Thursday, April 06, 2006
SPEAKING OF MONGOLIA
There is a boom going on in Mongolia. At least, for big business anyway.
The capital city of Ulaanbaatar (UB for short) is experiencing a building explosion, with apartments, restaurants, offices and Internet cafes under construction and real estate prices on the rise.
According to World Bank figures, economic activity grew over 10 percent in 2004, and 6 percent in 2005. Foreign investment is coming into the former backwater, particularly into the banking, textiles and mining industries.
Deposits of coal, copper and gold, along with investment-friendly regulations, are attracting attention. One mining executive at a multinational business conference called Mongolia "the best-kept secret in Asian emerging markets."
But who is watching out for the interests of the people. It doesn't seem like the government is (which is no surprise).
Which leads us to the articles below.
The first article below is from the UB Post. The second is from the Toronto Star. The third is a report from the blog NewEurasia.
Opening of spring Parliament session marked by protest
Hundreds of protestors marched at the Parliament House on April 5, the first day of the spring session of the State Great Hural's (parliament), demanding the resignation of the government, which they claim is conspiring with Ivanhoe Mines to make a stability agreement disregarding the interests of the public.
The protest was organized by several civil movements and political parties including the Just Society Civil Movement, Resolute Reform, Green Party and Minii Mongol Gazar Shoroo. They accused the government of having no strict and transparent policy towards the percentage of shares that the government should retain in its strategically significant mineral deposits in Omnogobi aimag.
The government is not rushing to sign the stability agreement with Ivanhoe Mines, and will wait until after the laws on tax and mineral resources are discussed at the parliaments spring session, according to Finance Minister N.Bayartsaikhan who spoke at a media conference held on April 4. "National security is our key interest" he said. He also did not deny the possibility of hiring a foreign independent mining contract consultant.
"The company understands that the position of the Government of Mongolia is such that the Oyu Tolgoi Stability Agreement will be concluded after the Minerals Law and Tax Laws are discussed and amended during the spring session of the Parliament," Ivanhoe Mines stated on the same day.
Mongolia's government is holding to the position that shares of foreign invested mining companies must be traded on the Mongolian Stock Exchange, available to the people of Mongolia to buy.
"The company deeply regrets the fact that civic movements are misleading the Mongolian public by misrepresenting the real facts in order to further their own political interests," said Layton Croft, Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs for Ivanhoe Mines.
"As a public company listed and traded on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges, Ivanhoe Mines respects the independence and sovereignty of the countries where it operates. To this end, Ivanhoe has not and will not interfere in internal Mongolian political affairs," he said.
The Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker has interfered disrespectfully into internal Mongolian affairs by demanding that government members speed up a stability agreement, said S.Ganbaatar, a leading activist in the Resolute Reform civic movement. He went on to say, "The government has accepted that demand and unfortunately is about to sign a contract to give the wealth of Mongolia, which is estimated at US$300 billion, to a Canadian company. In this agreement, the government has sold our motherland. This government must step down."
In a prior press conference, Martin Klein, a project coordinator from the Washington-based Earth Rights (www.earthrights.org) international organization which has a large human rights project in Burma, said Ivanhoe Mines has done a lot of environmental destruction in Burma. "I would encourage the people of Mongolia to clearly understand what type of company Ivanhoe Mines is. Skin, respiratory and other types of diseases and sicknesses are common among local people who live near the copper-site that Ivanhoe Mines owns. They operate a modern form of slavery," said Martin Klein.
In his letter demanding the government resignation, S.Ganbaatar argued that the government has violated the 1st paragraph of Article 6 of the Constitution of Mongolia, which says, "The land, its subsoil, forests, water, fauna and flora and other natural resources in Mongolia shall belong exclusively to the people and be under the State protection." The letter was delivered to Prime Minister M.Enkhbold. "If we can force Ivanhoe out of Mongolia, that signifies that we are a democratic nation. If we can't, we will become the next Burma," Ganbaatar said.
Ivanhoe beset in Mongolia protest
3,000 seek better terms from Vancouver firm
Dispute continues on use of nation's mineral resources
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia—About 3,000 protestors clashed with police yesterday, demanding that Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and other officials resign in a dispute over a contract with a Canadian firm to mine a huge copper deposit.
Protestors gathered in the capital's central square and tried to march to the adjacent Government House, but the way was blocked by about 300 police officers.
The protestors want Enkhbayar's government to get better terms from Ivanhoe Mines Co., a Vancouver-based company that wants a concession to mine the Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit Ivanhoe discovered in the country's south.
Ivanhoe has not been accused of acting improperly.
Copper mining is a major part of the economy of this impoverished former Soviet satellite, a sprawling grassland where many people are traditional nomadic herders of cattle and sheep.
Politicians have clashed repeatedly over how to exploit the country's mineral resources. The opposition accuses the government of giving away Mongolia's wealth and wants the national minerals law changed to give the government a large share in any foreign-owned mine.
"We are demonstrating against foreign mining companies getting too much of our wealth," said B. Batdorj, a university student who took part in the protest yesterday. "Mongolian people should get more benefit from the natural resources of Mongolia than foreign mining companies."
Protestors included members of Mongolia's Green Party and the Radical Reform, Just Society and Our Mongolian Land civic activist groups.
Protests in Mongolia, Day 2
by Luke, posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2006 at 6:09 pm
Last night the protesters set up a ger (more common russian word: yurt) in Sukhbaatar square just north of the Sukhbaatar statue. They are still fighting for the President to leave his post and for the government and parliament to be “dissolved.”
Today there were two more gers set up next to the first one, and the protesters raised their flags on the flagpoles and put up all their protest signs on the outsides of the gers. According to the “Onoodor” news the people are staging a hunger strike until their demands are met. However the protesters are still made up of 4 different political groups as well as traders from the SAPU trade center, which burned last winter, who still haven’t been reimbursed for their losses.
The 1990 hunger strike that was also held on Sukhbaatar square led Mongolia to democracy, but these protesters might not understand that this isn’t 1990 and the current government will not easily budge. This afternoon there were around 100-150 people standing around the gers and listening to leaders of the small political factions give speeches. The police were not out in force today as they were yesterday, however there were still a few hanging around the edges of the square, but none in the immediate vicinity of the protesters. (I didn’t have my camera with me today, but I will try to take it tomorrow)