Capital City Rotary Club brings medical equipment to rural Mongolia

Mongolian medical professionals pose for a photo taken by a member of the Mongolian Peace Avenue Rotary Club.
Mongolian medical professionals pose for a photo taken by a member of the Mongolian Peace Avenue Rotary Club.

A local Rotary Club effort improved rural Mongolian birthing technology by bringing maternal and pediatric suites to five clinics in the developing country’s outskirts last month.
A year of fundraising in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine netted about $25,000 of donations, which was matched by other Rotary funds to total more than $60,000, said Tony Gilmore, a past governor of a district covering much of New Hampshire and Vermont. The Rotarians partnered with a Massachusetts-based nonprofit called International Medical Equipment Collaborative, which refurbishes surplus equipment donated by hospitals for reuse in impoverished countries.
In the end, that partnership meant that the local funds bought birthing beds, incubators, sterilization equipment and other supplies that would have cost nearly $800,000 if purchased new.
“We shipped a 40-foot-long container full of this medical equipment broken down into five suites,” Gilmore said. “The inventory list was 66 pages long, so it was quite a lot of stuff.”
The effort was led by the Concord-based Capital City Sunrise Rotary Club, one of two clubs in the city. Gilmore said he’s one of the club’s 13 members.
Gilmore said a Mongolian man named Batuka Baterdene who’d won a Rotary scholarship was giving a presentation in the spring of 2013 to Rotarians about the lack of equipment for medical clinics in his country. Gilmore said the man brought videos that illustrated a dire need, and he decided he wanted to help.
Gilmore was busy serving as the district governor for an area covering all of central and western New Hampshire and Vermont, but he said when his term was up on July 1, he was going to make a Mongolia project his priority.
He and others then spent a year making presentations and gathering donations, and by Sept. 15 the equipment was on its way to Mongolia, where it would then be dispersed to clinics spread throughout the country’s hinterlands.
One of the clinics was more than 650 miles from the capital – where the equipment was shipped – and almost 90 percent of the way was unpaved, Gilmore said. He flew to the country to be there when the equipment arrived and see the clinics for himself.
“One of the clinics there, their sterilizer was broken. I don’t know how they sterilized their instruments,” he said, noting that their new sterilization technology could be powered by heat and could work even if the power is out.
Gilmore said nearly half the country’s population is located in the capital, and services in the rural parts of the country – oftentimes without roads – are severely lagging. According to UNICEF data, the infant mortality rate has been on the decline: It went from 31 deaths in the first year of life per 1,000 births in 2000 to 23 in 2004. But, compared with neighbors Russia and China, at 7 and 15, respectively, it’s still relatively high.
In rural areas, Mongolia’s infant mortality rate is even worse “due to long distances to health facilities as well as lack of access to antenatal and delivery care, including emergency services in rural areas,” UNICEF said. Rural areas are also much less likely to have improved water sources or sanitation provisions.
Gilmore said he worked as quickly as he could to expedite the project. He said it was “highly unusual” for the grant proposal to be fully funded, and he personally drove to IMEC headquarters with a check three days after the Rotary grant was approved in mid-July. The equipment was shipped in September and arrived in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar around Thanksgiving.
Gilmore said his Capital City Sunrise Rotary Club worked closely with Mongolia’s Peace Avenue Rotary Club to work out the logistics of the project. He said the Peace Avenue club got a number of permissions from the Mongolian government to import the equipment as a donation and bypass tax requirements.
“They worked tirelessly to get this thing through customs,” he said.
A Mongolian company donated a warehouse and lifting equipment and offered a place where representatives of the five clinics could receive training on all of the new equipment. Gilmore said the Mongolian Rotarians on average were about half the age of the average American Rotarian, and the youthful group took time off work and managed to overcome a number of obstacles to deliver all of the equipment to rural destinations.
“These guys were just absolutely fantastic,” Gilmore said. “It was really, really, a terrific undertaking. I’m thrilled.”


Texas Budget Writer to Help Mongolia With Its Finances

Early next year, John Barton will step off a plane and look out over the snow-capped foothills surrounding the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. It is one of the most remote corners of the world — and if all goes well, it is where Barton, a longtime budget writer for the state of Texas, will spend the next two to three years.
Barton is a resident adviser for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance, which embeds American financial and budget specialists in governments overseas. He will be in Mongolia to share his budget-planning skills, honed over 30 years in Texas government working for the Legislative Budget Board, the nonpartisan agency that prepares the state’s biennial budget documents.
Texas has been fertile ground for these boots-on-the-ground advisers, with four, including Barton, from Texas; there are more budget advisers from Texas than from any other state, said an agency spokeswoman, Holly Shulman.
Sheila Beckett, a former budget director for Gov. Bill Clements and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, is now a senior adviser to the Office of Technical Assistance program. Previously, Beckett served overseas in the post-conflict Balkan nations of Macedonia and Serbia. Her job duties now involve looking for recruits, like Barton.
The prevalence of Texans in the program is at least partially explained by the size of the state — there are more budget writers to choose from. But Beckett also pointed to Texas’ early adoption of zero-base budgeting, which, unlike traditional budgeting, has departments start at zero and then justify their spending requests. She said the practice gives Texas budget planners expertise that is valuable to countries that have not used the process.

Larry McDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Technical Assistance, added that Texas is known as a national leader in budget transparency. The state’s geographic size is also relatable to a lot of the countries where the agency operates, he said.
The Treasury Department began sending budget specialists overseas more than 20 years ago. The department established the Office of Technical Assistance after the fall of the Berlin Wall to support Eastern Bloc governments as they moved to democracies and market-based economies. Since then, its scope of work has expanded to developing and transitional countries.
The office embeds American financial experts overseas in order to mentor their counterparts on good processes and procedures — not to influence policy, Beckett said.
Beckett described the resident adviser’s job as “capacity building,” working with younger staff members in foreign governments with the expectation that they will eventually rise to the top of their agencies.
“We work inside the government, sitting side by side with the government counterparts,” Beckett said. “Many of the other aid institutions are outside the government. They sit in consultants’ offices. They don’t have the access to the government workers that the Treasury advisers do.”
Barton expects few similarities between Texas and Mongolia. Geographically, the country is bigger than Texas — and at 3.2 million residents, it has roughly an eighth of Texas’ population. A third of those Mongolians still maintain the country’s traditional nomadic lifestyle.
Add a severe language barrier — “Rosetta Stone does not offer Mongolian,” Barton said, joking — and the new posting feels particularly daunting. But Barton said it was a thrilling midcareer move.
“This kind of opportunity is such that I’d be happy to show up with a sleeping bag and a couple of bottles of hot sauce and work for free,” Barton said.


Vancouver, BC – December 11th, 2014 – Kincora Copper Limited (the “Company”, “Kincora”)

(TSXV:KCC) is pleased to announce that it has agreed with MRAM costs relating to the former

licenses held by its wholly owned Golden Grouse subsidiary that were revoked as part of the 106-

license dispute. These direct costs will form a “threshold price”, the starting point for the

competitive tender process expected to be held on 9th January 2015, with a potential second and final tender on 9th February, if needed, to reissue the revoked licenses.

It is specified in the competitive selection that if such a former license holder participates in the

tender process but does not win and regain the license(s), its expenses incurred (the agreed

“threshold price”) will be paid, or reimbursed as cash compensation by the successful bidder, with

the license being granted with a full term of tenure (ie up to 12 years) either to the former license

holder or successful third party bidder. To date 23 impacted licenses for an estimated cumulative

US$2.49 million of expenditure have been retendered, with 11 licenses returned to the former

holders, 3 remaining property of the State following no bids, 4 acquired by third parties and 5 having

a second and final tender on January 9th.

A total of 18 licenses are proposed to be tendered on 9th January 2015 and we note this batch of

tenders, the third relating to the previously revoked 106-licenses, is the first to include licenses with

significant previous expenditure and follows the recent change in Mongolian Prime Minister and

subsequent formation of an unprecedented super coalition government. Recently appointed Prime

Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg has repeatedly acknowledged the impact of the 106-license dispute as a

factor negatively impacting investor confidence and the economy, with MRAM to shortly present to

the newly formed Cabinet progress relating to the 106-license dispute and issuance of new

exploration licenses following respective legislation being approved the first week of July.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Sam Spring, President and CEO of Kincora, said:

“Uncertainty and the revocation of our Golden Grouse licenses, as part of the 106, have

significantly impacted Kincora and general investor confidence towards Mongolia for almost two

years, and we welcome this important step forward to conclude our dispute in an equitable manner.

The 106-license dispute has materially impeded Kincora’s exploration efforts, corporate discussions

and strategy, and we look forward to this matter being resolved early in 2015 with the former

licenses either returned as new, with a full 12 year term (a period that is globally very competitive),

or the receipt of a relatively significant sum of compensation, particularly in the context of the

current market, reflecting previous acquisition and exploration costs.

It is worth highlighting that other impacted licenses that have incurred significant expenditure are

included in the third batch of licenses to be initially retendered on January 9th, this for the first time

is more than just an administrative process, as the newly appointed Prime Minister and super

coalition government look to address impediments to private sector activity that emerged under the

previous regime. Resolution of the 106-license dispute and expected near term opening up of new

exploration ground, for the first time since early 2010, is expected to support a more attractive

exploration sector in Mongolia.”

800 – 1199 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC V6E 3T5 - phone +1 604 283 1722 - fax +1 888 241 5996

Kincora will continue to inform the market of progress relating to our Golden Grouse licenses.

For further information, please contact:

Sam Spring, President and Chief Executive Officer

+61431 329 345

SouthGobi Resources Announces Management Changes

HONG KONG, CHINA, Dec 12, 2014 (Marketwired via COMTEX) -- SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (SGQ)(1878) ("SouthGobi" or the "Company") announces the stepping down of the President and Chief Executive Officer Ross Tromans, effective December 12, 2014 and appointment of Enkh-Amgalan Sengee as President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Tromans will remain with the Company and on the Board of Directors of SouthGobi until December 31, 2014.
Mr. Enkh-Amgalan Sengee has been President and Executive Director of SouthGobi Sands LLC ("SGS"), the Company's wholly-owned subsidiary, since July 2013. Mr. Enkh-Amgalan Sengee joined SGS from Clean Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Newcom Group, where he was CEO and led the successful development of the first commercial scale wind farm in Mongolia. Prior to this, he gained extensive experience in the extractive industry through a number of senior management positions at the MCS Group of Companies.
Mr. Lancaster, Interim Chair, said, "I would like to thank Ross for his leadership of the C ompany in very challenging market conditions. Under Ross's leadership SouthGobi returned to safe operations with significantly improved cost performance.
"I am pleased to welcome Enkh-Amgalan Sengee to his new role in SouthGobi. Enkh-Amgalan is a seasoned executive with extensive management skills and in-depth knowledge of the Mongolian mining and energy industries."
About SouthGobi
SouthGobi is listed on the Toronto and Hong Kong stock exchanges, in which Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. ("Turquoise Hill"), also publicly listed in Toronto and New York, has a 47.9% shareholding. Turquoise Hill took management control of SouthGobi in September 2012 and made changes to the board and senior management. Rio Tinto has a majority shareholding in Turquoise Hill.
SouthGobi is focused on exploration and development of its metallurgical and thermal coal deposits in Mongolia's South Gobi Region. It has a 100% shareholding in SouthGobi Sands LLC, Mongolian registered company that holds the mining and exploration licences in Mongolia and operates the flagship Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine. Ovoot Tolgoi produces and sells coal to customers in China.
SouthGobi Resources Ltd.
Galina Rogova
Investors Relations
Office: +86-21-6103-3550

SouthGobi Resources Ltd.
Altanbagana Bayarsaikhan
Media Relations
Office: +976 70070710
SOURCE: SouthGobi Resources Limited

Catholics celebrating the ordination of the first deacon from Mongolia

The celebration will take place tomorrow in Daejeon cathedral. Joseph Enkh-Baatar studied in the city's seminary. Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik will also ordain seven young South Koreans. The consecration "will help even more the little flock that lives in the steppes".

Daejeon (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church in Korea and her "sister" Church in Mongolia are celebrating the ordination of the first deacon hailing from the Asian steppes.
After years of study at the Daejeon seminary, Joseph Enkh-Baatar will be consecrated by Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik. He will be joined in the priesthood by seven young South Koreans. Mgr Wenceslao Padilla, apostolic prefect to Ulaan Baatar, will co-celebrate the service.
Speaking to AsiaNews during Pope Francis' recent pastoral visit to Korea, the new deacon (pictured) described that day as "a dream I can live every day."
Before entering the seminary, Joseph - who hails from the parish of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in the Mongolian capital - earned a degree in biochemistry from the International University of Mongolia, an institution run by the Korean Protestants.
On 28 August 2012, he left his country for Korea, where he first learnt the local language and then devoted himself to theological studies.
"I wanted to go straight to the seminary after finishing school, but my family and everyone in the mission, including the bishop, advised me to educate myself first in college. I was disappointed," Joseph wrote in a comment on the Mongolian Catholic Church website. However, he now recognises that "it was a wise decision".
According to Mgr Padilla, Joseph's entry into the Catholic clergy "will help even more the little flock that lives in the steppes of Mongolia."
"Although at the moment, only another young Mongolian (who is also studying Daejeon) received the vocation along with him, many other young Catholics in the country are living the faith with great seriousness and love."
In addition to the ecclesial, missionary and apostolic importance, this ordination has also great relevance from a practical point of view.
According to the laws of the Republic of Mongolia in fact, only Mongolian nationals have the right to buy land for the purpose of building places of worship and only they can lead religious organisations.
Although quite tolerant of Catholics, Mongolian officials have applied these rules rigidly to other Christian denominations, severely limiting their apostolate in the country.
The latest figures indicate that in Mongolia Christians - of all denominations - represent a little bit more than 2 per cent of the population. Most Mongolians are Buddhist incorporating local shamanistic beliefs and traditions. The proportion of atheists is very high at almost 40 per cent of the total.
There are about a thousand Mongolian Catholics, but they have been able to create and develop over time a number of facilities for orphans, the destitute and senior citizens, as well medical clinics - in a country with limited health services - and several schools and technical institutes.
In 1992, there were no parishes when the first foreign (mostly Filipinos) missionaries arrived, including the future bishop (of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary).
By last year, there were four parishes. Now there are six, which shows how far the Church has come.
In his pastoral letter published for the 20 years of the Church in Mongolia, the apostolic prefect noted that 81 missionaries from 22 different nationalities operated today in the country.

Source:Catholic News Agency

Statue Sold for $4.3 Million Amid Mongolia’s Move to Block Sale

A 17th century Mongolian bronze figure was sold for 3.46 million euros ($4.3 million) at an auction in Paris today despite the Mongolian government’s efforts to block the sale.
The statue of female Buddhist deity Tara came from the workshop of the 17th century artist Zanabazar, and Mongolia suspects it may have been removed to France illegally, Culture Minister Luvsannyam Gantumur wrote in a letter yesterday. The figure was expected to fetch up to 300,000 euros.
Mongolia hasn’t allowed the sale of Zanabazar artworks since the 1920s, and Sotheby’s should determine the item’s provenance “due to possible legal consequences,” Gantumur wrote to Sotheby’s France Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Cerutti.
The statue, which Sotheby’s describes as a “very rare and important gilt-bronze figure,” was set to go on sale at 10:30 a.m. in Paris as part of the Arts d’Asie auction today. Sotheby’s France spokeswoman Alexandrine Hawawini declined to comment on Mongolia’s claim, and confirmed the sale amount.
According to a brochure, the statue was acquired from Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard in Paris in 1954.
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Jun Luo in Shanghai at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Liu at Phani Varahabhotla, Nicholas Wadhams


China Shenhua and partners bid for Mongolian coal project

China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd will be part of a consortium bidding to develop the giant Mongolian coal project Tavan Tolgoi, the Chinese coal producer said.
Shenhua said it had formed a consortium with Energy Resources LLC, a wholly-owned unit of the Mongolian Mining Corp (MMC), and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. Shares of the Chinese company were down more than 4 percent on Friday, on track for their biggest daily drop in almost five months.
The consortium handed in the bid on Dec. 1 to the Mongolian government to develop east Tsankhi and west Tsankhi, two blocks of the Tavan Tolgoi project.
Shenhua did not provide any details about the proposed ownership structure, but according to a government resolution issued earlier this year, the winning team needs to be at least 51-percent controlled by a Mongolian firm with five years or more of domestic mining experience.
Analysts said only two local companies were likely to be able to meet the five-year requirement, including the MMC unit and Tavan Tolgoi JSC, a small Ulan Bator-listed miner.
“In terms of the 51-percent ownership for the Mongolian side, MMC is a clear winner,” said Saijarkh Narantuguldur, director at Khan Investment Management, a private equity firm in Ulan Bator.
Mongolia relaunched an international tender to develop Tavan Tolgoi as it tries to boost a flagging economy hit by falling commodity prices and a dip in foreign investment.
The deposit holds around 7.5 billion tonnes of coking coal, but Mongolia’s cash-strapped government has struggled to finance its development, and little progress has been made since an international bidding process collapsed in 2011.
In 2011, Shenhua was part of a consortium that was awarded the western block of the project, along with U.S. miner Peabody and a team of Russian and Mongolian firms, but the result was annulled after rival bidders from Japan and South Korea branded the decision unfair.
Peabody said this week that it was still planning to be an “active participant” in the latest bidding process.
The project has been caught up in a wider debate about the role to be played by foreign – and especially Chinese – firms in Mongolia’s economic development.
Mongolia rejected the potential takeover of Mongolia-based miner SouthGobi Resources by Chinese state-owned metals conglomerate Chinalco in 2012, though relations between the two countries have since shown signs of improvement.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Terrence Edwards, David Stanway and Chen Aizhu; Editing by David Evans and Himani Sarkar)


Bible translators work in West Tenn. on Mongolian Bible


Nomads on the Grid

Nomads on the Grid

An ambitious program is bringing modern tech to Mongolia’s 800,000-strong nomadic population.

Mongolia village
A view of a local village from the mountains in Mongolia.
Courtesy of Mitch Moxley
Each Friday, Roads & Kingdoms and Slate publish a new dispatch from around the globe. For more foreign correspondence mixed with food, war, travel, and photography, visit their online magazine or follow @roadskingdoms on Twitter.
TSETSERLEG, Mongolia—As the crow flies, Gaaj, one of Mongolia’s 800,000 fully nomadic citizens, doesn’t live too far from Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital and only metropolis. His yak-felt-and-wood tent, or ger, stands in a valley 360 miles away, just outside of Tsetserleg, the administrative and commercial nexus of the Arkhangai province.
But crows and maps are deceptive in Mongolia—they hide how rapidly Ulaanbaatar’s urban sprawl gives way to endless open plains and isolation. At 603,910 square miles, Mongolia is the 19th largest nation in the world, but 1.2 of its 2.8 million citizens live in the capital with the rest in far-flung villages or living nomadically like Gaaj. It has the lowest population density of any sovereign nation. Underlining this fact, the trip out to Gaaj’s ger from the Dragon Bus Station on the eastern fringe of Ulaanbaatar is eight hours of an unending procession of yak dung and skulls dotting the plains.
These remains bear testament to the comings and goings of nomadic herds. Although elsewhere in the nation you’re apt to wander into valleys choking with goats or sheep, yaks predominate in this region, where herders rely on them for almost every necessity. Yak fur socks and yak felt walls keep them warm. Yak meat jerky so hard it has to be broken up with an axe and boiled like shoe leather, served with hot and salty yak milk-and-butter tea, fills their bellies. Tiny balls of rock-hard cheese, tucked against the cheek and sucked over long rides, keep them occupied as they navigate the unpaved hills on tiny, plodding, sturdy ponies.
Although motorcycles and a smattering of cars help a nomad get to town on short notice, these steeds (or camels in the Gobi Desert) are the best way to move tiny herds in slow, regular annual orbits around the towns and markets the herders frequent to sell their excess meat and crafts, moving forward as the grazing gets scarce. It’s not an easy life, but the connection to land and livestock is what they’ve grown up with. And the city, smoggy with coal fire, often more expensive, and lacking in easy, secure work for those with few skills or experience that don’t involve milking or shearing, doesn’t hold much appeal unless your herd is shrinking or dying, or you’re desperate for cash.
Even Tsetserleg is only a blip, quickly swallowed up by the smooth slopes of the central steppe’s Khangai Mountains. Cresting a pass in the hills, we see the two gerswhere Gaaj’s family lives in a valley, but nothing else. No power lines, no hum of traffic, not even another family’s camp breaks the isolation of the valley as far as the eye can see. Yet somehow when we duck through the tent’s tiny wooden door we find Gaaj’s family sprawled around a color TV watching a screening of 3:10 to Yuma (the more recent Russell Crowe version) broadcast with Mongol subtitles from a station back in Ulaanbaatar.
Ger camp Mongolia
Gaaj's ger camp.
Courtesy of Mitch Moxley
For all their isolation, Gaaj’s family lives on the grid, connected to broadcast waves and cell signals by the trusty solar panel tilted up on a post between the gers. Gaaj, a thirtysomething man with a hoof-shaped indentation on his face (almost certainly from a horse, but misplaced politeness keeps me from asking outright) and skin so weathered he looks closer to 50, is an entrepreneurial nomad. He has a car that he uses to run a rural taxi service for other nomads, and he’s the go-to host for foreigners passing through Arkhangai. Though hardly rich, even by Mongolian standards, he makes a bit more than the $3,780 average annual salary reported by goat, sheep, and yak herders in a 2010 study of nomad incomes in eastern Mongolia.
But his modest wealth didn’t buy him his solar panel, nor is he unique in having one. Gaaj is one of the beneficiaries of the Mongolian government’s “National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program.”
Before I left Ulaanbaatar, I overheard a guide named Bold tell two older tourists, “You can charge your phone in the gers,” adding, “The gers all have these panels now.”
The project began in 2000, just as Mongolia’s boom years were kicking off following the discovery of some of the world’s largest untapped coal, copper, gold, and uranium deposits. These new resources revolutionized the economy of a nation that had until then survived mainly on cashmere and dairy. The wealth generated by mining developments—the Gobi Desert’s Oyu Tolgoi mine alone, built in 2010, is set to boost the national economy by one-third within a decade—created an inexorable nomadic moth-to-the-light process of mass urbanization. (In 2000, Ulaanbaatar was just 61 percent of its current size.)
While Ulaanbaatar’s skyline is dominated by construction cranes and newly minted skyscrapers, its fringes are made of nomadicgers fixed in place. Drawn in by a sense of missing out on wealth and development (nomadic salaries are still only 65 percent of the national average, and far lower than those of the rising Ulaanbaatar middle class), nomads feel compelled to abandon their lives to become a part of the nation’s development. Most end up living in slums, working as menial laborers.  
“The government of Mongolia was keenly aware of its rural residents’ predicament,” write World Bank energy specialist Peter Johansen and consultants Ivy Cheng and Roberto La Rocca in a 2014 review of the project, “and was committed to bring about development … while preserving the herders’ traditional lifestyle.”
Riding horses in the Mongolian countryside
Riding in the Mongolian countryside.
Courtesy of Mitch Moxley
The government decided that the best way to do this would be to get solar panels in as many homes as possible. In the early years, the program looked like a failure. Limited in its capacity over such a massive area, the central government could only distribute and repair systems out of the capital. Plus, even with subsidies, the smallest wattage setup still cost about a year’s salary for an average nomad while the largest capacity cost two years’ wages. In 2006, six years into the project, they’d only managed to unevenly distribute 33,000 systems. Then, in 2008, international donors stepped in, led by the World Bank, and for once actually delivered as promised.
The project was flooded with $12 million in grants from the World Bank, the International Development Agency, and the Dutch government, a surprisingly proactive ally of the Mongols who also helped to reintroduce a population of wild Przewalski (Takhi in Mongol) horses to the country. The cash boosted the subsidies, slicing prices in half, and helped with the logistics of trucking panels out to the most remote corners of the country.
Another crucial contribution came from XacBank, a local Mongolian microcredit union and the first business to operate branches in every small region and village of the nation. Leveraging relationships between nomads and their local soums (the nearest market or village), the bank built on word of mouth and casual relationships to create local networks of credit providers, advice givers, and servicers to follow up on loans. Following in Xac’s footsteps, the World Bank managed to move the panels beyond Ulaanbaatar, setting up local sales shops and training 400 businesspeople in maintenance and service in about 50 locations spread evenly across the physical expanse of the nation. In short, they cut the costs and distance, created a warranty and service network, and started a cascade of positive word of mouth nationwide.
In 2008, when the World Bank launched its new network, almost everyone had given up on the government’s original 100,000 ger goal. At best, officials hoped, they would get to 80,000. Instead at the program’s close in 2012, just four years later, they’d distributed 100,146 solar panels serving 70 percent of all nomads in the country. And emboldened bureaucrats now hope to achieve universal rural electrification through solar power by 2020.
Before the program, about 90 percent of nomads relied on candles, coal, and yak dung to light and heat their homes, shelling out more than the cost of a solar panel in the space of a few years for smoky and inefficient power. Just over half managed to power a phone or radio with a diesel generator or motorcycle battery, draining more of their meager budgets. In cutting down on energy costs and increasing availability, the solar panel program freed up cash, creating a brand new industry of small appliance providers in the countryside. The industry is so robust that now 70 percent of nomads have a color TV and satellite dish and 90 percent are hooked into a mobile phone network.
Mongolia ger solar panel
The author’s friend Mike standing by Gaaj’s ger with its solar panel and satellite dish.
Courtesy of Mitch Moxley
Those mobile phones and televisions, in turn, have hooked nomads for the first time into the information superhighway. Gaaj now has access to  weather reports and makes phone calls to markets to manage his livestock, keeping more animals alive and fetching a higher price for their wool, milk, and meat. His phone allows him to stay connected with young family members attending boarding school in the towns and to seek out medical advice from distant clinics.
Of course, there are still some limitations. On a visit to one of Gaaj’s relatives, a young woman slips out of the ger for several hours. Gaaj later tells me through a translator, “She wanted to use her phone, but there is no signal here. She rides to the top of the mountain every day to speak to our family.” It’s an hour’s trek up the mountain, but before she got the phone she was often out of touch with relatives for weeks or months at a time. “The phone has, to a large extent, replaced the need to embark on often long and arduous journeys just to deliver or pick up a message,” write Chung, Johansen, and La Rocca.  
“We save on candles, we can finish our daily tasks without having to postpone them, and we can sell our meat at a higher price because we have better access to information thanks to our TV and phone,” a nomad from the Khentii province told World Bank consultants in an in-depth interview. “If somebody shows up at the ger, we can check the market price now. Before [the panels], we used to accept whatever figure the other person would suggest.” These little things add up into an infinitely more secure, connected, and profitable lifestyle.
According to figures from the World Bank and the Mongolian government, nine out of 10 panels purchased more than six years ago, before the warranty and repair program kicked in, were still working, and more than 90 percent of those surveyed found the current reliable and sufficient. Seventy percent of customers reported increased productivity and leisure time, with most families staying up an extra one to two hours to relax and unwind by lamplight.
Mongolia ger inside
The inside of a ger in Mongolia.
Courtesy of Mitch Moxley
“Perhaps we spend more time working at night, but the real impact is that we now carry out our work in a relaxed manner. We don’t have to rush to get things done before it is dark anymore,” a nomad from Kentii told the surveyors. Ninety-three percent said they were overall satisfied with their panels, and 100 percent said they had or would recommend them to anyone who asked.
There have even been reports in recent years of nomads who had moved to the soumsand capital for work moving back to the countryside after hearing how much easier it’s become to hack it as a herder.
Granted, Gaaj’s life is still no idyll. One morning, he stands outside the ger as clouds roll in and a wind cuts through the hills. A man of few and exact words, he rubs his hands, stamps his feet, then shakes his head and just says, “Cold … very cold.” Temperatures in his valley sink to -22 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and if anything goes truly wrong, even if he can call a hospital, getting there in a nation three times the size of France with only one major paved highway a bumpy 30-minute drive away is a daunting prospect.
Many nomads believe that the power of mines, 90 percent of the national economy today, allows mineral extractors and developers to flout laws protecting the forests, water reservoirs, and grazing grounds vital to nomads from degradation.
The sense of encroachment made national heroes out of four nomads who, in 2010,opened fire with their old hunting rifles on an empty mining camp and, the next year, organized a 100-man horseback demonstration in Ulaanbaatar, firing arrows at the Government House. In 2013 President Tsakhia Elbegdorj won his second term on a platform of tighter foreign mining controls. And even with these boosts to the rural economy, more than 800,000 Mongols, many of them nomads, still live below the national poverty line.
Their way of life is under threat, and they have not achieved parity with their urban kin. Some contend that these forces are breeding a nascent anti-mining, pro-traditionalist eco-terror movement. Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, one of those who fired on the mines, and his Gal Undesten movement now stand accused of planting bombs outside government buildings in 2013. “We are a small group of simple herders fighting powerful people,” Munkhbayar told a New Zealand journalist in 2011. “It’s not an easy fight but we cannot stand by idly and watch our land and way of life come to an end.”
But Gaaj is a savvy and entrepreneurial man. He has the tools to utilize his wits and to sustain his family without just scraping by now. The flimsy tinfoil-looking contraption outside his ger is enough of a lifeline to stand on and fight from, and that’s worth something out in the brutal emptiness of the steppe.
Mark Hay is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Good MagazineModern Notion, and Vice. His interests revolve around minority groups and subcultures—especially nomads.


Dalai Lama concludes teachings, hopes to visit Mongolia

By Phuntsok Yangchen

Dec. 5, 2014 Tsuglakhang, Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
Dec. 5, 2014 Tsuglakhang, Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
DHARAMSHALA, December 5: The Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama today concluded four-day teachings for a group a Mongolians, expressing hope to meet again in Mongolia next year. 

On the last day of the teachings today, His Holiness conferred the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment here at Tsugla khang, the main temple in Dharamshala. Around four thousand people from 48 countries including 700 Mongolians attended the teachings on Tsongkhapa’s “Great Stages of the Path”.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that it is important to have right motivation to receive the initiation. “You need to have right motivation to take this initiation of Avalokiteshvara Empowerment. You should not have motivation of such things as wanting to have wealth, success and longevity in this life alone. Because that is the wrong motivation,” said the Dalai Lama. 

Devotees receive empowerment of Avalokiteshwara, Tsuglakhang, Dec. 5, 2014 Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
Devotees receive empowerment of Avalokiteshwara, Tsuglakhang, Dec. 5, 2014 Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
He said that one should be motivated to attain omniscient state of Buddhahood. “The purpose of Buddhism is not to gain wealth and it is the liberation that we are looking for in this life. Therefore when it comes to doing practices of dharma, we have to be really careful in our way of how we carry about the practice of the teaching of the Buddha,” His Holiness added. 

“You should know yourself and not just jump to conclusion and jump to some higher practices without really having the qualifications. Otherwise it is not good. Therefore, when you do the practices what you need to do is follow the orderly manner of practicing the dharma so that you will be able to become more and more adapt to the teachings, the practices so that you can make progress higher and higher.”

His Holiness also offered prayers for His Eminence the Ninth Khalkha Jestun Dhampa Dorjee Chang Jampel Namdrol Choekyi Gyaltsen, the spiritual head of the Jonang tradition of the Tibetan Buddhism and the spiritual head of Mongolia, who passed away on March 1, 2012 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The title, Khalkha (the largest district of Mongolia) Jetsun Dhampa (Lord of Refuge) was conferred by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, who recognised the First Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, a young tulku from Mongolia as the reincarnation of Taranatha. The Great Fifth Dalai Lama became the lineage lama of the First Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa, conferring on him all his lineage initiations, empowerments and the further teachings.

From December 12-14, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Rome, Italy, to attend the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace laureates which was chosen after South African government refused visa for the Tibetan leader.

He will then continue his teachings on the 18 Great Stages of the Path (Lam Rim) Commentaries in Mundgod at the request of Ling Choktrul Rinpoche and Gaden Sharte Monastery from December 23- 29.


Mongolia leverages diplomatic ties with North Korea

CSIS Senior Adviser and Korea Chair Victor Cha, Mongolian Ambassador to the United States Bulgaa Altangerel, Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General of the Department of Policy Planning and Policy Analysis Tsedendamba Batbayar, and Korea Society President and former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Mark C. Minton at a forum examining "Mongolia's Diplomacy with the Two Koreas" at CSIS on Dec. 3, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Twitter/CSIS
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- "The Korean Peninsula's stability is crucial for maintaining regional peace and security," Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasized Wednesday at a forum examining Mongolia's role in Korean diplomacy co-hosted by the Global Peace Foundation and CSIS in Washington, D.C.Mongolia has "a very significant and a much under appreciated role" to play in diplomatic relations with both North and South Korea, observed Michael Marshall, GPF's director of research and publications.
Indeed, the Mongolian government admits it was only in the past 14 years that it "began to recognize its strategic potential in close relations with the DPRK," said Tsedendamba Batbayar, head of the Foreign Ministry's department of policy planning and policy analysis.
The Mongolian government has since launched the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asia Security in 2013 and pledged "to do whatever is in our capacity to support the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks" (involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States) in order to strengthen diplomatic relations and overcome issues through dialogue. Bilateral and multilateral dialogue should be viewed as complimentary, the officials noted.
One of Mongolia's stated foreign policy priorities is to develop "friendly bilateral relations with all the countries in the region" and in doing so, "to strengthen stability and to develop security cooperation in Northeast Asia."
Dialogue, Mongolian Ambassador to the United States Bulgaa Altangerel emphasized in his remarks, is the key to peace and development.
Although Mongolia prides itself in its "friendly relations" with North Korea, that relationship has not prevented Mongolia from vocally opposing Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
At a time when many of the world's democracies are at odds with the totalitarian North Korean state, Mongolia has a unique and promising role to play, and it is making that possibility known.
Batbayar told UPI on the eve of the forum that Mongolia strives to "be an honest broker" on the international scene and hopes that it can "open up new channels for dialogue" with North Korea.

Both Mongolia and the Korean Peninsula, former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia Mark C. Minton observed at the forum, are caught between powerful countries with whom good relations are in their interest, "even ones from whom they are feeling tremendous pressure." And at the same time, Mongolia and the Koreas "also have a very strong interest in having as much strategic leverage and breathing room as they can possibly design."
This, said Minton, explains their willingness to engage in diplomatic outreach. "They want to have other partners. They want some traction in regional affairs and in global affairs that allows them to escape the rather vice-like dynamic of just existing and having diplomatic space between two powerful neighbors."
Mongolia's ambassador echoed that sentiment in his reflection on his country's Third Neighbor policy, whose purpose is to build bilateral relations with countries other than China and Russia. "It is a policy that helps us not be dependent," Altangerel said.
"More work in this direction would serve both countries," Minton said of Mongolia and Korea's diplomatic dialogue.
Looking ahead, Batbayar noted that Mongolia will host an Ulaanbaatar Dialogue summit focused on energy, infrastructure and regional connectivity in June 2015.


China Shenhua and partners bid for giant Mongolian coal project

BEIJING Dec 4 (Reuters) - China Shenhua Energy Co Ltd and its partners have submitted a bid to develop the giant Mongolian coal project Tavan Tolgoi, the Chinese coal producer said on Thursday.
Shenhua Energy said it had formed a consortium with Mongolian Mining Corp (MMC) and Japan's Sumitomo Corp, and the consortium handed in the bid on Dec. 1 to the Mongolian government to develop east Tsankhi and west Tsankhi, two blocks of the Tavan Tolgoi project.
Mongolia relaunched an international tender to develop Tavan Tolgoi as it tries to boost a flagging economy hit by falling commodity prices and a dip in foreign investment.
Tavan Tolgoi holds around 7.5 billion tonnes of coking coal, but Mongolia's cash-strapped government has struggled to finance its development, and little progress has been made since an international bidding process collapsed in 2011.
In 2011, the western block of the project was awarded to a consortium consisting of Peabody, a team of Russian and Mongolian firms, and the Shenhua Group, but the result was annulled after rival bidders from Japan and South Korea branded the decision unfair.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu, editing by David Evans)


Spiritual leader of Tibet commences teachings to Mongolians

Dharamshala: - The spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, 2 December commenced a four-day teaching on Tsongkhapa's Great Stages of the Path (lamrim chenmo) at the request of a group of Mongolians at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamshala, India.
It was a successful first day of the four day teaching from His Holiness the Dalai Lama which attracted over 4,000 devotees including 700 international visitors from 49 countries, almost 600 Mongolians and about 10 Chinese devotees. The main Tibetan temple had an ambiance of contagious excitement and lively discussions, but as the His Holiness made his way to his seat, the crowd fell into awe and even the powerful chanting faded into the background.
His Holiness begins by acknowledging the similarities in culture and faith in Buddhism between Mongolians and Tibetans and that despite the decline in Buddhism due to the Communist government in the 20th century, faith was not lost. However, now that there is more freedom to practice religion, His Holiness warns that those who still believe, should not be lead by blind faith, but really focus on understanding the Dharma and reasons in self.
Understanding the Dharma is more than listening to His Holiness speak, reading all the scriptures, or just practicing yoga. You must practice and reflect on the teachings on your own and then apply them in order to truly understand the Dharma. One must have reflections of the difficult concept of emptiness, taking refuge of the three jewels: Sangha, the Buddha and the Dharma in order to reach the ultimate goal of Nirvana.
The basis of attaining Buddhahood lies in the ideas of desire and grasping that often lead us to Samsara; a cycle of suffering. Reciting scriptures such as the Heart Sutra can help one understand emptiness such that there is no "I" or "self". Once Buddhahood is attained, those that have seen the path should help others, regardless of others' conditions, see that same path of wisdom. This allows for uninterrupted consciousness which leads to the path of Nirvana.
The Buddha's experience and life can teach us because the Buddha was not born an enlightened being but rather he had practiced and trained to become one; his body is formed from ten millions of virtues which indicated that attaining Buddhahood is not something that can be done in one's lifetime, but over several. The belief that finding the path of wisdom and truth would benefit all sentient beings was what inspired the Buddha.
His Holiness touched on the subject of inter-religious harmony that he had discussed a few days ago in New Delhi at the Springdale School, about helping others to understand a universal goal, regardless of their conditions such as those that do not proclaim a faith or those who have faith in a different philosophy.
A 15 minute break was given before the second half of H.H the Dalai Lama's address that would entail questions and answers. The English podcast failed to translate the questions that was asked, but one can try to infer from the answers H.H the Dalai Lama gives.
A question referred to ideas of over-analyzing text, scriptures and practices to such an extent can actually undermine the teachings of the Buddha, therefore it should not be taken so literally. His Holiness also referenced the Dharma and the B?n tradition having similar elements of one another.
Another question entailed something regarding guilt and of a fake reincarnation. The 5th Dalai Lama believed that the fake reincarnation was a result of disrupted prayers and would cause harm to sentient beings.
Another answer of His Holiness included the use to alcohol. It is a substance that is harmful to one's health and is something that is brought upon ourselves through conscious choice and can induce anger which leads to a creation of suffering.
Lastly, the answer included a few things already discussed by His Holiness—that the Dharma refers to people who only practice yoga to have little knowledge and those who only read scriptures may not make you skilled in actual practice. He reiterates finding a balance of studying and practicing the Dharma.
His Holiness will confer the Avalokiteshvara Empowerment on the last day December 5th. The second in the series of four day teachings will continue on December 3rd 2014 in the Main Temple; Dharamshala. A live webcast, followed by translations into English, Mongolian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian languages available on:


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