Seoul wants fresh talks over Mongolia coal mine

SEOUL — Seoul called Thursday for talks with Ulan Bator after a consortium involving South Korean firms was left off a list of groups chosen to develop a huge Mongolian mine, saying the decision was "unclear and unfair".

Out of six preferred bidders, Mongolia on Monday said it had picked US mining giant Peabody Energy, China's Shenhua and a Russian-led consortium to develop the Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit, one of the world's largest.

According to South Korea, this happened when the six preferred bidders -- including one consortium linking South Korea, Japan and Russia -- were in talks to form a "grand consortium" at the request of Mongolia.

Seoul said Ulan Bator had told the six bidders in April to merge.

The six had since been in talks to meet the demand when Ulan Bator "unilaterally" announced the selection of three short-listed bidders, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

"Together with Japan, we plan to raise the issue with the Mongolian government of the international bidding, which was carried out in an unclear and unfair manner, and tap the possibility of additional talks," the ministry said in a statement.

"We were dumbfounded by the announcement. We've been asking for explanations from Ulan Bator through diplomatic channels," a ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Peabody, Brazil's Vale and Indian steel giant ArcelorMittal had been among the six preferred bidders to develop the western portion of the Tsenkhi block of Tavan Tolgoi.

The others in contention were Anglo-Swiss group Xstrata, a joint venture between Shenhua and Mitsui and a consortium of Russian, South Korean and Japanese companies.

The South Korean side included Korea Resources, POSCO, KEPCO and four other firms.

Ulan Bator has been opening up the landlocked country's lucrative resources sector to foreign investment as it seeks to lift more people out of poverty.




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