Архив за месяц: Май 2011

Guardian on tensions in Inner Mongolia

Protests erupt after Mongolian herder run over by coal truck as he tries to stop mining convoy driving across prairie land.

Outside the closed gates of the Xilingol Mongolian high school, Chinese police watch warily as hundreds of students perform calisthenics in a yard from where the previous day they left to march through the streets. A short drive away, another police unit monitors a middle school that has become a source of concern. On the grasslands, patrol cars block access to a troubled community of herders and miners.

Security forces in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China, are on high alert after the biggest wave of demonstrations in 20 years, sparked by a killing that symbolises the traumatic transition of Mongolia’s nomadic grasslands into a mining powerhouse.

On 11 May, a Han Chinese coal-truck driver ran over a 35-year-old Mongolian herder, known as Mergen, as he tried to stop a convoy driving across fenced prairies in Xiwu.

Allegations the killing was deliberate inflamed passions in the indigenous Mongolian community, which has been squeezed out of much of the land over 50 years.

Protests erupted in at least three places. Video clips ( http://www.smhric.org) posted online by overseas supporters show herders being arrested after a face-off with military police in Ujumchin last week. According to overseas groups, crowds also took to the streets in Huveet Shar on Thursday and Shuluun Huh on Friday with banners declaring: «Defend the rights of Mongols» and «Defend the homeland».

The biggest protest was in Xilinhot, where 1,000 students in yellow and blue uniforms marched through the broad streets to the government headquarters on Wednesday.

«This was the largest protest since 1991,» said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, which calls for more autonomy for the region and respect for traditional lifestyles. «There are increasing conflicts between herders and miners as the authorities open up more mines in the grasslands to meet their goal of turning Inner Mongolia into the nation’s energy base.»

In recent years, Inner Mongolia has become China’s leading producer of coal and rare earth elements.

Details of the killing that sparked the protests are sketchy, second-hand and may have been exaggerated by internet rumours and a lack of trust in censored official news. Locals said 35-year-old Mergen was leading about 40 herders who tried to block a convoy of coal trucks from the Tongcheng No 2 colliery. The drivers had reportedly run down fences and intruded on nomads’ land to avoid a bumpy road. After a protracted stand-off, the drivers are said to have crashed through the herders, killing Mergen.

One widely cited but unverifiable claim is that the driver boasted he was sufficiently insured to cover the death of a «smelly Mongolian herder».

The author of this report — a Mongolian blogger named Zorigt — wrote: «In order to take a shortcut, these coal-hauling trucks have randomly run over local herders’ grazing lands, not only killing numerous heads of livestock but also further damaging the already weakened fragile grassland.»

Students place more faith in such blogs than the government version of events. «We are very angry. They killed him on purpose and dragged him along the ground for more than 100 metres. This has made us realise that Mongolian lives are worthless,» said a 16-year-old female student from the Xilingol high school. «If this issue is not resolved, there will be more protests.»

Many students are from herding families who have been moved into cities as the wide-open pastures are fenced off. The government says such measures are necessary to promote development, prevent overgrazing and protect the fragile grasslands, much of which have turned to desert in recent years. Locals say herders’ rights have been violated and the fencing and mining have created bigger environmental problems, including pollution, noise, traffic and dust storms that blow across much of north-east Asia.

The transformation is evident on the flight to Xilinhot. From the air, the grasslands are blotched with sandy areas near farms and the dark smudges of open-cast pits. From the road, the clouds of dust from mines and trucks is visible miles away.

Mergen’s death has turned him into a martyr for those who are unhappy with the loss and degradation of land. «He is a hero,» said another female student in a yellow uniform. «I don’t like to see barriers between Han and Mongols, but sometimes it is necessary to fight for your land.»

Anger at the killing is focused on the truckers and the mining firms. It does not appear to have set the two main ethnic groups against one another. Many Han residents said they supported the Mongolian students, whose demonstration was peaceful. Shopkeepers said they provided free food and drink to the marchers. Taxi drivers expressed sympathy for their cause, and a restaurant owner spoke of the need for justice. But others were worried that the situation might deteriorate.

Mongolian activists have called for rolling protests through the region, culminating in a rally in Genghis Khan Square in Hulunbuir on Monday.

The authorities have tried to placate protesters by arresting four men for the killing and damage to grasslands, with a promise of a full investigation and compensation for the bereaved.

Mergen’s brother said the family have been given money, but declined to say how much. «I don’t want to answer any more questions about this,» he said by phone.

Local radio runs frequent bulletins about the police investigation, but there are few details and little transparency. An official at the Xilinhot propaganda department claimed to be unaware of any protests. The phone rang unanswered at other government offices.

Outsiders are unwelcome. The Guardian was blocked on the road into West Ujimchin where Mergen was killed. «Special circumstances. You’re not allowed in. It’s not safe,» said an officer. At 4.30 the next morning, two plainclothes police entered the Guardian’s hotel room, woke this correspondent and tried to conduct an interrogation.

Chinese authorities are nervous about signs of unrest in areas with large ethnic minorities, such as Tibet and Xinjiang, which also experience tensions between herders and mining settlers. Inner Mongolia is usually considered less of a security threat because its overseas supporters are less vocal in calling for independence, it does not have a charismatic leader such as the Dalai Lama and its indigenous community has already been numerically overwhelmed by an influx of Han migrants who now comprise 79% of the population.

·         Jonathan Watts


World Bank Provides Assistance to Mongolia to Support Investments in Infrastructure and Groundwater

Giant mining projects in South Gobi will require water supply, which could be obtained either from under the ground or by constructing  pipelines to transfer water from Kherlen and Orkhon rivers.  It looks like WB continues to promote the use of groundwater. RwB

On May 10, 2011  the World Bank ‘s Board of Executive Directors approved an investment credit of US$25.0 million for the Mining Infrastructure Investment Support Project (MINIS).

The objectives of this project are to facilitate investments in infrastructure to support mining, and related economic activity by financing feasibility studies and building local capacity to prepare and transact infrastructure projects.

Mongolia’s mining sector offers great economic promise for the country.  It currently accounts for as much as 80 percent of exports and is approaching 50 percent of government revenue.  However, turning that promise into productive activities and jobs will depend on the country’s ability to build the infrastructure facilities and services that support the production and commercialization of mineral deposits.

Funding infrastructure assets is a challenge that will require good technical preparation and project costing.  Estimates indicate that the cost to build the required transport, power, water and township infrastructure in Southern Mongolia, where several mineral deposits are poised for significant development, could approach US$10 billion over the next ten years.  The Government intends to utilize all sources of funding to finance needed investments, including private sector investment.  No matter how these projects are financed (i.e., public funds, private funds, or international assistance), good project preparation will be critical.

«This project provides the Government with the necessary resources to carry out a variety of studies to assess the feasibility of investments that the Government has identified as priorities. These will help ensure that investments in infrastructure are financed wisely and that their potential environmental and social impacts are also taken into account,» said Coralie Gevers, Country Manager for the World Bank in Mongolia.

The project will also seek to strengthen the management of water resources in the country’s south, where all activities rely on groundwater.  Existing information suggests that there is enough groundwater in the region to support the needs of expected mining activities, local communities, and herders for at least ten years, possibly more.  However, additional hydro-geological studies are needed to determine the extent of groundwater potential in the region, and to match demand with supply in the right locations and with the required quality.

«The extraction of groundwater needs to be carefully managed and monitored so that if unexpected negative consequences occur, alternate plans are ready to be implemented,» said Jim Reichert, Senior Infrastructure Specialist at the World Bank .

The project has four components to: (a) carry out a variety of feasibility studies and assessments for proposed investments in infrastructure; (b) develop local skills to prepare infrastructure projects, including transactions involving investors; (c) strengthen the management of groundwater; and (d) Project Management.

The Ministry of Finance will be the main executing agency of the project and will be responsible for its overall management and implementation.  A Project Steering Committee, which will include representatives from key line Ministries and Agencies, will be established to determine jointly the infrastructure projects that will benefit from MINIS funds and oversee the use of the funds.

The project, which has a five-year duration, will be implemented between June 2011 and May 2016.



Mongolia goes nuclear?

Every month we get contradictory reports on Mongolia’s nuclear policy. Mongolia discusses uranium mining concessions, ore processing, nuclear power generation and storage of spent fuel with half a dozen countries: Russia, China, France, Japan, India, US, Canada, Korea and even possibly Iran. According to mass-media this happens in a haphazard way. In this post avoiding comments we put one after another most interesting materials that leaked into internet this year.RwB. Also see the latest analysis on http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/

I. Prime Minister S. Batbold has told Parliament that Mongolia plans to commence uranium exploration by 2012.

«With nearly one million tons of reasonably assured reserve of uranium, we need to speed up production to make uranium the most ambitious mining project in Mongolia after Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi, he said.

The reserves of the Mardai deposit in Dornod and in Kharaat in Dundgobi have been established and feasibility studies for them are under way.

«Exploration will start by 2012, and Mongolia will begin selling uranium from 2013 or 2014, Mr. Batbold said. «As regards nuclear energy production, there is a lot to do and we are proceeding step by step.

Altogether 107 prospecting licenses have been granted to 17 entities, and their work is being strictly monitored by the Government, pursuant to the Nuclear Energy Law of Mongolia.

Speaking after the Prime Minister’s report, some MPs criticized the Government and related agencies for their failure to decide on making the projected fifth power plant a nuclear one.

The Nuclear Energy Agency has tentative plans for developing nuclear power, using either Korean Smart reactors or Toshiba 4S types, from 2021. Three sites under consideration are Ulaanbaatar, western Mongolia and Dornod province. 

2011-02-15 Source:UB Post

II. Korea-Mongolia MOU for Cooperation concerning the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Press Release on March 25th, 2011 

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology signed an MOU with Mongolia on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in the fields of Human Resource Development and Research.

The two countries agreed to cooperate not only in the field of nuclear technology, such as small & medium sized reactors and radiotherapy technologies, but also in the exchange of nuclear human resources related to nuclear safety technology and management of radioactive waste, and in the exchange of technical information.

By concluding this MOU, Korea, which has already concluded agreements on nuclear cooperation with governments of advanced nuclear countries including China, Japan, and Russia, is cooperating with all neighboring countries on the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy. MEST also plans to strengthen the related role of Korea in the Northeast Asian region.


III. Mongolia eyes first nuclear power plant by 2020: MonAtom

April 07, 2011

(Reuters) — Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and build nuclear fuel production capacity by tapping the country’s rich uranium resources, undeterred by the recent nuclear crisis in Japan, a senior official at the state-owned MonAtom LLC said on Thursday

Japan’s nuclear crisis is not seen to have a lasting impact on the global nuclear industry, said Tsogtsaikhan Gombo, deputy chairman of MonAtom, which represents the government in mining and developing the country’s uranium resources.

«We don’t think it’s a big problem for the industry as a whole. It’s a little bit of set-back in time frame, but as a whole it will go on,» said .

«We want green development and nuclear is the number one choice.»

Mongolia has proven uranium reserves of about 80,000 tons, ranking it among the top ten in the world, and putting it on the map of mining giants, which have been attracted by world-class deposits such as the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project.

«We have the ambition to build the capability of nuclear energy in Mongolia, and the ambition to supply nuclear power plants in Northeast Asia with nuclear fuel,» Gombo told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference in Singapore.


Gombo said the country is seeking investment from around the globe to develop its nuclear energy sector, adding that uranium reserves in the country could rise to above one million tons.

«Currently there is not much, but we expect there will be huge investment in Mongolia’s nuclear energy sector, because the super powers are interested,» said Gombo, adding that the United States, Russia and Chinaare competing with each other to get into the country’s nuclear sector.

But for the country sandwiched between Russia and China, choosing business partners is a delicate task, Gombo said.

«The government is quite selective, and is opting to cooperate with the most developed countries in the industry, like the United States, Japan and France,» he said.

«I wouldn’t say we don’t want them (China and Russia), but we want a balance of interest.»

Last October, Mongolia and France’s governments signed an agreement to let France’s Areva to explore and mine uranium in Mongolia, Areva said on its website (www.areva.com).

(Source: REUTERS Reporting by Rujun Shen)

IV. Mongolia Might Store Foreign Spent Nuclear Fuel,Senior U.S. Official Says

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has held informal talks with Mongolia about the possibility that the Central Asian nation might host an international repository for its region’s spent nuclear fuel, a senior U.S. diplomat said March 29, 2010.

U.S. Energy Department officials and their counterparts in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, are in the early stages of discussion and there has been no determination yet about whether to proceed with the idea, according to Richard Stratford, who directs the State Department’s Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security Office.

Speaking at the biennial Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, Stratford said a spent-fuel depot in the region could be of particular value to Taiwan and South Korea, which use nuclear power but have few options when it comes to disposing of atomic waste.

«If Mongolia were to do that, I think that would be a very positive step forward in terms of internationalizing spent-fuel storage,» he said during a panel discussion on nuclear cooperation agreements. «My Taiwan and South Korean colleagues have a really difficult time with spent fuel. And if there really was an international storage depot, which I have always supported, then that would help to solve their problem.»

Stratford is Washington’s lead envoy for nuclear trade pacts, which are sometimes called «123 agreements» after the section of the Atomic Energy Act that governs them.

The United States provides fresh uranium rods to selected trade partners in Asia, including South Korea and Taiwan. For Mongolia to accept and store U.S.-origin spent fuel from these or other nations would require Washington to first negotiate a nuclear trade agreement with Ulaanbaatar.

Although Energy Department officials have reportedly engaged in informal talks with Mongolian representatives for several months, Stratford has not yet had any contact with Ulaanbaatar on the matter, he said. It is not yet certain whether formal negotiations on a nuclear trade pact will move forward.

In fact, the senior diplomat said he was unaware of the idea until roughly eight weeks ago, when a colleague mentioned, «Your Energy folks are talking to Mongolia about various types of [nuclear] cooperation,» Stratford told Global Security Newswire following the panel discussion. «And I said, ‘OK, I didn’t know that. But now that I do, I will add Mongolia to my [planning] list and then watch what happens.'»

Energy Department officials traveled to Mongolia last fall for meetings on the matter, according to Mark Hibbs, a senior associate with the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He chaired the discussion on nuclear cooperation.

«It was a fruitful discussion,» Hibbs told GSN yesterday. «They went into some details [but] it was very exploratory.»

The long-term disposal of even domestically produced nuclear waste has proven problematic around the world, with publics deeply wary of the potential health hazards associated with storing radioactive or toxic materials.

For its part, the U.S. government has been unable to settle on a solution following an Obama administration decision last year to formally abandon earlier concepts for entombing spent fuel and other atomic waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada (see GSN, March 14).

In most nations, the idea of accepting foreign spent fuel has seemed an even greater anathema. Russian officials have discussed building an international repository on their territory, but the idea appears to have faded due to domestic opposition.

Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis said he wonders if the situation would be any different in Mongolia.

«I think these guys are fooling themselves [if they] believe we will put a spent-fuel depot in Mongolia,» he told GSN in a brief interview, noting surprise at Stratford’s remarks. «I don’t think Mongolia is going to accept being a regional spent-fuel repository.»

Hibbs said that as «a country that’s surrounded by two big powers» — Russia and China — Mongolia is «trying to carve a niche out for itself economically in the region.»

Broadening its involvement in the nuclear energy sector might serve as just such an economic lever, Hibbs said.

Mongolia could seek to step up mining of its natural uranium deposits and potentially expand into a wider array of services, such as providing foreign nations with fresh fuel and then taking back the atomic waste at a later date, according to regional experts (see GSN, Jan. 19).

This type of move would come at a time when neither Russia nor China has acted on similar concepts for what is termed «leasing» of nuclear material.

There could also be interest among officials in and outside the Mongolian government in developing nuclear power to meet that nation’s own growing energy needs, according to some sources. Ulaanbaatar last week signed a memorandum of understanding with Seoul to cooperate on peaceful nuclear technologies and expertise.

Lewis, who directs the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said it was difficult to believe that Mongolia would find it profitable to enter a field that has been dominated for decades by established nuclear energy powers such as Russia and France.

«I don’t understand why Mongolia wants to be involved in the fuel-cycle business to begin with,» he said. «If I were running Mongolia, I could think of a bunch of other things to spend that kind of industrial investment on before it came down to fuel-cycle services.»

Nor would it likely prove politically palatable for Mongolia to become a final destination for its neighbors’ atomic waste, he argued.

«Without some compelling evidence — like a statement by the government of Mongolia that they’re willing to be the region’s nuclear waste dump — I don’t see why anybody thinks they would do this,» Lewis said.

If Mongolia ultimately does see merit in offering nuclear fuel services, inking a nuclear trade agreement with the United States would be a shot in the arm, Hibbs said.

«Having the blessing of the United States through a 123 agreement would be very valuable for them,» he said. «Mongolia is emerging as a very Western-friendly country. … [Getting] the 123 agreement would basically underscore that the United States supports the development of nuclear energy activities in Mongolia.»

Hibbs said it is highly unlikely that Mongolia is exploring its atomic energy options with an eye toward eventually developing a nuclear weapon.

«I think it’s inconceivable that Mongolia would be interested in nuclear weapons in the environment that they’re in,» he said. «It realizes that by being a member of good standing in the [1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], it’s better served than getting involved in a hair-brained arms race with either the Russians or the Chinese.»

Lewis had a slightly different take on the matter.

«I don’t think Mongolia has any interest in developing a bomb right now,» he said. «But if Mongolia wants to move from uranium mining into the fuel cycle, that could contribute to an unwelcome spread of sensitive facilities.»


V. Japan, U.S. plan nuclear waste storage in Mongolia -paper.

May 9 (Reuters) — Japan and the United States plan to jointly build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia to serve customers of their nuclear plant exporters, pushing ahead despite Japan’s prolonged nuclear crisis, the Mainichi daily said on Monday.

A Trade Ministry official said Japan, U.S. and Mongolia officials, at a meeting shortly before Japan’s March 11 earthquake, informally discussed possible construction of a nuclear waste storage facility for countries with nuclear power plants but no spent fuel storage capability of their own.

He said there were no concrete plans at this time but the ministry would consider such a project if Mongolia were interested.

The Mainichi said the facility would allow Japanese and U.S. nuclear plant exporters, which include joint ventures and units of General Electric , Hitachi and Toshiba , to better compete with Russian rivals that offer potential nuclear plant customers spent fuel disposal in a package.

Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and to build nuclear fuel production capacity to tap its rich uranium resources, undeterred by the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power complex, a senior official at the state-owned MonAtom LLC said in April.

MonAtom represents the Mongolian government in mining and developing the country’s uranium resources.

The trade ministry official denied the Mainichi’s report that the three countries had originally planned to sign a deal on the spent fuel disposal project in February but it was postponed as Japan’s Foreign Ministry opposed the schedule, citing a lack of consensus among Japanese ministries.

The Mainichi said a new date had not been set in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, which triggered cooling system malfunctions at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and led to radiation leaks into the atmosphere and the sea.

VI. U.S., Japan Deny Plans to Send Spent Nuclear Fuel to Mongolia

May 10, 2011

WASHINGTON-The U.S. and Japan confirmed Monday that they have held discussions with Mongolia about nuclear waste management, but both denied that they have any plans to send their spent nuclear fuel to the lightly populated Asian nation.

On Monday Japan’s Mainichi newspaper reported that the U.S., Japan and Mongolia were set to sign an agreement over the project in February, but put it off after objections from Japan’s Foreign Ministry. The newspaper said it would be easier for the U.S. and Japan to sell their nuclear-reactor technology overseas if they could offer countries a place to put their nuclear waste.

A Department of Energy spokeswoman said: «The U.S. government is not negotiating a deal to send spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia.» She added, «No discussions or potential fuel leasing services involve U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel.»

Asked whether Japan was talking with Mongolia about nuclear-fuel storage, Japan’s deputy foreign minister, Chiaki Takahashi, said at a news conference Monday that the countries had held an «informal exchange of views» about the subject. He said the talks didn’t reach a conclusion and Japan doesn’t intend to send its spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia.

The U.S. and Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear power in September 2010, when deputy energy secretary Daniel Poneman visited the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. A U.S. official said that accord included «waste management» but didn’t give details.

A U.S. State Department official in charge of nuclear issues, Richard Stratford, said March 29 that the U.S. Department of Energy was talking to Mongolia about storing other countries’ spent fuel, including possibly fuel that originated in the U.S.

In April, the U.S. Embassy in Ulan Bator said Mr. Stratford’s comments «may have been misinterpreted» and it is «not correct» that the U.S. was talking to Mongolia «about the establishment of a storage facility to accept foreign spent nuclear fuel.»

Both the U.S. and Japan are struggling with the long-term handling of nuclear waste. Under a 2002 U.S. law, Nevada’s Yucca Mountain is the designated repository site for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste, including spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants, but construction has stalled amid political and legal fights.

Officials at the Mongolian Embassy in Washington couldn’t be reached for comment.

-Stephen Power contributed to this article.
Write to Peter Landers at peter.landers@wsj.com

Source: WSJ

VII. Mongolia Denies Plans for Spent Nuclear Storage Facility

May 13, 2011. Mongolia has not entered talks about importing nuclear waste from other countries, said Mrs.Undraa, Special Functionary Ambassador of the Foreign Ministry of Mongolia, at a press conference on May 11th, after a report that Japan and the United States planned to build a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia.

Mrs.Undraa and the state-owned «MonAtom» LLC President R.Badamdamdin hosted the press conference after Japanese daily newspaper Mainichi said Japan and the United States planned to jointly build the spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Mongolia.

«Mongolia has not had any talks with foreign organizations or individuals on accepting nuclear waste of other countries as there are no legal grounds for such talks» she noted, adding that Mongolia’s legislation regarding its nuclear-weapon-free status «clearly prohibits dumping or disposing of» nuclear waste.

Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and to build nuclear fuel production capacity to tap its rich uranium resources, Badamdamdin of MonAtom, which represents the Mongolian government in mining and developing the country’s uranium resources.

The Mainichi report has been also denied by Mongolia’s Foreign Minister G.Zandanshatar and Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia Kidokoro Takuo.

The two made the statements during their meeting on Tuesday, which focused on the establishment of agreements on economic partnership and strategic partnership between the two countries.

Last month, the Mongolian Foreign Ministry had once denied the possibility for Mongolia to establish a nuclear waste storage facility.

Mongolian Embassy in Vienna, where the U.N Nuclear Agency is based, also posted a statement on its website, denying any possibility that Mongolia would allow the storage of used nuclear fuel in the territory of Mongolia.

«Mongolia is prepared to work with other countries within the framework of its national legislation and accepted international norms and standards,» it said.

The U.S Embassy in Japan has also denied the report. «The U.S. government is not negotiating a deal to send spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia,» it stated on May 10th.

Meanwhile, however, Japan’s Senior vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Chiaki Takahashi told a May 9th press conference that «There have in fact been informal talks with both the United States and Mongolia on the issue.»

Source http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn

3 million ha of new protected areas established in Mongolia

Mongolia’s government has increased its protected area coverage by almost 3 million hectares based on the recommendations of a WWF-TNC gap analysis which was launched at CBD COP 10 last year. Nine new parks were established in April and a further seven in May bringing the total level of protection in Mongolia to 16.2% of the national territory. The new areas include forest, steppe and desert ecosystems and will increase protection of key species including habitat for snow leopard, saiga, argali sheep and reindeer.
The gap analysis work was supported by the MAVA Foundation Protected Areas for a Living Planet project as well as GEF/UNDP. The government of Mongolia endorsed the study in 2010 when it agreed to increase the state budget for protected areas by 70% — a key recommendation of the gap analysis.

20 May 2011

Discussion on Hailaer Water Transfer at GTI workshop in Beijing

 The Workshop that  is a part of the Greater Tumen Initiative  project — «Feasibility Study on Tumen River Water Protection, which was endorsed at the 9th GTI Consultative Commission Meeting» was  held on 21 April 2011 in Beijing, China.. The overarching objective of the Study is to assess the water quality of the Tumen River and develop a set of practical recommendations for effective water protection and a river basin management system.  In addition, international experiences on river basin management were presented and discussed at the meeting in order to draw lessons for strengthening institutional cooperation mechanisms to improve the water quality of the Tumen River and shape a multilateral river basin management system.

The GTI Tumen Secretariat and the COWI Consulting jointly organized the Workshop with the support of UNDP. The Workshop brought together around 25 international water experts from renowned institutions such as the UNDP, EU-Commission, WWF- Amur Programme, DIPA, Australia-China Environment programme, International Economic Technical Cooperation & Exchange Centre, Ministry of Water Resource of China, and Yanbian Environmental Protection Academy. 

Eugene Simonov  from WWF- Amur Programme delivered presentation «Transboundary river management in Dauria Steppe and adaptation to climate change».  Possible environmental impacts  resulting from Hailer River-Dalai Lake water transfer were described among other topics.  After  presentation  Hu Wenjun  from International Cooperation Center of the Ministry of Water Resources of PRC  questioned that planned water transfer volume 0f the water transfer canal exceeds 1 cubic kilometer and insisted that it does not exceed 0.35 cubic kilometers according to data quoted at the latest Sino-Russian negotiations.  Dr. Simonov explained that those figures come from the official Environmental Impact Assessment report  done in 2005 and are supported by a number of publications on official web-sites in the time when the project was assessed and construction started. Besides, according to preliminary calculations done by Russian hydrometeorologists,  even 1 cubic kilometer likely will not be enough to sustain the level of Dalai Lake during drought period. Then Dr.Simonov expressed hope that measures to mitigate  environmental impacts  resulting from Hailer River-Dalai Lake water transfer will be a subject of joint Sino-Russian study done by competent experts and  MWR representative agreed that this is quite necessary, probably even in the course of future activities supported by Greater Tumen Initiative.


Mining Companies Given Notice of Termination of Licenses

According to the information received from the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia, there are 5234 mining licenses which are valid in Mongolia.
Over 100 companies are about to receive notice of the revocation or suspension of its exploration or mining licenses for failing to comply with the Mongolian law.

According to the law passed on the 9th of July, 2009 regarding prohibition of mineral prospecting, exploration and mining in water basins and forest areas in the territory of Mongolia, licenses issued around water basins and forests may be cancelled.

Due diligence on mining companies will include investigation of the fulfillment of all its legal obligations in relationship to its licenses, including geological, environmental plans and reports, annual environmental reports, land rights, safety measures, warranties and pledges.

This investigation is crucial since an investor can have its license revoked for many reasons such as: non-payment on time and in full of annual license fees, failure to protect the environment, failure to maintain safety measures, transfer of the license to another legal entity.

Due to the action the companies are demanded to send competency reports to the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia. If they don’t send the materials in time (May, 11th), their licenses will be annulled.

Also they were warned that there is a possibility of terminating the special licenses of over 100 companies who had not paid the bill on time according to the law and who had not made their competency reports.

Source: UBPost

Politics of Minegolia

Mongolia is going to be a major future supplier of commodities from coal to gold to copper-and maybe even crude oil. But how soon will this landlocked country with a population of 3 million really begin delivering these resources to the world in a significant, market moving way?After spending a week in the Mongolian capital and speaking with everyone from the prime minister to some scruffy coal miners, my sense is that no one is in any rush to boost exports of natural resources.
Although Mongolia is located right next to its biggest customer, China, their history of rivalry makes Mongolia suspicious of its southern neighbor. And capricious politics-parliament has tried to oust Mining Minister Zorigt twice this year-mean that economic logic is sometimes subordinate to politics or nationalism.

Take the development of Tavan Tolgoi, by some calculations the world’s second-largest coal deposit. The government recently scrapped plans to build a railroad directly to the border, less than 300km away, even after feasibility studies and initial permits for the line had been granted. Instead a new rail will go east, connecting the mines to the Trans-Mongolian railroad that leads to both Russia and China, albeit by a longer route.

Sitting in the parliament building on Sukhbaatar square, politicians from both sides of the aisle support the decision. It will help develop Mongolia’s domestic processing industry, they say, pointing to plans for an industrial park in Sainshand, where the railroad from Tavan Tolgoi will connect to the trans-Mongolian line. And with coal- washing plants in place, Mongolia’s minerals can fetch a higher price. (Word on the street in UB has it that Chinese traders are offering as little as $150 per tonne for unwashed coking coal-yes, coking coal-at the border town of Gashuun Sukhait, where coal from South Gobi province is trucked out along a dirt track.)

The new rail line will also allow Mongolia to play China and Russia off each other to see who can offer the better price, and it is understood that Mongolia is negotiating for port access via the Chinese rail system, ideally allowing exports of coking coal to anywhere in the world. And if the politicians are right, companies will be lining up to get a piece of the action in Sainhand. According to one banker, engineering firm Bechtel is bidding for a role in the planning and development of the industrial zone.

This approach is part of a broader strategy: politicians in UB seem focused on developing the resources sector in a way that gives Mongolia the best deal.

Elections are right around the corner-there will be a general election in about 12 months-and everyone wants to go to their constituents and be able to say that they are defending Mongolia’s national interest, particularly in terms of China. There’s something of a rush for the government to complete the planned IPO of part of the Tavan Tolgoi deposit before the elections take place, a process that would give 10 per cent of the shares to every man, woman and child in Mongolia. But there is much less urgency on developing the infrastructure to get the coal to market.

There are some exceptions to this pattern: the Oyu Tolgoi mine, which is co-owned by Rio Tinto, Ivanhoe and the Mongolian government is developing ahead of schedule and will come online next year. The copper and gold produced there will be shipped out by truck, posing fewer logistical difficulties than the bulky coal. But even at OT, the investment agreement governing the mine took more than five years to negotiate and is still a source of intense political debate.

In the end, this caution not be a bad thing for Mongolia: already the currency is straining under the influx of foreign investment. But it is certainly a frustration in Beijing, where state-owned mining companies can be heard waxing eloquent about their northern neighbor. Not to mention the fact record prices for thermal coal have caused power outages in some Chinese provinces. China may have to wait a bit longer though, before Mongolia really comes online.

The Financial Times May 20 2011.

Transboundary and domestic wildfires in Mongolia

In the first four months of 2011, 49 wildfires have been recorded nationwide.
The Fire Department in cooperation with the police have found those responsible for 22 forest and steppe fires from the total and a criminal case is initiated against a person who caused a big fire.

MNT 1, 5 million have been fined from the guilty parties.

As a consequence of the wildfire, 7996,5 thousand hectare of forest, over one million hectare of steppe, a Ger, three barns, 42 heads of livestock were destroyed and the ecology suffered a damage equal to MNT151 million.

Five of the 49 wildfires originated from Russia.

Wake up, Mongolians!


Ulan Bator: eight nomad tents stand near the house of parliament. Nomads wander the town square, horses neigh, and shepherd dogs bark. Our special correspondent reports from the very thick of the young Mongolian revolution.

square yurts

On 19 April, dozens of nomad wagons and hundreds of riders and shepherds were still arriving in S?khbaatar Square, Ulan Bator, the centre of Mongolian officialdom. They were coming from the surrounding regions of Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai, Tov, Khenti, and Dundgobi to demand protection for their land from the plundering of mining operations. Across from parliament they set up eight nomad tents, which they vowed would remain there until parliament was dismissed, the government resigned and new elections were called. Nomads wander the square in colourful national costumes, horses neigh, and shepherd dogs bark. The special anthem Wake up, Mongolians!, composed especially for the occasion, can be heard across the square for days on end.

Earlier, on 4 April, the police dispersed the first-comers to the capital, confiscating their tents (before they had been set up). They learned from the experience, and now hundreds of mounted activists protect the demonstrators around the clock. In reply to my na?ve query, “What’s with the horses?” I receive the following answer with a grin: “You try and disperse a mounted demonstration!”. Herdsmen from the far off regions of Altai are still on their way. The instigators of the protest, the United Mongolian Movement for the Protection of Rivers and Lakes, together with the Fire Nation Alliance, are demanding that the government uphold the law on “the prohibition of exploring and extracting of mineral resources at river sources, water protection zones and forest regions”.

These people have been deprived by the new Mongolian capitalism of their watering holes and pastures; they are the representatives of herding communities, the lands of which have been handed over to mining operations, which have then poisoned the waters in the barbarian search for gold. They don’t want to cede their homeland to the cunning “new Mongolians” and the countless capitalist mining operators flooding into the country from China, Russia, Canada, America, France and Australia.

The beginning to the story will seem painfully familiar to any Russian: Mongolia is marvellously rich in mineral resources, the source of its potential destruction. The value of untapped natural resources in Mongolia equals approximately 1.3 trillion dollars.  According the expert forecasts, the country’s GDP could grow from 5 billion to 30 billion US dollars by the year 2020 solely on account of national mineral resources. Mongolia is coming under enormous pressure to begin the exploitation of its natural resources with the help of foreign corporations.

At the beginning of the last decade (2000), the Mongolian authorities had already sold so many licenses for the mining of mineral resources that cattle breeders, wandering from water source to water source and pasture to pasture, had already begun to feel the squeeze.   Over seventy percent of the country has already been “licensed out” for the exploration of new deposits. Particularly serious consequences resulted from the mining of alluvial gold in river valleys, poison reaching dozens of kilometres downstream. Illnesses and mutations hitherto unknown began appearing among cattle and people. And on top of everything else, there was the economic crisis. Many herders abandoned the occupation of their forefathers, leaving for a life of poverty in the country’s only city, or becoming prospectors themselves.

There were communities able to stand up for their land and water rights and drive out especially harmful gold miners from their valleys (such as Goldman Environmental Prize 2007 laureate Munkhbayar, an agronomist by education and journalist by profession, who founded the Onggi River Movement in 2001 and succeeded in closing down thirty gold mines). Soon after, however, new prospectors took the place of the old with newer, even more valid licenses, given out by the very same authorities. It was then that the most obstinate groups of local inhabitants united, creating the United Mongolian Movement for the Protection of Rivers and Lakes.

The movement quickly and loudly fell out with the western funds trying to control and domesticate it. Tsetsegee Munkhbayar declared on behalf of the movement the belief that mining companies should be categorised not according to whether they were Chinese or Canadian, but rather whether they polluted rivers and broke the law or not. Members of the movement are not afraid of blockading mines or conducting other such activities, which furnished the American Asia Fund with a cause immediately after the falling out to accuse the movement of terrorist inclinations. But if the armed guards of the mines can use force to chase the herders from the lands of their forefathers, can opposition really be called terrorism?

In 2009 the River and Lake Movement undertook a hunger strike, setting up camp right here, in S?khbaatar Square, in order to force parliament to pass a law for the protection of rivers from the effects of the mining industry, a law that had become hopelessly bogged down. And parliament heeded them, and so did the new Mongolian president, who in 2010 ordered a halt to the awarding of new mining licenses until the proper measures to protect the environment and combat corruption could be passed and implemented.


In 2010 activists from the Movement together with government officials and specialists travelled through every region of the country and mapped out the majority of legally protected water zones. But time passed and the mapped zones were not confirmed; mining companies actively ate into the banks of rivers and the local inhabitants lost their patience. Over the last two years numerous conflicts have taken place between the local herders and mining companies and prospectors. At the beginning of August 2010, twenty people were injured and thirty arrested in the Darvi district of the Gobi-Altai region.

At the beginning of September 2010, seeking to force the government to take action, Munkhbayar and three other activists from the River and Lake Movement, armed with hunting rifles, fired upon equipment from a gold mine belonging to two foreign companies, Centerra Gold and Puram, in the mountains of the Selenga region. As a result of the incident, the volleys of which left symbolic dents in the bonnet of a Chinese tractor, a criminal case has been opened, and the investigation is due to wrap up soon, with Munkhbayar and his comrades set to stand trial. Munkhbayar and his comrades filed a counterclaim against the Mongolian government on 22 October 2010, on behalf of the River and Lake Movement demanding compensation for the environmental harm done to eight river basins as a result of the government’s inactivity and failure to uphold the norms set forth in the Constitution and by similar laws.

The shot was heard: the Mongolian cabinet of ministers finally declared, on 17 November of last year, the gradual implementation of the law for “the prohibition of exploring and extracting of mineral resources at river sources, water protection zones and forest regions”. The recall of 254 licenses for the extraction of alluvial gold was announced with much ado. Altogether 391 extraction licenses and 1,400 mineral prospecting licenses were affected by the recall.

On 15 March 2011, in S?khbaatar district court, following repeated delays on account of the defendant’s failure to appear, judicial proceedings were finally able to proceed in the case of the River and Lake Movement versus the Government of Mongolia. After an eight hour session, all charges brought forward by the United Movement were dismissed by the judge. The deputy minister of mineral resources and energy, B. Ariusan, appearing in court as the defendant, declared that ecologists had supplied no proof of the mining industry’s having caused any harm to the rivers. According to his words, the government would not demand that the gold mining companies “rehabilitate the environment” in the affected regions or pay compensation until other things had been dealt with, namely: taxes, mortgaged property and loans for workers.

The underlying reason is simple: lobbyists for the mining industry had threatened to bill Mongolia for expenses incurred to the tune of approximately 4 billion dollars should licenses for foreign companies be withdrawn. This sum is greater than the country’s annual budget, and is a great explanation for why the law is not being implemented.

The endless list of excuses and inaction on the part of officials, as well as the decision of the judge, has forced the River and Lake Movement to call for the resignation of the government and to summon the owners of this land, the nomads and herders, out into the town square.

New social and political movements have joined the protest. On 24 April, the herders temporarily handed the tents over to the “Motherland – Independence – Justice” movement, which, on 26 April, conveyed to the cabinet of ministers a memorandum with nine demands, including the government’s resignation, the annulment of an enslaving agreement with Ivanhoe Mines for the source of Oyu Tolgoy, and the signing of a new deal more beneficial to national interests. Cabinet Secretary Odsuren said that time would be needed to study the demands.

In the first week of the “people’s assembly” held in the square, there were no clashes with the police or disturbances. To ensure continued safety, on 25 April, the S?khbaatar region police compelled parliament member Shinebayar, one of the organisers of the protests, to sign a statement that he would be held personally responsible in the event that disturbances should occur. The stand-off will continue at least until an answer to the protestors’ demands has been received from the authorities.

People are calling for a nationwide discussion of ways out of the crisis. With good reason they consider the promise of a “bright future” a crisis: the GDP will increase six fold thanks to foreign mining concessions and every citizen will receive a portion of the money for the nation’s resources, while the nation’s foundation, herders, will lose their land, forever being deprived of the base upon which the great Mongolian civilisation was built, their posterity living in an endless suburb of the capital on social benefits or roaming from river to river with a pan in hand, searching for gold.

Semyon Laskin, Novaya Gaveta, Ulan Bator