Recent news

  • The Government has prepared a list of 100 projects for implementation in the coming four years, and will release it as it completes 100 days in office. The focus is on import substitution and production of value-added products for export. MNT10 trillion would come from the state budget for some of these projects, and long-term loans – there is no word on their amount -- from foreign donor organizations would be used for some others.  Another MNT47 trillion would have to come from foreign investment, in the form of public-private partnership/concessions, and as private investment. The government is exploring where to look for the money. The Spring session of parliament, beginning in April, is expected to approve the projects and their investment source. 
  • In 2020, the Bank of Mongolia (BoM) bought 23.6 tonnes of gold, 8.3 tonnes more than in the previous year, helping raise the country’s foreign exchange reserve to $4.5 billion, 4.2 percent more than what it was a year earlier. The amount of the difference is enough to meet import needs of the country for 11 months. P. Erdenetuya, Director of the Treasury Department at Mongolia’s central bank, tells L. Nomintsetseg more about how the BoM buys precious metals and how it plans to support gold mining. 
  • Note: The first part of this article was written before U. Khurelsukh resigned as Prime Minister. As such, all references to “the Prime Minister” in it should be understood to refer to him as the ex-Prime Minister.  Recent days have found the president frustrated as it becomes clear that the amended Constitution has reduced his power, while granting more to the Prime Minister who once compared himself to “a lion with no teeth”. At one time, they felt the same about many things, both expressing themselves in favour of bringing under state ownership deposits where exploration had been carried out with State money, confiscating oligarchs’ assets in accounts abroad, and implementing an equitable policy on distribution of wealth to citizens. Such unanimity at the top made people wonder if Mongolia was going back to being a socialist country, and a vocal group came up applauding the possibility and berating “the 31 families” which, it said, had become rich by cornering mineral deposits.
  • Mongolia’s foreign trade turnover for the full year in 2020 reached $12.9 billion, 6.4% or $876.9 million less YoY. Exports accounted for $7.6 billion, down 0.6% YoY, and imports fell 13.6% YoY to $5.3 billion. The foreign trade balance shows a $2.28-billion surplus. In terms of mineral exports, 28.6 million tonnes of coal were exported, 7.9 million tonnes or 21.6%  less YoY. Revenue from this fell 30.9% to $2.12 billion. The figures for December show that 1.6 million tonnes were exported, 5.6% less YoY and 49.3% less than in November. Gold was the second largest earner among minerals exported, with 30.5 tonnes exported for $1.79 billion, showing a YoY increase of 236% in volume and 327% in value. Exports in December stood at 2.8 tonnes and earnings at $163 million.
  • The Atomic Energy Law, amended six times since it was passed in 2009, is going to have fresh changes to bring its 8 sections and 51 articles in conformity with the post-amendment Constitution. A working group headed by N.Myagmar, Chairman of Legal Department of the Government Secretariat, and with members representing several departments has been set up to prepare the draft amendments. It is still early days and the group is yet to determine the overall rationale for the amendments, but it has started receiving ideas and proposals from the Government Secretariat and from ministries and agencies. 
  • The year that has just ended was one that changed the way we live anywhere in the world. A pandemic held human interaction hostage and stalled economic progress, and no one can say how long it would take to undo the damage. Mongolia has not been exempt from the disruption in all areas of life, with exports and revenue falling, but our sparse and widely distributed population, helped by strict Government measures, has kept the number of casualties low. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and as we begin a new year, Mongolians, individually and collectively, look forward to an end of the crisis and to new opportunities opening up. 
  • Trucks with some cover over their cargo of coal move at speed in a seemingly unending line along the road to Gashuunsukhait.  Not all make it to the border, though, as accidents are common on the often potholed road, but the overturned or otherwise affected trucks are quickly moved to a side so as not to impede the flow. There is a similar flow in the reverse direction of empty trucks returning from the southern border. The road is kept clear for the economically important traffic, but there is garbage of all kinds on the sides, with the lighter stuff blown in all directions by the wind. Everything is made dark by the dust from the coal and the soil dispersed by the heavily laden trucks. This is how the lifeline of our coal export has been like for the past several years, as we have watched in dismay a decade pass by with much talk and more politics but no progress on the ground on building the TT-GS railway. 
  • With the number of locally transmitted cases rising, the mining sector is also in a vulnerable situation, but as it is the mainstay of the national economy, the government is determined that normal mining operations are not interrupted. Special efforts are being made to keep the virus away from Umnugovi aimag, Mongolia’s mining hub. A “green zone” has been demarcated near the border and there are also “safety zones”, intended by the Government to protect all inside them from the risk of being exposed to the virus.  A working group headed by O.Batnairamdal, Deputy Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry, is camping in the mining zone to supervise strict compliance with the infection control regime put in place, so that mining does not stop and export continues. 
  • Oyu Tolgoi LLC has highlighted the following in its latest performance scorecard that gives key performance metrics for the third quarter of 2020, and provided an update on underground development, and its continued prevention measures on COVID-19. •    Awarded the Copper Mark for responsible production.  •    Paid $201 million in the form of taxes, fees and other payments to the Government of Mongolia as of the end of the third quarter of 2020. Since 2010, Oyu Tolgoi has paid $2.8 billion in taxes, fees and other payments including VAT to Mongolian suppliers.
  • Talking to E. Odjargal before the lockdown in November, S. Bold, Senior Economist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), comments on whether Mongolia needs a new wealth fund, and on the economic situation during and likely after the pandemic. What do you think of the proposed national wealth fund?  Mongolia already has the necessary legal environment for proper management of its mineral resources revenue. What it needs is to pay more attention to see that the laws are followed and money actually goes into these savings funds and stays there. The Fiscal Stability Law was passed in 2010 to protect the state budget against fluctuations caused by mining “cycles” but in fact, an amount not lower than 5 percent of the GDP, mandated in the law as amended in 2017, has not been put into the Fiscal Stability Fund, let alone the 10 percent envisioned in the original.
  • T.Munkhbayar, Executive Director of Erdenes Silver Resource LLC, tells G.Iderkhangai how his company, working with its own money, is moving towards fulfilling the responsibility given to it by the Government. He also clears up certain popular misconceptions about the deposit and its potential.  What are the main things your company has done so far?  Our company was set up in June, 2019 as a daughter company of the fully state-owned Erdenes Mongol Group to act in due course as a reliable source of revenue for the state budget. We self-finance our operations at the Salkhit silver and gold deposit, without any financial support from the Government. We have been organizing activities for our staff to improve their knowledge and skills so that mining operations can begin without delay and we can post profits before long. 
  • The recently held Discover Mongolia International Mining Investors’ Forum was the 18th in an annual series, and the first since Mongolia had a new Parliament and Government, both committed to enabling and ensuring the return of foreign investment to the country. Despite the fact that the forum was this time held in the backdrop of the global economy – as also the individual economy of each and every country – struggling under the Covid-19 pandemic, participants and speakers kept their focus on the declared motto, “Mining: The Road to Recovery”. Taking a broad view, they discussed the likely policy of the newly elected Mongolian ruling set-up  on the economy and mining, possible countermeasures for the economic recession, the need for a policy shift to revive the exploration sector, the planned amendment to the
  • D.Enkhbold, Executive Director of the Mongolian National Mining Association, tells MMJ that if mining were to stop, the country would be crippled. He also details how the sector is getting used to the restrictive regulations during a state of emergency. What is the situation in the mining sector at a time of strict quarantine and a state of emergency? There is no way work in the mining sector can stop even after we have local cases of the infection. If it stops, all 21 aimags and Ulaanbaatar will run out of fuel and electricity. At the same time, if exports stop, the country’s economy will collapse. Each mine is implementing a safety regimen to prevent the spread of the virus. Most companies had already prepared an action plan for this situation.
  • G.Yondon has brought a lifetime’s experience of working in senior positions in the mining sector to his new charge as Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry. This gives him an insider’s understanding of the importance to properly develop the sector. The pandemic was a baptism of fire, and in this interview, he tells G. Iderkhangai about how things are improving, and about the policies that would direct the path the sector takes in both the short and the long terms. 
  • First, let us be clear about how much money we are talking about. Our economic size is $13 billion, and 30 percent of this comes from the mining sector. We have less than MNT1 trillion in the Future Heritage Fund, and the draft budget for 2021 estimates that another MNT1.2 trillion would go there. If the average fresh accumulation in it is MNT1 trillion every year, in 2030 the fund will have MNT10 trillion or $3.5 billion at today’s rate.  Now the government wants another and a new wealth fund, made up with profits from operating strategically important deposits. What it means is that part of the revenue from mining will go into the proposed fund and the other part to the Future Heritage Fund. We do not know how the revenue would be shared, but if it is a 50:50 split, then the Future Heritage Fund and the new fund will each get an estimated $1.7 billion.
  • Even months after Erdenes Mongol announced that it had finished work on the draft law on the wealth fund, the document remains elusive. It is not in the public domain, and every professional I asked said they had no clue where it could be seen. Some even ventured to wonder, and only half in jest, if the only persons who know what it contains are the members of the working group established to prepare it. Yet a year and a half ago, the media played it big that this group, chaired by the head of the Cabinet Secretariat, L. Oyun-Erdene, had finalized the draft. The then Director of Erdenes Mongol, P. Gankhuu, announced that he would submit it to Parliament soon, and that is the last we heard about the draft.
  • The Government is in a commendable hurry to fulfil the MPP’s election promise that banks would not be allowed to charge more than 1 percent per month as interest on their loans. But how effective would this be in reactivating an economy crippled by the pandemic and, more important, can this one step in isolation do much to heal a seriously fractured financial system? Folllowing Parliament’s adoption in August of a policy to reduce the interest rate on bank loans --  to 12% initially and then according to the situation over the next four years -- the Ministry of Finance, Mongolbank and the Financial Regulatory Commission are jointly working on putting flesh on the basic idea to ensure the best results for all stakeholders. As of now, six amendments to the present law governing the issue are planned to be submitted to Parliament for approval in its fall session. 
  • Arguably the most important feature of the draft budget for 2021, awaiting approval by Parliament at the time of writing this, is its commitment to observing fiscal discipline, something that was made impossible this year by the pandemic. The budget deficit this year is expected to be 12.5 percent of GDP, much higher than allowed by law, but the 2021 draft puts it at 5.1 percent, which is under the permissible limit. In absolute terms, the deficit in 2021 would be MNT2.6 trillion less than this year’s. This has been achieved mainly by reducing expenditure by 4.3 percent from the 2020 level and by raising revenue, both in accordance with the Fiscal Framework Statement 2021, passed on 28 August, 2020. 
  • The Oyu Tolgoi Technical Report 2020, uploaded on the company’s website on 28 August, sees extraction at the open pit mine – Oyut -- and at the underground mine -- Hugo North Lift 1 – ending in 2051, six years earlier than what was indicated in the 2016 report, bringing expected gross revenue from sale of concentrate down to $69.4 billion from $82.8 billion. The extraction schedule in the new report incorporates the effects of the change in the underground mine design but does not take into account the impact of the pandemic on production.  Work on developing the underground mine has not stopped despite the pandemic, though it goes on at a slower pace, especially in Shaft 3 and 4 construction. In the meantime, Turquoise Hill published a revised OT feasibility study in July and followed this up with the updated Technical Report.
  • The news of how one herder was shot dead by another in Tsogttsetsii soum, Umnugovi aimag during a dispute on whose livestock had claim to a water source shocked Mongolians into the awareness that scarcity of water could make a killer of a peaceful man. This was in 2019, and in April the next year, Tsetsii Movement, This concern over scarcity of water marked the first Gobi Water – Green Development Research and Innovation Forum held in Dalanzadgad, Umnugovi aimag on September 10. As researchers and members of the aimag parliament talked at the Forum about how depletion of water resources in the Gobi has led to drying up of wells for livestock and a drop in the underground water level for human use, I found in my later interaction with ordinary people that they were glad to get a chance to articulate their concerns and suggest solutions. It is now for those who take decisions and make policy to take note of these.
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LATEST

  • 2021-10-11 10:58
    Mongolians have recently been made aware that fuel is one of the products whose supply directly impacts their economy. As fuel prices increase, so does the cost of goods and services, highlighting the importance of maintaining a consistent and steady supply. Since Mongolia currently does not have oil refining capacity, it is 100 percent dependent on foreign imports for this economically vital resource. During the socialist era, oil was exported to Russia for processing, now it goes to China. For years, critics have been highlighting that dependence on foreign oil products undermines Mongolia’s economic security and that it has not seen the benefits “of the oil that covered the hem of P, Orchirbat’s deel” (first president of Mongolia in 1990s). 
  • 2021-09-14 12:21
    In March of this year Finance Minister B. Javkhlan indicated it was to early to say if the budget spending limit would be amended. The minister stated “Although citizens are demanding and amendment to the budget, it is not an issue I can resolve. To date, budget expenditures have not been interrupted and investments have not stopped.” But the pandemic continues to worsen the border points remain closed and the national economy remains at risk. The current macroeconomic forecast for 2021 has “turned” from the original created earlier this year. It is expected that the budget deficit will increase to 8.8% of GDP, past the Budget Law limit and will require a new amendment. Last year the finance minister predicted that 2021 would be the year where Mongolia returns to complying with fiscal limits. 
  • 2021-09-07 13:12
    On July 10, 2021, the management and personnel of Erdenet Mining Corporation, a state-owned enterprise, received the honorary title of National Hero of Mongolia from U. Khurelsukh, the President. When the Head of the State started his first business trip to the local community from the Orkhon aimag, he handed over the award to the managers of the corporation. This is a matter of special honor. In the presidential decree, the past, the present and the future of the Erdenet Mining Corporation were described well in a few words: “Having recognized the support and endeavor of the Erdenet Mining Corporation, a construction development of the XX century, to and for Mongolia’s prosperity,
  • 2021-08-16 13:48
    Mongolia’s largest coal producer, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, is on the fast track to expand its operations.  If current expansion plans become a reality, they expect to produce 47 million tons of coal annually with projected revenues 10 trillion MNT per year by 2025. This is to be achieved through investments in capital projects over the next five years, worth an estimated 10 trillion MNT.  By ramping up its operations, revenues would grow geometrically, increasing its dividend to investors and revenue to the government (currently 81.5% of the company is state owned and 18.5% by citizens and private investors).  These investments are to be funded from internal revenues, bond issuances and   debt.    By expanding their capacity, ETT aims to take advantage of new market conditions and increase their market share in China. 
  • 2021-07-19 11:36
    In connection with the amendment to the Minerals Law, E. Odjargal talks to D. Erdenechimeg, Manager of the Governance Program, Open Society Forum, and a member of a sub-working group for the draft law, on regulations such as enforcement of Article 6.2 of the Constitution, licensing and local relations.  What is the status of the revision draft of the Minerals Law?  Last January, the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry (MMHI) established a working group to develop a draft law on bringing minerals laws into conformity with the Constitution. Two sub-working groups were established: one to provide policy guidelines for the team developing the revision draft of the Minerals Law, and the other to carry out a package of studies under the Law on Legislation. 
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