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Resource-rich Mongolia

Posted December. 31, 2010 11:39,   


Mongolia, the birthplace of Genghis Khan, has abundant mineral resources in its vast grasslands and deserts. The natural resources-rich country has large deposits of coal, copper, gold, uranium, molybdenum and tungsten. As of 2007, mineral production accounted for 33 percent of the country’s GDP and 78 percent of exports. With the importance of natural resources increasing, other countries are paying attention to the world’s 10th-largest producer of natural resources. Japan, which had difficulty due to China’s ban on exports of rare earth materials, is focusing on the development of the materials in Mongolia.

Korea Coal Corp. has bought half of Nuurst Khotgor mine in Mongolia. The open-pit coal mine is assumed to have 190 million tons of coal. A Korean consortium of eight state-run and private companies such as Korea Electric Power Corp. and POSCO will join hands with Russia’s state-run rail corporation to bid for the world’s largest soft coal mine in Tavan Tolgoi next month. The volume of coal reserves in six fields whose exploration is complete is an estimated 6 billion tons. The reserves up for bidding are believed to hold 1.2 billion tons. Fierce competition is expected from China and the U.S. in the bid.

In 1992, The Dong-A Ilbo followed Energy Minister Jin Nyum for news coverage in Mongolia. Back then, high-ranking Mongolian officials showed deep interest in strengthening cooperation with Korea in resources. The Ulaanbaatar city government set up sister ties with Seoul in 1995 and designated a one-kilometer section in the Mongolian capital as Seoul Street. The majority of cars in Ulaanbaatar are used Korean vehicles. Kang Chun-ku, head of the development support center at Korea Resources Corp. who returned from a business trip to Mongolia last year, said, “Many Mongolians consider Korea, which has achieved eye-opening economic development by lifting itself from abject poverty, as their economic development model and envy Korea.”

Natural resources and tourism are the two main pillars of Mongolia’s economic development. Though global interest in Mongolia’s abundant resources is high, countries are hesitant to invest due to the country`s lack of ports and poor infrastructure. With skyrocketing prices of natural resources, however, consensus is forming that the benefits outweigh the risks in resource development in Mongolia. Korea and Mongolia have many things in common such as the physical appearance of their peoples and grammar. As a country severely lacking in natural resources, Korea needs to step up resource cooperation with Mongolia for mutual gain.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)