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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

[ERD to drill 24 kms; XAM continues 'success'; Wood resigns from HAR; Ard raises ₮2B; and $850m Japan loan announced]

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Turquoise Hill stocks pop despite narrower FY profit, lower 2017 outlook

·         Erdene Provides Project Review and Year-End Financial Results; Announces 24,000 Metre Drill Program for Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar Gold Projects

·         James Kwantes' PDAC 2017 Stock Picks: Erdene, …

·         Exploration Success Continues at Xanadu's Kharmagtai Project

·         Aspire Mining highlights benefits to Mongolia for Erdenet to Ovoot Railway

·         Haranga: Paula Cowan appointed, Matthew Wood resigns as non-executive director

·         E-Commodities Annual Net Profit $2.874B; Final Div 7.7 Cents

Local Market

·         MSE Top 20 +0.48%, ALL +0.32%, Turnover ₮30.6M Shares, ₮212.9M T-Bills Traded, ₮14.1B Issued

·         Ard Financial Group Issues ₮2.0 Billion Bonds via Private Placement

·         Japan FSA: Amendment To the Letters Exchanged with the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia

Economy

·         MNT gains for 3rd day, USD/MNT down ₮2.82 to ₮2,456.03

·         BoM declines $0.8m bid, $11.3m ask, CNY34.5m bid, $1.5m MNT swap offers

·         Hogan Lovells: Proposed Amendments to the 2017 State Budget and Related Laws of Mongolia

Politics & Legal

·         Party for Mongolian People registered as 25th political party

·         Mongolia's Private Sector Joins the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

·         Voice of Mongolia: Audio News for Mar 28

·         AmCham Daily Newswire for March 28, 2017

Business

·         Oyu Tolgoi Holds Annual Supplier Recognition "Gobi Gem" Awards

·         Intellect's debt management platform to be used by Mongolia's Khan Bank

·         International property agents now have the chance to market Olympic Residence

Ulaanbaatar

·         Mayor discusses waste issue with district authorities

·         World Bank to implement social accountability project in Ulaanbaatar

·         UB Mayor successfully ends working visit to Europe

·         Registration for ULAANBAATAR MARATHON 2017 opens

Diplomacy

·         Japan to grant US$850 million soft loan to Mongolia within IMF program

·         Speaker M. Enkhbold meets members of Japan-Mongolia friendship societies

·         Speaker M. Enkhbold meets Speaker and President of Japanese Parliamentary Houses

·         Mongolia-Japan diplomatic anniversary celebration kicks off with Kimono fashion show

·         First meeting of Mongolian, Russian and Chinese experts takes place in Beijing

·         Mongolian peacekeepers in South Sudan partake in fire outbreak control

·         Kidnap attempt: Mongolian peacekeepers save refugees in Bentiu

Health & Education

·         Actor Jang Keun-suk helps Mongolian child get cancer treatment

·         Minor corruption widespread in education sector finds Asia Foundation survey

·         New Study Recommends Key Actions to Improve Early Childhood Education in Mongolia

·         International Children's Book Day to be celebrated on April 2

Culture & Society

·         Lotus Children's Centre to hold fundraising event on April 8

·         Review: Mongolian throat singing is unlike anything else

Sports

·         Mongolian Football Federation signs contract with German head coach

·         Tyrell Corbin is on a record-breaking pro basketball adventure in Mongolia, Indonesia

Art & Entertainment

·         From Montreal to Mongolia – An Interview with 'Braids'

Travel

·         Dornod-Manzhouli cross country transportation service opens

·         Atlas Obscura Places: International Intellectual and Puzzle Museum of Mongolia

·         Mongolia - A Great Adventure Holiday for 2017

 

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

TRQ closed +1.96% Tuesday at US$3.12

Turquoise Hill stocks pop despite narrower FY profit, lower 2017 outlook

VANCOUVER, March 28 (miningweekly.com) – The NYSE-listed stock of Rio Tinto subsidiary Turquoise Hill Resources rose sharply after market close Monday, gaining nearly 6% to $3.24 a share, following the company reporting a full-year profit and positive production outlook.

In 2016, the Turquoise Hill, recorded net income attributable to shareholders $210.6-million, or $0.10 a share, compared with net income of $313.3-million, or $0.16 per share, in 2015.

The company attributed the decrease mainly to fewer gold ounces sold on the back of lower output and copper prices, partly offset by cost reductions and adjustment to deferred tax assets.

Revenue of $1.2-billion in 2016 was down 26.4% over 2015, mainly reflecting the reduced gold sales and lower copper prices, which were partially offset by higher gold prices.

Concentrate sold in 2016 of 828 600 t, up 1.1% over 2015, to an all-time annual high.

Cost of sales for 2016 were $861.8-million, compared with $975-million in 2015, reflecting lower sales of metals in concentrate and reduced cost of production as a result of cost savings. Turquoise Hill said operating cash flows before interest and taxes in 2016 were $399.2-million, compared with $650.5-million in 2015. This reflected the impact of reduced gold output and lower copper prices.

All-in sustaining costs fell to $1.90/lb, down from $2/lb in the prior quarter, and rose from $1.56/lb in the comparable period of 2015.

Capital expenditure on property, plant and equipment was $326.3-million on a cash basis in 2016, compared with $116.2-million in 2015, attributed to both underground and openpit capital activities.

Turquoise Hill's cash and cash equivalents at December 31, were $1.4-billion.

OYU TOLGOI

The massive Oyu Tolgoi mine, located 550 km south of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital city, were said to have performed well during the fourth quarter, as openpit operations focused mainly on Phases 4 and 6.

Concentrator throughput increased 7.4% over the prior quarter, pushing the average throughput rate up to 106 700 t/d for the quarter, which was a quarterly high.

Copper production in the three-months ended December was broadly consistent with the prior period, while gold output increased 32.4% over the third quarter, owing to the final processing of Phase 2 ore. Copper grades in the fourth quarter were as expected as operations focused mainly on Phase 6 of the openpit.

Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 130 000 t to 160 000 t of copper and 100 000 oz to 140 000 oz of gold in concentrates for 2017.

Openpit operations are expected to mine in Phases 4 and 6 during the year, while stockpiled ore will also be processed during the year.

The lower output when compared with 2016 is mainly the result of about one-quarter less copper head grade and about one-half less gold head grade. During 2016, the mine plan for Phase 4 was divided into two stages, referred to as Phases 4A and 4B, in expectation of reaching the high-grade gold zone of Phase 4 around mid-2018. Therefore, mine stripping for 2017 will focus on Phase 4A.

Operating cash costs for 2017 are expected to be about $720-million, compared with $775 -million in 2016. The reduction reflects cost improvements and the impact of lower logistics costs from decreased production.

Capital expenditures for 2017 on a cash-basis are expected to be about $100-million for openpit operations and $825-million to $925-million for underground development.

Significant underground development programmes are currently underway, including underground lateral development, sinking of Shafts 2 and 5, support infrastructure and the convey-to-surface system. At the end of 2016, the underground project workforce had grown to more than 2 000 people with continued growth expected to peak in 2018.

Rio Tinto operates the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper/gold mine, which is 66% owned by its Turquoise Hill arm and 34% owned by the Mongolian government.

Link to article

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ERD closed -1.14% Tuesday at C$0.87

Erdene Provides Project Review and Year-End Financial Results; Announces 24,000 Metre Drill Program for Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar Gold Projects

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwired - March 28, 2017) - Erdene Resource Development Corp. (TSX:ERD) ("Erdene" or "Company"), is pleased to provide a review of its 2016 activities and an outlook for 2017, including plans for the Company's principal gold projects in southwest Mongolia. This release should be read in conjunction with the Company's 2016 Financial Statements, MD&A and AIF on the Company's website or on SEDAR.

"We are very pleased with our achievements over the past several years in a very difficult commodity market. During that period, our team's disciplined spending and optimization of limited financial resources enabled the funding of high quality exploration, which led to discovery. We now enter Q2-2017 with a very strong cash position to complement the highest quality portfolio of mineral projects amassed in the Company's history. These projects, particularly Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar, have strong growth potential in the known areas of gold mineralization and tremendous exploration upside outside of those core areas within our current license boundaries," stated Peter Akerley, Erdene's President and CEO.

"With the $14.3 million of proceeds from our Q1-2017 financings, our technical team will now commence a comprehensive exploration and drilling program within this significant new gold district, covering an approximate area of 20 km by 10 km," added Mr. Akerley. "We envision a productive 2017, starting with an initial 24,000 metre drill program, balancing our dual objectives of resource definition and expansion drilling within the current target resource areas, while continuing to build up the district-scale potential at neighboring gold targets."

Project and Financial Highlights

Exploration Performance

Bayan Khundii Gold Project - 100% Erdene

Altan Nar Gold-Polymetallic Project - 100% Erdene (16 km northwest of Bayan Khundii)

Altan Arrow Gold-Silver Project - 100% Erdene (3.5 km north of Bayan Khundii)

Teck-Erdene Alliance

  • Separate from its 100%-owned gold projects, Erdene continued to be active through its Alliance with Teck Resources Limited ("Teck") in assessing regional base and precious metal opportunities in southwest Mongolia's prolific Tian Shan copper-gold belt.
  • With the completion of a $500,000 private placement by Teck and the renewal of the Alliance agreement on March 21, 2017, the Alliance's 2017 exploration program is expected to commence in Q2, and will consist of follow-up work to assess anomalous targets identified during the 2016 program.
  • The Company's Bayan Khundii, Altan Nar, Altan Arrow, and Zuun Mod projects are excluded from the Alliance.

Corporate Update

  • In 2016, the Company strengthened its Board with the addition of Dr. Anna Biolik, Canada's first resident Ambassador in Mongolia, and David Mosher, a gold mining executive with more than 35 years of international experience.

Financial Performance - Year-End Financial Results Summary

Erdene's year-end 2016 Financial Statements, Management Discussion & Analysis and Annual Information Form were filed with regulatory authorities on March 27, 2017 and are available on the Company's website here, and on SEDAR.

For the year ended December 31, 2016, the Company recognized a net loss of $2,499,739, or $0.02 per share, compared to a loss of $12,607,625, or $0.14 per share in 2015.

Exploration expenditures, including capitalized costs, totaled $4,664,490 in 2016 compared with $2,404,213 in 2015, an increase of 94%. It represented the Company's largest exploration expenditure program since 2008. The Bayan Khundii project represented $3,081,269 or 66% of total 2016 exploration expenditures compared with $404,813 or 17% of the 2015 total. Together, the Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar projects represented $3,716,232 or 80% of total 2016 exploration expenditures compared with $1,169,583 or 49% of the 2015 total.

Corporate and administrative expenses were $1,446,888 for the year ended December 31, 2016 compared to $745,448 in 2015, a $701,440 increase. Excluding non-cash share-based compensation and depreciation, the 2016 corporate and administrative expenses were $1,093,111 compared with $551,986 in 2015 and the corresponding cash exploration expenditures were $4,475,355 in 2016 and $2,314,214 in 2015. The corporate and administrative cash expenses represented 24% of cash exploration expenditures incurred in both 2016 and 2015, which compares favorably with our peers. Additional management services were required to manage the significant increase in exploration and evaluation programs in 2016. The Company also accordingly increased the level of its investor relations activities in order to communicate ongoing results to investors.

Financial Position and Financing

The Company funded its 2016 operations as follows:

  • Private placements with Sandstorm Gold Ltd. ("Sandstorm") and Teck for net proceeds of $1,478,858;
  • Proceeds on the exercise of warrants and options of $2,556,988;
  • The granting of a 2% Net Smelter Returns ("NSR") royalty on Altan Nar and Bayan Khundii to Sandstorm for gross proceeds of $1,500,000 received in the form of common shares of Sandstorm that were sold during 2016 with the Company realizing a gain on the sale of the Sandstorm shares of $481,064. The Company has the option to reduce the NSR royalty to 1% by paying Sandstorm $1.2 million anytime before April 21, 2019;
  • Subsequent to year-end, on February 23, 2017 Erdene closed a bought deal private placement financing for gross proceeds of $13.8 million, and on March 21, 2017 closed a non-brokered private placement with Teck for gross proceeds of $500,000, representing total gross financing proceeds of $14.3 million;
  • The Company has a current working capital position of $13.5 million.

Mongolia Update

  • On March 7, 2017, the Canadian and Mongolian governments formally announced their joint ratification of the landmark Canada-Mongolia Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement ("FIPA"). The FIPA is a bilateral agreement to protect and promote foreign investment in Mongolia through legally binding rights and obligations designed to strengthen the economic and commercial relationship between Canada and Mongolia. The FIPA protects Canadian investors and bolsters the predictability of Mongolia's policy framework: managing issues surrounding non-discriminatory treatment, expropriation, transfer of funds, transparency, due process and dispute settlement. The Canada-Mongolia FIPA closely follows the finalization in January 2017 the Agreement on Transparency in Matters Related to International Trade and Investment between the United States of America and Mongolia.
  • The region hosting the Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar gold projects is one of the least densely populated areas in the world. However, infrastructure to access and develop southwest Mongolia's natural resources from China is advancing rapidly. The Company's metal projects are approximately 200 km northwest of the Nariin Sukhait/Ovoot Tolgoi coal mining district near the Mongolia-China border. . South Gobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGS), TerraCom Limited (ASX:TER) and Mongolyn Alt LLC (MAK) all produce coal in this region of southwest Mongolia and transport their coal through the Ceke (China) / Shivee Khuren (Mongolia) border, which includes a paved eight-lane highway and an automated railcar loading facility with three railway terminals. Coal trucked in from Mongolia can be loaded on train and shipped out over either the Jiayuguan-Ceke Railway, Ejin-Hami Railway or Linhe-Ceke Railway. Plans are underway to extend the standard gauge rail into Mongolia's coal mining districts.
  • In May 2016, Rio Tinto, the Government of Mongolia, and Turquoise Hill Resources approved the US$5.3 billion development of the underground portion of the world-class Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in southeast Mongolia, one of the largest project financing facilities in the industry. The investment decision followed the December 2015 signing of a US$4.4 billion project financing agreement with international financial institutions and export credit agencies representing the Governments of the United States, Canada and Australia, along with 15 commercial banks, for the development of Oyu Tolgoi's underground mine.

Link to release

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James Kwantes' PDAC 2017 Stock Picks: Erdene, …

Editor of Resource Opportunities' PDAC 2017 stock picks focused mainly on Yukon gold juniors

SmallCapPower | March 28, 2017: Resource Opportunities Editor James Kwantes, in a speech at the newsletter writers' presentations at the PDAC 2017 convention, talked about some resource juniors that speculators might want to keep an eye on. Here's a summary of what he discussed that day, including some PDAC 2017 stock picks.

Erdene Resource Development Corp. (TSX: ERD) – Erdene is currently exploring Mongolia, and its projects include two new gold discoveries (Bayan Khundii and Altan Nar), a molybdenum-copper porphyry resource, and an alliance with Teck Resources to fund and explore the Tian Shan Metal Belt in southwest Mongolia for copper-gold opportunities.

Link to article

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XAM trading +4.76% midday at A$0.22

Exploration Success Continues at Xanadu's Kharmagtai Project

HIGHLIGHTS

·         Deep drilling at Altan Tolgoi has confirmed significant continuous high-grade mineralisation at depth:

-       Drill hole KHDDH394 intersected 646m @ 0.51% Cu & 0.87g/t Au (1.06% CuEq) from 16m, including 64m @ 1.06% Cu & 3.15g/t Au (3.08% CuEq) from 18m;

-       Drill hole KHDDH394A intersected 385m @ 0.52% Cu and 0.60g/t Au (0.9% CuEq) from 351m;

·         The mineralisation identified within the resource shell is better than, or similar, to the current resource estimate;

·         The high-grade breccia hosted chalcopyritegold mineralisation, as identified by the current drilling results, remains open at depth;

·         Widespread near-surface copper and gold mineralisation has been intersected in the bedrock drilling;

·         Six potential porphyry clusters have been identified, containing 19 individual porphyry and epithermal targets;

·         Additional and substantial broad zones of near-surface gold-rich porphyry mineralization was intersected at Altan Burged:

-       Drill hole KHDDH401 intersected 20m @ 1.73g/t Au & 0.18% Cu from 39m.

March 29 -- Xanadu Mines Ltd (ASX: XAM – "Xanadu" or "Company") is pleased to provide an update on the ongoing exploration activities at its flagship Kharmagtai project (Figure 1), where drilling is targeting the discovery of additional near-surface porphyry copper-gold deposits undercover and testing the continuity of mineralization below the current resources within this largely under-explored porphyry copper-gold district.

Xanadu's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr Andrew Stewart, said "The intersection of highgrade breccia mineralisation at depth demonstrates the potential size and scale of the Kharmagtai mineralized system. We are yet to define the extents of the Altan Tolgoi porphyry system, and further drilling is planned below the zone of breccia hosted chalcopyrite-gold mineralisation to test whether a higher-grade bornite core is in the root zones of this large breccia system. High-grade mineralisation may be manifested as bornite-goldcemented breccia or as bornite-gold stockwork mineralisation in the causative intrusive complex at Kharmagtai."

Link to release

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AKM dropped 4.17% Tuesday to A$0.023, trading flat mid-Wed

Aspire Mining highlights benefits to Mongolia for Erdenet to Ovoot Railway

It is expected that the Northern Rail Corridor will see significant demand.

March 28 (Proactive Investors) Aspire Mining (ASX:AKM) is the largest coal tenement holder in Mongolia's Northern provinces, and the key to unlocking the deposit is infrastructure.

Aspire has now, through its rail subsidiary, Northern Railways LLC, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MTGT LLC, the 100% owner of the Huren Chuulut Iron Ore Project.

Huren Chuulut is a large iron ore deposit located 50 kilometres to the north west of the Khuvsgul capital of Moron and 60 kilometres north of the approved rail alignment for the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway.

This project needs rail to Erdenet to be able to connect to customers in China.

Mongolia currently exports iron ore to Chinese customers along the Trans Mongolian Railway.

The importance of the nearby iron ore deposit is that this increases the number of other large users of rail services other than Ovoot.

If the owners of these deposits grow in confidence that infrastructure will be in place, then this could be a catalyst for development capital to flow to these projects.

MoU details

The MoU covers the sharing of development progress, mutual support in funding activities and the provisional allocation of 5 Mtpa of freight capacity.

This would be as soon as the rail line has been extended to the proposed connection point, which is around two thirds along the total 549 kilometre Erdenet to Ovoot Railway.

It is expected that the Northern Rail Corridor will see significant demand for its freight capacity of at least 15Mtpa, growing to 30Mtpa in the long term.

David Paull, managing director for Aspire, said that the MoU demonstrated that the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway will not only benefit Mongolia's coking coal industry.

"Once completed, the Northern Rail Corridor, of which the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway is an important part, will see transport of a range of resources, agriculture and manufactured goods."

Production from the Ovoot Project can coincide with the commissioning of the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway.

Link to article

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HAR last traded A$0.003 on March 23

Haranga: Paula Cowan appointed, Matthew Wood resigns as non-executive director

March 28 -- Haranga Resources Limited ('the Company') is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Paula Cowan as a Non-Executive Director of the Company with immediate effect.

Ms Cowan is a finance professional with over 15 years' experience and is presently a Director of Palisade Business Consulting, a consulting and secretarial advisory firm specialising in business advisory, consulting and finance and secretarial support services to SME's and ASX listed entities. Ms Cowan is currently a Director of Valor Resources Limited (VAL). Ms Cowan previously held senior roles in advisory firms KordaMentha and Ernst and Young. Ms Cowan holds a Bachelor of Commerce/Law (Hons), is a qualified Chartered Accountant and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The Company wishes to advise that Mr Matthew Wood has resigned as Non-Executive Director of the Company effective immediately.

The Board thanks Mr Wood for his contribution to the Company.

Link to release

Final Director's Interest Notice: NIL

Initial Director's Interest Notice: NIL

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E-Commodities Annual Net Profit $2.874B; Final Div 7.7 Cents

March 29 (AAStocks) E-COMMODITIES (01733.HK) announced the results for the year ended 2016. Net profit was $2.874 billion, against the loss of $1.723 billion in the year-ago period. EPS was $1.488. Final dividend was 7.7 cents.

Link to article

Link to 1733 release

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Local Market

MSE Top 20 +0.48%, ALL +0.32%, Turnover 30.6M Shares, 212.9M T-Bills Traded, 14.1B Issued

March 28 (MSE) --

Link to report

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Ard Financial Group Issues 2.0 Billion Bonds via Private Placement

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March 21 (Ard Holdings) In February 2017 Ard Financial Group (Ard Holdings, Group) issued MNT2.0 billion commercial bond on the market and was able to place it privately within a month, notwithstanding the difficult operating environment.

The bond has a face value of MNT1.0 million, annual yield of 19.2 percent, maturity of 24 months, and pays quarterly coupons. The Group intends to use the proceeds to expand the loan portfolio of its non-bank financial institution, Ard Credit, accelerating its development and enhancing its market position.

Commercial bond is a financial instrument, which enables businesses to access low-cost financing, and investors to earn high returns while directly funding companies.

Ard Securities, a brokerage house of Ard Holdings, underwrote the bond. The company recently received a capital injection of MNT1.5 billion from its parent, quadrupling its capital and positioning it for the leadership position in the market. Furthermore, Ard Securities was able to raise USD600,000 for a private Mongolian airline – Hunnu Air at the end of 2016.

Ard Credit is a non-bank lender of Ard Holdings, which was established in April 2011 with the purpose of providing micro and SME loans using innovative technologies. Ard Credit is licensed by Financial Regulatory Commission to engage in lending, currency exchange, financial advisory, trust deposit service and credit card issuance. The company was able to generate a profit of more than MNT390 million in 2016 despite the economic downturn and is to pay out a dividend. The company is set to obtain a full banking license in due course.

Ard Financial Group is a diversified financial services holding company with an aim to increase its shareholders' value through investing in and developing leading financial services companies. Our investment portfolio consists of companies such as Mongol Post, Ard Insurance, Ard Credit, Ard Securities, Ard Life, Ard Assets, Ard Management, and Equity Investment Trust (EIT). Investor Nation is a registered marketing trademark owned by Ard Holdings.

Please, feel free to contact us with further enquiries on raising capital or investing in bonds:

Link to release

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Japan FSA: Amendment To the Letters Exchanged with the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia

March 28 (Financial Services Agency of Japan) 1. On March 28th, 2017, the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia (FRC) and the Financial Services Agency (FSA) agreed to amend the letters exchanged between them, concerning sharing of experience and expertise

*This amendment clarifies that the subject of cooperation between the FRC and FSA is not limited to capital-market related matters, but also includes issues surrounding insurance and non-banking sectors.

2. Based on this amendment, both authorities intend to further the exchange of experience and expertise for the purpose of enhancing legal and regulatory frameworks as well as financial markets in both countries.

Link to release

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Tuesday, March 28 Close

 

3/28

3/27

3/24

3/23

3/22

3/21

3/20

3/17

3/16

3/15

High

Date

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USD

2,456.03

2,458.85

2,459.18

2,459.57

2,459.38

2,457.58

2,458.10

2,457.12

2,454.96

2,457.12

2,498.75

1/10/2017

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EUR

2,666.76

2,671.66

2,649.52

2,654.98

2,656.50

2,649.64

2,647.37

2,645.09

2,633.07

2,614.01

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

22.19

22.32

22.09

22.11

22.06

21.78

21.83

21.68

21.68

21.42

23.49

11/9/2016

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GBP

3,090.42

3,089.30

3,070.04

3,068.81

3,066.97

3,038.31

3,052.47

3,033.31

3,012.73

3,005.06

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

43.15

43.13

42.81

42.86

42.70

42.89

42.93

42.41

42.23

41.58

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

356.74

357.66

356.72

357.08

357.18

356.28

355.99

355.72

356.17

355.49

363.02

1/5/2017

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KRW

2.21

2.21

2.19

2.19

2.19

2.19

2.20

2.17

2.17

2.15

2.21

3/27/2017

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SGD

1,760.78

1,765.08

1,755.99

1,757.65

1,758.27

1,756.79

1,759.93

1,751.46

1,748.55

1,739.74

1,765.08

3/27/2017

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CAD

1,833.54

1,845.01

1,840.98

1,843.69

1,839.68

1,840.95

1,843.48

1,842.20

1,845.90

1,825.16

1,908.84

1/18/2017

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AUD

1,866.95

1,876.23

1,872.79

1,879.36

1,886.47

1,893.32

1,902.08

1,885.23

1,892.16

1,862.87

1,913.20

2/16/2017

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HKD

316.20

316.57

316.60

316.65

316.66

316.46

316.53

316.44

316.22

316.29

322.21

1/10/2017

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CHF

2,491.28

2,496.04

2,474.27

2,476.16

2,478.09

2,465.35

2,463.52

2,466.62

2,455.08

2,438.95

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,448 Sell ₮2,458), TDB (Buy ₮2,448 Sell ₮2,456), Golomt (Buy ₮2,448 Sell ₮2,456), XacBank (Buy ₮2,448 Sell ₮2,457), State Bank (Buy ₮2,448 Sell ₮2,458)

USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:

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BoM declines $0.8m bid, $11.3m ask, CNY34.5m bid, $1.5m MNT swap offers

March 28 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2457.00 for USD0.8 million, asked weighted average rate of MNT2458.63 for USD11.3 million and bid weighted average rate of MNT353.67 for CNY34.5 million respectively. The BoM did not accept the bid offers.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received buying bid offers of USD1.5 million of MNT swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept the bid offers.

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Hogan Lovells: Proposed Amendments to the 2017 State Budget and Related Laws of Mongolia

March 28 (Hogan Lovells) On 24 March 2017, the Government of Mongolia submitted to Parliament proposed amendments to the 2017 State Budget Law and other related laws. The amendments are proposed in relation to the pending approval of the Extended Fund Facility for Mongolia by the International Monetary Fund.

Among others, the proposed amendment laws aim to increase state revenues and decrease expenditure.  They affect the tax regime, social insurance contributions, pension ages, civil servants' benefits, social benefits and other related matters.

Parliament is expected to discuss the proposed amendment laws during its regular spring session which starts on 5 April 2017.

During parliamentary discussions, the draft laws may undergo a number of changes. The following highlights the key changes in the proposed draft laws.

1. Increase in Personal Income Tax

The draft amendment to the Personal Income Tax Law proposes to introduce progressive personal income tax. The following table sets out the proposed tax rates and bands.

Tier

Annual salary (MNT)

Monthly salary (MNT)

Applicable tax rate

1

< 18 million

< 1,500,000

10%

2

18 million -
30 million

 1,500,001 - 2,500,000

1,800,000 + 15% of the annual income exceeding 18 million

3

30 million -
42 million

2,500,001 - 3,500,000

3,600,000 + 20% of the annual income exceeding 30 million

4

> 42 million

 > 3,500,001

 6,000,000 + 25% of the annual income exceeding 42 million 

Further, the draft amendment proposes to impose an obligation to withhold 20% of income earned within the territory of Mongolia by non-resident individuals. Those who remit payments to non-resident individuals will be required to withhold 20% as income tax and pay such amount to the tax authorities. The proposed amendments would take effect from 1 January 2018.

Currently, interest payments on savings not exceeding MNT 100 million are exempt from tax until 1 January 2018. The draft amendments propose to revoke this exemption effective this year.

2. Increase in Social Insurance Contributions and Pension Age

The draft amendment to the Social Insurance Law proposes to increase social insurance contributions as follows (in bold): 

Type of insurance

Current rates of social insurance contributions (%)

Proposed rates of social insurance contributions (%)

Employer

Employee

Employer

Employee

Pension

7.0

7.0

9.5

9.5

Social protection

1.0

0.8

1.0

0.8

Unemployment

0.2

0.2

0.2

0.2

Health

2.0

2.0

2.0

2.0

Total

10.2

10.0

12.7

12.5

The proposed amendments would take effect from 1 January 2018.  The increase would be implemented incrementally by means of increases of 1%, 0.5% and 1% respectively over the next 3 years.

Further, the Government proposes to increase pension ages incrementally for a period of 10 years so as to increase the pension age to 65 for men and 60 for women. Further, the pension age for women would be increased incrementally to ultimately reach 65 years of age in 2037.

3. Increase in Certain Excise Taxes

The draft amendment law to the Excise Tax Law proposes to increase excise tax rates for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and imported vehicles.

In respect of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, excise tax will be increased by 10% in 2018, 5% in 2019 and 5% in 2020 respectively.

For imported vehicles, excise taxes will be increased by 3% to 15% depending on the age of the vehicle.

4. Increase in import duties for tobacco products 

Currently, the import duty applicable to tobacco products is 5%. The Government proposes to increase the applicable import duty to 30%, the maximum permitted rate under Mongolia's commitment to the World Trade Organisation. The proposed increase would be effective from this year.

5. Conclusion

Other amendments relate to the state and social insurance budget, social welfare, and infrastructure development under concession arrangements.

The proposed amendments would introduce progressive tax rates for individuals' income, increased costs for employers, and increased prices for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and vehicles. The proposed tax increases will be debated in Parliament and it remains to be seen whether the changes will be approved in their current form, and to what extent they will contribute to reducing the current budget deficit.

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Politics & Legal

Party for Mongolian People registered as 25th political party

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) The Party for Human of Mongolia has been registered as the 25th political party.

Yesterday, the State Supreme Court discussed the registration application by some citizens, including Kh.Bat-Yalalt and approved to register the party as the party rule, action plan and other documents have satisfied the Constitution of Mongolia, laws on Political Party and on State Registration of Legal Entities. 

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Mongolia's Private Sector Joins the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (UNFPA Mongolia) – In a handover ceremony held at the UN House today, the UNFPA formally received a generous in-kind donation from GurvanBileg LLC towards victims of domestic violence in the country. The renowned Mongolian manufacturing and trading company is a nationwide supplier of women's clothing, intimate apparel, cosmetics and personal care products. The donation of 750 pieces of women's underwear is worth approximately 3,966,000 MNT and will benefit the women and girls serviced by the UNFPA-supported 2 shelters and 6 One Stop Service Centers (OSSC) for victims of domestic violence in Ulaanbaatar, Zavkhan, Gobi-Altai, and Bayankhongor aimags respectively.

One OSSC alone can receive an average of 25 women and girls per month or 300 per year. These range from girls as young as 12 to women over 45. The largest percentage of women seeking help from one shelter are aged 26-35 (40% of the total clientele). It is not uncommon that some of the women are repeat visitors which reflects continuing violent home situations and an inability to change their circumstances due to a varied challenges, including economic limitations, psychological trauma and social stigmas to name a few.

The donation of women's underwear is particularly important as victims of domestic violence often arrive at these centers with little or no resources, and least of all a fresh change of clothes. They have typically fled their homes with no time to prepare for their departure in order to escape physical, sexual and verbal assault, seeking temporary sanctuary, medical attention, legal assistance and direct support. As such, OSSC and the shelters are an important mechanism in the response to victims of DV, and in combating GBV as a whole. Donations such as this help victims meet some of their very basic needs while in recovery or transition.

"UNFPA recognizes GurvanBileg LLC's contribution to victims of domestic violence as a prime example of how the private sector has the potential to make a real difference in actively combating GBV in the country by supporting safe spaces where victims can find the help they need, "says Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative. "If other companies such as theirs also aim to fulfill their corporate social responsibility and can be mobilized to share their core services and unique resources, imagine the potential capacity to help more women and girls in need."

Gender-based violence (GBV), particularly Domestic Violence (DV) remains to be one of the most serious and lifethreatening human rights violations in Mongolia and in the world. 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. A 2015 assessment conducted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights revealed that GBV and DV are prevalent and widespread in Mongolia. A survey on prevalence pf GBV in Mongolia will be conducted for the first time in the country by the National Statistics Office in 2017, with the support of UNFPA and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The results of this survey will reflect a more accurate picture of the scope of the problem. While those results are still forthcoming, national administrative data reveals an upward trend in cases of GBV based on police reports alone.

In 2016, more domestic violence crimes were reported to the police, and it was a

  • 6.9 % increase, compared to 2015;
  • 90.7 % of the victims are women and girls; and
  • A total of 18 people died from domestic violence in 2016, and 1,217 people were injured.

Ms. Kitahara also emphasized that the elimination of gender-based violence is not the work of one individual entity, such as UNFPA. "It is essential that the government, MPs, CSOs, the public, international community and the private sector come together and stay committed, together." she says.

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Voice of Mongolia: Audio News for Mar 28

March 28 (Voice of Mongolia) Listen to the latest news summary of daily top news stories hosted by the Voice of Mongolia.

Today's highlights:

  • Mongolia and Kenya to sign MoU to promote sustainable finance
  • European Union works with Mongolia on strengthening political and economic links
  • Remains of god statue unearthed in western Gobi-Altai province
  • Mongolia Mining 2017 expo to take place

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AmCham Daily Newswire for March 28, 2017

GOVERNMENT

Some proposed tax increases to take effect on April 1 if approved by the Parliament

Summary: Last Friday, Minister of Finance B. Choijilsuren submitted amendments to the 2017 state budget to Speaker of Parliament M. Enkhbold. Parliament's approval of the amendments will be followed by the IMF's Board of Directors review of Mongolia's enrollment in a extended fund facility program.

The amendments to the state budget include provisions to increase excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. The excise tax on passenger cars will be increased based on the vehicle's engine capacity. The excise tax on alcohol, excise tax on cigarettes, and customs tax on cigarettes will increase. Income tax will be increased by new tiered classification based on yearly income. Savings' income tax are set to start on April 1, and social insurance fund contributions will be increased in 2018. The amendments also include decreasing the state's expenditures through making more efficient changes to state welfare programs and the pension system, and reviewing the salaries of state officials. Under the amendments, new projections for 2017's state budget will put revenue at 6 trillion MNT (23.1% of GDP) and expenditure at 8.7 trillion MNT (33.7% of GDP) with a budget deficit of 2.7 trillion MNT (10.6% of GDP). 

Keywords: taxes, Ministry of Finance, IMF | Daily News /page 1,2/


Budget amendments at the top of Parliament's spring session agenda

Summary: Parliament's spring session will start on April 5, but the budget amendments required by the IMF for enrollment in an extended fund facility program must be approved before April 10. According to procedures for approving amendments, there will not be enough time to meet the April 10 deadline. Discussions for the spring session will begin on April 6. Parliament must work swiftly to approve the amendments in order to qualify for the IMF's program. In addition to the budget amendments, Parliament is set to discuss 33 matters during the spring session.

Keywords: IMF, budget amendments, Parliament | Daily News /page 2/


MINING

Sharyn Gol plans to export coal

Summary: It is reported that some Chinese companies have requested to buy coal from Sharyn Gol. Due to a decrease in the supply of energy coal in China, China has increased its imports from Mongolia. Sharyn Gol is researching the possibility of exporting coal to China. Sharyn Gold had previously explored opportunities to export coal to South Korea through Russia, but export did not take place due to market prices for coal at that time.

Keywords: export, coal, China | Today /page A1/


ONLINE STORY

Oyu Tolgoi presents awards to their best suppliers

Summary: Oyu Tolgoi (OT) held their annual Gobi Gem awards for OT suppliers in Dalanzadgad, Umnugobi Province. The awards recognized achievements in five main categories in 2016: safety, business performance, national and South Gobi suppliers, and a Grand Prix category for the overall best-performing supplier. The Grand Prix award went to Hunnu Air LLC.

In 2016, OT collaborated with around 1,200 suppliers, 62% of which were domestic companies. OT announced that 279 million USD worth of products were bought from domestic suppliers last year. OT says it is increasing the number of suppliers it will be working with that are located in Khanbogd and Dalanzadgad, and noted that it now engages in business with 90 suppliers in Umnugobi Province. In 2016, OT invested 6 billion USD in Mongolia.

Keywords: Oyu Tolgoi, Gobi Gem | www.bloombergtv.mn

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Business

Oyu Tolgoi Holds Annual Supplier Recognition "Gobi Gem" Awards

Dalanzadgad, Mongolia, 27 March 2017 (Oyu Tolgoi) We held our annual Supplier Recognition 'Gobi Gem' Awards in Dalanzadgad, Umnugobi today. The awards recognised achievements in five main categories in 2016: Safety, Business performance; National and South Gobi suppliers, and a 'Grand Prix' category for the overall best-performer.

1. Best Supplier DIFOT - SGMS LLC
2. Best Supplier South Gobi - Umnugobi Enterprise LLC
3. Best Supplier National - Erchim Electric LLC
4. Best Supplier HSE Performance - Gobi Gaz LLC
5. Grand Prix Award - Hunnu Air LLC

The awards, in addition to recognising the five winners, celebrate the achievements of Mongolia's business and industrial community across sectors. Strong, competitive and sustainable supplier base is critical to our success! Congratulations to the winners!

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Intellect's debt management platform to be used by Mongolia's Khan Bank

March 27 (India Infoline) Intellect Design Arena Limited, prominent name in IT software products, has announced that Mongolia's Khan Bank has selected Intellect's debt management platform to centralise operations, and digitalise its collection process.

The implementation of Intellect's platform would ensure effective collection strategies for the Bank and help build a high-performance organisation. The Khan Bank is one of the largest commercial banks in Mongolia, and provides banking services to an estimated 70% of Mongolian families. The bank has 537 branches across Mongolia.

Intellect Digital Debt Management helps banks manage complex debt scenarios with appropriate collection strategies.

This new development in Intellect Design Arena Limited would surely help to strengthen its presence in the IT software products sector. 

Stock View:

Intellect Design Arena Ltd is currently trading at Rs 117.8, up by Rs 1.6 or 1.38% from its previous closing of Rs 116.2 on the BSE.

The scrip opened at Rs 116.1 and has touched a high and low of Rs 119.9 and Rs 116 respectively. So far 536045(NSE+BSE) shares were traded on the counter. The current market cap of the company is Rs 1182.15 crore.

The BSE group 'A' stock of face value Rs 5 has touched a 52 week high of Rs 252.1 on 03-May-2016 and a 52 week low of Rs 107.75 on 15-Feb-2017. Last one week high and low of the scrip stood at Rs 117.6 and Rs 112.7 respectively.

The promoters holding in the company stood at 29.56 % while Institutions and Non-Institutions held 15.57 % and 53.97 % respectively.

The stock is currently trading below its 200 DMA.

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International property agents now have the chance to market Olympic Residence

March 28 (OPP.Today) Mongolia is expected to be the fastest-growing economy in the world within the next decade.

International property agents now have the chance to market Olympic Residence, which will set new standards for high-end residential and retail buildings in the country.

Mongolia has been among the world's best-preforming economies for the last 10 years and high GDP is forecast for the coming years.

Rental yield and capital appreciation are expected to be strong, due to increasing demand and the excellent economic performance.

The Olympic Residence, in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, will set new standards for high-end residential and retail buildings in the country, says the developer. Agents receive competitive commission, prompt payment and the chance to market a project direct from an experienced developer, with full international sales and marketing support available. To register, go to: http://opp.buzz/product/19/?mid=41763.

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Ulaanbaatar

Mayor discusses waste issue with district authorities

Ulaanbaatar, March 29 /MONTSAME/ On March 28, Tuesday, Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold met with authorities of 9 districts of the capital city and representatives of urban refurbishment companies and homeowners' associations to review activities and measures taken regarding solid waste and urban refurbishment in the districts.

Governors of each district reported to the Mayor on the ongoing activities and projects in their administrative units including public cleaning campaigns forged in Nalaikh, Khan-Uul and Sukhbaatar districts.

Following the reports, Mayor S.Batbold pointed out the slowness of the district authorities in solving the challenges faced by Ulaanbaatar residents, citing the solid waste issue as an example.

"Instead of dodging from responsibility with justifications like my territory and your waste, public organizations must have an attitude 'my city, my district and my responsibility' in dealing with solid waste management", he said. The Mayor also instructed the governors to not avoid but face and solve the existing problems.

"The capital administration will enforce its Wasteless city – Responsible governance' policy", the Mayor reiterated. The Mayor also expressed that he will be making on-site inspections on districts' waste disposal actions.

The next meeting between the Ulaanbaatar Mayor and district governors will focus on infrastructure development.

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World Bank to implement social accountability project in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) On March 27, M.Otgonbayr, Chairman of the Governor's Office of Capital city and James Anderson, World Bank's Country Manager for Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding on "Mainstreaming Social Accountability in Mongolia" project.  

Within the framework of the memorandum, City Governor's Office and World Bank will be cooperating on implementing sub-projects in maintaining social accountability in Chingeltei, Songinokhairkhan and Bayanzurkh districts and nationally distribute the selected practice in the regions.

Initiated by World Bank, "Mainstreaming Social Accountability in Mongolia" project is funded by World Bank and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The project aims to enhance public service access by improving social accountability between the citizens and state.

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UB Mayor successfully ends working visit to Europe

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) A delegation headed by Mayor of Ulaanbaatar city S.Batbold paid a visit to some European cities between from March 20 to 26. UB Mayor started his European visit from the city of Warsaw, Poland and met with Ms. Hanna Gronkiewicz Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw and the sides have expressed their interests to upgrade cooperation between the two cities. 

Also, Ms. Hanna said she is pleased to share the experience with Ulaanbaatar and expressed her readiness to assist by giving professional training for human resource. During the visit to Warsaw, the Mongolian delegates got acquainted with the activities of the Lindley Water Filters /water treatment facility/ and Waste Water Treatment Plant Czajka /WWTP Czajka/.

UB Mayor S.Batbold's next destination in Europe was Budapest, Hungary. The Mayor of Ulaanbaatar city S.Batbold met with István Tarlós, Mayor of Budapest and the both sides highlighted more opportunities of bilateral, particularly, in the cultural field.

After the meeting, the delegation met with Deputy Mayor of Budapest in charge of financial affairs Dr. Gabor Bagdi to exchange views on such issues as involving Ulaanbaatar specialists in short-term trainings in Budapest and getting professional support in the field of urban planning and public transportation.

"The cities of Ulaanbaatar and Budapest have been maintaining long-term friendly ties. I am confident that this partnership will ever grow in the future" said the Ulaanbaatar Mayor. Then, he underlined his willingness to carry on the projects that were previously discussed and enable Mongolian students in Hungary under the scholarship program of the Hungarian government to study urban planning, green development and ecology. In addition, He put forward his request on the urgent inauguration of the renovation project of Biocombinat plant. In turn, the Deputy Mayor Gabor Bagdi noted that the Hungarian side intends to start the project of Biocombinat plant renovation as soon as possible.

Also, the UB Mayor met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Dr. Laszlo Szabo. During the meeting, the sides exchanged views on the challenges in the bilateral relations of the two countries, possibilities to broaden the ties as well as projects and programs to be jointly implemented. Dr. Laszlo Szabo noted that the two sides need to widen the partnership by launching and completing joint projects. UB Mayor S.Batbold expressed his willingness to cooperate with the city of Budapest on building green recreational areas and improvement of Selbe River flow as well.

The same day, UB Mayor S.Batbold met with Ms. Alexandra Szalay-Bobrovniczky, Deputy Mayor in charge of Culture, Art and Sport of the Budapest and discussed about cultural cooperation. Moreover, the sides exchanged views on the participation of representatives from Ulaanbaatar city in upcoming events in Budapest, such as handcrafting festival and other international cultural events. In this regard, Ms. Alexandra Szalav-Bobrovniczky emphasized on the wider possibilities of developing cultural ties.

In Budapest, the delegation visited Evopro company, which has introduced the electric prototype of its MODULO bus family, called MODULO Medio Electric. It represents the latest milestone in the engineering company's zero-emission urban public transport concept.

After their visit to Budapest, the delegation led by the UB Mayor headed to Berlin, Germany.

UB Mayor S.Batbold met with Ms. Sawsan Chebli, State Secretary for Federal Affairs in the state government of Berlin. "Ulaanbaatar and Budapest cities have traditional friendly ties, especially bilateral cooperation is developing in the scope of  road, environment and urban development. Thus, we wish to deepen bilateral relations in the future." she said. Moreover, she noted that the Mayor of Berlin will pay a visit to Ulaanbaatar in July so, more detailed issues on bilateral cooperation would be touched on during his visit to Ulaanbaatar.

In turn, UB Mayor S.Batbold expressed his willingness to strengthen bilateral relations of the two cities and cooperate on training corresponding officers in urban planning field. Also, he kindly requested professional support on urban planning and legislation from the city of Berlin. 

Within the visit, the UB Mayor met with Dr. Udo Haase, Mayor of Schönefeld city.

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Registration for ULAANBAATAR MARATHON 2017 opens

March 28 (gogo.mn) Biggest sports event in Mongolia "Ulaanbaatar Marathon 2017" will take place at the Sukhbaatar square on May 20. 

Last year the marathon gathered a total of 24,383 runners from Mongolia, Austria, Japan, Bhutan, USA, and China.

The marathon has 2 categories - Amateur and Professional. Runners will start from Sukhbaatar square and after running specified routes, runners will finish back at Sukhbaatar square. 

On this day, Ulaanbaatar city will hold its annual Car-Free Day on central streets of Ulaanbaatar city such as central roads from West intersection to East intersection will be closed from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. 

The registration fee for all marathon categories is US$ 20 for foreign entrants, includes the pectoral number, t-shirt, napkin, introduction, and race routine. 

Transfer the payment to Ulaanbaatar City Bank`s account 2611038120. Then bring the payment receipt at Physical Education and Sports Committee office, located at 3rd floor of Central Cultural Palace or relative sports committee in your district. In addition, you must fill out a registration form at www.ub-marathon.ub.gov.mn to verify your registration. 

PROFESSIONAL MARATHON

The professional category is divided into half - 21 km; and full - 42 km distances and includes both foreign and domestic professional runners above age 18. 

In 2016, Mongolian State Honored athlete B.Ser-Od (2 hours 18 minutes) in male category and International Master of Sports B.Munkhzaya (2 hours 37 minutes) in female category won gold medals respectively in the full 42 km.

PS: Registration deadline of professional half 21 km and full 42 km distances is May 18. 

AMATEURS` MARATHON

Amateurs' marathon is divided into 3 distances with 4 age groups. Specifically, 5 km distance will include ages between 12-17, 18-35, 36-54, 55 and above; and 10 km distance includes everyone above age 18. 

There is also marathon designed for families and people with disabilities for 1.5 km distance.

PS: Registration deadline of all amateur marathons is May 17. 

Runners who finish in 1-10th places in any category will be rewarded with medals, certificate and cash prize. 

For more info, please visit at www.ub-marathon.ub.gov.mn/  or contact at (976) - 312785. 

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Diplomacy

Japan to grant US$850 million soft loan to Mongolia within IMF program

March 29 (GoGo Mongolia) The official visit of Mongolian parliamentarians headed by Speaker of the Parliament M.Enkhbold has commenced on March 27, 2017. 

On this day, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received Chairman M.Enkbold. Meanwhile, he announced to grant a US$ 850 million soft loan to Mongolia, in scope of IMF`s Extended Fund Facility program. 

This loan is almost equal to the total loan amount provided by the Japanese government since Mongolia`s transition to democracy and a market economy.

Japan has provided a total of US$ 3 billion loan to Mongolia, of which approximately US$ 1 billion was soft loan. 

During the meeting, Speaker M.Enkhbold mentioned some of the major projects that can be implemented by two countries. He stated "Mongolia is extremely rich in solar and wind energy resources. We have an opportunity to produce clean energy using these resources and supply it to regional countries of Northeast Asia Grid Interconnection. We would like to implement this project in cooperation with your country". Moreover, he asked Japanese Prime Minister to take into account the issue of copper, iron ore and fluorite export to the Japanese market. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "We are able to send a professional team to conduct research and conclusion when feasibility study of the coal-chemical complex project is completed. Other issues related to the export and energy should be requested through the Japanese embassy in Mongolia". 

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Speaker M. Enkhbold meets members of Japan-Mongolia friendship societies

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) Yesterday, March 27, Parliamentary speaker M.Enkhbold started his official visit to Japan by attending a meeting organized by the authorities of Japan-Mongolia friendship societies. The organizers of the event include 7 organizations, such as Japan-Mongolia parliamentary group in the House of Councillors, and Japan-Mongolia friendship group in the House of Representatives of Japanese parliament, Japan-Mongolia society, Japan-Mongolia friendship association and Japan-Mongolia women's "Rainbow" society of cultural exchange.

The Japan-Mongolia friendship society head T.Yanagisawa expressed the society members' satisfaction with of successful development of bilateral relations and cooperation. The members of the friendship societies asked questions on future perspective of the bilateral ties and some of them put forward a request to increase frequency of flights by MIAT company between the two countries as current three flights in a week do not meet demand of passengers.

Parliamentary Speaker M.Enkhbold said "- The Mongolian government and people appreciate contribution of the Friendship societies in Japan to cultural and people-to-people cooperation of the two countries. We are thankful for your heartiness for Mongolia. I hope that your good deed will develop further". He also noted that Mongolians never forget Japanese people's help in difficult times.

Japan-Mongolia society head J.Yoshida said "- Our society is a pioneer organization among societies, which was founded 53 years ago or earlier than the establishment of diplomatic relations of Mongolia and Japan. We will try our best to further strengthen friendly relations of the two countries".

In Japan, there are over 100 societies, associations and NGOs that have relations with Mongolia. The first, Japan-Mongolia society was established in 1959 with an initiative of Japanese, who had been under capture after the Second World War and returned home. The Japanese government officially admitted the society's activities in 1964. 

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Speaker M. Enkhbold meets Speaker and President of Japanese Parliamentary Houses

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) Parliamentary speaker M.Enkhbold has met Speaker of House of Representatives of Japanese Parliament Tadamori Oshima and President of House of Councillors Date Chuichi. The parties discussed about inter-parliamentary relations and cooperation in other sectors.

Parliamentary speaker M.Enkhbold thanked Mr. T.Oshima for his invitation for this visit and noted that strengthening the strategic partnership relations with Japan, the third neighbor and widening it to all sectors are priorities of foreign policy of Mongolia. " – This visit is a special as it being held in the framework of the 45th anniversary of Mongolia-Japan diplomatic relations. We are happy that the bilateral cooperation has been developed much more actively in short period, compared to the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Level of the relationship has been progressing consistently, from Comprehensive partnership to Strategic Partnership since 1996. The people of Mongolia are always thankful for constant support of Japan on transition to market economy and deepening of Mongolia's democratic reform" said Speaker M.Enkhbold.

During the meetings, Speaker of House of Representatives of Japanese Parliament Tadamori Oshima and President of House of Councillors Date Chuichi noted the importance of inter-parliamentary relations alongside with Government level relations and expressed his hope that the Speaker's visit gives an impulse to the development of the inter-parliamentary relations.

He also said that Japanese government, its people, specifically Parliament will help and support development of Mongolia further. "- I am from Aomori. I heard that Mongolian athletes plan to make trainings for "Tokyo-2020" Olympics there. I will ask authorities of the prefecture to provide Mongolian athletes with conditions to train successfully" he said.

Speaker M.Enkhbold underlined that proper legal environment is vital to development of trade, economic and other sector's cooperation of the two countries. "- Therefore our objectives should include sharing experiences and knowledge of MPs through mutual visits and activate cooperation of Parliamentary groups and Parliamentary offices of the two countries.

In 2016, an 'Economic partnership agreement' was established between the two countries. The parliament of Mongolia pays attention to securing legal environment to free businessmen from double-taxation.

Mr. Date said that House of Councillors is charged to study and make conclusions on Japanese development assistance and expressed his pleasure to hear that Mongolian people are thankful to Japan for being the biggest donor country since Mongolian transition to democracy and market economy. "- I also heard that there are many Mongolians, who are enthusiastic about Japan and Japanese language and wish to learn in Japan. I have no doubt that these people will be a bridge of the bilateral relations and cooperation" he highlighted.

The Speaker also expressed Mongolia's position that it backs Japan to become a permanent member of the UN's Security Council and thanked Japan for its support and appreciation for Mongolian membership in ASEM and joining up to East Asian Cooperation mechanism as well as for cooperation in establishing peace and stability in the region of North East Asia.

At the end of the meetings, Speaker M.Enkhbold confirmed his invitation of Mr. Oshima to Mongolia and invited Mr. Date to visit Mongolia and the Japanese side received the invitations with gratitude. 

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Mongolia-Japan diplomatic anniversary celebration kicks off with Kimono fashion show

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) A fashion show combining tradition with the contemporary designs dubbed as "UB Kimono" was held last Saturday, March 24, at the Japanese Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. The event was organized in honor of the 45th jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Japan.

The fashion show acted as an opening ceremony for the great anniversary in Mongolia. In Japan, the diplomatic anniversary celebrations were launched with "Swan Lake" ballet.

UB Kimono fashion show was divided into two sections, the first of which showed the audience four types of kimono: traditional, wedding ceremony, samurai and battlefield armors; and the second section was choreographed by Yavuutsagaan, a Mongolian designer who is well-known in Japan for her fashion line named "Yavuu".

Staff of Japan's diplomatic mission to Mongolia along with the Japanese citizens living in Mongolia participated in the show as models, making it possible to exhibit real Japanese emotions and styles on the runway.

Chief of the Division of Culture and Education of the Japanese Embassy, Mr. Yamamoto Keigo gave vivid and detailed explanations on special features of Japanese traditional costumes and their expressions.

The fashion show was also incorporated Japanese traditional dance by a Mongolian dancer Byambaa from the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

The next day, a cultural day-event was organized, showcasing Japanese tea ceremony and an exhibition of kimono, its parts and samurai armors. 

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First meeting of Mongolian, Russian and Chinese experts takes place in Beijing

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) The first tripartite experts' meeting on the implementation of a program to establish Economic Corridor of Mongolia, China and Russia took place on March 24 in Beijing, China. 

The tripartite meeting was chaired by V.Enkhbold, Director of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Mongolian side, Xiao Weiming, Deputy Director of Western Development Division of the China's National Development and Reform Commission from the Chinese side and A.V.Zelenov, Deputy Director of Department of Asia, Africa and Latin America countries of the Ministry of Economic Development from the Russian side.

The participants of the meeting discussed about measures and principles to carry out the program to establish Economic corridor, which was signed during the third meeting of the heads of states of Mongolia, Russia and China held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in June 2016. In particular, the sides exchanged mutual views and expressed their positions on projects to implement in the first place within the framework of the establishment of the tripartite mechanism.

The meeting culminated in an establishment of a protocol on further measures and issues touched on this meeting on in the scope of the Economic corridor program.

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Mongolian peacekeepers in South Sudan partake in fire outbreak control

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) During its course of mission, the UNMISS Mongolian Battalion in Bentiu has responsibly taken part in containment of fire outbreaks, and preventing deaths of civilians.

"Swift, well-coordinated actions by different components of UNMISS saw two separate outbreaks of fire in the Bentiu protection of civilians site being taken care of without any resulting deaths or injuries. The fires, occurring over the weekend, destroyed a total of 117 shelters.

As soon as the fire was reported, an integrated team consisting of members of the UN Police, the Ghanaian Formed Police Unit, Mongolian and Ghanaian military troops and UN Security responded swiftly. They controlled the fire, and kept people safely away from it", reported Zenebe Teklewold and Filip Andersson on the event.

UNMISS has started an investigation to determine the cause of the fire outbreaks.

source: unmiss.unmissions.org

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Kidnap attempt: Mongolian peacekeepers save refugees in Bentiu

March 28 (news.mn) The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) has reported that Mongolian peacekeepers in Bentiu have saved the lives of domestic refugees during a kidnap attempt.

On 22nd of March, militants fighting the South Sudanese government beat nearly 30 displaced people in a vegetable garden near a refugee camp and tried to kidnap some of the young men.  Fortunately, at that moment Mongolian peacekeepers, who were conducting a patrol in the area, arrived on the scene and saved the innocent refugees.

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Health & Education

Actor Jang Keun-suk helps Mongolian child get cancer treatment

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- Actor Jang Keun-suk has helped a Mongolian teenager get treatment for ovarian cancer in South Korea, his management agency said Wednesday.

Tree J Company said Jang covered the cost for the patient's trip and medical treatment after he had heard that her family wasn't able to pay for the expenses. He also thought it would be better for her to receive treatment in Korea with better medical facilities.

The child, who is currently in Korea and will receive treatment until May, is quoted as saying, "I was desperate after I was diagnosed and underwent my first surgery in Mongolia. Jang's support helped me recover."

In response, Jang said to her, "I know it is hard to get cancer treatment but hope you don't give up hope," according to the company.

The actor has been helping some 100 children in need through relief organization World Vision since 2009.

The hallyu star is scheduled to hold fan meetings in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Nagoya in Japan until next month.

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Minor corruption widespread in education sector finds Asia Foundation survey

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) The Asia Foundation and Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports (MECSS)  conducted a survey on "Transparency, ethics and corruption issues in Education sector" and on March 27, yesterday, they presented the results of the survey to officers of the Ministry.

The survey concluded that ethical offences and minor corruption is widespread in educational service and common cash transfer through teachers and students negatively influence their ethics and behavior. The survey also revealed that collection of donations, fees and payments, transparency and control on them and reporting were insufficient.

Chairwoman of MECSS Education policy department D.Erdenechimeg noted that the ministry plans to take certain measures following the survey result.

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New Study Recommends Key Actions to Improve Early Childhood Education in Mongolia

ULAANBAATAR, 29 March, 2017 (World Bank) – A new World Bank report recommends that Mongolia expand access to preschool services in rural areas, prioritizing home-based early-childhood education for hard-to-reach populations, such as nomadic herders. 

The study, launched today in Ulaanbaatar, revealed large gaps in school readiness among Mongolian children. But targeted interventions, such as special home-based learning for nomadic families' children and better learning materials and activities in kindergartens, proved effective in reducing these gaps.

"Investing in early childhood education has long-term benefits for the economy and society in general. Quality education in the earliest years results in better health, less need for social services, lower criminal rates, and increased productivity," said James Anderson, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia. "The report launched today has many important findings that will help improve people's access to, and the quality of, education services that shape Mongolia's future." 

Mongolia has achieved tremendous gains in improving access to regular and alternative services for early childhood education, with the number of children enrolled more than doubling between 2005 and 2015.

Despite this success, Mongolian children in the greatest need of education – children from rural areas and those from poorer families – have significantly lower access. Among those enrolled in kindergartens, assessments of early development outcomes, including cognitive, language, and social emotional skills, show significant socioeconomic gaps. The largest share of the public subsidy to early childhood education thus accrues to the wealthy.

The gap in school readiness can be remedied. The report shows that increasing family engagement with children through home activities, such as reading, singing and playing together, leads to significantly higher cognitive skills, underlining the potential for a home-based model to improve school readiness among the hard-to-reach populations.

This approach proves far more effective in closing the school readiness gap than existing alternative education services, such as mobile ger-kindergartens for herders, because the short duration of the latter lowers the chances that enrolled children will catch up with peers in kindergarten.

The report also highlights the need to expand kindergarten access in urban areas to include those not enrolled in preschool, while also easing crowding in urban classrooms. But simply enrolling children in kindergarten longer or starting at younger ages will not be enough to shrink the school readiness gap in kindergarten. The report recommends targeted investments to improve kindergarten quality, such as through better financing and the provision of better learning materials and greater variety in classroom activities. 

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International Children's Book Day to be celebrated on April 2

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) The 212th anniversary of birth of Hans Christian Andersen, who is respected as a king of fairytales, falls on April 2. The day is annually celebrated as an International Children's Book day worldwide as well as in Mongolia. Children's Book Palace of Mongolia regularly celebrates this day with its young readers.

This year, the International Children's Book Day will take place on March 30 at the Children's Book Palace and will be open for all children and for their parents.

During the event, a ceremony to hand over 300 books, including the best of the world classics and Chinese classic children's books, to the Children's Book Palace will be held. The books were sent from Taiwanese children. Also, children's book writers' greetings, children's puppet play and other arts performances will take place.

The opening ceremony of the event will be attended by N.Bold, Director of Culture and Art policy Department of Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports and Huang Kuo-Jung, Representative of the Taipei Trade and Economic Representative Office in Ulaanbaatar and other officials as well as young readers and children's writers.

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Culture & Society

Lotus Children's Centre to hold fundraising event on April 8

March 28 (gogo.mn) Lotus children`s centre in Mongolia to organize a delightful evening of fine dining and entertainment on April 8 at 7 p.m at the Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel.  

The event will feature;

·         Seasonal 3-course dinner (vegetarian option available), 

·         Complimentary wine and beverages,

·         A variety of entertainment throughout the evening, 

·         Ticket price includes a raffle ticketm, 

·         Raffle of excellent prizes including a night for two at the Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel and many more,

·         Auction of exciting items including artwork from the Valiant Art Gallery. 

Ticket price is MNT 95,000 per person and tables of 10 is available. All funds raised from this event will go to support the futures of the children in the centre. For more information or tickets please call 9433-7213 or email info@lotuschild.org.

The Lotus Children's Centre is a Mongolian non-profit, non-government organisation working with vulnerable children and families to provide the basic human rights of shelter, food, and education. It was founded in 1995 by Didi Kalika, an Australian yoga teacher living in UB. 

For the interview with the founder Didi Kalika, please click HERE

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Review: Mongolian throat singing is unlike anything else

March 27 (The Ubyssey) Khöömei — the long, low overtone emanating from the singers' throats — is hypnotic and calming. Anda Union brought it from their homes in Mongolia and filled the walls of the Chan Centre with a sound the likes of which it has never played host to before. In a season that has brought us New Orleans jazz, Russian opera, flamenco dance and sweeping orchestral performances, the strange, surreal hum of these performers represented a surprising move into a previously uncharted realm of music.

This was Anda Union's first and only foray into Canada on their tour across the world, and it gave attendees on Sunday night an experience whose uniqueness and rarity would be sold short if I described it as "a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Anda Union are not just performers, they are also conversationalists. The sounds, stories and culture that they capture in their music come from a time that was at risk of being obliterated by the great upheavals that have shaped China's recent history. The group's aim is the gathering of the music that was once integral to Mongolian culture, with the aim of re-engaging fellow Mongolians who have lost their heritage while also raising the world's awareness to its existence.

Essential to the group's sound are the vocals, known as either overtone or throat singing. The technique relies on the manipulation of air passing through the respiratory system, which when done correctly produces two, distinct notes at the same time. It sounds ridiculously cool, even eerie at times and there are around six different types of overtones — Khöömei — used by Anda Union, each remarkably different from the others. The sheer physical strength that must be required to sustain these sounds alone is impressive, but is all the more striking when paired with the array of instruments that accompany the performance.

(PLAYLIST)

These include an array of string instruments that will look familiar to anyone who has ever been to the symphony, though they are boxier and mostly two-stringed. The primary instrument of the show is called the morin huur, or horse head fiddle, which while also having an actual horse's head carved into it, can produce a sound highly reminiscent of the creature in question. These, accompanied by sheep skin drums, a lute, bass and reed flute, amounted to a performance whose sound was versatile, emotive and rich. I don't think that I've ever been so aware of how much music can encapsulate a culture as when I was watching this performance and picking up details about the origins of different aspects of the music. 

For instance, the throat singing is supposed to capture the sounds of the wind moving over the grass lands and was used by herders to call and subdue sheep. The horse heads are another example, as horses were a vital part of Mongolian culture and many of their songs used horse riding as a motif.

Every explanation only enforced the idea that what we were witnessing was not only a performance, but also a lesson in Mongolian culture. Great efforts were made to ensure that we understood what we were listening to as much as we were enjoying it. With this intention, several of the songs were accompanied by videos of Anda Union back in Mongolia, providing interesting visual context. While these videos were not always necessary and sometimes felt a bit like afterthoughts, it was still fun to see a traditional drinking song paired with a montage of Mongolian people getting wasted.

The songs were well-curated to take us through a slew of different genres and musical traditions from many of the different regions of Mongolia. There were lively "cowboy" numbers (complete with dancing), romance songs, maternal tributes and slow, solo pieces. On particularly impressive work had the performer producing sound from his throat while also playing a moadin chor (reed flute), creating (by my math) three notes at the same time.

The best concerts that I have seen at the Chan Centre have been not only entertaining, but also great lessons from the artists on their craft. I've seen Wynton Marsalis regale his audience with tales of jazz greats, heard Jonathan Girard happily recount details about the subtle rebellions made in the symphonies of Shostakovich and now I have heard Anda Union teaching their audience about a part of Mongolian culture that risked being lost to both its people and the world.

Anda Union showed their audience the sheer power and importance of simply playing music and how vital the conservation of tradition is to understanding the culture of a nation. In their songs, were were given the rare opportunity to experience not only a dying art, but also an age that has long since passed — sustained only through the remarkable efforts of people like them.

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Sports

Mongolian Football Federation signs contract with German head coach

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) The Mongolian Football Federation has chosen Mr. Hans Michael Weiss as a national league coach, in consideration of his UEFA PRO rank and experience in working with Asian players.

Coach Weiss and the MFF leaders inked the one-year agreement on Monday, March 27. Mr. Michael Weiss started coaching the Philippines football team, which ranked at the 190th place in the world ranking at that time, and elevated its rank up to the 127th place within three years.

Hans had worked as an assistant coach of the Chinese national league and chief coach of the national league of the Republic of Burundi, J League of Japan and the First national league of Romania.

While working here, Mr. Michael Weiss is to place focus on finding solutions to challenges faced by football teams of Mongolia of all age categories, and is to lead the team of football coaches.

Mr. Michael Weiss will be training the Mongolian national team for the Asian Football Championships (AFC) under 23, to be held this July in Thailand. The team will have games with Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia on July 19, 21 and 23. 

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Tyrell Corbin is on a record-breaking pro basketball adventure in Mongolia, Indonesia

March 28 (Deseret News) Even when a career in the NBA doesn't materialize, there are plenty of other opportunities to earn a living playing basketball. And leagues in Spain, France, China and Italy don't even scratch the surface of places to play around the world.

Former West High School guard and 2011 Utah Mr. Basketball, Tyrell Corbin knows that first hand.

"I knew I would play basketball for a living," said Corbin. "I just didn't know where. It's a blessing that this game has taken me around the world in such a short time."

Corbin, who is in his second season of professional basketball after finishing his college career at Cal-State Bakersfield, has already made a name for himself in some far-off locales. In two short years, he has played in professional leagues in Montenegro, Mongolia (yes there is professional basketball in Mongolia) and Indonesia.

"There were complications with our team to where the owner stopped paying everyone," he said. "The situation went on too long and I wanted to leave. Fortunately, another agent was in contact with me because of my play there and he was able to place me in Mongolia in January."

Mongolia was a really good fit for Corbin who enjoyed just about everything but the weather during his time there. "Mongolia was great, but it was really cold. I can remember it being below 0 degrees for the first three months," he said with a laugh. "The food was actually really good. It helped that Burger King and Pizza Hut were in my city."

He also really enjoyed the fans.

"The fans were amazing. I played for one of the top teams, and we had a great season so fans would come up to me almost every day when I would go out to the mall or to eat."

But all the attention from fans took some getting used to.

about as authentic a prehistoric experience as you'll find this side of the silver screen.

"It was a little shocking at first to be acknowledged in random places and asked to take a lot of photos."

All of that recognition — along with some great play on the floor — earned him a trip to the all-star game. "The fans voted on a Facebook poll and the coaches voted me as a starter. It was big time for me because it's always nice to have your hard work rewarded."

Corbin also found plenty of team success in Mongolia as he carried SBL Hasiin Khuleguud to the league finals before losing, but his stay in Mongolia only lasted one season.

"I really enjoyed Mongolia but at the end of the day, it's a business and I have to do what's best for me. I'm just focused on getting better every season and moving my way up in every situation. I was contacted and told that I was drafted in Indonesia. Another step above Mongolia, so again I'm just happy that my game has been acknowledged and people want me to play for them."

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Art & Entertainment

From Montreal to Mongolia – An Interview with 'Braids'

By Rosalind Perrett

March 28 (The Mongol Messenger) Canadian experimental pop band Braids, comprising Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith, have been creating music together since 2007. Following the success of their debut album Native Speaker, released January 18th 2011, which garnered positive reviews from the likes of Pitchfork, Spin, and Rolling Stone, the band went on to release a further two albums – Flourish//Perish, released August 20th 2013, and Deep in the Iris, released April 28th 2015, which won the 2015 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.

Companion, a 19-minute EP compiled from songs left off Deep in the Iris, was released May 20th 2016. Braids' 2017 tour of Asia has seen them play Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Shanghai, and culminated on Saturday 11th March at the Gandan View, Ulaanbaatar, to a wildly appreciative audience.

I spoke to lead vocalist, guitar and keyboard player Raphaelle, and drummer and vocalist Austin, about music, muses, and Mongolia.

Q. This was your first ever concert in Mongolia. What brought you to this destination?

AT: We have a wonderful booking agent who booked us a tour in Asia to test out our new material. We've been trying out some new songs, and getting a chance to see the continent. It started with Japanese shows, and then Chinese shows fell in, and Mongolia was like, 'Why not?' My father had been here before, and he was always telling me, 'You have to go to Mongolia! You'll fall in love with it, it's amazing.' And it worked out! For some crazy reason we ended up in Mongolia, and it's been amazing so far.

Q. Did you know anything about the Mongolian music scene before you arrived?

AT: I knew some traditional Mongolian stuff like throat-singing and Morin Khuur playing, and it's incredible. It's actually some of the most emotionally-charged music I've ever heard.

RSP: That's cool. I should listen to it.

AT: It's so heavy. It's really amazing. But none of us knew much about the new music scene until Saturday night, when we saw a bunch of bands. It was really cool.

RSP: Really cool.

Q. What were your first impressions of Mongolia when you landed?

RSP: Kindness. Deep kindness.

AT: Absolutely. I was kind of shocked because as we were flying in from China, from Beijing, we were flying over mountains and it was clear skies the entire day, so the whole time we were flying we could see everything. We saw the mountain range, and then the Gobi desert, and then the mountains starting again, and it was like, 'Oh, this is cool! There's a little village! There's the trans-Siberian railway!' Then suddenly, the plane came around a mountain and we saw this sprawl of gers and yurts and tall buildings, and then the coal factories down-town.

RSP: Yeah, there was a lot of stuff all at once.

AT: It was mayhem. Like kind of disorganised, kind of organised mayhem. Houses everywhere and animals right near the airport. We were like, 'This is so cool! This is amazing!'

Q. I hear you've been sleeping in a ger. How has that experience been for you?

RSP: I actually had to leave because I have really bad asthma, and I'm kind of allergic. We were in a ger that was on a farm, so I was next to all these animals. But Austin and our sound man stayed at the ger.

AT: It was incredible. It was such a beautiful experience. Just being out in the absolute middle of nowhere. And the ger is so comfortable. Incredibly comfortable. We put a big bucket of coal on the fire and closed it. The heat mellowed out, and then lasted until about 6:30am. At around 7am I woke up and my nose was really cold and my ears were cold, but I put on my toque and my long-johns and I fell back to sleep for an hour, so I was like completely sound asleep from 11:30pm to 8am.

RSP: That's better than I had at the hotel!

AT: It was so quiet and it smelled amazing. You were just in this felt bubble! I was so happy.

Q. What did you think of the food?

RSP: I love the food here.

AT: It was so amazing. They made us mutton soup with vegetables and potatoes and it was really good.

RSP: So good.

AT: And this morning we had fried eggs in horse fat or something, some kind of fat, and it was so good, just so good. And we had the traditional fermented horse milk (airag).

RSP: It's crazy.

AT: And the salted tea! The salty milk tea!

RSP: And the vodka is like 18%. I like that it's not so heavy.

AT: It was very nice, very herbal. Very easy to drink.

Q. The audience at the Gandan View was really responsive to your music…

RSP: They were really responsive!

AT: Yeah, they were really cool.

Q. Did you anticipate such a good reaction in Ulaanbaatar?

BOTH: I had no expectations.

RSP: I was like, 'We are going to the farthest place that we have ever been from Canada', so I had no expectation. I was just excited to go to Mongolia. So yeah, it was nice that it was also a good show.

Q. Would you say that Mongolia is a good destination for foreign artists and groups?

AT: That's a hard question because there's a very small, just-starting music scene here, so it really depends if you can afford it. It's very difficult to make up your expenses by playing this market, but I think it's very important that bands start to come here, because it's very difficult for the scene to grow unless they have international role models. There was an amazing sense of 'I've never seen this before, I've never heard this before' at our concert, which I thought was so cool because you go to Europe or North America and people are like, 'Yeah this is great, I like this, but I've heard things that are wackier than this, things that are more 'vanilla' than this'. It was so cool coming here and feeling like we were playing the kind of music that the people there had maybe never heard before. I really enjoyed that. It was like when the throat-singers came to my house in Canada when my father was doing collaborations with them, and I was like, 'This is crazy.'

Q. How old were you then?

AT: I was young, about fifteen.

Q. And your father was collaborating with Mongolian musicians? Can you tell us more?

AT: Yeah. So my dad is also a drummer, he's primarily like a jazz music drummer, and that's actually how I got hooked up with the people at the Embassy, because Deb Rasmussen works here in Mongolia, and she's the singer in my dad's jazz quintet. So my dad came out to play the jazz festival and they did a week-long workshop with the jazz school here, the conservatory, and then they also played shows in Beijing. He came here twice, and the musicians that he was collaborating with here were a traditional group called Alta Hangai. They came back to Canada and recorded in Calgary with my father's group.

Q. Has your experience in Mongolia inspired you to write new music?

BOTH: Absolutely, yeah.

RSP: Yeah, because actually, riding the horses yesterday was one of the best experiences of my life. It was so amazing to be on an animal, to be in nature, with a horse guide who didn't speak a lick of English, but who we were able to communicate with through feelings and riding the horses together. Yeah, I think it will definitely inspire us.

Q. So nature really helps?

AT: Exactly. In a big way. There's something about being in the city that creates a deep anxiety in all of us, and as soon as we taste mountain air, fresh air, a cold stream or anything, as soon as we're in nature, we're so calm. It's an amazing thing and I think it allows for deep reflection and it allows for us to absorb our thoughts and to make better music.

Q. Would you play in Mongolia again?

AT: Absolutely.

RSP: Yes! We're talking about maybe doing Playtime Festival this year, or maybe next year. It will be fun to come back.

Q. How do you feel about where you are as a band right now?

AT: So excited. But frustrated, to be completely honest.

RSP: Yeah, frustrated.

Q. Is it too much touring?

RSP: It's a lot of touring. I think we're kind of unappreciated as a band. We all kind of think that we should have a bit more reach than we do, but I think that will come in time. I think that we write pretty weird music and pretty heavy music that some people really want to turn off from, that requires you to think. It's not easy listening, so I think that with time...it's a very slow build for us.

AT: We started very young though.

RSP: We started at seventeen.

AT: We've already been doing this for ten years and it's like, most people when they start a band are our age now and they're touring for the first time. But we're in our mid-twenties and it's like, 'We've been touring for eight years!' We're starting to get tired. It's really difficult because the comfort level of what we're doing hasn't really moved up that much.

RSP: It has though in comparison to Motel 6 and couch-surfing. We used to sleep in sleeping-bags on random people's floors, and then we started sleeping at Motel 6, and in the sketchiest hotels with the grossest beds. We're trying to keep our morale good, especially while the music industry is going through such a strange transition in terms of streaming services, and stuff which really devalues music and doesn't pay you enough for the hard work that you put into it. And social media is also another really weird one, for the artist to have to make a product out of their band in a very obvious way that takes up a lot of your time. That's really confusing too.

AT: But then the most exciting things I think for us are…

RSP: Coming to Mongolia!

AT: Yeah! And that now that we are much more mature as humans and as musicians, all of our skills, our experiences, our age and our maturity, are coming to a head at the same time, and it's a very exciting thing. All the music that we've been writing in the studio now is so much better than anything we've done previously. The songs are so much stronger, more potent, and we're way more confident and sure of our sound. We're not trying to be weird and different for the sake of being weird and different. That's like a teenage thing, you know? Because we started when we were seventeen years old, we were kind of going through those growing pains, and we were going through those growing pains in the public eye, which is a very bizarre thing. We put out our first record, and it saw a lot of critical acclaim, which was amazing, but it was also very confusing because we were still developing and we didn't want to just do that sound for the rest of our lives. We wanted to change and keep growing. And so we grew and we changed, and it was a weird step.

RSP: And people were like, 'Ugh, I don't like that.'

AT: Yeah, like, 'I don't like that, why didn't you just do that again?' And I was like, 'Well, because we're nineteen years old, you know, and it's like I'm still learning how to play the drums! I don't want to just do that for the rest of my life, I want to keep growing'. And so we kept growing, and lyrically too, we changed so much. The whole thing has been such a journey. Now I feel like we're finally mellowing out, and the quality level is really rising I think because of where we're at in our personal lives.

RSP: Yeah. We're all a lot chiller now.

AT: We're really ready to take that next step in terms of commitment to the art, and also realising that it all comes down to just making a great record. And I think it's taken us three albums to learn that, and that no matter how much you freak-out and worry...

RSP: About the music videos, the Instagram, having a manager, not having a manager...

AT: Yeah, all this stuff. It's like, if you have undeniably amazing sounds that people connect with…

RSP: Everything else will just fall into place. And that's what makes you feel the best too, because it's work that you're making, it's not something that is fleeting. You're making music that affects people, and the people you're performing to. We have to constantly keep coming back to that, because we do everything ourselves. We do all of our music videos, we are on a DIY label that Taylor, the other member, helps run. We do all of our social media. We can sometimes get a bit carried away from the actual intent of the music. These kinds of tours actually, and the kind of experiences we've had in Mongolia, like yesterday's horse-back riding, totally bring us back to like, 'Oh yeah, we're best friends, and our music has brought us to Mongolia.' It gives us that energy to go back home and to write music that's really meaningful to us.

AT: But being in the studio in Montreal in the winter has been very difficult.

RSP: It is hard.

AT: But there's also this weird energy. You get really down and you get really upset, and we have a big fight and blow up, and then we come back together and write the best song we've ever written. So yeah, it's like this weird 'burn the forest down' kind of thing that happens in the winter.

RSP: It's really intense. I'm sure you can relate, being in Mongolia. It gets hard in the winter time.

AT: Where we come from, Calgary, Alberta, is almost identical to Ulaanbaatar. Geographically, it's very similar. It's very close to the mountains.

RSP: It's not quite as close as this, but you can see the mountains in the distance.

AT: And if you look at the weather any time of the day between Ulaanbaatar and Calgary, Alberta, it's almost exactly the same.

Q. What's the next step for Braids? Are you creating a new album?

RSP: Yeah, we're going to go back and continue working on songs.

AT: We're going to make a hit, basically.

RSP: Yeah, we're going to make a hit record!

AT: That's the next stage.

RSP: Yeah, we'll make something really good, I'm pretty sure of it.

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Travel

Dornod-Manzhouli cross country transportation service opens

Ulaanbaatar, March 28 (MONTSAME) Cross country transportation service through Khavirga-Ar Khashaat border crossing from Choibalsan city of Dornod aimag to Manzhouli, China opened on March 27.

The opening ceremony was attended by Governor of Dornod aimag and officials of National Road Transport Department of Mongolia. P.Delgernaran of Road Transport Service said "As discussed during the 30th joint session between the Mongolian and Chinese delegates of road transport sector, cross country transportation between Choibalsan city and Manzhouli of Inner Mongolia, China route is now launching. This will enable safe transportation service between the designations".

Having signed a contract with the National Road Transport Department, "Tal nutgiin Kherlen" LLC and "Mongol aylal juulchlal" LLC will be responsible for the transportation service. In the designated route, large-sized bus will be available on Monday and Wednesday at the moment. By an estimate, normal-sized buses will be scheduled twice on Friday if the passengers increase. The travel expense will cost MNT 44 thousand for adult.

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Atlas Obscura Places: International Intellectual and Puzzle Museum of Mongolia

An institution dedicated to curiosity, logic, riddles, and Mongolia's long history of puzzles. 

(Atlas Obscura) Mongolia has a history of puzzle-crafting, and has created some of the world's most difficult puzzles and chess sets. Shatar, a Mongolian version of chess, dates back to the Middle Ages, while more modern burr puzzles (made from interlocking pieces of wood) can be traced back throughout the 1900s.

That history is honored at the International Intellectual Puzzle Museum, or the IQ Museum for short. The museum is the creation of Tumen Ulzii, who was born to nomadic herders and would have followed that path had he not fallen in love with logic puzzles at an early age.

His father gave him a six-piece burr puzzle with one piece missing. After he solved the problem of the missing piece he began creating his own puzzles, founded a company to manufacture logic games for the youth of Mongolia and a museum to showcase puzzle and logic history. Ulzii's work has not gone unrecognized—he has been awarded the prizes for "Best Inventor in Mongolia" and "Meritorious Person of Culture."

The museum displays some puzzles created by Ulzii himself, as well as rare and precious puzzles from around the world. Over 5,000 toys, puzzles, and games are on view, most of which visitors are invited to fiddle with. Ulzii's inventions are usually wooden, the pieces carved into whimsical Disney characters and animals of the zodiac. Some even depict figures from Mongolian history, like Genghis Khan. The simplest are the traditional six-piece models, but some puzzles in the museum include as many as 350 pieces. There are also various puzzles made from gold, precious stones, and silver. One turtle-shaped puzzle offers a prize of $100,000 if solved within a specific timeframe. In the museum's three decades of operation, no one has ever solved it. 

Mongolian chess, another of Ulzii's passions, is also featured in the IQ Museum's exhibits. Masterful wooden carving, a skill essential to crafting the intricate puzzles, is also exhibited at the museum in the traditional furniture which decorates the space. 

The purpose of the museum is not just to catalogue the history of puzzles in Mongolia, but to remind visitors that curiosity and play are an important part of training the brain. Visitors to the museum are guided by a docent who will watch perform magic tricks, watch you struggle with the puzzles, then reveal their solution to you in a matter of seconds.

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Mongolia - A Great Adventure Holiday for 2017

Ever fancy riding horses across a beautiful scenic landscape with not a fence in sight? Then join a trip to Mongolia and experience the freedom of an open ride.

ULAANBAATAR, ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA, March 28, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- If you're looking for a great adventure travel holiday in 2017, then Mongolia is the place you want to be. Ethical Traveler, for the 2nd year in a row, reported that Mongolia is again one of the destinations that is a must see. And there is no better way to see this country than by horseback.

Keith Swenson, a U.S. citizen who first worked in Mongolia helping to improve national park management, stayed on long after his project ended to co-found Stone Horse Expeditions & Travel. As one of the top rated horse riding operations in the country, Stone Horse offers multi-day horseback expeditions across the cultural and wilderness landscapes that one client describes as "National Geographic scenery" in its breath and scope. "It's hard not to fall in love with the countryside here" says Swenson. "And our easy going horses are the best companions to help you do that". 

With vast natural areas and a variety of terrain that includes open steppe, forested mountains, rivers and desert, Mongolia is a wonderland of natural scenery. As a destination, it's fairly easy to get to, flying into the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, or for the more adventurous, taking the Trans Siberian Railway from Beijing or Moscow and arriving very slowly in the "Land of the Eternal Blue Sky", as Mongolia is known. Stone Horse Expeditions has been helping travelers feel at home here, learning about the culture and people for years. 

"One of the things we like to do" says Swenson, "is to help our guests connect with their horses, the people we meet along the way and to get a sense of Mongolia and its history". Most famous for its founding father, Genghis Khan, Mongolia is known as a land of horse warriors who took the world by storm. Today however, the people of Mongolia, as they probably always have been, are extremely hospitable and easily welcome visitors with open arms. 

Stone Horse offers a variety of trips, from it's multi-day horse riding expeditions through the cultural and wilderness landscapes of the Khentii Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot, to Gobi desert excursions, where the desert terrain is spectacular in its sweeping vistas, as well as a very homey, traditional "herder family ger (yurt) stay", where guests get to experience herder life as it is lived today. And if you just want to walk, their autumn hiking trips take you through some colorful fall scenery.

"Our horse trips are for the novice to expert rider", says Swenson. "We have horses that can accommodate most levels of experience, but it's better to have a little horse riding under your belt". Of course with the variety of trips they offer, non riders have a great choice to see the country too.

As a country, Mongolia is modernizing fast. The capital city Ulaanbaatar is now home to almost half the population, where economic opportunities can be better found. But the countryside is also seeing more and more development with a mining boom in recent years bringing new financial gains. For this reason, Mongolia is a place to see now before it changes too much. 

So, whether you looking for a great horse trekking adventure, a Gobi desert expedition, spending time with a traditional herder family ger stay and learning their way of life, or just hiking through the countryside, Mongolia is the place you want to visit, and 2017 is a good year to go. You won't regret it.

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