit (BRT, BRTS, busway, transitway) is a bus-based public transport system designed to improve capacity and reliability relative to a conventional bus system.

According to the project schedule, the first BRT lane must be built by the end of 2017, pursuant to a detailed design completed in late 2016.

The Asian Development Bank is granting credit of USD 218 million for the package of urban transport projects, including the BRT.  Last May, the first placement of the credit USD 60.0 million was allocated for the commencement of construction.  The Government of Mongolia granted USD 10.0 million and the Global Environment Fund – USD 1.5 million.

Total cost of the project is USD 274 million, of which USD 57 million is to be provided by the Government of Mongolia.

In the margin of the BRT project, 64.5 km long bus lane will be built in Ulaanbaatar city.

According to ADB's project research, the smoke emitted from vehicles account for about a quarter of the air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, and more than half of the city's residents commute by bus.  The number of registered vehicles in Ulaanbaatar rose six-fold between 2006 and 2015.

Each kilometer of BRT lane is estimated to cost around USD 1-5 million and the project is expected to reduce traffic's contribution to the city's air pollution by 18 percent.

It is also expected that approximately 10-20 percent of residents who live near the transitways will give up driving and start using public transport.

The first transitways will be built connecting the airport with Peace Bridge and the III, IV micro-districts with Dragon Bus Terminal, taking into account the width of roads, said D.Otgonbaatar, head of the UB City Project and Cooperation Division.

"We expect 90 percent improvement in the public transport management of the city and 25-30 percent increase in revenues from bus tickets.  Riders will enjoy an online inquiry system.  The project is also calculated to reduce costs of unnecessary engine starts and stops caused by heavy traffic jams by 14 percent", he added.

The Mongolian side will pay 1.0 percent interest for the first eight years of ADB's 32-year loan and 1.5 percent interest for the next 24 years.


The article is featured in the Mongol Messenger's issue No. 6 for February 10.

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Stove and water heaters to have new standards

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) Within a goal to reduce air pollution, a standard for stove and water heating stove has been renewed to make their current standard closer to actual indicators of stove with complete combustion. The standard will be applicable starting April 1.

Governor's office of the capital, Professional inspection department of Ulaanbaatar city, Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project and other corresponding organizations has developed and approved the standard.

Specialists underlined that standardization of heating devices is significant to reduce the amount of pollution. Chairman of the Professional inspection department of the capital L.Erdenechuluun said 'Following a joint ordinance by National Security Council, Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism and the Governor of the Capital, over 400 inspectors of the capital professional inspection department have obligations to control air pollution. The inspectors will collaborate with administrations of 152 khoroos. They will supervise against air pollution and bring charges against law breaching entities and citizens according to Environmental Law, Air pollution Law and State Inspection Law.  65 per cent of all families in the capital utilize stove and water heating stove during the winter months.

The development of the standard was financed by the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project of the World Bank. Practicing proper firing will decrease air pollution of the capital by 20-30 percent, explained the project coordinator N.Bayartogtokh.

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Sanitation facilities of 3,000 ger district households to be improved

February 15 ( At the Managing staff meeting of environmental sector, the Minister of Environment noted that the soil, water and environment pollution is becoming the major challenge not only in Ulaanbaatar city, but also aimags. 

Pit latrines are the major source of soil pollution. 

Tuul and other major rivers water is being polluted due to the insufficient capacity of sewage treatment plants and illegal operation of mining companies. 

Over 190 thousand households are living in ger-districts or unplanned urban residential areas that lack basic services. Of which 80 percent of households are using non-standard sanitation facilities. 

Thus Ministry of Environment and Tourism to implement a project to improve sanitation facilities of 3000 ger-district households living in Ulaanbaatar city during 2018-2020 with US$ 3 million grantfunded by Asian Development Bank.

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'You can taste it in the air': your stories of life in polluted cities

Readers shared their experiences of living in cities affected by air pollution – from the curse of the 'Delhi chest' in India's capital to celebrating blue sky in Shanghai

February 16 (The Guardian) --

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

"We are a part of the #BreatheMongolia and #MongolsAreSuffering initiatives. Protests and demonstrations in Ulaanbaatar have been raising awareness of the dangerous air pollution in the city and calling upon the government for solutions to the crisis as soon as possible. Thousands of demonstrators marched holding black balloons that represent their damaged lungs caused by air pollution and hung the balloons on the fence around the government house, aiming to show that around 500 children die annually in Mongolia due to air pollution.

"It has officially been declared that air pollution in Ulaanbaatar has reached disaster levels, exceeding 120 times the safe limit; 80% of the air pollution comes from the districts of ger (traditional circular felted tents) households, where people burn coal to stay warm.

"The top three diseases that resulted in the largest number of deaths in Mongolia in 2013 were air pollution-related. Studies show that air pollution exposure also results in miscarriage, premature birth and has an impact on the intellectual and physical development of a child. We know of someone who had multiple miscarriages while living in the city and had to move out to the countryside in order to give birth successfully. The people of Mongolia deserve clean air." (Nomi Ganbold and JaRed Cameron)

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UB Mayor's Office supports Plastic Bag Free Day

February 14 (UB Post) Plastic Bag Free Day will be organized by the Mayor's Office in cooperation with the Tekhnoj NGO business incubation center.

According to a study conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Mongolia produces 660 tons of plastic bag waste during the summer and 420 tons during the winter. The winter figure rises as Lunar New Year celebrations approach.

The National Security Council has conceded that the waste output of the nation has reached disastrous levels, with Ulaanbaatar producing one million tons of waste annually.

"It has become vital to educate people on phasing out the use of plastic bags in their everyday lives. Ulaanbaatar residents spend approximately two billion MNT annually on the purchase of plastic bags, all of which are imported and ultimately end up polluting our soil," said the Director of Tekhnoj, G.Galaariidii.

Another important waste issue highlighted by the Mayor's Office and Tekhnoj NGO is the use of disposable plastic shoe covers that are widely used in kindergartens and hospitals. UB residents collectively spend an estimated 400 million MNT on plastic shoe covers each month, adding up to four billion MNT spent annually. The disposable covers are responsible for large volumes of waste and are a financial detriment, says Tekhnoj.

"Nationally, there are 447 open garbage dumps. Plastic bags are lightweight, yet they account for the majority of waste at the dumps. By phasing out plastic bag use, we have the opportunity to prevent large amounts of damage to the environment," added G.Galaariidii.

Tekhnoj believes that reusable cotton bags are the optimal alternative to plastic bags. They have had a hand in initiating the domestic manufacturing of cotton bags with support from World Vision, Finnish Lutheran Overseas Mission, and the United Nations. The project will ultimately have 55 workers producing reusable bags and shoe covers to replace the use of disposable ones.

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Let's get "Mongolian blue" back!

By Kanako.O, Freelance journalist, Tokyo, Japan

February 15 (Mongolian Economy) I greeted New Year 's Day of 2017 in Ulaanbaatar and I felt the air pollution got worse than when I visited in wintertime two years ago. In Tokyo where I live, the measured value per hour of PM 2.5 concentration in the atmosphere was around15μg / at 23:00 on January 22nd, but in the same time Bayankhoshuu area showed1956μg / m³.It's unbelievable.

However, in the 1960s-1970s, several cities of Japan including Tokyo used to be faced with very serious air pollution problem. The main cause was the emission of sulfur oxides and dust from fuel coal and heavy oil burned at heavy industries and petrochemical complexes that were built by the rapid economic growth. The gas exhausted from cars also polluted the air. At that time the visibility was really bad so that 50meters ahead could not be seen, so cars turned on the lights even in the daytime. The number of people with respiratory problems had increased, and the people raised a voice saying "We want to regain the blue sky!" Then the national government and municipal governments improved the law for ameliorating air pollution, and strictly regulated the amount of pollutants discharged by companies. As a result of taking concrete measures such as attaching a dust collector, it was improved considerably, but measures are still continuing now.

According to the World Bank survey, 60% of the cause of Ulaanbaatar's air pollution is by smoke from the ger district, 20% is by cars, 10% is by heat only boilers, 6% is by three power plants. The Mongolian government has been seeking solutions in cooperation with governments of some countries, and Japanese government is also working on various projects taking advantage of past experience.

As a measure to reduce smoke from the ger district, for example, there is a heat storage heater project. A heat storage heater is a device that converts electricity into heat and preserves it and can be used when you want to use it. The implementation of free night electricity at the beginning of 2017 strengthened the feasibility of this project. If you have this heater in the house, you can store the free electricity as heat at night and you can warm the house with that heat on the next day, even for 24 hours depending on how it is used. In other words, you do not have to burn coal all night. Coal must be used when cooking, but since it is a short time, the impact would be small on air pollution, and the atmosphere in every morning could be improved.

This project has being promoted by a mixed team of Japan and Mongolia. On the Japanese side, the Ministry of the Environment, Hokkaido, Sapporo city, Kita Denryoku Setsubi Kouji Co., Ltd., and Overseas Environmental Cooperation Center (OECC) participate, on the Mongolian side, the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, Ulaanbaatar City, JCM and Nature Conservation Fund participate. Mr. Amarbayar Adiyabat of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National University of Mongolia conducted a demonstration experiment for 2 years from 2014 and confirmed the effect of the heater. "It is good news for this project that free electricity at night in the ger district were operated, but if heat storage heaters would be used for the purpose of ensuring clean air, free electricity at night should be continued during the heating period from September 15th to May 15th, then the effect will be even higher." said Mr. Makoto Nishimura, Principal researcher at OECC.

In other attempts, the Japanese Government has been also providing technical support for smoke-free briquette fuel, demonstration experiments on regional heat only boilers that can reduce pollutants, and demonstration experiments on equipment that reduces emissions of diesel buses. It was confirmed by experiments that each technology and equipment reduces pollutants, so it would be able to contribute to the improvement of air pollution, if they were adopted in Ulaanbaatar city.

In mid January, I asked my friend living in the ger district whether she received the benefit of free electricity. Then she said, "I still burn cheap coal, because I cannot afford to buy heating equipment." In order to carry out new measures, even if there is a good idea, if there is not enough money, it will end with an account of dream.

PM 2.5 refers to small contaminants of 2.5μm (one thousandth of 2.5mm)or less. Since it has only one thirtieth of a hair of a person, it cannot be prevented with a normal mask, it goes deep into the lungs and affects the human body. My friends' children living in the ger district hurt their throat every winter. In order to support the future of Mongolia, children are the most indispensable treasure, and their health should be protected preferentially. 

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"I love studying, but it is frightening to walk alone in dark streets"

February 15 ( 104th secondary school of the Songinokhairkhan district is one of the 22 schools that are using three-shift system. Students of 4th and 5th grades are going on third shift. It is tough for children under 10 years old to walk for home in the dark and cold winter night. In the winter it gets dark at 5pm in Mongolia. Most children are picked up by their parents, brothers or sisters. However it is heartbreaking to hear that children from difficult background walk alone in dark streets with fear. 

On Wednesday, students of grade 4B with home room teacher Delgermaa dismissed classes at 7:20 pm. If they have six hours of lesson, they finish classes at 8:10 pm. They have six classes twice a week.

J.Zoljargal, student of class 4B travels long distances to reach home from school. She walks through the mountains after getting off from a bus. Her father`s work finishes at 10 pm, so she can`t wait for him. Her mother looks after her baby sisters and brothers aged from 6 months to 6 years old.

Thus her grandmother picks up Zoljargal. However old woman gets tired after the long walk. Zoljargal, the eldest girl of the family is a smart girl. She walks with her schoolmate who lives near to her house. Then they desperate from one point where she meets her grandmother. 

At 7:20 pm bell has rung to announce the ending of class. It was already getting dark outside. Students have raced for their outwear and went to home with their parents who came to pick them up.

At 7:40 pm. The nearest bus station locates 0.5 km away from the school. There were no people except 7-8 students aged 10 years old at the bus stop. Zoljargal says "Buses do not stop, if there were only children at the bus stop. Maybe it is because of children travel free on buses".

Bus has arrived after 13 minutes. A girl said "Today is a lucky day. If the bus did not stop, I would have to walk to my home". 

Distance meter shows 2.8 km from her school to home, while the distance was 1.2 km to home from the bus stop. Thus Zoljargal walks an average of 2.5 km to school in a day.


We talked with Zoljargal on their way to home.

-How long does it take to get to your home?

-It takes an hour. I walk for 20 minutes to bus stop from school. Then I ride bus passing two stations and walk again to home. 

-Why your parents does not pick you up?

-No, dad works late. My dad is translator. I don`t know where his office is, but I heard that it is very far. My mom is looking after my sisters and brothers. I have three younger siblings. The youngest one is just less than four months. My next brother is a student of first grade and the middle one is three-year-old.

-How is your school?  

-I love studying, but it is frightening to walk alone in dark streets when our class dismisses late. We will still walk in dark next year unless our school stop using three-shift system.

-Luckily your street has light, right? 

-It will get dark as we go further.

-Are you afraid of walking alone in dark street? 

-Yes, of course. I am really afraid of dog attack. I was bitten by a dog from that yard when I was in 1st grade. Owners still have not tied the dog even my parents demanded. Also there are two more dogs on my way.

Moreover households dump grey water on street and it causes slippery road in winter.

-Do you really walk through these dark streets alone?

-Not all the time. But sometimes I do if I have to. At that time, I try to walk close to someone. 

At last we have reached to her home.

At 8:30 pm. "Our ger locates on the top of the mountain where wind cleares the air, we have clean air here. Smoke increases as we reach close with households and roads", told Zoljargal.

We were very pleased to hear that Zoloo and her three siblings breathe clean air. 


104th secondary school has been using three-shift system since 2008. Teachers must hand over every students to their parents after class. All parents of 42 students don`t come on time to pick up their children. Thus teachers wait until the last child is picked up parents. 

Sometimes teachers took students to home. Thus the teachers work will not finish at 9 pm-10pm. The Government of Mongolia has already forgot that the teachers have families and children too. Even teachers don`t receive overtime pay, revealing that the Government is exploiting teachers.

Young teachers who are working for the second year at 104th school get salary of MNT 430 thousand per month. 10 percent of the salary is added when they are in charge of one class. Teachers who are working more than five years are paid MNT 550 thousand per month, of which MNT 350 thousand will be paid for their salary loan. Almost all teachers have salary loan.

They get loan again after one. It is common among teachers to live from loan to loan.

104th school building has a capacity of 750 children, but it has 1600 students today. Every new candidate for the Minister of Education promises to stop the three-shift system. However it has not decided yet. Teachers and students of 104th school told that three-shift system will end, if school extension is commissioned next year. 

There are many children who travel longer distance than Zoljargal, who are in great risk of abuse and dog attack. 

Dear Minister of Education, please stop using three-shift system as soon as possible, for the sake of preventing the potential threat.

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Energy minister authorized to negotiate energy sector cooperation agreement with Russia

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) -The Cabinet allowed P.Gankhuu, Minister of Energy to hold talks with the Russian Ministry of energy on establishing cooperation agreement in the energy sector between the Governments of Mongolia and Russia.  

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Prime Minister and Turkish Ambassador discuss economic ties

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) Prime Minister J.Erdenebat received Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Yazal on February 14. The head of the Mongolian Government underlined the necessity to broaden economic and investment ties and exploit all potentials for greater bilateral cooperation.

Noting that the two countries' political relations are at a satisfactory level, the Turkish Ambassador said that it is necessary to elevate trade and economic ties to such level, and promised to put all efforts on his behalf to accomplish this goal.

PM J.Erdenebat noted that the process of implementing the follow-ups of the President of Turkey P.T.Erdogan's visit to Mongolia, took place in 2013, has been prolonged. During the visit, the Turkish side agreed to grant USD 300 million soft loan and budget assistance loan of USD 500 million – 1.0 billion to the Mongolian Government from the Türk Eximbank. The Prime Minister asked the Ambassador to put attention on the matter.

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Cabinet approves guidelines for Mongolian delegation to 34th UN Human Rights Council meeting

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) -The Cabinet set to have the Prime Minister approves a guideline to be abided by the Mongolian delegates to the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will begin in Geneva, Switzerland on February 27. Reports on the activities, policy and reform of legal reform implemented by the government of Mongolia on the protection and promotion of human rights will be made during the session.

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Irkutsk Governor plans big business with Mongolia

February 16 ( Mongolian Prime Minister J.Erdenebat received Sergey Levchenko, governor of Russia's Irkutsk Oblast (region) at Government House earlier today (16th of February). During the meeting, PM J.Erdenebat noted that cooperation between border regions plays a significant role in relations between Mongolia and Russia.

Governor Levchenko arrived in Ulaanbaatar with 25 Russian businessmen. He noted the plans for establishing an Investment Agency for the Irkutsk Region in Ulaanbaatar and increasing the number of Mongolian students who study in the University of Roads and Transport.

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Foreign Minister visits Mongolian Embassy in Moscow

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) On the sidelines of Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil's visit to the Russian Federation, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Russia B.Delgermaa hosted a meeting at the Mongolian Embassy in Moscow on February 14. 

From the Russian side, Head of the First Asian Department (AD1) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs A.B.Kulik and Head of the AD1 Mongolia Department R.I.Juravlev were present. 

At the meeting, FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil expressed his gratitude for the outstanding preparation of his working visit to Russia for the Asia Department and the Mongolian Embassy. He also wished the officials to prioritize preparatory works on the Mongolian Prime Minister's visit to the country, including early submission of drafts of the bilateral agreements and meeting agendas.

A number of important matters were touched upon at the meeting, including the implementation of the Medium Term Program on Development of the Strategic Partnership, promotion of ties between the ministries and institutions of the two countries, strengthening of cooperation between the archival offices of the foreign ministries and exchanging historical documents regarding the bilateral relations.

Following the meeting, FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil met with the embassy staff and gave directions on the matters of Mongolia-Russia relations.

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Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil visits alma mater MGIMO in Moscow

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) On the sidelines of the visit of Ts.Munkh-Orgil, Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Russian Federation, Anatoly Vasilyevich Torkunov, Rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) hosted a meeting at the MGIMO building. The Foreign Minister of Mongolia graduated from the MGIMO in 1988.

At the beginning of the meeting, Anatoly Torkunov said that he is pleased to see that the MGIMO alumnus is appointed as the Foreign Minister of Mongolia and remarked the fact that regardless of the ruling political party in Mongolia, a number of MGIMO alumnae works in high-level government position. He then noted that around 40 Mongolian students are currently studying at MGIMO and over 500 have graduated from the University since 1951.

Foreign Minister of Mongolia Ts.Munkh-Orgil expressed his gratitude towards the institute and professors for their valuable contribution in his career and life. Further mentioning Mongolian MGIMO Alumni Association being active and recalled one of the first Mongolian alumni of MGIMO Academician L.Bira. The Foreign Minister extended his gratitude for short-term trainings of 15 diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the cooperation agreement between the foreign ministries of two countries in 2016 and further expressed his particular interest in MGIMO's MBA programs.

The Rector mentioned to the Minister MGIMO's tradition of holding World Forums of Alumni and the participants of the meeting mulled over the possibility of Mongolia hosting the forum in 2018. The sides also discussed the opportunity for Mongolian youth to participate in Russian educational and cultural projects, among which the World Festival of Youth and Students to take place in October.

During the visit, Foreign Minister also met with students from Mongolia and encouraged them, upon completion of their studies, to join the Foreign Ministry of Mongolia.

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Mongolian Consul General to Irkutsk presents his patent

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) On February 13, L.Amarsanaa, Mongolian Consul General to Irkutsk of the Russian Federation presented his consular patent to S.G.Levchenko, Governor of the Irkutsk Region of Russia.

Following the ceremony to present the patent, Governor S.G.Levchenko received Consul-General L.Amarsanaa. Expressing his glad for the appointment of L.Amarsanaa as Mongolian Consul General, who had studied in Irkutsk and has an abundance of experience in diplomatic service, the Irkutsk Governor pledged to cooperate to boost bilateral relations and cooperation.

Also, he said that the Irkutsk region plays an important role in the bilateral ties between Mongolia and Russia and noted that the bilateral cooperation is developing within the framework of the strategic partnership of Mongolia and Russia. He then said that it is necessary to develop partnership crossing a myriad of sectors, including energy, minerals, environment, tourism and construction. "I will pay attention on those issues during my working visit to Mongolia" he mentioned. 

In response, Consul General L.Amarsanaa noted that Mongolia and Irkutsk region of Russia maintain long-term traditional friendly relations, which have been developing in all spheres. "Over 5000 Mongolian nationals have studied in the Irkutsk region". he said.

Afterwards, L.Amarsanaa expressed his willingness to cooperate actively to intensify bilateral collaboration in the future, especially the economic partnership and wished success for the Governor S.G.Levchenko's visit to Mongolia.

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Health & Education

AIDS/HIV on the rise in Mongolia

February 15 ( Based on the statistics released by the National Centre for Communicable Diseases, there have been a total of 229 cases of HIV/AIDS since the first HIV case was reported in Mongolia 25 years ago. Of this figure, 23.1% are aged 25 to 29, while one case was aged only 15 years. A total of 18 teens have been infected HIV/AIDS since 1992. All cases of HIV/AIDS in Mongolia are sexually transmitted; 37 individuals have already passed away.

The consistent upward trend both in the number of deaths and the number of new cases is alarming indeed. Thus, the Department of Health is continuously educating the public regarding HIV/AIDS and what they can do to stop the spread of infection.

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Private hospitals to get government financing for hemodialysis treatment

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) Hemodialysis treatment now can be performed by private hospitals with government finance. To eliminate long delays for the treatment, the Health Ministry started to realize this action, having made relevant studies and calculations.

The Ministry established an agreement with seven private hospitals, which have a license to perform hemodialysis therapy. In pursuance to the decision, private hospitals, including Lux dialysis, Intermed, Erin, ICU and UB med are currently serving to 70 patients with chronic kidney failure and Nart-Erdenes, Agape hospis hospitals will have 54 more patients. The agreement allows 120 patients to get constant hemodialysis treatment.

Patients with kidney failure will get hemodialysis treatment free of charge, while they used to pay MNT125 thousand for a one time treatment and MNT375 thousand for three times a week.

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Culture & Society

A New Generation of Reformers: 2017 Asia Foundation Development Fellows

February 15 (Asia Foundation) Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, and by 2030, the region will represent two-thirds of the global middle class and account for over 40 percent of global middle-class consumption. While the most dynamic and transformative region in the world, Asia's challenges surrounding youth unemployment, rising inequality, pervasive conflicts, and urbanization are ever more pressing.

Given the diversity of Asia's populations and cultures, and the depth and complexity of Asian's extraordinary development challenges, the need for supporting creative, inspired, and transformative next-generation leadership has never been more imperative.

To provide a new platform for Asia's young, reform-minded professionals, and offer a catalyst for learning and leadership, The Asia Foundation launched in 2014 its Asia Foundation Development Fellows: Emerging Leadership for Asia's Future program, bringing together individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds—NGO and civil society leaders, government officials and policymakers, social entrepreneurs, journalists, environmentalists, and academics—drawing participants from across disciplines, working environments, cultures, and country contexts to build practical leadership skills and extend leadership capabilities and potential.

The Foundation is pleased to announce its fourth cohort of Development Fellows—seven women and five men representing 11 countries—to take part in the year-long professional advancement program. With a diverse mix of backgrounds and incredible records of accomplishment, and selected for their relevant real-world development expertise, proven community leadership, and exceptional potential, the 2017 Development Fellows are:

Lkhagva Erdene is an investigative journalist and executive producer of news at Mongol TV in Mongolia. In his role at Mongol TV, he has helped to earn its position as the most-watched prime-time news channel in Mongolia. A former court interpreter and ministerial aid, Erdene is a founding member of the Media Council of Mongolia, the country's first-ever independent media council and currently serves on the ethics committee. He is a member of the Global Shaper Community—Mongolia, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, and was named a '"30 under 30″' by Forbes Mongolia in 2015.

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Berkeley Event: Evolution of the 20th century Mongolia/China border, in maps

Tour/Open House | March 10 | 11 a.m.-12 p.m. | 50 McCone Hall


Join us for a Maps and More pop up exhibit featuring maps from librarian Susan Powell's photo essay focusing the Mongolian-Chinese border. Find her article here:

Event, 510-642-2997

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Airport officials seize horse genitals from Mongolian travelers

BALTIMORE, February 16 (WBAL TV) — Two women flew in from Mongolia with animal meat concealed into juice boxes, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday.

The women flew into at Washington Dulles International Airport on Jan. 29 with horsemeat concealed inside juice boxes, including 13 pounds of horse genitals that one woman claimed were for medicinal purposes, officials said.

The women were referred by CBP for a routine agriculture examination after they deplaned. CBP agriculture specialists discovered a combined 42 pounds of meat described as horsemeat and other types of meat, including 13 pounds of horse genitals and three liters of yak milk, officials said.

Horsemeat that does not have an official government horsemeat certification from the country or government it originates from is prohibited from entering the U.S., officials said.

When there's no proper certification, CBP treats it as unknown meat and seizes it due to fears of foot and mouth disease. Horsemeat from Mongolia is prohibited due to concerns of introducing animal diseases to U.S. livestock industries.

"Customs and Border Protection takes no pleasure in seizing and destroying travelers' food products," said Wayne Biondi, CBP port director for the Area Port of Washington Dulles. "We're in the business of protecting America's agriculture industries, like the livestock industry, from the potential introduction of animal diseases posed by these unpermitted food products."

CBP incinerated all food products. Neither woman was criminally charged. CBP officers released them to continue their visit.

Official said they have found other unusual things in traveler baggage at Washington Dulles International Airport over the years; from charred full monkeys, to voodoo ceremony tools, to cocaine concealed inside the cavity of fully cooked chickens, to live sea horses and giant African land snails.

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Women busted trying to smuggle horse genitals into USNew York Post, February 16

2 Women Try To Sneak 13 Pounds Of Horse Genitals Into U.S.Huffington Post, February 16

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National Museum displays Yuan banknote and other archeological treasures

February 16 ( The National Museum of Mongolia is presenting an archaeological exhibition entitled 'Fourth Display of New Finds'. The exhibition opened on 15th of February.

The free exhibition shows nearly 400 rare discoveries such as Yuan dynasty banknote (the Yuan was when China was ruled by the Mongols), a XIII century Mongolian soldier's deel (tunic), an Altai 'yatug' or zither and Sasanian Empire coins. The exhibits on show have been selected from over 1800 items.

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National Museum unveils 400 new piecesMontsame, February 16

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Experience the biggest folk music festival of Mongolia

February 15 ( Every year, just before the Tsagaan Sar celebration the biggest folk music concert is organized with the aim to develop Mongolian folk music, support artists promoting Mongolia to the world and maintain unity of the Mongols through folk arts. 

Described as the biggest folk concerts ever held in Mongolia, the concert now enjoy a 6-year history and have featured an eclectic mix of the country's finest musicians and entertainers.

This 6th concert is organized as the traditional music festival and named as Ekh Undarga (Fountain) and over 300 artists including Domog, Jonon, Khusugtun, Ikh Mongol, Nuudelchid, Khemnel are to perform Mongolian folk music, long song, throat singing, traditional dance and traditional music instruments.

The festival will take place on Feb 17-19 at the Central Cultural Palace of Mongolian Trade Unions. 

Tickets are now available at at 25,000 MNT and 50,000 MNT.

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Celebrate Tsagaan Sar With Locals

February 16 ( "Tsagaan Sar" celebration is the Lunar New Year for the Mongols according to their centuries old lunar astrology. The Mongols celebrate Tsagaan Sar for passing the harsh winter in good health and is considered as the beginning of spring.

Moreover the Tsagaan Sar is a big family celebration as everyone visits their elders to greet and wish well for the coming year. They also exchange gifts and there's a lot of festive food (delicious meat dumplings!) and drinks, of course. 

In the city the first 3 days of Tsagaan Sar is a holiday, though it extends as long as 15 days for nomads in the countryside, and after Day 15 the new year is no longer new, and everyone stops visits and festivities and goes back to the normal, ever busy lifestyle.  

This year the first day of Tsagaan Sar occurs on Feb 27th and the first three days of Tsagaan Sar (Feb 27-Mar 1) is non-working public holiday nationwide. 

So don't just hibernate at home during Tsagaan Sar – come out and celebrate this beautiful age-old celebration and experience the Mongol culture, hospitality and traditions.

Mongolian Secret History camp organises an annual event during the Tsagaan Sar to give expats and visitors alike the opportunity to experience this beautiful celebration just like locals. The program they sent to us is below:

Feb 26, 2017 LUNAR NEW YEAR EVE                                

  • Arrive at the Mongolian Secret History tourist complex
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Take a guided trip around the complex including the following:
    -A visit to our ger library to learn about Mongolian nomadic culture along with its heritage, art and literature.
    -Walk to a nearby shrine with a statue dedicated to an ancient Mongolian shaman called "Tev Tenger", to learn about the fascinating customs of ancient shamanism. While at the statue you will be served traditional Mongolian drinks and afterwards enjoy some sledging back down the hill to the camp.
  • Lunch
  • Traditional music concert
  • Mongolian traditional dress show
  • Visit herder's family to take part in preparing traditional food and enjoy local culture on "Lunar New year's Eve"
  • Dinner
  • Learn traditional knucklebone games such as:
    -"Colored turtle" (sheep or goat knuckle bones arranged into turtle shape)
    -"Horse racing" (win the race with your knucklebones)
    -"Knuckle bone catch" (test your speed and skill in this exciting game)
    -"Knuckle bone flicking" (show off your aim by flicking knuckle bones)


·         Take your predetermined, personal first steps of the New Year before the sun rises according to Mongolian traditions relating to your individual birthday and year

·         Breakfast

·         Visit a herder's family on the first day of the Lunar New Year

·         Learn traditional greeting, "Zolgoh"

·         Prepare and eat traditional meals

·         See the new calves

·         Enjoy watching a winter horse race and try your hand at archery

·         Give and receive your new year presents resents

·         Horse racing

·         Ride horses and camels

·         Lunch

·         Photos with traditional dress

·         More archery

·         Free time for relaxing

·         Dinner

·         Watch a documentary movie about the Mongolian people's daily life and culture.

·         Learn the traditional dances "Zadgai tsagaan", "Khumuun turlukhtun"

·         Learn the spring game and participate in a competition

TAX: Per person 48$ /120.000₮/ and per child 16$ (does not include accommodation, meal and transport). However, bus service is available upon request (for groups with 1-10 people 14$ /35.000₮/ per person, round way; for groups with 11-16 people - 14$ /30.000₮/ per person round way).

280,600₮ for 2 nights stay at wooden ger meals for 2 days

388,400₮ for 2 nights stay at luxury room +meals for 2 days

322,400₮ for 2 nights stay at standard room with twin beds +meals for 2 days

300,400₮ for 2 nights stay at standard room with bunk beds +meals for 2 days

Please contact the organisers at: Phone: 976-11-70000450, 99043547, 99993200.

E-mail: info@mongoliansecrethistory.mnWebsite:

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"Tsagaan Sar 2017" tourist event to take place

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) The biggest annual celebration of Mongolia marking the beginning of spring, "Tsagaan Sar" or Lunar New Year is starting from February 26. On the occasion, Mongolian Secret History Travel Company is organizing "Tsagaan  Sar 2017" event on February 26-27. 

The company has organized the tourist event with the collaboration of local nomadic families every year since 2008. The main purpose of the event is to promote a Mongolian nomadic way of life and their customs of celebrating the traditional Lunar New Year. It gives an opportunity for locals and foreign tourists to have real experience of how Tsagaan Sar is truly celebrated by herders and nomads in the countryside.

During the two-day event, a myriad of activities are planned for the guests, including trip around the Mongolian Secret History Complex, visit to Ger library to learn about Mongolian nomadic culture, heritage, art and literature, walk to nearby shrine with a statue dedicated to an ancient Mongolian shaman called "Tev Tenger", traditional music concert, traditional dress show, visit to herder family, traditional Mongolian knucklebone games, trip to see the first sunrise of lunar new year, winter horse race, archery contest, and many other events to experience Tsagaan Sar holiday. 

The Mongolian Secret History tourist camp is located in the territory of Jargalant soum, Tuv province around 68.82 miles from Ulaanbaatar city.

For more information, visit the company's website or Facebook page.

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Asian Access: Thank you from Mongolian Leader Chinzorig

by Chinzorig Jigjidsuren

February 14 (Asian Access) Greetings from Mongolia! Thank you very much!

"I would really like to thank all the people who are committing themselves in prayer, in giving and in being part of the global movement of advancing the kingdom of God through church planting and equipping and training ministries. Everybody, because we believe in the priesthood of every believer, we all have been serving by our gifts, by our resources, and by our calling.

So thank you very much for all of your investment and contribution to the churches in Asia and eventually the global Church. Thank you very much."


May God bless you all!


Chinzorig Jigjidsuren

National Director, Asian Access/Mongolia

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Nature & Environment

European Union brings relief to Mongolian herders affected by extreme winter conditions

Ulaanbaatar, 10 February 2017 (European Union) – In response to the particularly harsh winter which has struck large parts of Mongolia since November, the European Commission is providing over 115 000 EUR in humanitarian funding to bring immediate relief to the most affected families. The aid will directly benefit 5000 most vulnerable individuals in some of the country's worst-hit provinces, namely Khuvsgul, Selenge, Uvs and Zavkhan.

This EU funding supports the Mongolian Red Cross Society in delivering much-needed assistance through the provision of first aid kits and unconditional cash grants. The kits enable herders to maintain their physical well-being in particularly challenging conditions, while cash assistance allows beneficiaries to cover other immediate needs triggered by the extreme climatic conditions, following their own priorities. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Vast swathes of Mongolia, particularly in the north, have witnessed an exceptionally cold winter and heavy snow fall over the past few months. The premature severe weather patterns have placed an estimated 157 000 people in 15 out of 21 provinces under high risk of the what is known as the "dzud" climatic phenomenon. The adverse conditions have hampered the capacity of herders to access town centres, where health facilities and other services are located, and threatened the survival of livestock. The Government of Mongolia in late December called for humanitarian assistance from the international community as the situation worsened.

Dzud, characterised by a prolonged summer drought followed by severe winter conditions, is not uncommon in Mongolia. The latest dzud in late 2015 killed more than one million heads of livestock and severely affected thousands of pastoralists whose livelihoods largely depended on animal husbandry. In response, the Commission had provided 420,000 EUR to its humanitarian partners in order to help alleviate the burdens of the most impacted households.


The European Union together with its Member States is the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity towards people in need around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. The European Commission through its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) helps over 120 million victims of conflicts and disasters every year. For more information, please visit ECHO's website.

The European Commission has signed a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to "small-scale" disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.

The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF. For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and ECHO enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.

For further information, please contact:

Pierre Prakash, Regional Information Officer for Asia and the Pacific, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO):

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Mongolian herders need aid to weather second big freeze: Red Cross

BANGKOK, February 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tens of thousands of nomadic herders in Mongolia face hunger and the loss of their livelihoods, the Red Cross warned on Thursday, as temperatures plummet and heavy snow blankets much of the country for a second straight winter.

In December, the Mongolian government asked international agencies to provide aid to the most vulnerable herder households who are suffering extreme winter conditions known as a "dzud". 

The dzud is peculiar to the landlocked Asian nation and has become more frequent in recent years.

It occurs when a summer drought is followed by a harsh winter, causing widespread deaths among the livestock which herding families rely on for food, transport and income.

More than 157,000 people across 17 of 21 provinces are affected by this year's dzud, said Nordov Bolormaa, secretary-general of the Mongolian Red Cross. More than 70 percent of the country is currently covered in snow, according to the government.

"Now it's very cold - temperatures are reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius (-40°F) in the northern provinces," said Bolormaa, adding that snow storms started a month early last year, at the end of October.

The Red Cross launched an appeal on Thursday for $654,000 to help 11,300 people with cash, health services and other support.

Around 30 percent of Mongolia's 3 million population lives off animal herding, according to the World Bank, and meat is the primary source of food.

Mongolian government figures show more than 42,000 animals had died by early February. The Red Cross warns that number will soar as severe weather is expected to continue through March.

As many as 1.1 million livestock died last winter, and the dzud of 2009-2010, one of the most severe in history, saw 9.7 million livestock deaths.

Mongolia is already struggling with an economic crisis, as a weak local currency has made household goods more expensive.


Bolormaa remembers growing up with a traditional Mongolian saying - that when the year of the monkey comes around once in each 12-year lunar calendar, it invites disasters like the dzud.

But in the last 27 years, Mongolia has experienced seven dzuds, she said. "This traditional understanding and preparedness is changing," she added.

Now the dzud has hit Mongolia two years in a row.

While some environmental groups point the finger at climate change, Maarten van Aalst, director of the Netherlands-based Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said it was hard to make the link with certainty because the dzud is a complex phenomenon.

"What we do know, generally, is that extremes are increasing and the predictability of what we can expect as a normal climate in a particular place is gone now," he said by telephone.

Other factors such as denser population and herding patterns could be compounding the effects of the dzud, he noted.

Its growing frequency has resulted in mass migration of out-of-work herders to Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar, putting a strain on the city over the last decade.

Migrants end up living in "ger districts", makeshift neighborhoods named after traditional yurt dwellings, where they burn coal, tires and household waste to keep warm, creating massive pollution problems.

To help protect herders from climate-related losses to their livestock, the World Bank in Mongolia launched the world's first index-based livestock insurance scheme in 2005.

Since adopted by the Mongolian government, it is based on an index of livestock mortality rates by species and district, and offered through local insurance companies and banks.

But take-up has been slow. In 2016, close to 19,000 herding households were insured, or around 12 percent of the total, according to Ulziibold Yadamsuren, former director of the program at the World Bank.

The cost of insurance is high for poor herders, and they cannot meet some of the criteria such as a requirement for all livestock to be vaccinated, said the Red Cross's Bolormaa.

"The implementation of the insurance is yet to be understood by the herders," she said.

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Red Cross respond as Mongolian herders struggle to survive winter Dzud amidst rising livestock deaths

By Mirva Helenius, IFRC 

February 16 (IFRC) Severe winter conditions in Mongolia, known as Dzud, are threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Mongolian herders in eastern and northern parts of the country. Dzud is caused by the twin impacts of drought in the summer, resulting in insufficient grass in pastures and low production of hay, and harsh conditions in the winter, including heavy snowfall and extremely low temperatures. 

More than 157,000 people are affected across 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces. Livestock deaths have risen in recent weeks and according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), by 7 February over 46,000 animals had perished from starvation and cold. 

Today the IFRC launched an International Emergency Appeal to support the Mongolian Red Cross who are responding to the crisis in four of the worst-affected provinces - Uvs, Zavkhan, Khuvsgul and Selenge. The IFRC appeal aims to raise 655,500 Swiss francs (Euros 614,000 Euros, USD 654,000) to target assistance at more than 11,000 people considered to be most at risk. 

Herder Uranchimeg Terbish, from Khuvsgul province has already lost dozens of her animals due to starvation and cold. 

"Dzud is impacting almost all the herders in this region. Winter started early and we had heavy snowfall already in November. Since January, I've lost 22 cattle and around 30 goats and sheep", she says. 

Uranchimeg Terbish is afraid she will lose even more animals if the cold weather persists in the coming months. 

"Most of my livestock are already weak and exhausted. In the spring, when the animals start to give birth, they become even more vulnerable. I don't have enough hay and fodder to feed them and keep them alive", she explains. 

Under the IFRC appeal, each family will receive an unconditional cash grant of 245,000 Mongolian Tugrik (100 Swiss francs) to be used to purchase food, clothing, fodder for their livestock, or for any other priority they see fit. The appeal will also support a range of health interventions and initiatives designed to prepare herder communities against future Dzuds

"Livestock is the only source of food, transport and income for almost half of the Mongolian population and we have to act now to help herders survive over the coming months", explains Madame Nordov Bolormaa, Secretary General of the Mongolian Red Cross. 

This is the second successive year in a row that Mongolia is experiencing Dzud. Last year's disaster caused the death of over one million animals. 

 "We are concerned that we will see a repeat of last year when many herders sold their animals while they were still alive and oversupply of livestock resulted in very low market prices", explains Gwendolyn Pang, Head of the IFRC's Country Cluster Support Team in Beijing. 

"Families with fewer animals to sell are particularly vulnerable. Many will lose their livelihoods and will have no choice but to migrate to slum areas on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and other urban centres where they will face great social and economic hardship". 

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Harsh Mongolian winter risks livelihoods of herder families

BEIJING, February 16 (AP) — Exceptionally cold weather in Mongolia is putting the livelihoods of more than 150,000 nomadic herders and family members at risk, just one year after another extreme winter killed more than 1 million animals, the Red Cross said Thursday, as it launched an emergency appeal.

Particularly vulnerable are families still suffering from the impact of last year's "dzud" (pronounced 'ZUHD), an extreme weather phenomenon unique to the country that is characterized by a summer drought and then a prolonged winter of heavy snow and temperatures of minus 40 to minus 50 Celsius (minus 40 to minus 59 Fahrenheit).

More than 40,000 cows and other livestock have already died this time, a figure that is expected to jump in the freezing months ahead and into spring when animals are still weak.

A dzud typically happens once every 12 years, but has struck for the second consecutive year this winter. The dzud last year killed more than 1 million livestock, which are the only source of food, transport and outside income for almost half of Mongolia's population of 3 million.

Aid groups say the situation is compounded by last year's harsh winter and a deep recession amid a market bust for the vast landlocked nation's mineral exports.

Many herder families will lose their livestock and livelihoods "and will have no choice but to migrate to the slum areas on the outskirts of (the capital, Ulaanbaatar) and other urban centers where they will face great social and economic hardship," said Gwendolyn Pang, head of the Beijing office of the International Federation of Red Cross.

The Red Cross said that 70 percent of the country is covered by snow and 157,000 people belonging to herder households in 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces are at risk.

The agency appealed for $650,000 to help 2,740 most at-risk families.

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Mongolian herders reel under dreaded 'dzud' weather

by Becky DAVIS

February 16 (AFP) Thousands of Mongolian herders face disastrous livestock losses from a dreaded severe weather phenomenon known as the "dzud", the Red Cross said Thursday in launching an international emergency aid appeal.

Landlocked Mongolia is grappling for the second straight year with dzud conditions -- a dry summer followed by brutal winter cold that leaves livestock and other animals at risk of starvation and exposure on the country's rugged steppes.

It threatens tens of thousands of herders in a country where almost half the population depends entirely on livestock for food, transportation and income, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said.

Cattle, sheep and other animals usually die en masse in the dzud, weakened by insufficient summer grazing that prevents them building up the fat reserves necessary to withstand winter temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).

"In spring, animals give birth and when the livestock are already exhausted from the winter they are at high risk without adequate feed, shelter and veterinarian care, which does not exist in some remote areas," Nordov Bolormaa, secretary-general of the Mongolian Red Cross said at a press conference.

As of early February, more than 42,546 livestock had perished in the current dzud, she said, citing official Mongolian figures.

Launching its appeal in Beijing, the Red Cross said the figures were expected to grow "exponentially" with the full impact likely only becoming clear by May.

More than a million animals died in the 2015-16 dzud.

The Red Cross estimated that currently more than 157,000 people are "at risk" this year across 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces.

- Climate change -

Among them is Munkhbat Bazarragchaa, a herder in a remote region who has lost 10 of his 60 livestock animals.

Heavy snows also have prevented him and his wife from travelling to see their two sons, who are away at school, since October.

"This winter has been harsh which means in the spring it will also be very difficult," he said in a video released by the ICRF.

The footage showed him hauling the stiff carcasses of goats and a dog gnawing on a dead cow.

He said his family would use any cash assistance they receive to purchase flour and rice, plus hay and other fodder for the animals.

The dzud typically used to occur only once every 12 years, but now appears roughly once every four years, with climate change suspected in the increased frequency, the Red Cross said.

A 2009-2010 dzud brought the most severe winter in memory, leaving dead, frozen animal carcasses strewn across the plains.

At least eight million livestock animals died, according to official estimates.

- 'Inherited from our ancestors'-

Thousands of Mongolia households live as nomadic herders amid Mongolia's vast plains and mountains, and recurring dzud conditions are blamed for forcing many into a marginalised urban existence near the capital Ulan Bator.

The relief organisation hopes to raise enough to assist 11,000 of the hardest-hit herders, including provision of cash grants, first-aid kits, and funds to help communities prepare for future dzuds.

During the winter of 2015-16, many people sold off their live animals, causing a market oversupply that depressed prices and hurt many vulnerable small herders, said Gwendolyn Pang of the IFRC in Beijing.

She said "many will lose their livelihoods and will have no choice but to migrate to slum areas" outside Ulan Bator or other urban centres.

For herder Bazarragchaa, that would be unthinkable.

"This way of life is inherited from our ancestors and has been practised for thousands of years," he said. "I can't imagine Mongolia without animals."

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Providing forage to 137 soums to overcome difficult winter

Ulaanbaatar, February 16 (MONTSAME) During the cabinet meeting on February 15, the Cabinet decided to provide 5 thousand tons of hay and 50 percent discount on 5218 tons of forage to the soums with wintering difficulties.

Also, essential items such as warm clothes and power generators will be provided to the migrating herders looking for better pastures for their livestock. The funds are approved by the Minister of Finance B.Choijilsuren to be used from the Government reserve fund. As of today, 70 percent of the country is covered under snow and 137 soums of 15 aimag and one capital district are having wintering difficulties.

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Earthquakes in Mongolia

February 15 (UB Post) The seismic activity of Mongolia is associated with the deformation induced by the world's largest collision of tectonic plates between Indian and Eurasian.

Research papers of scientists Tapponnier, Molnar, Baljinnyam, Schlupp, and Bayasgalan, which were published from 1979 to 1999, indicated that Mongolia is situtated at the transition point between the Eurasia-Indian collision and extensive tectonic structures in the northern regions of the country, particularly in Khuvsgul area and Baikal Rift Zone.

Unlike earthquakes that occur along tectonic plate boundaries, continental earthquakes are widely distributed over large regions and typically have shallow depths, in the range of 10 to 25 km beneath the surface. Major continental earthquakes usually occur along seismically active faults, which individually have very long recurrence intervals in the range of several thousand years.

Late Quaternary deformation in Mongolia is distributed over a vast region, and includes a full spectrum of deformation styles and structural orientations. In the north, the activity is dominated by the Baikal Rift Zone and Khuvsgul, Busiin River and Darkhad grabens with a transfer zone following the Tunka Basin.

In the west, the activity is related to the deformation of the Altai range, characterized mainly by right-lateral strike-slip motion. The occurrence and distribution of strong earthquakes are the manifestation and result of these widespread and varied styles of deformation. Over the 20th century, the four most powerful recorded earthquakes with Mw (Moment Magnitude) more than eight occurred in Mongolia on July 9, 1905; July 23, 1905; August 10, 1931; and December 4, 1957.

The locations of earthquakes, especially large earthquakes, are not uniformly and randomly distributed, rather they cluster on several faults of prominent late Quaternary tectonic activity. In the Altai range, the observed activity is mainly concentrated at its northern part and along the fault which ruptured in 1931 during Fu Yun Earthquake, which was measured at eight Mw. The Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (IAG) of Mongolian Academy of Sciences recorded many small events along this fault, 73 years after the Fu Yun Earthquake.

Between Darkhad basin and Altai range, the activity is mainly focused along the faults that ruptured in 1905 during an eight Mw earthquake that occurred on July 9, 1905 in Tsetserleg soum of Khuvsgul Province and an 8.4 Mw earthquake on 23 July 1905 in Bulnai range, Zavkhan Province. At the southern end of Altai range, seismic activity is mainly associated to the Takhiin Shar earthquake, which occurred on July 4, 1974. More to the east, in the Govi-Altai range, the main activity is associated with the eight Mw Bogd earthquake that occurred on December 4, 1957, and its aftershocks.

The seismic activities between the Altai range and Darkhad are associated with the seven Mw earthquake that occurred in Mogod soum of Bulgan on January 5, 1967. Outside these areas of high seismic activity, the seismicity is mainly widespread in wide ranges of areas. Note the low seismicity inside the Khangai Dome due to the plate deformation of this region.

Researcher M.Ulziibat discovered in 2006 that a large disturbance measured at 7.3 Mw occurred in the northern part of Altai, in Russia on September 27, 2003.
Nevertheless, the seismic activity observed in the last century occurred in places of potential earthquake. For example, the Khangai Dome was an earthquake prone area 300 to 500 years ago.

Researcher Khilko found a large fracture in the central area of Khangai in 1985 and concluded that it might have been caused by a magnitude seven earthquake in 1570.


The seismic activity in and around Ulaanbaatar is relatively low. According to the Seismic zoning map of Mongolia, published in 1983, nearly 75 percent of Mongolia's territory lies in the seismic intensity zone with magnitude seven or more. Most active zones in Ulaanbaatar are Sonsoglon, Emeelt and Songino areas, approximately 20 km west of the city center.

Several seismic activities have been recorded in this area from 2000 to 2016. During this period, the IAG has detected 11,178 events with magnitudes ranging from 0.1 to 5.2.

The IAG detected six earthquakes near Ulaanbaatar in recent years:

 December 3, 2005: 5.1 Mw earthquake was detected in Lun soum, Tuv Province

• March 22, 2009: 4.1 Mw earthquake was detected near Undur Davaa, Sergelen soum in Tuv Province

• October 14, 2013: 3.8 Mw earthquake was detected near Emeelt area in western Ulaanbaatar

• October 3, 2015: 4.4 Mw and 3.8 Mw earthquakes were detected in Shariin Khooloi of Uliastai valley, Bayanzurkh District.

• October 10, 2015: 4.7 Mw earthquake was dectected in Batsumber soum, Tuv Province.

IAG researcher D.Ankhtsetseg pointed out that the IAC has done several geophysical and paleoseismic studies around Ulaanbaatar and its surrounding areas. A team of international scientists found several quaternary active faults in Khustai, Avdar, Emeelt, Gunj, Sharkhai, and Mungunmorit near Ulaanbaatar.

The most recent seismic activities near Ulaanbaatar are associated with active fault zones in Khustai, Emeelt, Gunj, and Deren. The IAC has most recently recorded seismic activity near the Tavan Tolgoi mine and Tsogttsetsii soum of Umnugovi Province.

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake occurred in the area on December 2, 2016 at 09:38 a.m. Residents of Tsogttsetsii soum and Tavan Tolgoi mine workers reported that they could feel the earthquake.

The IAC confirmed that 62 aftershocks with magnitudes 0.5 to 3.7 were detected in the following eight days. In particularly, the strongest aftershock occurred on December 3, 2016. A second earthquake, with magnitude 3.8, occurred on February 2 at 10:00 p.m. in the Tavan Tolgoi area.

Sixteen aftershocks followed the second earthquake, reported the IAC. No reports of damages and losses have been made in relation to the earthquakes in Tavan Tolgoi area. Locals speculated that the earthquakes might have been caused by mining activities such as underground blasting. The IAC said it is still studying the event and that so far no connections have been made to mining activities.

The IAC noted that seismic activity detection in the region is poor and that more needs to be invested in this area. Since an earthquake occurred in the beginning of 2010 in Deren soum of Dundgovi Province, which was felt by Ulaanbaatar's residents following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, President Ts.Elbegdorj started to focus on preventing earthquake hazards and started a campaign to increase public awareness. The National Emergency Management Agency and the IAC have been working closely in recent years to reduce disaster related risks.

Director of the IAC S.Demberel said that Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the National State Emergency Commission U.Khurelsukh is actively working to strengthen discipline and responsibilities of state officials in charge of disaster management. He pointed out that preparation is essential for addressing risks related to natural disasters such as earthquakes, and underlined that it can dramatically reduce losses and damages.

The Disaster Risk Reduction Center was established in Ulaanbaatar to educate the public on disaster response and management. President Ts.Elbegdorj put forward a bill on disaster response, which hopes to bolster disaster response, give responsibilities and duties to emergency management authorities, strengthen discipline, systematic risk reduction measures, and enhance the legal and regulatory environment for providing humanitarian assistance in the event of a disaster. Parliament has supported further discussion of the bill.

The government and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction will jointly organize the 2018 Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Ulaanbaatar.

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Talking Ursus arctos, from Glacier to Gobi, with Whitefish biologist Doug Chadwick

February 16 (Missoula Independent) It's easy to get the impression that only young daredevils with snowboards and climbing gear are having real adventures these days. A look at Whitefish resident Doug Chadwick's resume will challenge that notion. For several decades, the 68-year-old biologist has traveled to the world's most remote nooks and crannies to study elusive wildlife. He's traversed the sub-Antarctic ocean, the Himalayas, Africa and our own Rocky Mountains in search of snow leopards, whales, mountain goats, bears and wolverines. Along the way he's written more than 50 articles for National Geographic magazine and 13 books. Chadwick's latest book, Tracking Gobi Grizzlies: Surviving Beyond the Back of Beyond, finds him in the vast emptiness of Mongolia, chasing bears that few people know exist. For his upcoming readings in Missoula, he took some time to talk with the Indy about the significance of these creatures.

What, exactly, is a Gobi grizzly? Are they the same bear we have here?

Doug Chadwick: Genetically they are a subspecies ... but, you know, taxonomists like to argue over whatever category you can make up. You could also ask how similar the grizzlies in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge are to the ones in Glacier Park. Size-wise [Gobi bears] are more similar to the ones in the Arctic, or some other minimal resource kind of place—it's tough to make a living there in the Gobi. They are a bit smaller and rangier, but they're every bit Ursus arctos. We have Ursus arctos horribilis; they are Ursus arctos gobiensis. The question for scientists is how closely related they are to the Himalayan grizzly bears and the Tibetan grizzly bears.

How did you get involved in studying them?

DC: I heard about Mongolian bears when I was looking for snow leopards in Mongolia. There are brown bears that are the same as grizzlies—European brown bears—in the very northern part of Mongolia up near the Russian border. We went looking for those but we couldn't find any. I figured they're probably being poached a lot. Someone finally said, "Well, we have other bears in another part of Mongolia," and I said, "Oh, what kind?" and they said, "You know, the same, brown bears, grizzly bears," and I said, "Where?" and they said, "Down in the Gobi Desert." It made no sense at all to me. You can understand bears [living] in the northern part of Mongolia because it's mountainous and looks a lot like what you'd see here out on a hike in Glacier or something. With the Gobi bears, my first reaction was that this was something I had to see.

There are grizzly bears in all these places that I think most people would be shocked to know about, because here in North America, it's like we seem to think we own the grizzly bear, right?

DC: Yes, we do, and you and I could talk about this classification stuff all day. It's why scientists don't use the term "grizzly bear" and call it the brown bear instead, because it was first classified in Europe, a European brown bear. But the species arose in Central Asia. I was in the right place! And it spread from there into North America, so we can't claim Ursus arctos as ours. What we can do, and we did, is name the ones on our continent "grizzlies," because they have the silver-tipped, grizzled fur, right? But then it gets horribly confusing again, because I've seen bears at 17,000 feet in the Himalayas that looked exactly like a grizzly bear up in Alaska. And it was a grizzly bear from Syria, or a brown bear, whatever we want to call them today, that was in a television show—and we're getting into old guy stuff here—called Grizzly Adams.


DC: That's right. Ben was a brown bear from Syria. They used to be in the Middle East, they're in northern India, they're on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

I happen to think that brown bears—Ursus arctos—were probably part of humankind's earliest religion. There is evidence of painted bear skulls, things like that, in stone age archaeological and paleontological sites, and it looks as though people had a special relationship with bears. And that they may have worshiped it, because it's enough like us. It's like us but it's bigger, it's more powerful. It's a god-like figure. The last remnants of that Clan-of-the-Cave-Bear kind of worship of the bear were found, intact, on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Even today, grizzly bears tend to fire the imagination, good or bad, like few other animals do.

DC: Exactly. Which is part of why we want to save bears. We call it conservation, but then we divide up into camps and go around and around about how to handle them like we do all the time here in Montana. But why do guys like me get up early in the morning, before dawn, and creep out somewhere where I can watch them in a spring meadow? I don't know why, I'm just drawn to them. I'm not thinking about biodiversity or anything like that, I'm not even sure what "biodiversity" really even is. I just know that anywhere I see them I have a pretty good idea that that ecosystem is still pretty intact, and still pretty wild. And I like that.

Vital Ground presents an evening with Douglas Chadwick at Fort Missoula's Heritage Hall Thu., Feb. 16, at 7 PM. Fact & Fiction hosts a presentation Fri., Feb. 17, at 7 PM.

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Snow leopard and cubs shown in rare camera traps footage

Rare footage of a snow leopard and her cubs caught in camera traps has been released.

February 16 (Belfast Telegraph) The footage of the endangered animals in the stunning landscape of their Mongolia home has been revealed by charity WWF-UK to inspire people to sign up to next month's Earth Hour calling for action on climate change.


The images of the mother and her three young in the remote Khovd province of Mongolia include shots of the cubs taking a keen interest in the camera capturing their movements.

Snow leopards, which are found in the high mountains of Asia, including in Afghanistan, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Russia, are at risk of extinction due to loss of their habitat and prey, poaching and persecution.

The rarely-seen species is also one of the most threatened by climate change, as it lives in the mountains above the tree-line, which could shift with warmer temperatures, squeezing the animals' habitat and isolating them from each other.

Becci May, WWF-UK's snow leopard programme lead, said: "This intimate footage was captured as part of WWF's conservation work in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion, where WWF works with local people as citizen scientists - herders assisting on collecting data - to help monitor, understand and protect snow leopards.

"We hope this footage will inspire everyone to take part in this year's Earth Hour to help send a message that more action is needed on climate change."

Each year, for Earth Hour, millions of people and major landmarks including Big Ben, Times Square in New York and the Hong Kong skyline switch off their lights for an hour to put the spotlight on action needed for the environment.

Earth Hour takes place from 8.30pm on Saturday March 25 this year.

:: To find out out more about Earth Hour, people can visit or #EarthHourUK.

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The Hidden Cost Of Cashmere

by Debby Ng and Joel Berger. Ms. Ng is a visiting scholar at Colorado State University. Mr. Berger is a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

February 16 (Forbes Asia) Cashmere is conceived at the roof of the world, where bitter wind and winter temperatures inspire the growth of one of the world's finest fibers. For the people of central Asia and the Mongolian steppes, cashmere is both heritage and lifeblood.

In these places, landscapes that are still home to falcon hunters, horseback archers and throat singers are being split apart by roads and rail. People are pushed into urban centers where they live in gers alongside the choking fumes of city traffic. To a nomadic horseman resting with his herd of goats, optimism resides on the other side of the fence.

A thriving cashmere industry gives the government incentive to keep the steppe grasslands rolling. In a world where everything can be made somewhere else, cashmere truly is a product of a land. China and Mongolia know this, as do their steppe dwellers. The two countries produce 90% of the world's cashmere, and growing global affluence means more people can afford the fabric.

Yet as cashmere becomes abundant, its quality has diminished. Why?

Cashmere remains a product that is naturally scarce--its quality and quantity limited by climate and geography. Landscapes marked by the cold winters and nutritious fodder that produce the cashmere desired by luxury labels are limited. As herd sizes increase, inevitably the environment is degraded and the quality of cashmere follows suit.

More on the dilemma faced by Mongolia's herders: 


More grazing goats compounds pressures on iconic and endangered wildlife. Multinational governments working to save snow leopards, saiga, ibex, wild yak, gazelles, wild camels and Argali strive also to maintain herder livelihoods and to achieve balance for use of the land by livestock and wildlife.

Is it naïve to think that a billion-dollar industry can be maintained while wildlife is protected? Maybe not.

Conservation organizations have stepped in and are facilitating science-based solutions that are creating profitable and sustainable business models for cashmere producers while safeguarding the future for the region's iconic animals.

These relationships are leading to incentives such as access to veterinary services and insurance that help herders overcome loss of livestock due to extreme weather events. They facilitate the establishment of cooperatives to help manage grazing regimes between herders so that goats can sustainably access the best pastureland, maximizing productivity. In turn, members of the cooperative keep livestock outside of protected areas so that native wildlife can continue to thrive.

Additionally, the cooperatives connect herders with purchasers that compensate them for quality of cashmere rather than weight. This means that herders selling quality cashmere (which is lighter) do not have to increase herd size to make the same profit as those selling lower quality, but heavier cashmere variants. The consumer may pay a little more today, but ultimately it is for a sustainable, quality product that will benefit people and wildlife into the future.

The ecological impacts of these collaborations can be profound. Reduced grazing pressure has increased the birth weights of the gorgeous Argali, the world's largest wild sheep, by some 18%. Larger Argali lambs have a much greater chance of surviving to adulthood. While it may not seem intuitive, more Argali means more grass because Argali are gardeners of the steppe, dispersing seeds and enabling grasses to flourish over sedges. More grass means more herbivores, more native food for snow leopards and less predation on domestic stock, and human-wildlife conflict.

Management, husbandry and fair compensation can improve the quality of human communities and the environment on the steppes. When goats have access to nutritious pasture, clean water and a favorable climate, the result is fine quality cashmere yields.

Ensuring that herders are appropriately compensated creates sustainable livelihoods and nurtures capacity to fuel this delicate industry. But the problem is far from resolved. Cashmere's current ubiquity in fast fashion and big box merchants means it will be necessary for bulk producers to weigh in on the responsibility too.

And of course, there are those of us who ultimately wear the product.

The price of cashmere needs to account for its future supply. We can either pay a fair price for it today and enjoy one of nature's finest products for the long term, or consign producers and aficionados of cashmere to a fading existence and waning wildlife legacy. Surely "fashion sense" dictates the former.

Mr. Berger is also a professor of conservation biology at Colorado State University.

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DeFacto Interview: Sazali Bin Abdul Samad, 10-Time World Bodybuilding Champion

February 15 (Jargal Defacto via VTV) --

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Wrestling World Cup: Mongolia, Iran complete demolition job

India lost to Mongolia 7-1 in the opening match before being spanked 8-0 by hosts Iran in the second to end their hopes of a podium finish.

February 17 (Indian Express) This was to be the first big test of India's next crop of wrestlers; a glimpse into what's in store for the future. And the situation looks grim. Deepak beat a world championship silver medallist, alright.

But that was the lone bright spot for India on the opening day of the wrestling World Cup, where the country's wrestlers won just one out of the 16 bouts fought over two matches. India lost to Mongolia 7-1 in the opening match before being spanked 8-0 by hosts Iran in the second to end their hopes of a podium finish.

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Sapporo-2017 Farewell Ceremony in Ulaanbaatar, MGL

February 16 (Around the Rings) Mongolia NOC has organized farewell ceremony for Sapporo-2017 Asian Winter Games at Olympic House in Ulaanbaatar.

Dr.D.Zagdsuren , NOC President , Mrs.B.Bayarsaikhan , State Secretary for Ministry of Education , Culture , Science and Sports , Mr.Ch.Nasantogtokh , Chef-de-Mission , Presidents of Winter Sports Federations , veteran athletes and Members of Team Mongolia are attended this event. 

Mr.Erdenechimeg Barkhuu will be first-ever-biathlon-athlete to carry national flag at opening ceremony.Mongolia NOC has sent its team to all eight editions of Asian Winter Games , since 1986 and captured 1 silver in bandy ( Astana-2011 ) ) and 6 bronze medals in cross country ski relay ( Sapporo-1990 ) , free-style ( Changchun-2007 ) and ski orienteering ( Astana-2011 ). 

This time 48 athletes in cross country ski , speed skating , alpine ski , short track , biathlon and ice hockey will compete at Sapporo , which is hosting for the third time Asian Winter Games.

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Blood, sweat and ice: The scariest experience of an extreme marathon runner

Andrew Murray has run across seven continents and recently won the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon in -36C

February 15 (The Independent) "I work doing two things," Andrew Murray (not that one) says casually: "as a sports consultant, and as a runner."

But the 36-year-old trained GP from Edinburgh is anything but your average reluctantly jogger who nips round the park three times a week. Just last month, he not only competed in but once again came first in the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon: a gruelling race across the arctic plains of Mongolia in -36*C.

Compared to his other feats, the ice marathon is small fry. In 2012 he ran 4,300km from John O'Groats to the Sahara desert; then ran seven ultra-marathons across the world's seven continents in under a week. He was also victorious in the  North Pole Marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the 250km Gobi Challenge, and the 230km Indo Jungle Ultra.

"In the Sahara my feet looked like they went through a lawn mower," he tells The Independent. "If you're running far enough it can be quite unpleasant," he adds nonchalantly.  

"In Canada I ran for 30m on a broken leg," he adds, recalling how he suffered a crack in the bone in his leg in a rural area when he was running across the world's continents. "In that circumstance you have little option. It was very so cold if you stop you may be very difficult to keep warm. I could have waited for someone to pick me up but there weren't many vehicles around. I was on a very icy surface so I was able to slide the leg along in ice and limp."

Ever the stoic, he adds: "It was pretty sore." 

He experienced his scariest moment, however, during the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon in January 2017, which crosses the Tuul Gol river in Outer Mongolia which freezes in layers. The temperatures was -36*C, but the sun's rays were beating down hard onto the ice and creating faults on the river's surface. 

"I put my foot though a layer of ice," says Murray. "I took a step and my ankle disappeared. I made a hasty retreat and skirted around the blue areas where the ice was melting.

If the ice had cracked further and opened up to swallow Murray, he could have frozen to death. But in such extreme, sub-zero temperatures and without any access to warm, dry clothing, even getting his foot wet could have made him prone to trench foot, frostbite- which both heighten the chance of amputation - and even life-threatening hypothermia. 

"Luckily I was wearing quality gore tex shoes so the water didn't get into my foot," says Murray. "That was the worst thing that happened. The best thing was getting to finish and having a massive Burns Night supper wih our Mongolian host."

Murray adds that the race in rural Mongolia is one of the few where runners see potentially dangerous animals including wolves, huskies and eagles. But Murray was unphased.

"They were unlikely to attack because my feet were stinking," he says, laughing. 

In order to stay motivated during races that push his body to the limit, Murray tricks his mind. 

"Often it's about breaking bigger tasks into smaller ones. It seems daunting saying I'm at John O'Groats I need to get to the Sahara. Instead, you say it's only another 2 hours until the next checkpoint. Sometimes you will say to yourself 'it's actually not too bad' and concentrate on previous experiences."

Running in stunning also helps somewhat. 

"I tend to deliberately run in places that are beautiful and take the world and concentrate on running fast and getting the race done." 

"You hear stories of amazing things that humble you," he adds. "My friend ran 160 miles in a day around a track and I think that's amazing. I couldn't do that, I need to see things." 

Keener to sing the praises of others than himself, he goes on: "I met this guy in Nepal once near Everest base camp in the Himalayas. I just said 'you have a nice view' and he pointed to Everest and said 'I've been to the top ten times'. These are normal people who are just going about their days in Nepal and they have been to Everest 10 times and that's just a normal person. If a British guy does it he seems like the biggest hero," he says, laughing. 

In the future, Murray hopes that he will continue to inspire people to run and take care of their health. His advice for those who want to follow in (at least some) of his footsteps is to choose a race with a stunning route and smile at the finish line.

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Art & Entertainment

Mongol TV brings 'The Voice' to Mongolia

February 15 ( 'Mongol HD TV' is to broadcast the Mongolian version of 'The Voice', an international reality television singing competition franchise. Since 2011, a total of 62 countries have adapted the format of the Dutch reality show 'The Voice' and begun producing their own versions. Mongol HD TV has signed an agreement with Talpa and preparation of the show is now underway.

Previously, Mongolia TV broadcast its version of the 'Got Talent' franchise, which was a huge success, attracting viewers from 80 percent of the country's population.

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Mongol TV to adapt The Voice seriesMontsame, February 15

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Mongolian film wins Cinema for Peace Award in Berlin

February 15 ( The 'Cinema for Peace' awards ceremony is part of the Berlin Film Festival, which is being held on 13-19th of February.  A Mongolian documentary film entitled 'Secret of the Fierce Black Crescent' and 'Special Squad' series movie have won the Best Supporter award.

Since 2002, the Cinema for Peace group has been inviting film makers, humanitarian and human rights activists, and public figures to its annual awards ceremony in Berlin to honor a selection of cinematic works on humanitarian and environmental issues.

The Berlin Film Festival, also known as the 'Berlinale' was first established in 1951. The main awards are the Golden and Silver Bears. It is a huge event, attended by many thousand people.

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Seven-year-old Mongolian girl wins gold at 'Ciudad de Huesca'

February 15 ( Three young Mongolian pianists have won gold, silver and bronze medals at the 12th Ciudad de Huesca. The International Piano Competition took place in Huesca, Spain from 23rd to 29th of January. Students of the Music and Dance College, State University of Culture and Arts, and Mongolian Children's Palace participated in the competition under the guidance of pianist S.Sayantsetseg.

Seven-year-old Mongolian pianist O.Nandin won gold medal in the 13 and under category. This was her second gold medal win in Spain, she also claimed a gold medal in the U9 category at the 11th Ciudad de Heusca International Piano Competition in 2015.

E.Tsogt, a student at Ulaanbaatar's Hobby School, won a silver medal, and Sant School student G.Enkhtsetseg earned a bronze medal in the same category which O.Nandin topped. Six-year-old pianist D.Enerelt won first place in the U9 category this year, and seventeen-year-old B.Bat-Amar took third place in the U17 category.

The first Ciudad de Huesca International Piano Competition took place in 1999. Young pianists from over ten countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, Canada, Poland, Russia, Italy and Spain, competed this year.

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Fourth annual "Best of New Exhibits" opens

February 15 (MONTSAME) The exhibition showcases some 400 archaeological exhibits, out of more than 1,800 historical and archaeological findings that entered the museum treasury between 2014 and 2016.

The findings are discovered, excavated and collected by archaeologists and historians, transferred or purchased from other institutions and gifted or donated by individuals.

Some of the interesting exhibits are the artifacts excavated from the Hunnu and Xianbei empires' tombs discovered in the Airagiin Gozgor of Jargalant soum of Orkhon province, the Altai Harp found in the stone tomb of the Middle Ages in Altai Mountains, bow and arrow, silver coins of Sasanian Empire, Yuan Empire paper bill and clothes and accessories of the tallest man of Mongolia D.Ragchaa.

The exhibition will be open for the visitors until March 15, free of charge.

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Lake Khuvsgul judged safe to host Ice Festival in March

Ulaanbaatar, February 15 (MONTSAME) In anticipation of the upcoming annual Ice Festival 2017, which will take place on March 3-4, the organizing committee measured the thickness of the ice on the Lake Khuvsgul. The measurements were carried out at four main points, as directed by the Governor of Khuvsgul province.

The ice is 86-90 cm thick, which experts deem safe for organizing the grand festival. The organizing committee consists of the head of the Search Division of the Provincial Emergency Department, specialist from the Khuvsgul National Park authority, stationary engineer of the Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment, ground and maritime transport inspector from the General Agency for Specialized Inspection and head of the Traffic Police division of the Police Department.

The committee released a warning for the visitors, advising them to travel only through the marked routes and avoid the boundaries, highlighted by black and white lines.

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Eight weird travel-related records, from biggest giant prawn to tallest human tower

From tourism boards going over the top attracting visitors to odd collective activities such as lasso twirling or lying in hammocks, here's our pick of hammy honours

February 15 (Post Magazine) The Corinthian spirit, once commonplace in attempts to break world records (the fastest 100 metres in high heels; pulling a double-decker bus using only one's teeth) has, on occasion, been hijacked by publicity-seeking tourist boards, chambers of commerce and companies aiming to drum up business. Sometimes, when it comes to attracting visitors, only a giant fruit or a colossal stainless steel horse will do. Perhaps it won't be long before attempts to beat that stiletto sprint record are sponsored by Jimmy Choo.

1 Giant roadside attractions

2 Simultaneous foot massage

3 Lying in hammocks

4 Human towers

5 Equestrian statue

Fifty kilometres from the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, the largest equestrian statue on Earth rears up like a mirage. Perched atop the stainless steel sculpture is ruthless conqueror and pioneering record breaker Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, who has been overlooked by the people at Guinness World Records despite establishing the biggest land empire in history. The 250-tonne landmark is situated in a region designated as a tourist recreation and resort area. Visitors can venture inside the 40-metre-high statue and take a lift up to the horse's head, from where there are sweeping views of the Mongolian steppes.

Crossing the Mongolian steppe in a mud-spattered van

6 Giant tin of caviar

7 Cable car

8 Rodeo records

Some achievements don't gain the recognition they deserve.

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