Friday, August 29, 2014

Mongolia Brief August 28, 2014 Part IV

M.Nyamjargal: Every game I play is a World Championship

August 28 (UB Post) M.Nyamjargal is the first woman to become an international Grandmaster in Mongolia. She is the winner of the Asian Draughts Championship, a national champion and won the National Young Adults Championship six times.
The grandmaster has been playing draughts for more than a decade and she is only 18 years old.
We spoke with Nyamjargal, who just got back from a 40-day trip to the Netherlands, about the pressure that is placed on her, challenges, and inspiration.
How was your competition?
Annually, five to six international draughts tournaments are held in the Netherlands. This year, there were four tournaments, and I participated in all of them. World champions and leading players from all around the world participated in the first tournament I went to. There were 195 players, including female champions. Usually on international tournaments, men and women can play against each other. There were a lot of good players, so I played without much success. Also my coach Manlai won the third tournament, out of 118 players. And on the last competition, MTB Open Hoogeveen, I took second place.
Did anything special happen in the Netherlands?
There were a lot of beer and bread. After the first tournament, I heard that people drank beer nonstop for a week. Players were also very nice. They would ask if I would like anything to drink, and I would offer them a drink after that.
What is the difference between national and international tournaments?
In Mongolia, men’s and women’s championships are held separately, which suppresses the opportunity to play against each other. Internationally, the draughts field is led by men. So when competing against men, female players have an opportunity to obtain and broaden their skills and knowledge. The advantage of participating in international tournaments is that you can play with great masters and world champions. These tournaments are very good experience for players from all around the world.
How long have you been playing and what got you started?
When I was six, my father taught me to play draughts. At that time, I used to live in Zavkhan Province, and our family moved to the city. On my first ever tournament, I took second place. Then I went to an international checkers club, and that was the beginning of my career.
What is your training like? Is there any key factor to your success?
When I was in school, I used to go to the club. But now I train either by myself or with my coach. Also, playing in international tournaments is training by itself. When I’m home, I usually play checkers on the computer. My family is really supportive of me and inspires me to never give up. My number one rule is, every game I play is a world championship, and I never underestimate anyone. I learn from every player I compete with. I used to think “I have to win this game”, but the pressure got the best out of me, and in the end, I lost. So now, I try to focus only on the game. Afterwards, it’ll be much more memorable for me to remember that I tried my hardest.
What is your biggest challenge? How do you manage it?
Finding a good coach is difficult. Checkers is a practical sport and requires one to constantly compete with different players. Therefore, to participate in international tournaments, players have to pay their expenses and plane tickets. Due to financial problems, young players’ chance to go overseas is limited. Fortunately this year, Gobi-Khangai Mebel LLC paid for my plane ticket. My parents help me find sponsors and try their best to give me an opportunity to go to international checkers competitions.
How do you find inspiration when you feel like giving up?
If I’m feeling down, I’ll think about the achievements I made. I’ll remember the games I won. Not every girl my age has the opportunities I have. So I consider myself to be very lucky being in this position.
Are you planning to continue your sports career?
Before I turn 20, which is the age you start to compete in adults’ category, I’m intending to challenge myself in young adults’ world championships for two more years. To compete in adults, I have to train ten times harder than today, and tournaments will be tough. Before settling up on a sports career, I’m going to get through college first. And I hope I’ll never stop playing checkers.
Any advice for young sportsmen?
If you are interested, then why don’t you just try it out? If you train hard and not give up easily, success will be at your fingertips.
What is your next goal?
In December, I’m going to Poland for the World Championship.

Tendering for 14 previously revoked exploration license areas announced

August 28 (UB Post) Last year, 106 mineral exploration licenses were found to be granted without tendering and were revoked following a court decision. On July 4, in order to compensate losses that former license holders faced, the Government approved Resolution No. 216 and a tendering regulation for granting licenses for the areas revoked. Under the resolution, former license holders and other third parties will be able to submit tender bids for the previously revoked licenses on a competitive tender basis, where an initial re-tendering price will be effectively determined by costs incurred by the former license holders.
On August 22, the Minerals Authority of Mongolia launched tendering for 14 areas, the initial tendering prices of which were confirmed, out of the 106 revoked license areas. Proposals for tender will be received through September 22.
The 14 areas cover 163.5 hectares in six aimags and Ulaanbaatar. There are six areas in Bayankhongor aimag, three in Dornogobi, one stretching through Dundgobi and Umnugobi, and areas in Dundgobi, Umnugobi, Khovd and Ulaanbaatar. Regarding size, the smallest area is 94.4 hectares and the largest is 56,000 hectares. Below is the list of the 14 areas.
Specialists of the Minerals Authority studied the revoked 106 licenses and confirmed that 88 were eligible for tendering. The eliminated licenses either violate the “Long Named Law” or were revoked prior to the court decision due to other violations, such as overdue payments, payment delays and returns.
Former license holders will have a greater advantage in the tender process. More specifically, they won’t have to place any collateral in an account, but they will need to have the funds they previously invested in the area confirmed through receipts and financial documents. Other parties will have to place 30 percent of the initial tendering price in an account to compete.
Financial capacity and experience will affect selection
In addition to paying the initial tendering price, previous experience with geological exploration and the financial capacity to conduct further exploration and obtain the equipment and facilities necessary for exploration work are crucial for bidders. The evaluation commission will evaluate the proposals and rank them. The company with the highest score will be selected and will propose a price for the selected area. If the company fails to place 70 or more percent of its proposed price in an account within 10 days, the opportunity will be transferred to the next company in the ranking.
If a former license holder is not selected, compensation for the funds the company previously invested will be paid. The compensation will not come from the state budget but from the initial tendering price the newly selected license holder paid.
Exploration project costs invested in the 106 areas by former license holders range from 20 million MNT to 400 million MNT per company. These costs will be the initial tendering prices for the areas. Based on former license holders’ financial reports, the Ministry of Mining estimated a total cost of 28 billion MNT. Re-tendering for the remaining 74 areas will be announced after their initial tendering prices are confirmed.
Specialists of the relevant ministry expect considerable improvement in foreign investment due to the granting of minerals licenses. They estimate annual foreign investment of 1 to 1.6 billion USD from granting minerals licenses, including the 106 licenses.

Potato starch and chips factories to open next year

August 28 (UB Post) Domestic production to meet half of Mongolia’s potato starch demand
Tuv Province’s Jargalant soum is set to launch potato starch and chips factories next year to reduce waste and increase profit in the region.
Small potatoes, which are disposed of without use, will be used for both productions, while the factories will also decrease financial risks at times when potato prices plummet.
The Office of the Tuv Province Governor issued 150 million MNT for the pre-feasibility studies and the factories are planned to launch operation before harvesting season, next fall.
Mongolia imports approximately 4,000 tons of potato starch, mainly used in tailoring factories, per year according to an unofficial customs report. The new factories are expected to produce approximately 2,000 tons of starch, which will meet half of the nation’s domestic demand.
Ts.Tuvaan, Deputy Minister of Industry and Agriculture, also highlighted possibilities to export potato starch to China during his visit to the province.
The factories will not only use waste small potatoes from Jargalant soum, but also those from Sumber, Bornuur and Ugtaaltsaidam soums in Tuv Province.

Tuv Province to grow Japanese rice starting from 2015

August 28 (UB Post) Two Mongolian crop farming experts are currently studying in a six-month training in Japan on rice plantation, as part of a project to grow Japanese rice in Mongolia.
The experts are permanently based in Ugtaaltsaidam soum in Tuv Province and will launch the preparation for rice planting once they return to Mongolia in October this year.
The Office of the Tuv Province Governor and Yokozuna Hakuho M.Davaajargal are working together on the trial project to plant rice in Ugtaaltsaidam and Jargalant soums next year.
The organizers will grow rice at a 0.5 hectare greenhouse in the first stage as rice requires extensive amount of water and heat to grow, says L.Davaasuren, Chief of Tuv Province Industry and Agriculture Authority.

Mongolia looks to honey for exports

August 28 (UB Post) During his visit to Selenge Province last week, Deputy Minister of Industry and Agriculture Ts.Tuvaan met local beekeeper D.Erdenechimeg.
The area along Khalkha River is home to honey plants enough for about two million hives of bees to collect nectar, according to the beekeeper. “Mongolian honey is very reasonably priced, but has incomparable high quality than other honey producing countries,” claimed D.Erdenechimeg.
Mongolia has a potential to meet its domestic honey demand and even export quality honey, according to the beekeeper of 34 years.
Honey made by Tentorium Api company, Russian manufacturer of wellness products, costs 35,000 to 40,000 MNT per kilogram in Mongolia, while Mongolian honey is sold at 20,000 MNT per kg without any artificial substance content inclusion.
“Working bees in Mongolia collect nectar from 16 to 20 different honey plants which makes Mongolian honey flavor and quality outshine others,” explained D.Erdenechimeg.
D.Erdenechimeg gave brief interview about honey production in Mongolia.
Selenge Province-made honey are sold in Ulaanbaatar for a very short period of time, only in the fall. Is it impossible to sell Selenge-made honey throughout a whole year?
Beekeepers have problem selling their honey even though they produce extensive amount of natural honey every year. We have nowhere else to offer our honey but at “Green Days of Fall” annual event, where fresh vegetables and other natural food products are sold in Ulaanbaatar. Few vendors come to Selenge and offer to buy our honey with too low a price, so that we are left without a choice but to sell them ourselves. Our beekeeping farms are left without keepers if we constantly visit Ulaanbaatar to retail our product. This summer, Shaamar soum beekeepers couldn’t sell a single jar of honey while our soum has about 40 tons of honey stored ready for use.
I wonder whether the government could issue a complex policy that enables favorable condition for beekeepers.
How much honey do beekeepers collect per year?
It depends on honey plant yields of the year. We have collected almost a ton of honey from our hives this summer, which is more than average amount compared to previous years.

Korean Foreign Affairs Minister visits President Ts.Elbegdorj

August 28 (UB Post) Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se is on a two-day official visit to Mongolia. After an official meeting and negotiations with his Mongolian counterpart, Yun Byung-se paid an official visit to Mongolian President Ts.Elbegdorj.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ts.Elbegdorj underlined that bilateral relations have successfully developed across all sectors and wished good luck to the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Twenty-four years ago, Mongolia and Korea established a diplomatic relationship. Yun Byung-se said that there are bilateral projects for the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations in the works, and expressed his sincere gratitude that Mongolian democracy and its economy are rapidly developing.
President Ts.Elbegdorj was invited for an official visit to Korea. Ts.Elbegdorj gratefully accepted the invitation and emphasized that the economic implications of any visit are vital.
The Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that the Mongolian President’s “Ulaanbaatariin Yaria Kheleltsee” (Ulaanbaatar Dialogue) on Northeast Asian security is very important to determining regional peace and security. On August 15, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s initiative on Northeast Asian Nuclear Safety Cooperation was established, and Mongolia was invited to take part in the initiative.
President Ts.Elbegdorj underlined that permanent members of the UN Security Council unanimously signed a declaration on Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status, which was a significant event for regional security, and he re-stated that there are no plans to transport or bury nuclear waste in Mongolia. The sides also discussed visa-free travel to South Korea for Mongolian citizens.
At the end of their meeting, the Mongolian President sent his sincere greetings to Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Bat’s defamation charges spark exchange of accusations among ministers

By B. Khash-Erdene
August 28 (UB Post) Transport Minister A.Gansukh broke his public silence on the defamation charge against aviation engineer and blogger Ts.Bat with bold accusations of his sister, Minister of Culture Ts.Oyungerel, on Mongol TV this week.
Minister Gansukh denied all the allegations made about him in 5,760 tweets by Bat, who was sentenced to 100 days in a penitentiary on defamation charges on August 19, and claimed that Minister Oyungerel attempted to secure a position for her brother shortly after her appointment as minister.
“Oyungerel told me to come to her office and asked me to appoint her brother as the head of Civil Aviation. I told them, ‘Appointing a state position is not a matter for you and I to decide on our own. Your brother is always accusing and insulting me.’ She told me, ‘I know, I told him off,’ and he said he would apologize,” Minister Gansukh told Mongol TV. “A few days later, I met [Minister Oyungerel] at her office along with her brother. She told him off and he apologized and asked to become the head of the Civil Aviation. Again, I told them that state positions shouldn’t be decided through a discussion among a few.”
In response, Minister Oyugerel told the UB Post that she only ever met Gansukh once and not to secure a government position for her brother.
“I remember having one meeting, when Bat came to the Government House to meet with the minister. Because I have an office in the Government House, my brother was waiting for [Gansukh] in my office. I invited the minister to meet in my office,” she explained. “So actually, the request to be considered for the position of leadership at the Civil Aviation Authority was made directly by Bat.”
“It was not my intent to secure any position for Bat, I just provided a room,” she added, “I don’t remember my brother apologizing to him. I don’t remember [Gansukh] asking for an apology. I do, however, recall asking my brother to respect the minister because Gansukh seem to be offended because Bat didn’t refer to him as minister.”
Minister Oyungerel expressed her shock when Gansukh turned the conversation into a “business negotiation” offering a condition for the job, that Bat stop criticizing what was happening in the aviation sector on Twitter.
“Gansukh immediately responded by telling Bat to stop tweeting about a deal concerning a Hong Kong based company and a Mongolian company named Liberty Partner that was taking place at the time,” she recalled. “I never knew what kind of a person Gansukh was before that. I didn’t know they had an argument and that it was that serious. I just knew him as a fellow cabinet member.”
“Since then, I’ve distanced myself from Gansukh. I never talked to him later because I thought he’s a person who makes deals on information; hiding information or acquiring information,” she added.
Gansukh told Mongol TV that Bat was denied a promotion at MIAT Mongolian Airlines because of “unethical behavior”.
“Bat took 50 million MNT from MIAT by illegal means, as salary. On top of this, his family didn’t pay for services worth 4,000 USD to MIAT,” he pointed out.
Oyungerel rejected the claim and said that the denial of Bat’s promotion was punishment for outspoken rebellion and criticism of the aviation sector.
“First he was denied promotion, then his salary was decreased, he was removed from his position, and then he was marginalized from decision making and he was fired,” she defended, adding that a thorough investigation looking into the matter should take place.
The Minister of Roads and Transportation said that he is not afraid of being investigated and Bat’s allegations were false and that was why he was convicted.
“I responded to him only once [on Twitter]. I told him he has the right to be suspicious, but have me investigated by the Independent Authority Against Corruption. I gave him permission. Why didn’t he have me investigated,” he told Mongol TV.
“I have a right to be offended. I believe that my personal and professional reputation was threatened… So I went to the police to get the matter resolved. I was having myself investigated as well, because there were many things written about me. If I really did commit what was claimed, I would have been a criminal. The police investigated me for eight months,” Gansukh argued.
Minister Oyungerel pointed out that Gansukh’s brother works at the Independent Agency Against Corruption and is in charge of the income and asset declarations of politicians.
“Gansukh shouldn’t be declaring income assets to his brother, and this is another point that will prove Bat’s credibility,” Oyungerel noted. “Gansukh has so much money. He has a budget higher than any other ministry because so many transportation and roads projects are going on. Meanwhile, the public does not have confidence about whether or not his asset information is accurate, because his brother is the person who receives and checks whether there is any illegal income. So Gansukh and his allies will always be under public scrutiny. Actually, by trying to expose Bat, he very successfully exposed his brother.”
Oyungerel expressed concern that her brother’s case highlights the need for protection for whistleblowers in Mongolia and is a threat to democracy and free expression.
“In his interview, Gansukh said that he was perfecting state immunity, but actually, he was weakening our democratic rights. I’m totally outraged by his actions… When my brother was arrested, I thought it was a little over the top. This is beyond any democratic principle. That’s why I spoke up.”
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic made a statement on Bat’s defamation sentence on Tuesday.
“Punishing libel with imprisonment is a disproportionate and unacceptable measure,” Mijatovic said. “For years my office has been advocating the decriminalization of libel in OSCE participating states as a precondition for media freedom to develop.”
Mongolia is one of the 57 members of the OSCE, which observes media freedom in its member states.
Minister Oyungerel said the chilling effect has already taken hold of Mongolia’s critical sectors such as aviation and transportation.
“I agree with the OSCE. The aviation sector already is experiencing the chilling effect. For example, nobody from the business sector spoke about how they were pressured by the government. It was very surprising that nobody spoke out. But later, when my brother was jailed, I begun to understand why nobody spoke from businesses,” she said.
Bat’s defamation charges were seen as a criminal act in court. Minister Gansukh said that it was a criminal punishment because the allegation’s Bat made about him were about criminal activities.
Mijatovic provided early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promoted full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments.
“Mongolia is a model country in the region in developing media freedom,” Mijatovic said. “I am particularly worried about the chilling effect this might have on freedom of expression in the country.”

What will be discussed during Putin’s visit?

August 28 (UB Post) The Russian President will pay an official state visit to Mongolia on September 3. During the visit, the sides are expected to discuss transforming relations to a comprehensive strategic relationship.
Negotiations have already begun on issues like infrastructure, transit transportation, bilateral investment problem solving, intensifying foreign trade, and bilateral visa-free travel of both nations’ citizens.
The sides will discuss improving the economic capacity and legal environment of Erdenet, Mongol Rostsvetment and Ulaanbaatar Railway JSCs. Mongolia will have the opportunity to talk about cooperation expansion in agriculture and increasing meat exports.
Bilateral trade turnover reached more than 1.6 million USD in 2013. Mongolian import surged to 1.56 million USD and export to 61,800 USD, which influenced Mongolia’s 2013 trade deficit of 1.5 million USD. Mongolia imports almost 90 percent of oil products from Russia, the reason for the high trade deficit.
In the past 24 years, Russia has invested 1.2 million USD in Mongolia, which is equal to 0.11 percent of Mongolia’s total foreign investment. However, 830 Russian companies represent 6.6 percent of foreign companies registered for direct investment in Mongolia. Economists conclude that establishing agreements to increase export products and on drawing investment will be beneficial in the future.
However, former Prime Minister S.Batbold discussed these issues during his visit to Russia in 2010, but with no results. This time, finalizing these issues will create a big opportunity for Mongolia to increase its exports.
In response, the Russian side might want to cooperate in the Asgat silver deposit and uranium exploration. Russian Presidents and PM’s have discussed this issue during every visit. In other words, we can say that Russia is interested in Mongolia’s uranium.
In November 2000, Vladimir Putin visited Mongolia and determined the aims of bilateral relations and cooperation and signed the Ulaanbaatariin Tunkhaglal (Ulaanbaatar Declaration). Mongolian President Ts.Elbegdorj paid an official visit to Russia in 2006, during which both state heads signed the Moscow Declaration and announced that Mongolian-Russian relations would be transformed to a strategic relationship. Mongolia became the first country with a strategic relationship with Russia, and established a strategic relationship with China in 2011, and with Japan in 2013.

Geology, mining and petroleum activities updates

August 28 (UB Post) The Ministry of Mining held the monthly Transparent Mining press conference on August 27, and provided updates on the nation’s large scale geology, mining and petroleum activities. Below are some highlights from the conference.
Oyu Tolgoi’s unresolved issues
Oyu Tolgoi LLC’s mining and marketing activities are advancing normally, but there are two technical issues left unresolved between shareholders. The first is Oyu Tolgoi’s underground mine funding issue. In order to start underground development work, Oyu Tolgoi has been asked to clarify its feasibility study of the underground mine and have it approved by the Minerals Council. Oyu Tolgoi has delivered its resource statement and specialists are reviewing on it. The second issue is the unpaid tax dispute. This dispute is between the General Department of Taxation and Oyu Tolgoi and will be regulated by specific laws. The parties are working actively to reach an agreement and appealed for a dispute settlement council.
The parties are actively cooperating to resolve funding for Oyu Tolgoi’s underground mine construction by September 30.
110 million USD in debt to Chalco remains
Last spring, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC stated its plan to resolve its remaining 140 million USD debt of 350 million USD it borrowed from Chalco, a Chinese state-owned company, by the end of May. But the deadline was further extended due to coal price decreases. During the Transparent Mining conference, CEO of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC Ya.Batsuuri said, “Approximately 110 million USD in debt remains to be paid to Chalco. Last year, we established a temporary contract with Chalco and had been selling our coal at a relatively reasonable price. But the contract expired on July 1, and we started to work under a basic contract. We can’t keep trading our coal at about ten dollars per ton. So we are negotiating to either expand the temporary contract or to sell our coal to other southern neighbor’s companies at a higher price and pay our debt from the income.”
Mining sector statistics
As of the first seven months of 2014, exploitation of copper concentrate reached 565,700 tons, coal 12.6 million tons, gold 4.3 tons, fluorite 222.9 tons, iron ore 3.7 million tons, zinc concentrate 56,400 tons and petroleum exploration was four million barrels. Compared to the same period of 2013, exploitation of copper concentrate increased by 45.4 percent, iron ore 18 percent, fluorite concentrate 51.9 percent and oil 53.9 percent. As of the first seven months of 2014, Mongolia exported 10.4 million tons of coal, 703,900 tons of copper concentrate, 1,800 tons of molybdenum concentrate, 176,600 tons of feldspar, 3.1 million tons of iron ore, 53,200 tons of zinc and 3.8 million barrels of petroleum.
Compared to export figures from the same period of 2013, the export of coal increased by 25.8 percent, petroleum by 45.7 percent, and copper concentrate doubled. A total of 624.7 billion MNT was added to the State Budget from mining sector tax income.
32 days of petroleum reserves
As of August 27, 2014, Mongolia has an approximately 32-day supply of petroleum reserves, and a 36-day supply of A-80 gasoline reserves, 30-day reserve of AI-92 gasoline reserves, a 35–day reserve of diesel fuel, and 26-day supply of TC-1.
Nearly 2,800 mining licenses active
As of August 22, there are a total of 2,782 licences active at the national level, 1,351 of them are exploitation licences and 1,431 are exploration licences. These licences account for 7.6 percent of Mongolia’s total territory.
During the conference, Minister of Mining D.Gankhuyag said, “Companies which had been waiting for Petroleum Law amendment approval sent 21 proposals to establish exploration contracts. Seventeen of the proposals are non-conventional oil and coal-bed methane projects.”
In order to increase transparency in the gold trade, improve gold exploitation and increase foreign exchange reserves, a soft loan of 200 billion MNT was granted to gold miners through Golomt Bank and Trade and Development Bank. As of the first half of this year, 3.8 tons of gold was traded to the Central Bank of Mongolia, up by 61 percent.
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