Julian Dierkes: Яагаад Монголыг сонирхдог болов?

[See the English version as well. Thanks to Mendee for translation, and Bulgan for edits.]

Зарим үед хүмүүс надад Монголын тухай энгийн асуулт тавьж алддаг. Учир би нэг яриад эхлэвэл сэтгэл маань хөөрөөд, намайг зогсооход ч төвөгтэй болно.

Яагаад ингэдэг билээ? Яагаад Монголыг би ингэтлээ их сонирхох болсон юм болоо?

Монголыг би хэрхэн сонирхдог болов

Миний бие 2005 оноос эхлэн Монголд тогтмол очих болж, 2011 оноос эл блогийг хөтөлж эхэлсэн ч надад Монголыг сонирхох, бахархах сэтгэл бүр эрт бий болсон.

Би (баруун) Берлинд өссөн. Заримдаа бид Зүүн Германд жуулчилж, ингэхдээ цөөн тооны дойч маркийг Зүүн Германы мөнгөөр сольж авна.  Тухайн үед сонирхоод, мөнгөө үрэх зүйл Зүүн Германд их л цөөхөн байж билээ. Хамгийн түгээмэл наймаа бол хөгжмийн ноотны цаас, харандаа, харин сүүлд бид Зүүн Германы далбаа, Зүүн Германы залуучуудын байгууллага FDJ-ын тэмдэгтэй цамц авах болсон. Ном бас их авна, ялангуяа, германы сонгодог зохиолууд Зүүн Германд их хямдхан, бас(Баруун)Берлиний сургуулиудад уншихыг шаарддаг болохоор л тэр.

Ингэж явахдаа би Чинагийн Галсан (германаар Galsan Tschinag гэж бичдэг )-гийн 1981 онд Зүүн Германд хэвлүүлсэн түүний анхны “Eine tuwinische Geschichte” хэмээн номыг худалдаж авсан байх. Тэрээр өсвөр насны хүүг Монгол уруу, хэдийгээр Тувагийн тухай ч гэсэн, татан оруулсан гайхамшигтай зохиолч байжээ. Тухайн үед Герман хүүг Монгол уруу хөтөлж чадах Fritz Mühlenweg-гийн In geheimer Mission номыг би хараахан уншиж амжаагүй байлаа. Би Галсангийн зохиолуудыг амтархан унших болж, 2006 онд тэрээр Ванкуверийн Зохиолчдын Наадамд анхны англи хэл дээрх ном- The Blue Sky (see Milkweed Editions for his English books)оороо оролцож байхад нь түүнтэй уулзах сайхан боломж тохиосон юм.

Ийнхүү жаалхан хүүгийн дотор Монголд татагдах тэр үрийг тарьж өгсөн зүйл бол Чинагийн Галсангийн хэрхэн Тува хүү монгол нутагтаа өсөж, бөө, удирдагч болж байгаа тухай зохиол байлаа.

Японтой холбогдох нь

Намайг Монгол уруу хөтөлсөн дараагийн шижим нь Япон. Би япон хэлийг Берлингийн ахлах сургуульд сурч эхлээд, дараа нь Беркелегийн их сургуульд үргэлжлүүлэн судалсан.  1990-1991 онд, их сургуулийн 3 дугаар дамжаанд байхдаа Токио дах Софиагийн их сургууль(上智大学, Tokyo)-д оюутан солилцооны хөтөлбөрөөр очиж суралцав.  Тэр үед дэлхийн хаа сайгүй нилээд нүргээнтэй байжээ. Миний коллежийн хамгийн сайн найз Росс, тэр үед бас Японд оюутан солилцоогоор суралцаж байсан бөгөөд бид хоёр Японоос Берлин үрүү галт тэргээр явахаар шийдсэн юм.  Миний хувьд гэр лүүгээ явах санаатай.  Тэгээд бид хоёр 1991 оны 7 дугаар сард Бээжин (эргээд санахад одоогийнхоос их өөр байжээ)-гээс Транс-Сибирийн төмөр замаар Монголоор дайран өнгөрөх аялалаа эхэлсэн юм. Энэ үнэхээр гайхайлтай аялал байлаа.

Ийнхүү анх удаа 1991 онд би Монголд очсон, гэхдээ энэ аялал маань зөвхөн галт тэргээр дайран өнгөрч,Улаанбаатарын буудал дээр 20 минут л гарч зогсохоос цааш хэтрээгүй.  Одоо миний санаж байгаагаар үнэхээр сайхан байгаль (цаг агаарын хувьд нэн таатай, дулаахай) бас Улаанбаатар галт тэрэгний буудлын өмнөх талбай дахь Зүүн Германыхтай төстэй хоосон лангуунууд л байсан.  Хэдийгээр энэ аялалаас надад хэдхэн галт тэргээр явах үед авсан зураг байсан ч их гүн гүнзгий дурсамж үлдээсэн юм.

Тэгээд бараг 10-аад жил миний анхаарал Япон дээр төвлөрчээ.Берлин, дараа нь Японд амьдрахдаа, миний бакалаврын сургалт (үндсэн анги нь социологи, дагавар мэрэгжил нь гүн ухаан)-ын хувьд жаахан завсарлаг аваад, 1993 онд Принстоны их суруульд социологийн чиглэлээр доктронтурт суралцахаар боллоо.  Хэдийгээр би Япон, арай өргөн хүрээнд Зүүн Азийн нийгмийн шинжлэх ухааны судалгаа хийж байсан ч Монголын талаар маш бага зүйлтэй таарч байв.  Би Чинагийн Галсангийн шинээр хэвлэгдсэн номнуудыг үргэлжлүүлэн уншсаар (ижий минь миний сонирхолыг хэдийнээ гадарлаад надаа Галсангийн шинэ номнуудыг илгээсээр байсан юм, гэхдээ энэ үед хоёр Герман нийлчихсэн байлаа). Энэ үед миний хийсэн ганц ажил бол Степен Коткин болон Давид Вулффийн хамтарсан “Ази дахь Оросыг нээсэн нь: Сибирь болон Оросын алс дорнод” нэртэй Принстоны их сургуульд хэвлэгдэх номны индекс байв.

Миний докторын ажил Япон, Зүүн болон (Баруун) Германы дунд сургуулийн сурах бичиг дэх түүхийн бичвэрийн тухай байсан болохоор би Берлин болон Японд тус бүр жил орчим судалгааны ажил хийгээд нилээд завгүй байжээ.

Докторын ажлаа хийж байхдаа,2001-2002 онд 15 сар орчим Кембриджийн их сургуульд судалгаа хийх хөтөлбөрт хамрагдлаа.  Гэхдээ, харамсалтай нь миний сонирхол тухай үеийн шохоорхолоос хэтэрээгүй учраас, би Кембриджийн их сургуулийн Монгол судлаачидтай төдийлөн холбогдож чадаагүй.

Ванкувер болон миний Монгол завсарлага

2002 онд одоо ажиллаж байгаа Бритиш Колумбын их сургуулийн Ази судлалын хүрээлэнд шинэ багш (туслах профессор)-аар би ажиллаж эхэлсэн.  Хэдийгээр ажил үүргийн хуваарийн дагуу Японыг голлон судалж, хичээл заах ёстой боловч би өмнө зааж байсан Ази, Номхон далайн бодлогын магистр(Master of Asia Pacific Policy Studies)-ын хөтөлбөр, мөн саяхнаас зааж эхэлсэн Нийтийн (нийгмийн)бодлогын болон дэлхийн хэргийн магистр(Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs)-ын хөтөлбөрийн хүрээнд зөвхөн Японоор хязгаарлахгүйгээр Ази болон Номхон далайн харилцааны асуудлыг анхаардаг болов.

Ванкуверт ирээд удаагүй байхдаа, Канадын болон Ванкуверын сонин хэвлэлд Монголын тухай дурдсан өгүүлэл, нийтлэлтэй таарах болж,улмаар Ванкуверээс Монголын уул уурхай ихээхэн хэмжээний хөрөнгө оруулалт хийж байгааг ажигласан. Энэ байдал Оюу Толгой нээлт нь Монгол сэтгүүлчид болон хөрөнгө оруулагчдын анхааралд улам өртүүлэх болсноор улам нэмэгдэв.  Хэдийгээр би уул уурхайн үйлдвэрлэлийн талаар сайн мэдэхгүй ч,энэ бол Монголтой холбогдох чухал холбоос болохыг би мэдэрсэн.  Тэгээд ч олборлох салбар нь Канадаа төдийгүй, Бритиш Колумб,Ванкуверийн эдийн засгийн голлох салбар болохыг ойлгож билээ.

Ингээд би сонин, хэвлэлийн мэдээг улам анхаарах болов.

2006 оны 10 дугаар сард тухайн үед Ерөнхийлөгч байсан Багабанди Канадад хийсэн төрийн айлчлалынхаа хөтөлбөрт Бритиш Колумбын их сургуулийг оруулсан юм.

Айлчлалын бэлтгэл ажилд оролцох болсондоо би машид баясав. Ерөнхийлөгч Багабанди сургууль дээр үг хэлж, дараа нь дээд боловсролын асуудлаарх бага хэмжээний ярилцлагад оролцож билээ. Эл ярилцлагын үеэр Ерөнхийлөгч Багабанди Канад-Монголын хооронд соёлын харилцааг, ялангуяа, боловсрол, судалгааны хэлхээ холбоог хөгжүүлэх санал тавьсан юм.

Энэхүү айлчлалын дараа, би Бритиш Колумбийн их сургуулийн удирдлага болон хамт ажиллаж байгаа нөхдөдөө Монголын их дээд сургууль, хүрээлэнтэй хамтран ажиллах боломж байгааг ядахдаа судлах хэрэгтэй, айлчлалаар яригдсан зүйлсийг хэрэгжүүлэх хэрэгтэй хэмээн зүтгүүллээ.  Ийм судалгааг би өөрөө санаачлан хийхээр болж 2005 анх удаа Монголд тухтай зочлов. Ийнхүү миний Монголыг сонирхох сонирхол улам нэмэгдлээ.

Монголыг фокусалсан нь

Анхны айлчлалаасаа хойш, би Монголд жилдээ 1-4 удаа очих болов. Би хурал, арга хэмжээ, судалгаа гэх мэт Монгол уруу очих бүх л боломжийг алдахгүйг хичээсэн. Хэдийгээр би хөдөө явж байсан боловч, миний айлчлалын дийлэнх нь Улаанбаатарт л өнгөрч байлаа.   Гэхдээ одоо хүртэл Говь нутаг, зүүн аймгууд, баруун зүгийн зарим нутаг, тухайлбал, Хөвсгөлд очиж амжаагүй.

Эдгээр айлчлалын үеэр олон сайхан Монгол хүмүүс, мөн тэнд амьдарч, ажиллаж байгаа гадаад хүмүүстэй уулзаж, танилцсан. Одоо энэ хүмүүстэйгээ Монголд болж буй үйл явдлын талаар тогтмол шахуу ярилцдаг.  Мэдээжийн хэрэг, Монголд сошиал медиа түгээмэл болсон болохоор Монголын талаарх мэдээлэл авахад их хялбар болсон.

Миний энэ сонирхолыг манай Ази судлалын хүрээлэнгийн хоёр захирал (Питман Поттер болон Пол Эванс) ихэд дэмжиж, хамт ажиллаж байсан нөхөд маань миний сонирхолд хүлээцтэй хандаж билээ.

Ингэхдээ, би улс төрийн хөгжил, дэвшил болон уул уурхайн бодлого гэсэн хоёр асуудлыг нилээд анхаарч судалдаг.  Гэхдээ, орчин үеийн Монголын талаарх гадаад улс орнууд дах судалгаа ховор болохоор би зөвхөн өөрийн сонирхдог асуудлуудаас гадна Монголын нийгмийн харилцааны олон асуудлыг ерөнхийд нь анхаарч, мэдлэгтэй болохоос өөр арга байхгүй.

Улс төрийн дэвшил

Азаар 2008 онд би анх удаа сонгуульд ажиглагчаар орж билээ. Мэдээж хэрэг сонуулийн дараах үймээнээс болоод нилээн онцлог сонгууль болсон. Энэ сонгуулиас өмнө ч гэсэн би улс төрийн хөгжлийн асуудлыг сонирхож байсан, ялангуяа Монголын ардчилал нь бусад олон улсаас ялгаруулж, орчин үеийн хөгжлийн асуудлыг өвөрмөц болгож харагдуулдаг. Энэ үеэс эхлэн дараагийн сонгууль (2009, 2012, 2013)-иудад ажиглагчаар оролцож, Монголын ардчилалыг бахархан, ардчилсан дэглэмтэй улс орон бүрт тулгардаг холимог үндсэн хууль, авилгал, ардчилсан шийдвэр гаргах үйл явцтай холбоотой асуудлуудыг анхаарсаар байна.

Би (ялангуяа, хувь хүний ёс зүйн хувьд) ардчилал бол ард иргэдэд үйлчлэх, улс төрчид болон “улс төрийн тогтолцоо” нь мөн ард түмний тусын тулд оршдогт хатуу итгэдэг. Тодорхой баримт, нотолгоонд тулгуурлан, улс төрчид нээлттэй байдлаар шийдвэр гаргаж, учир шалтгааныг тайлбарлан таниулах нь чухал гэж би боддог.  Монголын улс төрийн хөгжил, дэвшлийг ийм ленз-ээр хардаг. Улс төрийн авилгал нь хөршийнхөөсөө хулгай хийхтэй адил учир би жигшин зэвүүцдэг. Гэхдээ, авилгал (сонгуулийн будлианы хувьд ч гэсэн)-ыг нотлох баттай баримт ховор учраас авилгалын асуудлаар би харьцангуй чимээгүй хэвээр байна.  Учир нь улс төрийн асуудал тодорхой баримт дээр суурилсан байх учигтай.
Би Монголын улс төрийн үйл явцад ямар нэгэн байдлаар нөлөөлөх бодолгүй, харин институц болон бүтэц, зохион байгуулалтын асуудлаар саналаа солилцдог.

Гадаад бодлого

Монголын улс төрийн хөгжлийн асуудлыг ерөнхийд нь судалдагийн хувьд Монголын гадаад бодлогыг ч гэсэн нилээд сонирхох болсон. Монголын болон Монголыг сонирхдог гадаадын дипломатуудтай харилцаад эхлэхээр энэ асуудал уруу жам ёсоороо хөтлөгддөг. Энэ нь миний хувьд юу гэсэн үг вэ гэхлээр Монголоос Канад, Герман, болон Японтой явуулж харилцааны талаар мэдээлэл, тодорхой ойлголттой байдаг.  Сүүлийн үед энэ сонирхолд маань “дижитал харилцаа” [digital diplomacy] нилээд өргөн утгаараа багтах болсон.

Уул уурхайн бодлого

Бритиш Колумбийн их сургуулийн, ялангуяа Уул уурхайн инженерийн сургуулийн найз нөхөд, дипломын дараах сургалтын оюутнууд миний Монголыг сонирхох сонирхолыг улам өдөөж өгсөн юм.

Бас тун хачирхалтай нь миний аав – бас л насаараа эрдэмтэн байсан хүн – Германы том нүүрсний Ruhrkohle AG концер Герман дах нүүрс олборолтын ажлаа дуусгаж байх 1980-аад он зөвлөхөөр ажиллаж байсан. Надад үүнээс өөр уул уурхайн асуудлаар тодорхой сонирхол байгаагүй.

Хэдийгээр миний Монголыг сонирхох сонирхол 2005 оны эхний айлчлалын дараа нэмэгдсэн ч гэсэн би төдөлгүй Канад болон Ванкуверийн Монголтой харилцах гол холбоос уул уурхайн хөрөнгө оруулалт болохыг гадарлаж билээ. Ингээд, би анхаарлаа мөнгө урсаж байгаа тэр зүгт хандуулсан – Монголын засгийн газар баялагийн үр шимийг хэрхэн ашиглаж байгааг, энэ нь Канадын хөрөнгө оруулагчдад яаж нөлөөлөхийг анхаарч эхэлсэн.

Энэ сонирхол маань намайг НВК Уул уурхайн инженерийн хүрээлэнгийн нөхдүүдтэй танилцуулж билээ.  Учир нь тэд ч гэсэн Айвонхо компаний нээсэн Оюу Толгой том нээлт болж, Монгол улс уул уурхайн улс орнуудын клубт нэгдэх болсоныг харж байжээ.

Уул уурхайн инженерийн нөхдүүд Монголын бодлого, нийгмийн ухааны асуудлыг сонирхож байгаа нь миний гайхалыг төрүүлэв.  Хэдийгээр тэдний өөрсдийнх нь сургалт, судалгаа нь техникийн шинжтэй боловч уул уурхайн төслүүд голдуу нийгэм, улс төрийн нөхцөл байдлаас болж унадаг.  Ингэснээр уул уурхайн үйлдвэрийн салбар,мэргэжил нь алдаатай (заримдаа амжилттай байсан ч)үйл ажиллагааны улмаас нэр хүндээ алдах аюултай тулгардаг ажээ. Тэгэхээр тэдний тухайн уул уурхайн эдийн засаг, улс төр, нийгмийн нөхцөл байдлыг сайтар ойлгох хэрэгтэй гэсэн ухаарал бидний урт хугацаанд хамтран явуулж буй магистрын оюутны төсөл, сургалт,мөн Канадын уул уурхайг дэмжих төслийн “IMAGine Mongolia” гэгдэх Монгол хөтөлбөрийн үйл ажиллагааны үндэс болдог.

Монголыг сонирхдог доктор, магистрын оюутнууд

Монголыг гэх миний өөрийн сонирхолын нэг салшгүй хэсэг [“ingredients”] нь орчин үеийн Монголыг сонирхдог Бритиш Колумбын их сургуулийн [доктор, магистрын]оюутнууд юм. Энэ блог маань ч гэсэн үүний хамгийн бодитой илэрхийлэл, гэхдээ би Бритиш Колумбын их сургуулийн архитекторын тэнхмээс эхлээд уул уурхайн инженерийн тэнхим хүртэл, дээр нь өөрийнхөө Ази, Номхон далайн бодлогын магистр, Нийтийн (нийгмийн)бодлогын болон дэлхийн хэргийн магистрын оюутнуудтай хамтран ажилладаг. Цаашид орчин үеийн Монголын асуудлыг ойлгохын тулд доктор,магистрын оюутнуудаа улам ихээр түших болно.

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Where did my Interest in Mongolia Come from?

By Julian Dierkes

Sometimes people make the mistake to ask me a seemingly straight-forward question about Mongolia. Well, once I get talking, I get pretty excited and it’ll be hard to stop me.

So, why is that? Why am I so interested in Mongolia and how did I become interested in the first place?

How I Got Interested in Mongolia

I’ve been traveling to Mongolia very regularly since 2005, we’ve been running this blog since 2011, but my fascination with Mongolia goes back further.

I grew up in (West) Berlin. Occasionally we would visit East Berlin and when we did we had to exchange a certain amount of D-Marks for East German Marks. There was generally very little that was attractive for us to spend our money on in East Berlin. Typical purchases were sheet music and pencils, later on we were keen on East German flags and perhaps an FDJ-shirt. Books were also a common choice, in part because German classics were often available for pennies in East Germany and assigned for school back in (West) Berlin.

I must have come across Galsan Tchinag’s (Galsan Tschinag as transliterated in German) Eine tuwinische Geschichte on one of these trips, his first book published in (East) Germany in 1981. What a wonderful story teller he is and how he brought me into Mongolian, well Tuvan anyway, settings as a teenager! Curiously, I did not read Fritz Mühlenweg’s In geheimer Mission until much later, which would have been another easy to get fascinated with Mongolia as a German boy. I have continued to enjoy Galsan’s writings very, very much and had the great pleasure to meet and host him in Vancouver in 2006 when he participated in the Vancouver Writers’ Festival on publication of his first English translation, The Blue Sky (see Milkweed Editions for his English books).

So, it was Galsan Tchinag’s storytelling about growing up Tuvan in Mongolia and growing up into a shaman and leader that planted the seeds of a youthful fascination with Mongolia in me.

The Japan Connection

The next thread that lead me to Mongolia was Japan. I had started learning Japanese in high school in Berlin and then ended up pursuing it in university at UC Berkeley as well. From Cal, I went to Sophia University (上智大学, Tokyo) on exchange in my third year of university in 1990-91. Turbulent times in the world. My best college buddy, Ross, was also in Japan on exchange at the time, so we decided to travel home (for me) to Berlin from Japan by train. So, at some point in July 1991, we started from Beijing (also a very different city at the time from what it is now, the little I remember of that trip) on the Trans-Siberian trip through Mongolia. And it was breathtaking.

In a way, I thus visited Mongolia for the first time in 1991, but it really was only transit through Mongolia, since we didn’t leave the train other than for the 20 minutes that it stopped in Ulaanbaatar. All I recall from that trip is the beautiful landscape (we had glorious, pleasantly warm weather), and the brief run around the square in front of the Ulaanbaatar train station where we encountered the empty shelves that I knew from East Germany. While the trip left a deep impression, I have only a very few photos and memories focused primarily on the existence in the train.

For the next 10 years my attention was almost entirely focused on Japan. After a brief hiatus between my undergraduate degree (Sociology, with a minor in Philosophy) and graduate school when I lived in Berlin and Japan again, I entered Princeton University in 1993 to pursue a PhD in sociology. While I focused on social scientific analyses of Japan and somewhat more broadly, of East Asia, for much of the 1990s, I rarely came across Mongolia in these pursuits. I continued reading Galsan Tchinag when new books were published (as my mother knew of my delight in his writings and kept me up-do-date on his publications, now in united Germany). The only encounter with the region was a job I had as a graduate student producing an index for a book, Rediscovering Russia in Asia: Siberia and the Russian Far East, that Stephen Kotkin and David Wolff at Princeton had co-edited.

My dissertation work on historical narratives in school textbooks in Japan and East and (West) Germany kept me busy for many years and took me for fieldwork back to Berlin and to Japan for a year each.

As I was completing the dissertation, I accepted a fellowship at Cambridge University where I spent 15 months from 2001-2002. Sadly, I had very limited contact with the Mongolia crowd at Cambridge during this period, largely because my interest had not really moved much beyond the early fascination.

Vancouver and my Mongolia Break

In 2002, I accepted a junior faculty (assistant professor) position at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research where I continue to work today. The position continues to be focused on Japan, but given that I used to teach in our Master of Asia Pacific Policy Studies until recently, and now teach in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs, my perspective was never focused exclusively and narrowly on Japan, but certainly spanned an interest in Asia and transpacific relations.

At some point relatively soon after I arrived, occasional articles mentioning Mongolia began to appear in Vancouver and Canadian media and I noticed that a significant amount of investment capital was flowing from Vancouver into Mongolian mining. This only intensified as the “discovery” of Oyu Tolgoi pushed Mongolia further onto the radar of journalists and investors. While I didn’t know much about the mining industry at the time, I did notice that this was a very concrete link to Mongolia, and also realized that the extractive sector was not only a vibrant sector in Canada broadly, but of particular relevance to the British Columbian and Vancouver economy.

I started paying closer attention to these news items.

In October 2004, then-president N Bagabandi, came on a state visit to Canada and included the Univ of British Columbia on his itinerary.

I was thrilled to be involved in planning for this event. Pres. Bagabandi gave a public address and joined a smaller group in a discussion that included a focus on higher education. During this discussion Pres. Bagabandi invited more people-to-people links between Canada and Mongolia in general, and also called for more academic connections.

Following this visit, I made an argument to colleagues and the UBC administration that we ought to follow up on this invitation and at least investigate whether there were opportunities for collaboration with Mongolian institutions. I was very happy volunteer for such an investigation and thus visited Mongolia properly for the first time in 2005. And thus… my interest in Mongolia grew very quickly.

Focusing on Mongolia

Since my first visit, I’ve been traveling to Mongolia from 1-4 times per year. I grab any opportunity I can get to visit, really, whether that is conferences, events, or research. Most of those visits have been to Ulaanbaatar, though I’ve also taken some extended trips to the countryside. I have yet to visit the Gobi, and the Eastern provinces, as well as parts of the West, including Lake Huvsgul.

On these visits, I have had the good fortune to get to know many individuals, Mongolian and non-Mongolian, based in Mongolia. They are the people I speak to regularly to keep up with events in Mongolia. Of course, the rise of the popularity of social media in Mongolia has made the task of keeping up with developments much easier.

My interest has been supported by two directors of the Institute of Asian Research (Pitman Potter, Paul Evans) and has been tolerated by many other colleagues.

Substantively, I have focused on two areas in particular: political development and mining policy. At the same time, the lack of scholarship on contemporary Mongolia abroad means that I have been forced to become somewhat of a generalist, aiming to be somewhat knowledgeable about many areas of Mongolian social relations, not just topics that I focus my attention on.

Political Development

It was by chance that I participated in election observation for the first time in 2008. That turned out to be an eventful election, of course, primarily with the riots in its aftermath. Even prior to this election, I had become interested in political development, however, in part because Mongolia’s democracy is one aspect of its contemporary development that makes it stand out among many countries. Given that interest and subsequent participation in election observation (2009, 2012, 2013), I remain fascinated by Mongolia’s democracy, including all the challenges that its mixed constitution, corruption, and democratic decision-making brings with it, as it does everywhere where democracy is the form of government.

I do firmly believe (this is more a matter of personal ethics) that democracy is intended to serve the people, and that politicians and the “political system” thus also serve the people. I think that evidence-based policy-making and open communications by politicians about the policies they are pursuing and the reasons they are pursuing them, are important, and I thus follow developments in Mongolian politics through that lens. Political corruption to me is the equivalent of stealing from your neighbour on a large scale, and I find it disgusting. Yet, any points I raise about politics should be based on evidence and given the scarcity of concrete evidence of corruption (as well as electoral fraud) I remain relatively quiet on this issue in public.

I do not have any intention to influence any particular direction that Mongolian politics might take, but I do comment on institutional and organizational questions as well as the  wisdom of specific policies.

Foreign Policy

Given my general interest in Mongolia and in political developments, I have also become quite interested in Mongolian foreign policy. To some extent this interest comes “naturally” through interactions with Mongolian diplomats and foreign diplomats who focus on Mongolia. For me this means that I am particularly aware of interactions between Mongolia and Canada, Germany and Japan. Recently, this interest has also begun to include “digital diplomacy” more broadly.

Mining Policy

One of the great delights of my interest in Mongolia has been the interactions this interest has spurred with colleagues and graduate students at UBC, especially in Mining Engineering.

Curiously, my father – who is also an academic – spent a fair bit of time on consulting projects with the Ruhrkohle AG, Germany’s giant coal concern, as it was closing the last of its coal operations in Germany in the 1980s. Other than that, I had no contact or particular interest in mining as a topic of inquiry.

However, as my interest in Mongolia grew after that initial 2005 visit, I quickly noticed that Canada’s and Vancouver’s main link with Mongolia would come via mining investment. So, I turned my attention to where the money was flowing, i.e. how is the Mongolian government trying to manage resource endowments, and what does that mean for Canadian investments.

With this interest, I soon encountered colleagues from the NBK Institute of Mining Engineering at UBC whose attention had also been caught as it became clearer that then-Ivanhoe Mines’ Oyu Tolgoi discovery was a major discovery and vault Mongolia into the club of mining countries.

A number of colleagues in Mining Engineering surprised me by their interest in policy and social science on Mongolia. While technical in their own training and research, they recognize that mining projects often fail due to social and political circumstances, and that their entire industry and profession is under threat from the poor reputation that comes with such failures or sometimes even with successes. Their recognition of a need for better understanding of the economic, political, and social context for mining has been at the root of long-standing collaborations that have led to graduate student projects, teaching, and our collaboration in CIRDI’s “IMAGine Mongolia” activities.

Graduate Students with an Interest in Mongolia

One of the crucial “ingredients” in my own interest in Mongolia have been collaborations with UBC graduate students who have pursued an interest in contemporary Mongolia. This blog is one of the most concrete expressions of that interest, but it has extended to my interaction with students in departments across UBC from Architecture to Mining Engineering and our own MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies and Master in Public Policy and Global Affairs. I continue to rely heavily on graduate students in furthering my understanding of contemporary Mongolia.

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Politbarometer April 2016

By Julian Dierkes

With BULGAN B

Santmaral Foundation’s Politbarometer (April 2016) remains the “go-to” political poll for Mongolia. This is because a) it is the only credible poll that has been conducted repeatedly, and b) because it is generally credible.

We have thus previously commented on pre-election polls conducted by Santmaral:

Methodologically, the weakest part of the poll remains its limited polling across the country. This year’s edition was limited to Uvurkhangai, Selenge, Sukhbaatar, Dundgovi in its countryside sampling. This is particularly a limitation in the polling on specific politicians’ popularity as voters may prefer politicians from their aimag in significant numbers compared to the nationwide underlying sentiment.

Most of the results are best interpreted by comparing this year’s results to last year‘s.

Summary Observations

  1. The poll offers little evidence for any growth of “resource nationalist” sentiments. [See my recent post for an argument that that label is useless to begin with.]
  2. Mongolians are feeling generally more confident than last year and particularly so when it comes to questions about democracy.
  3. Populist politicians continue to be the most popular.
  4. Election outlook: many Mongolians are undecided, the MPP is not gaining as much from the DP’s stuggles as might be expected, the XUN party may be viable.

“Resource Nationalism”

Many observers will be tempted to look at the listing of most popular politicians, find Ganbaatar, Enkhbayar, Battulga, and Uyanga leading that category and declare this to be an indication that “resource nationalism” is on the rise. Never mind that this label remains problematic and thus appears in quotes here.

Apart from the popularity of these individual politicians, Santmaral includes a number of questions that measure attitudes about the state’s involvement in the economy generally and in resource projects more specifically.

When we compare the 2015 responses with the 2016 responses (for Q E5 “What should be the proportion of Mongolian and Foreign ownership in strategic mine deposits”) we notice that the share of respondents who want 100% Mongolian ownership of strategic mine deposits has slid from 21.7% to 20.7% at the national aggregate level, but for Ulaanbaatar (where we would deem the poll more reliable and informative, and where we would expect populist arguments to have more potential adherents) that proportion has gone down from 26.4% to 20.3%. This drop seems to be reflected in the gain in respondents who favour majority Mongolian stakes from 58.6% to 64.6% in Ulaanbaatar. And the number of respondents who endorse majority foreign stakes is also up, though only a little. These numbers certainly don’t seem to indicate simplistic economic nationalism.

Another question that specifically asks about nationalization (E19. “Some people think that the state should nationalize every Mongolian company”) offers a similar conclusion. Nationwide only 1/7 respondents favour such an approach.

Confidence in Democracy

Most observers would probably agree with an assessment that the DP (party and government) struggles have produced much hand-wringing about democracy. The proposals for constitutional reform late last year hinted at this, raising the spectre of dissatisfaction with democracy just as celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the democratic revolution were coming to an end.

Yet, this year’s poll suggests that Mongolians are more confident in democracy than they were last year. When asked about the need for stronger leadership, perhaps a proxy for some latent desire for more authoritarian rule, respondents indicated a desire for such leadership at a greater rate (64%) than last year (59%), but endorsements of technocratic government and more democracy are also up around 6-7%. Should we conclude then that voters are looking for more powerful democratic experts, perhaps? Or, are voters simply looking forward to exercising their right to voice a view on government at the ballot box and endorsing strengthened democracy in that context?

Individual Politicians

One of the most-discussed element in the PolitBarometer poll is always the question inquiring for the “Top 10 Politicians”. In this listing, there has been remarkably little change over the years. The same group of politicians tends to show up with some regularity, though there are some newcomers and some politicians who drop out as well as some shifts in popularity.

We generally disregard the countryside responses on this question as it is too vulnerable to preferences in specific regions.

Some observations

  • The top names, Ganbaatar, Enkhbayar, “Jenko” Battulga, Uyanga could all be characterized as populists.
  • The scandals and discussion of Ganbaatar and Jenko recently, seem to show that “there’s no such thing as bad PR” as they remain popular.
  • Uyanga remains the only women on the list.
  • Compared to last year, Ganbaatar’s popularity has declined from 36% to 27%.
  • Pres. Elbegdorj has dropped from 4th to 7th.
  • Bat-Uul, Ulaanbaatar mayor and a possible DP presidential candidate, has dropped out of the top 10 entirely.
  • Speaker of parliament and DP chair Enkhbold Z has cracked the top 10.
  • Amargjargal is now in 5th.
  • The only MPP leader in the Top 10 is Bat-Erdene. Other party officials like Enkhbold M or Khurelbaatar, for example, do not appear anywhere in the Top 10.

In the countryside listing, not that the greatest difference in popularity is for Jenko who is much less popular in the aimags sampled than in the city.

Party Outlook

Apart from particular policy issues and the  popularity of individual politicians, the PolitBarometer is obviously significant as an indication of how the parliamentary election at the end of June may go.

Here are some of the most suggestive results:

  • If you combine “don’t know” and “no answer” to form an undecided category that would amount to over 40% of voters. Obviously, that leaves lots of room for movement during the campaign and leading up to the election. Given that 85% of respondents signal their intention to vote (much higher than actual turnout in the last elections) that must give some hope to all political operatives as to their chances to win more votes.
  • (Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps) The MPP does not seem to benefiting from the DP’s struggles and factional turmoil to suggest a massive victory like the 2000 election following a DP government. The two “big” parties are favoured by only 15% in Ulaanbaatar. The lack of personal popularity of MPP leaders may be contributing to this, as may the emphasis on Ulaanbaatar in the polling.
  • With a nation-wide share of only 10% of the vote, the MPRP will have to depend on prominent candidates and their chances at first-past-the-post seats to return in numbers similar to the current parliament.
  • Prominent independents generally look to have a good chance at election in first-past-the-post races given the overall division of the electorate.
  • The CWGP scores a very low share of 1.4% nationwide and even in Ulaanbaatar is only selected by 2%. This may be due in part to the on-going discussions of a merger of the CWGP into the DP, but it casts a shadow over the future of the part.
  • The XUN Party (National Labour Party) does seem to be within reach of seats in the Ikh Khural with a 5% share of the vote in Ulaanbaatar contributing to 3.4% nationwide. That will depend largely on some resolution of party governance and recruitment of prominent candidates. But note that given the constant share of the vote for the larger parties, XUN does not seem to be splitting their vote, but rather may be collecting voters from other smaller parties.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bulgan Batdorj, Civil Will Green Party, Democratic Party, Elections, Ikh Khural 2016, Mongolian People's Party, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, Party Politics, Politics, Populism | Tagged | 2 Comments

Education about Extractives to Alleviate Poverty

By Julian Dierkes

As we continue the “IMAGinE Mongolia” work on drafting a curriculum for providing basic and more advanced knowledge of the extractive sector, there are a number of challenges we’re running into in discussions with colleagues from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology as well as among ourselves.

No Recipes Available Here

Our basic aim with CIRDI activities is poverty alleviation. For the IMAGinE Mongolia initiatives and especially in our collaboration with GIZ’ IMRI project, we hope to enable Mongolians to make better decisions on resource projects and governance by offering them more and better information about the extractive sector. That’s it. We’re providing information for Mongolians to make decisions. Information is not the same as how-to recipes. We shy away from labeling “best practices” that should be adopted and instead offer examples of bad practice (current and past, in Canada and elsewhere) and of good practice (again, current and past, Canada and elsewhere). We also select those examples to be appropriate to a Mongolian context. But, ultimately, it is Mongolians that have to make choices and rely on democratic participation to move their government toward implementing those choices.

Our stance in this regard is in some contrast to the expectations of some Mongolians we interact with who ask for recipes and specific instructions, at least a methodology. In recognizing expertise, they want to benefit from this knowledge and assume that it has definite and concrete implications. That is not the case with complex policy, however, whether it is the tax or social welfare system of a modern state, or mining governance.

Other “Hang-Ups”

An element in our unwillingness to offer instructions and recipes is recognition of the quasi-colonial nature of some development activities. This is especially true in the resource sector, perhaps, where international (generally code for OECD-based) companies dominate when it comes to the implementation of large projects.

It is for Mongolians (and citizens of other emerging resource-rich nations) to decide whether and how they want to develop mineral deposits, not for us to instruct them to follow a path that Canada or Australia might have followed which has led companies from these jurisdictions to dominate the world market (to some extent).

The fact that CIRDI funding ultimately comes from the Canadian government (via CIDA, now Global Affairs Canada) also means that there are particular orientations that are included in the project.

For example, ambitions to empower women are manifest throughout Canadian development programs and thus form an integral part of IMAGinE Mongolia activities as well. Obviously, these ambitions need to be appropriate to a specific context, however. So we have to recognize that an emphasis on the role of women in the context of the extractive sector may meet with quizzical looks among some Mongolians who might argue that such a focus is either not appropriate to the development stage that the mining sector finds itself in, or not of great significance to meeting the most pressing challenges. One can disagree with these views (and sometimes we have to), but it is important to acknowledge that such views will have an impact on the efficacy of interventions and – possibly even more significantly – on the long-term sustainability of activities and their impact.

Overall Ambition for our Impact

How do we then expect to contribute to CIRDI’s ultimate objective, namely the alleviation of poverty? Put simply, our IMAGinE Mongolia activities are aimed at providing more and better information to Mongolians to enable them to make better decisions about resource projects. These decisions will then lead to greater benefits (financial and otherwise) accruing to Mongolians which will be distributed more equitably.

This vision of an impact of our activities is predicated on two factors: democracy, and the devolution of (public) decision-making in the resource sector. Whatever faults Mongolians and observers might find with the particular version of democracy practiced in Mongolia, citizens have the opportunity to contribute to decision-making through the ballot box, but also through a number and an increasing number of participatory mechanisms (Local Development Fund, citizens’ halls, etc.). Decision-making is thus an area where individual Mongolians can make their voices heard.

At the same time, the Mongolian national government (possibly on some foreign advice, but out of a stated desire to move towards more participatory democracy as well) is devolving (participation in) decision about the resource sector to the provincial (aimag) and local (soum) level. 30% of revenue is now returned from the national purse to provincial coffers. Exploration licenses offer (at least in principle) a local veto. Impact benefit agreements involving local communities are now mandatory.

With these factors in place (and presumably firmly in place, i.e. across electoral cycles, etc.), we can imagine an impact of our aims to bring more and better information to Mongolians on poverty. On the one hand, we’re addressing decision-makers themselves to give them more and better information. On the other hand, we’re also addressing individual Mongolians (in four aimags for now) to enable them to understand the resource sector better and pose more specific questions to policy-makers.

Thus we are developing a curriculum to be delivered to the general population and – likely in more technical detail – to provincial and local decision-makers that will inform them about the extractive sector. This will not be an endorsement of any specific project or the sector as a whole, nor will it be a condemnation. Instead, we will build this curriculum around an understanding of the mine life cycle, technical and managerial aspects of mining operations, potential impacts (benefits and harms) that may accrue, as well as a number of specific topics of relevance to Mongolians like water and mining, and ninja mining.

To rephrase an English proverb,

we’re not giving Mongolians a fish, nor teaching them how to fish, but instead offering them information about how to manage fish populations and make decisions that will have an impact on the fish and on livelihoods derived from fishing.

This management is of particular importance when the relevant fish (minerals), unlike real fish, will not regrow.

 

Posted in Aimags, CIRDI, Countryside, Development, Mining, Mining, Mining Governance, Policy, Regulation, Water | Tagged | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Envisioning the future of Mongolia by students in Canada

By Batdorj BULGAN

On Monday, March 28, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada: UBC Mongolian Students and Alumni Club organized “The Future of Mongolia through Our Eyes”[Ирээдүй бидний нүдээр] workshop among Mongolian students in Vancouver. At the beginning of the workshop, the UBC MSA club announced its launch of operation and presented their vision to unite the Mongolian students and alumni in Canada.

The introduction of the event was followed by a presentation by Mongolian professors from the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. Dr. A. Enkhbat, Dr. D. Myagmarsuren and Dr. Ya. Tuguldur are here to learn and develop the mining curricula for non-miners in Mongolia through the IMAGinE project from CIRDI.

Following the presentations, the students identified “the Good and the Bad” of the current condition of Mongolia and developed 4 alternative scenarios envisioning the future. The students felt that “freedom” has been achieved and the country is blessed with rich natural resources. The under development of the country in the eyes of the students were seen as a vast opportunity to create, to innovate and to grow. On the other hand, the political instability, environmental pollution and deterioration of soft and hard infrastructures were sources of distress. Among all, the students were grieved by the lack of morality that has clouded the current society of Mongolia.

The education system, economic opportunities (domestic businesses) and public investments were identified as the driving factors for the future deprivation or development of Mongolia. The notions of media literacy, critical (rational) thinking, morality, education founded on custom and science, and participation of individuals were highlighted as root causes which could play significant roles in shaping the future; these were listed under “personal enlightenment” [хувь хүний төлөвшил]. Each scenario created was based in the year 2030 in Mongolia of which the condition of the country was based on economic opportunities/entrepreneurship and personal enlightenment. For the scenario development exercise the students chose the economic opportunities/entrepreneurship as the vertical axis and personal enlightenment as the horizontal axis.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 2.47.17 PM
The scenario exercise helped students connect and share their concerns in the context of Mongolia and their participation in the making of the future. The UBC MSA club reiterated their invitation to the students to collaborate and actively participate in upcoming events and activities.

zurag_4 zurag_3 zurag_2 zurag_1

Acknowledgement

The event organizers would like to thank the CIRDI, GIZ,  H.E. Ambassador of Mongolia to Canada Ed Jager, Mr. Roger Chilton, Dr. Marie-Luise Ermisch, Mr. Damdinnyam Gongor and Mr. Mendee Jargalsaikhan for their generous support.

About Bulgan

Ms. Batdorj BULGAN, MASc Student, Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, UBC and a researcher of the Integrated Management and Governance in Extractives (IMAGinE) Mongolia project.

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The story of the discovery of Oyu Tolgoi

By BYAMBAJAV Dalaibuyan

Introduction

“Friedland came out his helicopter. He had a red jumper and running shoes on. He kissed the land and run straight to the Oyu Tolgoi discovery site.” A local elder told me this story. The date is not clear but he surely referred to the early 2000s when there was exploding excitement around the discovery of the Oyu Tolgoi deposit. The discovery was hailed by some people in Mongolia as the most important economic opportunity for the country’s future prosperity. While being criticized by many, Robert Friedland, the then CEO of Ivanhoe Mines, was described by some people as a saviour whose audacious decisions led to the discovery of Oyu Tolgoi. The discovery, however, did not emerge overnight.

Several books have been written in Mongolia about different aspects of the Oyu Tolgoi project. Some of them contain interesting memoirs of the members of the Oyu Tolgoi exploration project. In particular, the memoirs of D.Garamjav and S.Sanjdorj, two senior Mongolian geoscientists who were instrumental in the discovery, are valuable information sources. In the following, a story of Oyu Tolgoi’s discovery is outlined based on the reading of these and other sources (see, References).

Early Encounters

Russian explorers and geologists made the first geological observations in Mongolia during the late 19th century. After the 1917 Russian Communist revolution, the Soviet state paid significant attention to geology as an applied science to serve its industrial and military interests. Soviet geologists created the first general regional geological maps in Mongolia in the 1940s. One of these regional studies reported that the Oyu Tolgoi (Turquoise Hill) area had potential for copper deposits in 1957. The author of the report noted that advanced mineral exploration was suggested by local people who all knew about mineral occurrences in the area. What is now called Oyu Tolgoi was reported as the Bor Ovoo (Brown Hill) area in the report. This name was used in the geological maps created at the time. Although the report recommended further study, Bor Ovoo was not revisited until the early 1980s.

An interesting take on from the report is that local knowledge was important for helping focus geological study, especially in the initial geological prospecting and mapping projects in Mongolia. There are many hill and mountain names with prefixes such as ‘precious’ and ‘rich’ in Mongolia, indicating local histories and knowledge of mineral occurrences and their use. In the Oyu Tolgoi mine area, for example, small circular pits and minor copper smelting slag from the Bronze Age were discovered during the extensive mineral exploration stage. Another example is Erdenet, which was the largest mine in Mongolia until the discovery of Oyu Tolgoi. The Erdenet Ovoo (Precious Hill) copper-molybdenum deposit was discovered by Czech geologists in the early 1960s. As suggested by their Mongolian colleagues, they made a short visit to the area on their way to another exploration area. The samples they collected showed high values of copper and other minerals, which led in a short period of time to a joint Mongolia-Czech exploration project at Erdenet Ovoo.

It is worth noting that the subsequent development of the Erdenet project coincided with a positive commodities cycle. The exploration project was interrupted by the Prague Spring of 1968. The results by then however had attracted interest from Moscow, with the Soviet Union at the time a far smaller copper producer than leading producers such as the USA and Chile. The significant commodities boom that occurred in the early 1970s was apparently key to the Soviet Union’s decision to invest in Erdenet and establish a joint venture with Mongolia.

Mongolian geologists carried out a preliminary geological and geochemical mapping study in the Oyu Tolgoi area in the 1980s. In his memoir, geologist D.Garamjav, who led the team that discovered the high-grade gold, copper and molybdenum surface zone at Oyu Tolgoi in 2001, noted that he had observed evidence of alteration and copper staining in the area when he did fieldwork in 1983. The area was subsequently covered by extensive geological mapping in the Mongolian Gobi region in the late 1980s, a period when geology was consolidated firmly as an applied science in Mongolia. Exploration and estimation of the nation’s vast mineral reserves and economic deposits was a high priority for the state. Erdenet had become the major source of national export income by the mid-1980s as Mongolia like other Soviet bloc countries began to experience significant economic downturns.

Western Interest

Mongolia underwent severe economic recession after its transition to market-based economy and multiparty democracy in 1990. The national income shrunk substantially as the aid Mongolia had received from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, that constituted one third of GDP, was abruptly discontinued. All sectors of the economy were affected by the crisis, including geological surveying and the mining industry. Hundreds of geologists became unemployed as the government curtailed funding for geological fieldwork.

Mongolian political leaders tried different ways to attract foreign aid and business interest. In 1994, the then CEO of the state-owned Erdenet Mining Corporation (EMC) Sh.Otgonbileg contacted the US-based Magma Copper Company (MCC), which was at the time one of the largest producers of copper in the world. After declining EMC’s two separate proposals on investment in the Erdenet Mine and a joint copper production complex, MCC proposed to run a joint copper-targeted mineral exploration project in Mongolia. As a result, the joint venture company Erdenet-Magma was established in 1995 under a contract between EMC and MCC. S.Diyakov, a Ukrainian-born, multi-lingual (including Russian) geologist from MCC, was appointed as the project lead. The company recruited several Mongolian senior geologists experienced in copper mineralisation, including D.Garamjav.

By 1997, more than 80% of Mongolia has been mapped at a scale of 1:200,000 and 15% at a scale of 1:50,000. Geological mapping, geochemical sampling and airborne geophysical surveys over portions of the country had generated a good database since the 1960s. Most of the geological information was in Mongolian or Russian language. The Erdenet-Magma team reviewed all existing reports on copper mineralisation in Mongolia and selected over 20 areas to carry out geological field study.

Two geological teams were established to explore selected areas in in Western and Central Mongolia in 1995. The teams visited 73 of the deemed most promising mineral occurrences in Mongolia and selected the best four for more detailed evaluation and exploration. These were in Zavkhan, Bayankhongor and Umnugovi aimags. The Central Mongolian team visited several areas in the Gobi region and although D.Garamjav, mentioned earlier, suggested visiting the Oyu Tolgoi area, the team decided to visit another area instead.

As one of the first exploration projects involving Mongolian and Western geologists and Soviet and Western methods, the fieldwork was a learning and inter-cultural process. Besides technical exchange, cultural understanding and learning occurred. D.Garamjav tells an interesting story in his memoir. The exploration crew stopped for an overnight camp near a herder household somewhere in the Gobi and began to erect their tents. The leader of the crew, a geologist from USA, complained about the odour of a nearby animal shelter and dung, and asked to find a better place. The translation was made literally. This angered the Mongolian crew members, especially senior geologists. A strange division occurred, whereby the Mongolian and foreign members erected their tents at a distance to each other. The incident ended well with mutual understanding when the crew leader called a meeting in the evening and apologized for his behaviour.

The Salience of Local Expertise

In 1996, MCC was acquired by BHP (now BHP Billiton). Under new ownership, the exploration team at the insistence of D. Garamjav visited the Oyu Tolgoi area for the first time in September 1996. The company’s regional reconnaissance program in Dornod and Sukhbaatar aimags had not found any significant copper targets, and only two days were enough for the team to decide that Oyu Tolgoi was a promising copper deposit and apply for an exploration concession.

In 1997, Magma-Erdenet was dissolved because EMC’s failed to the contract terms in co-funding the joint venture, and the CEO of ECC was involved in series of political and corruption scandals at the time. BHP Billiton decided to establish a branch office in Ulaanbaatar in 1997. A new liberal Mineral Law adopted by the Mongolian parliament served as an important incentive for the company to launch an expensive exploration program of its own. BHP began detailed exploration at Oyu Tolgoi as part of a regional reconnaissance program of the South Gobi region during the 1997 field season.

In 1997-1998, the BHP Billiton team at Oyu Tolgoi completed 23 diamond drill holes. Although the first phase showed encouraging results, the second and third phases of drilling failed to identify significant ore grade mineralization. In 1999, the new CEO of BHP, Paul Anderson, commenced company-wide restructuring, cutting exploration budgets and jobs. The company decided to close the Mongolia office, and its exploration tenements, including the Oyu Tolgoi exploration concession, were offered for joint venture. A presentation of the Oyu Tolgoi deposit was given at the PDAC meeting in Toronto in March 1999.

Ivanhoe’s Breakthrough

Ivanhoe Mines, a Vancouver-based exploration company that had launched exploration programs in Mongolia after the introduction of the 1997 Minerals Law, signed an option agreement with BHP Billiton to earn a 100% interest in the Oyu Tolgoi Concession in May 2000. The company completed 109 drill holes by September 2000, with encouraging results. Ivanhoe subsequently opened a major office in Ulaanbaatar under the name of Ivanhoe Mines Mongolia Inc (IMMI).

However, 149 drill holes were completed before the project’s ‘eureka’ discovery hole, OTD-150, was drilled in in Southwest zone of the Oyu Tolgoi area in July 2001. D.Garamjav was central to deciding the location of the hole. According to the Mongolian project members, the project was running out of funding. D.Garamjav was invited to choose the location of OTD-150, one of three deep drill holes that the project could afford. The discovery drill had a depth of 590 metres, and it penetrated a new zone of porphyry mineralisation containing high-grade gold, copper and molybdenum. As a result, more drill rigs were added to speed up evaluation of the Oyu Tolgoi deposit. The results demonstrate the benefits of using local expertise and knowledge in conjunction with international good practice.

In August, another discovery hole, OTD-159, was completed in the Southwest zone, confirming the massive economic potential of the deposit. IMMI launched an extensive drilling program to expand the resources. Consequently, Ivanhoe Mines drilled a hole (OTD-270) in the far northern portion of the Oyu Tolgoi area, which resulted in the discovery of another massive deposit at depth (subsequently named after Hugo Dummett, Vice President of exploration at BHP Billiton and Ivanhoe Mines), one of the world’s largest and highest-grade gold/copper deposits. By mid-2003, Oyu Tolgoi had become one of the biggest mining exploration projects in the world, with 18 exploration drill rigs operating. While a number of Mongolian drilling companies were hired during the early stages of exploration at Oyu Tolgoi, international companies with more advanced technical and human expertise began to lead the advanced exploration drilling. Like Erdenet, further development of the Oyu Tolgoi project coincided with a commodities boom that began in 2002.

Concluding Remarks

The discovery of the Oyu Tolgoi deposit, and the Erdenet deposit, shows how development momentum can result from the dynamic interface of global and local factors, and especially the influence of international or transnational political and economic events on a small, landlocked state. Mining legislation that provides certainty over tenement rights and protection for explorers is vital to encourage mineral discoveries. BHP Billiton’s extensive exploration project and Ivanhoe’s takeover were encouraged by the 1997 Minerals Law that was praised as the most investment-friendly minerals law in the world at the time.

The discovery history of Oyu Tolgoi is a vivid example of the volatile nature of mineral exploration. It shows how a range of factors such as geological endowment, local knowledge, market trends, commodity price and legal environment can shape the progress and results of exploration projects. Tapping into local expertise and knowledge is crucial for international developers. Strategic, patient and respectful relationships between local and international expertise and experience can yield positive outcomes.

References

Kirwin, Douglas. 2006. “The giant Oyu Tolgoi porphyry copper deposit: discovery history and implications for future exploration in the Gobi“. Paper presented at the SE Europe Geoscience Foundation Conference. Sofia, Bulgaria .

Garamjav, Dondog. 2015. A memoir (1). Ulaanbaatar: BCI

Ochirbat, Punsalmaa. 2010. Oyu Tolgoi: Past, present and future. Ulaanbaatar: Admon

Robertson, Rob. 2001. “Ivanhoe sparks excitement with Mongolian copper-gold find“. Northern Miner.

Sanjdorj, Sanjdorj. 2011. Memories of the exploration of the Oyu Tolgoi project. Ulaanbaatar

Yuki, Konogaya. 2013. Interview with Choijin Khurts, the former Minister of Geology and Mining.

Posted in Mining, Oyu Tolgoi | Tagged | 1 Comment

Resource Nationalism?

By Julian Dierkes

One of the dominant foreign views of Mongolian politics is that they’re rife with “resource nationalism”. This perspective is reproduced in many conversations with people in the mining or financial industry and is often repeated by visiting journalists who parachute into Ulaanbaatar for a couple of days.

Just recently, this meme has come up again in reports, probably inspired/organized by “Jenko” Battulga, of protests in Ulaanbaatar in March 2015. Note that this definitely falls within the context of Spring being a season for demonstrations in Mongolia, as I discussed with CoverMongolia’s Mogi just some weeks ago.


I have argued for some years against the portrayals of anything in Mongolia as suggesting “resource nationalism”. Our standard riposte has been: there’s no coherent ideology, there’s no movement, there are no leaders. In fact, it continues to be surprising that there are no organized, vocal pro- or anti-mining movements that are recognizable as such, nor are there pro- or anti-foreign investment movements. That is not to say, of course, that individual Mongolians or even individual Mongolian politicians and policy-makers do not hold views that might be “resource nationalist”, but simply that there is no movement and that the impact of such views is thus limited. But maybe, we’ve just misunderstood this perspective on Mongolia all along and have been to imprecise in our understanding? So, let’s try to be more specific.

Defining Resource Nationalism

The term itself is somwhat common in the economics, political economy and general political science literature. It is applied in areas that I am not overly focused on, so let’s pick some workable definition to apply to Mongolia.

Let’s go with a very recent scholarly publication in a high quality political science journal:

Jeffrey D. Wilson (Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University) “Understanding resource nationalism: economic dynamics and political institutionsContemporary Politics, 2015, DOI: 10.1080/13569775.2015.1013293

Not only is this recent, but it applies the concepts developed in the article to a number of resource economies, something that we are hoping to do here with the case of contemporary Mongolia.

Wilson writes that,

“Resource nationalism is a strategy where governments use economic nationalist policies to improve local returns from resource industries. […] It involves governments exercising control over resource industries through selective and discretionary resource policies, which are designed to achieve some set of political and/or economic benefits that would otherwise not obtain (Wilson, 2011).”

Hm… it seems to me that this applies to a wide variety of contexts outside of the mining industry. Isn’t all industrial policy pursued by OECD countries, for example, nationalist in this way? The Canadian government certainly tries to structure policies in such a way as to support the Canadian auto industry?

Let’s see if more specific descriptions of policies associated with resource nationalism can clarify matters.

Again, Wilson (2015):

[Resource nationalism] is typically characterised by a core set of policies:

  • Policies targeting the ownership of resource industries, which mandate some form of local or state ownership, or in exceptional cases, the nationalisation of mining and energy enterprises (Mares, 2010).
  • Policies constraining the operations of resource firms – through industrial policy requirements and distortionary trade regimes – that encourage certain behaviours such as minerals processing or the provision of subsidised energy to local consumers (Ward, 2009).
  • Policies designed to capture economic rents for public purposes, through changes to resource taxation and fiscal collection systems that increase the share of the profits from resource production accruing to the state (Walde, 2008).

It seems that the most common example that people have in mind with references to resource nationalism is Hugo Chavez and the “re-nationalization” of the Venezuelan oil industry. This is largely the first of the types of policies described by Wilson in the above, i.e. the threat that a national government might nationalize or confiscate private and/or foreign-invested mining projects. Clearly, this is the ultimate political risk for all foreign investment, including Rio Tinto’s participation in the Oyu Tolgoi project, for example.

“Policies targeting the ownership of resource industries”

Let’s look at the first type of policy in the Mongolian context then. It seems quite clear that the definition of strategic deposits and the mandatory state participation in the development of such deposits is clearly a policy that targets the ownership of mining projects. This applies to such mega-projects as Oyu Tologi and Tavan Tolgoi as much as to smaller, as-of-yet-undeveloped projects like various rare earth projects.

The regulations around strategic deposits thus seem to qualify under this definition of resource nationalism, but again, most developed resource jurisdictions also pursue restrictions on foreign ownership (certainly true of Canada), and no one labels these as “resource nationalist”, reinforcing the sense that this label is more generally applied to developing “investment destinations”, and by investors and observes who adopt the standpoint of investors.

This perception of a largely foreign-applied label is consistent with the analysis present by Orhon Maydar (Univ of Arizona) at the recent Berkeley conference on “Deadly Modernity”.

“Policies constraining the operations of resource firms”

Criteria here make it sound like this is a concern with trade distortion primarily. I don’t think that this concern has been raised in the Mongolian context very much, though there are significant worries (and many foreign warnings) about the need to diversify the Mongolian economy which spark discussions of smelters and other processing facilities that would be included among industrial policies.

But again, short of full trade liberalization, these are certainly policies of a nature that are very common in most developed countries.

“Policies designed to capture economic rents for public purposes”

Clearly a very tricky business. The fundamental fact holds that resources are owned by “the people” in almost all national contexts, and the Mongolian constitution also specifies such ownership.

The difficulty (and the accusations of “resource nationalism”) arises when that ownership right is translated into licenses, concessions, etc. for industrial exploitation. From my perspective, there is no magic formula by which to balance royalties, taxes, ownership stakes or all the other forms that have been used to ensure benefits accrue to the nation and people that hold resources.

Obviously, “rent-seeking behaviour” is identified as one of the great risks to resource-rich developing countries and a prime potential cause for the “resource curse” especially when coupled with corruption.

Yet, it is also clear that unless significant net benefits accrue to the population (net of financial, social, environmental, etc. costs), no government should decide to develop mineral resources given their responsibility for the well-being of the population. That is especially the case in a democracy where the pressure on governments to act in the interest of the people should be even greater.

Next to the remote (in the case of Mongolia) threat of complete nationalization, trepidation about finding a fair level of revenue that accrues to the public from mega-projects like OT has been the main struggle in Mongolia. This is also the issue where no answer exists, and that is most easily exploited by politicians (especially in times of lead-up to elections, like right now) by making claims about excessive (whatever that means) shares of revenue being claimed by “foreigners”.

Conclusion

I don’t think the “resource nationalism” label or concept is useful in understanding Mongolia even though investors and financial journalists (and their headline editors) like to trot it out every time someone dares to question the nature of arrangements with foreign investors. Note that the label is rarely applied to developed economies, reinforcing the view that it is primarily used as a pressure tactic against developing countries like Mongolia.

I will continue to refer to “resource nationalism” in quotes, and make my case against this concept.

Posted in Foreign Investment, Mining, Mongolia and ..., Nationalism, Policy, Politics, Populism, Social Movements | Tagged | 4 Comments

Fundraiser for Veloo Foundation’s Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project

Postponed to Later in 2016!!!

The Veloo Foundation is hosting a fundraiser in Vancouver on April 23 to benefit its Children of the Peak Sanctuary.

Traditional Mongolian music, food and dance will be on offer.

For more information see Veloo Foundation’s website.

 

Posted in Social Issues | Leave a comment

Guest Post: The Construction of Mining Image in Socialist Mongolia

By Enkhbat Avirmed

Although Mongolians were relying on the pastoral economy up through the early 20th century, there were about 20 coal and gold mines operating in Mongolia by 1911. However, after the 1921 revolution, Mongolian leaders came under pressure by the Soviets to follow the communist ideology exclusively. From a communist ideological perspectives, Mongolian herders were potentially considered as a part of the capitalist class because herders own livestock.  Therefore, it became imperative for the newly-declared communist state to establish a working class. This pointed to the mining sector as a possible path for “creating” workers.

There were no obstacles to developing the mining under the communist regime for following reasons:

  • Mongolia was sparsely populated. The population was 845,500 in 1956 and increased to 1,017,100 by 1963.
  • Livestock and pastureland were under the state authority.
  • Religion was prohibited; therefore, it was impossible for the public to advocate their tradition of worshiping the nature, especially, mountains and rivers.
  •  Mining was considered as a priority for developing the industry.

Because of these positive factors, there was no room for mining-related social conflicts in Mongolia. At the same time, the state was publicizing (advocating) the public benefits of developing the mining sector and reliance on natural resources through the arts and cultural policies.

Mining in the Arts and Media

Under the state policies, poems, songs, stories, and novels about rich mineral resources, mining and geological works, prosperity and development from mining, and successes of miners were reflected in Mongolian language and Literature curricula for secondary and high schools. Also, many documentary films, movies and dramas were created for this purpose. This contributed to create a positive image of mining and geological activities.

Many of these movies are still on “favourite movie lists” of Mongolians.  For instance, in 1961, the movie, Алтан өргөө [Golden Palace], was co-produced in collaboration with East German producers.  This movie contributed to public knowledge about subsoil mineral resources and efficient usage of water.

Altan Urguu Movie

Altan Urguu Movie

The geological exploration process was depicted in the 1962 movie – Түмний нэг [One of the Thousand]. The movie showed how mineral resources were discovered with the foreign assistance. Lately, one of the scenes, the snow storm, is widely circulated among Mongolian tweeters and facebookers. In this scene, two German geologists were arguing their tents during the snow storm while Mongolian guides wondering about their heated debate since guides didn’t speak German.

Rudolf: [it is] nice to have abundant natural resources, but they are far away from the prosperity.  To make this state as a real state and people as real people, it would need 100 years of hard work.

Max: Once they succeeded, this country would go more further.

Rudolf: But, they need nationalism and raise their national spirits.

Listening to this conversation, a Mongolian fellow suspected them belittling about Mongolia.

The other movie came around in 1981.  J Buntar’s “Гэрлэж амжаагүй явна” [Not Yet Married] film featured the image of mining engineer Gansukh while presenting the mining construction and managerial challenges of young engineer. This movie clearly aimed to attract youth into the mining sector as newly emerging industry.

The newly-established mining sector, at some point, led Mongolians into modernity [many new aspects were introduced into Mongolians’ livelihood].  The new lifestyle of miners, mining towns, and mining labor forces were created. Evidence of these mining-related social influences include many monuments for miners and even naming secondary schools after famous miners. In addition, the state created special medals, awards, and merit-decorations for miners and set up new social protection mechanisms for them.

First Labour Hero, Miner Davaajav Monument

First Labour Hero, Miner Davaajav Monument

In sum, Mongolian communist leaders used propaganda to actively create a positive image for mining during the communist regime.

About Enkhbat A

Dr. Enkhbat is associate professor in the Department of Humanities of the School of Business Administration and Humanities of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. His special areas of interests are history of Mongolian mining and comparative examination of mining history of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia.

Posted in Cinema, CIRDI, Enkhbat Avirmed, Media and Press, Mining, Mining, Mining Governance, Pop Culture, Society and Culture | Tagged | 1 Comment

Berkeley Conference “Deadly Modernity”

By Julian Dierkes

The Mongolia Initiative at UC Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies hosted a conference entitled “Deadly Modernity: The Environmental Crisis Behind Mongolia’s Swift Development” March 10-12, 2016.

I don’t think anyone was tweeting from the conference, but just in case there was interest, I used the hashtag “#MongoliaConfCal“. Even when no one else joined in the tweeting conversation, use of the tag in the tweets I sent allowed me to storify these notes (see below).

Observations

The conference was focused on discussing environmental impacts of development in and around Mongolia. Most of the presentations took an ecosystems approach and examined specific elements in systems, but there were a number of social science presentations as well.

As is the case so often, it is one of the great privileges of being active in an area of research with a very specific geographic focus (Mongolia) that many might consider “obscure”. What this means that I have more interactions with eco-systems research focused on Mongolia, than I ever would in my other geographic area of focus, Japan.

Given the wide variety of topics, I was surprised that I actually came away with a bit of an overarching conclusion, vague as it may seem and limited to some of the presentations as it is. This lessons is “scale!”. To understand adaptations to change (climate change, economic development, etc.) it is essential to consider scale carefully and to adjust the lens with which we look at phenomena to the appropriate scale.

The most explicit pointers to this came in the presentations by Sneath, Jensen, and Dales.

D Sneath: Herding Economy as Socio-Technical Systems

I have heard David Sneath speak on this topic twice now and it’s always interesting and I learn a lot. In my understanding, he compares the pre-revolutionary/neo-feudal, collectivized, and individualistic market-based herding economy as socio-technical systems to ask the question at what geographic scale grasslands have been managed in the past. This comparison seems to imply an argument that the houselhold level management under the market economy is not well-suited to adapt to always-present challenges of grasslands management, but especially to respond to climate change.  Prominent elements in the analysis are winter fodder (how it is provided in monastic units under neo-feudal systems, or by collective, but not provided to household herding), and (over)grazing (again, neo-feudal and collectivized management has enough space available to assign herds to less-stressed locations; households are more restricted.

To me, the message is clear (though Sneath doesn’t make it explicit as a policy recommendation): household-level management has some very serious implications for grasslands, some kind of collective is necessary as a level of administration/coordination.

K Dales: Watershed Management

Kirsten Dales focused specifically on cross-boundary conflict around water management. Most recently, this issue has received some attention with the (transparently self-serving) Russian complains about the hydro-dam that has been proposed for the Eg River. She spoke most explicitly about scale, noting that natural science approaches to water are typically focused on very specific, small sites, but that the governance issues clearly unfold at a much larger scale, even across national boundaries.

O Jensen: Fish Management

In comparing the impact that a recreational catch-and-release fishery has on taimen populations to the impact that a commercial sport fishery divided into concessions that cover specific areas of a river, Jensen finds that the taimen are much more mobile throughout the river to allow for management by segment. Instead the population needs to be managed to preserve its viability, and the recreational catch-and-release fishery seems to be effective in this management.

Scale

Taken together, these projects seem to imply that environmental management in Mongolia needs to not only keep scale in mind, but focus on collective organization, not on the individual incentives and market-based mechanisms that are typically advocated by many development approaches, particularly those of the World Bank or also of US AID (yes, guilt of broad generalization here).

My Presentation: Environmental Movement

In my presentation, I asked why there is no environmental movement in Mongolia. Obviously this was meant as a deliberate provocation (it worked), as there are many environmental movements but these haven’t coalesced into a national movement. I tried to point out why it is not unreasonable to expect the emergence of a political and united environmental movements, but also some of the blockages that I see to such mobilization. I pointed to patterns of individualistic social organization, and the vertical organization of civil society as possible explanations.

 

Storified Tweets

Obviously, these are very incomplete notes that I took for my own interest, so they are sparse and unbalanced. Whenever I have not commented at length about any specific presentation, that was likely due to my ignorance on a given topic, not intended as a comment on the quality of that presentation.

Posted in Air Polution, Conferences, Countryside, Environment, Environment, Environmental Movements, Grassland, Health, Mining, Nationalism, Policy, Politics, Research on Mongolia, River Movements, Social Movements, Water | Tagged | 1 Comment

Training about the Extractives Sector

By Julian Dierkes

One of the specific focus areas in CIRDI’s “IMAGinE Mongolia” activities is to draft a training curriculum to provide an introduction and overview, but also specialized training to the public and to officials in four aimags, Selenge, Uvurkhangai, Bayankhongor, and Uvs.

We are very pleased to currently collaborate with three colleagues from Шинжлэх Ухаан, Технологийн Их Сургууль (ШУТИС, Mongolian University of Science and Technology, MUST), historian Enkhbat A, political scientist Myagmarsuren D, and political scientist Tuguldur Y. They are visiting Vancouver to work with us on the structure of what a modular training curriculum will look like as well as the identification of existing training materials (Mongolian and Canadian (French & English)) that might fit into such a curriculum.

Some of the elements of their preparatory work to develop a catalogue of training materials is quite striking. For example, when they classified training materials as being basic and aimed at the general public, as opposed to intermediate and expert levels, they found that only 3% of all training materials are of such an introductory nature.

When we compare the Mongolian materials to the Canadian resources that Claire Vivier and Petrina Torgerson have found as RAs for this project, it’s also striking that the vast majority of materials target industry. There are few training materials that are focused on government officials, especially at the local level, and there are also very few materials that address communities.

As “free and prior informed consent” is an element in community relations and the desire to obtain “social license to operate” it appears that the information asymmetry that exists between international mining companies and national governments (Rio Tinto and Mongolia, for example) is replicated at the provincial and local level. As the Mongolian government is devolving some decision-making and regulation of the extractive sector to the aimag and soum level, capacity to first understand mining projects and how they unfold and then to ensure sustainable development through effective regulation, appears to be needed in a significant way.

Posted in CIRDI, Countryside, Development, Education, Environment, Higher Education, Mining, Mining, Mining Governance | Tagged | 2 Comments

Digital Diplomacy tied to ASEM

By Julian Dierkes

Some weeks ago I wrote about the potential for a Mongolian digital diplomacy. That post generated a lot of interest (over 500 readers in less than 2 months). The tweet about this post was my most-viewed tweet ever (over 21,000 impressions), in part because it received over 130 re-tweets, including by many Mongolian embassies and consulates. The popularity of this tweet may have been in part due to the fabulous graphic that came with it, but hopefully also suggests that I struck a chord among social media savvy Mongolians and a desire for more strategic activities by their government.

It seems like officials at the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were thinking along similar lines.

ASEM as a Digital Diplomacy Opportunity

In my January post, I had pointed to themes that seemed like candidates for building blocks of a Mongolian digital diplomacy:

  • democratization;
  • impact of climate change;
  • resources and experiences with global investment from vantage point of developing country/resource economy;
  • Northeast Asia, including Ulaanbaatar Forum
  • Mongolian leadership
    • ASEM 2016 (Twitter account exists, but very much in broadcast mode, not engagement)
    • UN Security Council candidacy for 2022: making a case for presentation of land-locked developing countries, democratized countries, small countries, etc.

I had already received some responses to that post from the ASEM organizing office over the past several weeks, but they reminded me of their efforts recently, prompting me to take another look at their website, asem11.mn. And what a good example of strategic digital diplomacy engagement this has become!

ASEM is the Asia Europe Meeting which Mongolia will host this July. It is the biggest formal summit between European and Asian countries and will meet for the 11th time in Mongolia. While ASEM doesn’t have any legislative or regulatory ambitions, it is a significant foreign policy event and of great significance to Mongolia in fitting with its foreign policy. At the same time, the Meeting will be fairly disruptive to many Mongolians living in Ulaanbaatar, so an outreach strategy to Mongolians and abroad seems especially useful.

The post on “4 Things We Can Expect from Mongolia Hosting ASEM” (Mongolian) illustrates this nicely.

First, I would note that this is very much a blog post in its style. Blogs have generally been underused as digital diplomacy tools (my sense), but this is a nice example. It is somewhat informal (though not casual) in the approach it takes, even going for a moderate version of a “listicle” with its “4 Things” title and organization of the post into four main messages.

Secondly, the post responds to popular concerns that have been voiced on social media in Mongolia, i.e. why is scarce state funding to hosting a large-scale summit. These concerns have been echoed by PM Saikhanbileg who recently urged austerity, at least when it comes to furnishings for the ASEM press centre.

Thirdly, the post addresses some of the fundamental precepts of Mongolian foreign policy in an approachable fashion, for example the notion that visibility is desirable, or that trade agreements are an element in Mongolia’s international strategy and how both of these goals might be supported by hosting ASEM.

I’m a little less sure that ASEM is likely to generate in-bound FDI, I rather suspect that any new wave of FDI will come only with a sharp increase in commodity prices over coming years, but the post makes a plausible case for this as well.

Other posts at the ASEM website follow in this vein. The Chef’s Skills Challenge post demonstrates lighter side that nevertheless might be very important in shaping visitors’ impression of Mongolia. It also makes the event somewhat more approachable to Mongolians, but possibly to some of the civil society visitors.

The ASEM website thus builds nicely on the greater visibility of the MFA and of the ASEM in particular via social media.

Transparency, but Where to Next?

Overall, I’m thus quite impressed with some of the steps the ASEM website has taken. What it does not to (and many other MFA’s including Canada’s Global Affairs don’t either) is open itself to substantive engagement that might have an impact on policy as it is being formulated.

There are no comments to this site and I don’t see any pages that actually open up policy for discussion.

Notably there also isn’t very much discussion/information on the substantive aims for ASEM. Are there specific issues between Asia and Europe to be addressed? What might these be? What role would Mongolia play in addressing these issues, etc.

But perhaps that will be a step for future summits or foreign policy initiatives.

Posted in Digital Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, International Relations, Mongolia and ..., Social Media | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mongolia Doubleheader March 18 “Rinks of Hope” & Amb. Ed Jager

On March 18, the Program on Inner Asia at UBC will host an afternoon of Mongolia events.

Conference Room (Room 120)
CK Choi Bldg for the Institute of Asian Research
1855 West Mall

16-17h Film Screening

“Rinks of Hope”

When two Canadian coaches volunteer to help kick-start youth hockey in Mongolia, they discover that even on the world’s most frigid outdoor rinks where obstacles to playing are many, the love of hockey reigns supreme.

Rinks of Hope: Project Mongolia chronicles the five day road trip of brothers Nate and Boe Leslie as they coach children and teach coaches in the big cities and small towns of northern Mongolia.
Nate Leslie and film-maker Karin Larsen will be present for the screening.

Open to the public by donation.

17-18:30h Public Presentation

Ed Jager, Canadian Ambassador to Mongolia

“Canada in Mongolia, Advancing and Promoting our Partnership”

Ambassador Jager worked as a lawyer and sales representative in the private sector before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a trade policy officer in the Investment Trade Policy Division in 1999. His previous postings have included that of trade commissioner in Jakarta from 2000 to 2003, senior trade commissioner in Lima from 2005 to 2007 and political adviser in Kandahar from 2007 to 2008. His most recent posting, from 2008 to 2011, was as Canada’s senior trade commissioner in Brazil, based in Saõ Paulo. In Ottawa, Mr. Jager represented Canada’s interests at APEC from 2003 to 2005 and helped to negotiate Canada’s air transport agreements from 2011 to 2014.
Ambassador Jager and his wife Cathy have five children and seven grandchildren.

Amb. Jager’s presentation is free and open to the public.

Posted in UBC Mongolia Lecture Series | 1 Comment

Mining Governance: In the Eyes of 2016 Graduates

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of 2016 graduates from universities and postgraduate schools either abroad or domestic alike.  All graduates have invested their energy, time, and money to attempt to learn everything that would equip them to become good professionals and public servants. Here I would like to talk about the ones who are dreaming to become the best public servant in Mongolia’s mining governance.  These are the ones who disliked the naming of their homeland as Minegolia, are irritated with the prevailing corruption, and saddened with irresponsible mining activities.  They departed for learning at the beginning  of the ‘mining bust’ but they made their choices as a result of the ‘mining boom’ when almost all Mongolians became mining policy makers and professionals.

Although excited for upcoming graduation ceremonies, they are much more concerned with the fear of being unable to pursue their dreams of making the country’s mining governance better. All they hear are unpromising, negative news and rumours about economic decline, crisis, loss of investors, drawdown of personnel, mothballing operations, likelihood of bankruptcy, and political instability.  Reaching to organizations like the Ministry of Mining and its agencies (mineral resources and petroluem), where they would love to contribute their newly attained knowledge, are difficult unless you know somebody – the insider.  What can the graduate do?

For one, the graduate can follow the formal path of following the ads of the Civil Service Council and taking the annual exam for public servants.  But, you will probably not hear back from them; even if you hear back from them – the news is always discouraging. Even if fortune smiles on you because of your merit, you will have to crawl through the minefield since you have no connections.

The second path is investing into the political party. Your options are very limited since there are two major parties and three minor ones that are competing for a share of the ministries and agencies. Also, there are already so many previous graduates who have  taken this path and are still fighting their battles. Once inside the party, you need to make your bet carefully depending on factions and charismatic leaders.  If you’re lucky, you can get appointed to some junior entry jobs or senior political posts – but it is likely that you will be branded with that political party.

The third option is joining your ‘homeland’ councils – these are becoming important political organizations in contemporary Mongolian politics.  As the trust declines in the society, informal institutions like this one provides more certainty.  You need to establish your ties with the homeland organization and influential people within those organizations.  You do not necessarily have to be born in that locality, but you can pursue either of your parents’ lineages. Then you need to make some investment into the homeland councils, ranging from fund-raising to organizing/attending any of their activities.

The final option is to invest into the public service with actual money.  If you’re the princeling of new capitalists, you do not need to worry so much about getting public service jobs. Or if you are in the horse-racing associations, you can probably get a helping hand from the wealthy horse-racing politicians.  But, if you are not either, then you better look for connections – then ask them to pull the strings for you to land the public service job – where you can devote your time and energy to implement things you’ve learned at the undergraduate and graduate schools.

A smart graduate will probably check out all these options or employ them simultaneously. If you are already on the inside through one of these methods, you need to help to put the system back on track by reducing the other non-merit based paths.  Because non-merit options will never provide certainty for you and the country and it will never help you fix mining governance. Otherwise, you will be contributing to this decaying system. Hopefully, you and the majority of political and economic elites could put back the first option as the entry for all new graduates.

 

Posted in Mining, Mining, Mining Governance, Public Service, Uncategorized, Youth | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mining Governance: Learning from Erdenet

"By the Erdenet Principle," on the MPP protest ger near the Government House, December 2015

“By the Erdenet Principle,” on the MPP protest ger near the Government House, December 2015

As Mongolia struggles to make deals over giant mining projects like Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi, the country’s politicians, economists, mining professionals, and the public refer to Erdenet, the Mongolian-Russian joint copper and molybdenum factory, arguing whether or not lessons of  Erdenet would apply to these projects.  Some demand investors to build a city like Erdenet near these projects while others pressure for more management involvement from the Mongolian government as well as senior positions for Mongolian citizens. From the initial PR campaign of foreign investors and Mongolian politicians, people believed in major economic development as well as spill-over benefits from these mining projects.  In reality, it is very unlikely that today’s foreign investors will build cities for Mongolia and pouring money into large-scale shared value projects like the power plant, the smelter factory, or even a railroad as the Erdenet project did.  If we’re taking Erdenet as a model for these reasons, we are wrong.  However, the Erdenet mining project offers many other valuable lessons for Mongolian politicians and foreign investors even if the factory was built in 70s and 80s.  For this blog post, I would like to highlight three lessons regarding the elite unity, the resource nationalism, and the state-ownership.

Absence of Rent & Fame Seeking Elites

The most important lesson that Erdenet offers for today’s politicians is elite unity for making, implementing, and honoring their decisions. In 1960s and 70s, Mongolian elites were united under the goal of national development as the country was regarded as the least developed and most aid-dependent among the communist bloc. Just like in 1990s, when experts of international financial institutions (e.g., IMF, WB, ADB) were advising  Mongolia to use its natural resources to develop its economy, the Soviets and COMECOM in the 1960s were advising the same and invested into extensive joint geological explorations. Although Erdenet was found by Czechoslovakian geologists, the Czechoslovakian government was unable to respond to the Mongolian request for a joint venture because of the 1968 Prague Spring and the large-scale of the Erdenet project.  So then, Mongolian political elites successfully lobbied Moscow (esp., Brezhnev and Premier Kosygin) to secure the Soviet investment into this large scale project.  Initially Russians were reluctant, but there were other factors also played role in the Russian decision-making process.  It had lost the potential copper supplier, Chile, following the coup d’etat in 1973, civil war had prevented Soviet investment in the copper deposit in Afghanistan, and its own deposit in Udokan was technically costly to operate.  Mongolian political elites made the quick decision to attract the Soviet investment and provided political support for its professionals to implement the project.  Of course, the decision-making process was easier in the authoritarian regime; however, we could not neglect the existence of the formal political institutions and procedures.  Furthermore, it would be mistake if we neglect the political elites’ unity and their support for professionals – who implemented the project along with their Soviet counterparts.  The most important lesson for today’s politicians is to withhold their rent and fameseeking interests in regards with large-scale projects.  Unity, timing and commitment for their decisions are the most critical factors for a landlocked country to attract foreign investors; otherwise the landlocked country is always unattractive due to  the lack and cost of infrastructure (i.e., rails, energy, and water).

Coping with the Resource Nationalization

Another lesson that Erdenet offers is experience dealing with the resource nationalization issues without interrupting the factory’s operation.  There appear to be two main causes for Mongolia’s call for resource nationalization at the Erdenet.  For one, as Mongolian high-ranking politicians and especially economists provided evidence of unequal trading patterns and inefficiency of the Erdenet factory due to the low export price and royalty exempt.  After the issue was raised in 1983, two governments stopped the state subsidy for the Erdenet in 1985 and the royalty exempt was ended in 1991 [as agreed in the long-process of negotiations of 1980s].  The other issue was the rising discontent of Mongolian mining professionals and the public in Erdenet.  As Mongolian mining professionals were educated and trained at the same schools in the USSR, their counterparts (i.e., Soviet expats) at Erdenet were paid two-three times higher and their promotions, as Mongolian professionals considered, did not follow the professional merit principles.  The Soviet expats living in Erdenet had the privileges of separate housing, stores, hospitals, schools, kindergarten, and recreational facilities.  In addition to public sentiments over “segregation”, crimes and violations of Soviet military personnel in Erdenet were rumored, but not officially disclosed to the public; this also contributed to the public discontent and even the sudden rise of anti-Soviet attitudes in Erdenet in 1989-1990s. Unlike pro-democratization protests in Khovd province and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian workers at Erdenet were actually protesting for the nationalization of the Erdenet factory, including demands for increasing Mongolia’s share of the factory, positions at the senior management, and salary/benefits for Mongolian workers.  For example, in 1988, 75 percent of employees were Mongolians, but all senior management posts were filled by the Soviet expats. As a result of Mongolia’s discontent at the senior national government level, mining professionals, and the public, a number of compromises were made by 1991 through a long process of negotiations.  Erdenet demonstrates that resource nationalization issues always remain on the table as the host state’s institutional and particularly professional capacity increases; therefore, both sides must have a stable, transparent process that will solve problems based on facts, evidence, and reasonable justification.  This process must be insulated from the short-term political, economic, and social pressures.

Dealing with Political (Entrepreuners) Rentseekers

The other lesson we must learn from the Erdenet is why, how to protect the management of the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) from the rent-seeking political entrepreneurs, parties, and politico-business factions.  Following Mongolia’s steadfast demand, the first Mongolian director was appointed in 1989 and Mongolia increased its equity share up to the 51 percent in 1991. Under the charismatic, highly-professional, and skillful manager, Sh Otgonbileg, the Erdenet factory survived the toughest periods of political and economic transitions of 1990s and was almost the only contributor for the country’s GDP.  However, being the state-owned enterprise, it was considered as the honey pot for politicians, political parties, factions and for the others.  For political parties, the Erdenet factory provides  an administrative and logistical support to consolidate their party base in the second largest city of Erdenet as well as surrounding provinces.  In order to do that, political parties need to have their supporters at all echelons of the state owned enterprises and launch campaigns among all 6000 employees.  For entrepreneurial (i.e., opportunistic and rent-seeking) politicians and factions, the Erdenet is a place to win any contracts, ranging from heavy equipment to diary products.  For this reason, they need to establish political and business connections with managers of the Erdenet or keep them in their political and business sphere of influence.  For others, the Erdenet became the most “philanthropic organization” and also a supporter of the Mongolia’s leading athletes.  In the absence of the ‘rule of law’, the Erdenet sets a bad example of the state ownership.  All senior managerial posts of the Mongolian side became political.  As a result, the top managerial posts became political posts, which changed after every parliamentary election, and these party-affiliated managers owe their support for respective political party, faction, and even individuals.  A numerous allegations about non-transparent tenders and contracts will be surged during pre-election periods, but silenced after the election.  In the absence of impartial, proper, and complete investigations and monitoring, Erdenet would still remain a honey pot for political and business rent-seekers.

As portrayed in the photo of the opposition party protest in December 2015, politicians still believe there are lessons to be learned from the Erdenet mine; in the belief that it will trigger popular support.  This is a reasonable strategy for the political party, but the parties need to be clear on what lessons we should learn from Erdenet – since this is the first largest copper factory not only in Mongolia, but in Asia, a pillar for the bilateral relations with Russia, and a catalyst and shaper of  Mongolia’s mining governance from 1970s. In all, I stressed three main lessons we can draw from Erdenet: the importance of the unity of ruling elites for time-sensitive, major mining projects in a landlocked state, having the process to deal with the inevitable nationalization push, and insulating the state owned enterprises from the rent-seeking politicians, parties, and factions (unlike Erdenet).

Posted in CIRDI, Erdenet, Governance, Mining, Mining Governance | Tagged | 3 Comments