Mongolia winter

Mongolia winter

Mongolia winter

From: Ulan Bator, Reuters

Published February 22, 2010 06:42 AM
Mongolia mining impacted by bitter winter

As Mongolia cowers under the brutal thrall of its worst winter in decades, questions are being asked as to whether the country should end its reliance on nomadic herders and dig deeper into its mineral reserves instead.

Some 800 years ago, Mongolia's nomadic herdsmen were surging across the steppe under the leadership of Genghis Khan and conquering China, Tibet and much of central Asia.

Today, most of their descendants are at the mercy of the hostile Mongolian weather or crammed in the capital, Ulan Bator, where they struggle to make a living even though the country sits on some of the world's richest mineral reserves.

Mongolia has been extremely cautious about developing its huge but untapped reserves of coal, copper, gold and uranium, and it recently announced it would cancel an auction for the world's biggest coking coal reserve at Tavan Tolgoi.

However, the government's hand might be forced by massive fiscal debt, coupled with a crippling humanitarian problem as nomadic herders, fleeing a freezing winter that is killing their herds, overwhelm the capital.

The ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party needs cash quickly to relieve the strain on Ulan Bator and provide jobs and an education for a million struggling nomads. The cash can only come from opening up its mining sector to foreign firms.

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