The Mongolian Mining Minister has announced that exploration in the country will be expanded, with the hope of attracting international investment and growing the economy.
Mongolia is a mineral-rich country boasting large copper, gold and coal deposits; however, until recently just 9.6% of its land was available for prospecting. But this is about to change, as the Mongolian Mining Minister Dashdorj Tsedev announced in early March that 20.9% of the country will soon be opened up for exploration.
This will allow Mongolia to profit from its estimated 162 billion metric tonnes of coal, an amount which puts it within the top 15 coal rich countries in the world. The coal is distributed across 1.5 million sq km relatively evenly, but it differs in quality. The biggest proven reserve lies within the South Gobi desert where 6.4 billion tons of coal is located, of which 40% is high quality coking coal making it a likely key area for further exploration.
As well as coal, more than 120,000 tons of copper are mined in Mongolia annually, which will increase as the metal becomes an ever more sought after resource. The country is ranked 12th in the world for copper researches, with 35 million tonnes of copper located in the South Gobi desert alone.
Mongolia is seeking to shore up its economy following an International Monetary Fund led bailout earlier this year. A stabilisation package of $5.5bn is being provided by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and bilateral partners, including Japan and South Korea and the People’s Bank of China.
Oyu Tolgoi is one of the biggest copper-gold mines in the world, but there are several other well-established deposits in Mongolia yielding these minerals, including Centerra Gold’s Boroo mine. Alongside these are many coal mines where mostly coking coal is excavated. According to the Mongolian Government Agency for Land Minerals and Oil, coal production and exports are already up this year, and “mining increasing by 165.8% compared to the same period last year, sales by 203.56% and export performance by 48.5%”.
Currently, Mongolia generates 95% of its energy from coal, making it an essential resource. 60% of the Mongolian population lives within the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the constant development of which requires increasing amounts of energy ensuring its coal reliance continues.