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Australia and Mongolia mining cooperation?

Oct. 4, 2012 at 1:38 PM   |   Comments

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has encouraged Mongolian-Australian cooperation in Mongolia's mining boom.

Elbegdorj, noting that Mongolian-Australian relations have moved forward in various fields since the countries established diplomatic ties 40 years ago, said his country's emerging mining sector represents an opportunity for the countries to improve bilateral ties, Xinhua news agency reports.

The president's comments were made during a meeting Wednesday in Mongolia with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

Carr, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. from Mongolia Wednesday, addressed concerns that Mongolia's rising mining sector poses a challenge to Australia's dominance of the export trade to China for coal and iron ore.

"Whatever we do, they're going to have a mining boom anyway," Carr said. "They've got a very strong mining sector."

Aside from coal and iron ore Mongolia has vast deposits of copper, fluorite, gold, lead, molybdenum, oil, phosphates, tin and uranium.

Carr said he presented Mongolia with a guide on sustainability in mining, produced as an Australian aid project and written in Mongolian.

"We've learned a lot of lessons in Australia; we can share it," Carr said.

"We can help them make sure it's an environmentally sustainable mining boom and that's a real Australian contribution. We can make sure they don't wreck a beautiful country in generating mineral wealth."

Carr pointed out that Mongolia's biggest mine -- the Oyu Tolgoi, slated to become one of the world's five largest copper-gold mines -- is owned by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto and that 54 Australian companies are operating in Mongolia.

While Oyu Tolgoi is to be operational in mid-2013, it already accounts for about 30 percent of Mongolia's $10 billion economy and represents the largest foreign investment so far in Mongolia, the Financial Times reports.

Even though only one-third of the mineral-rich country has been mapped in detail, more than 6,000 deposits of commercial value have been identified.

"There are centuries of specific exploration still to be done in Mongolia," the Financial Times quoted T. Munkhbat, one of the geologists who discovered Oyu Tolgoi, as saying.

Carr also said that China's economic downturn and the ensuing fall in commodity prices had been foreseen.

Australia had been feeding China's demand for iron ore but as China's economy cools and supply increases, prices have slumped in recent months to a two-year low.

"We have anticipated a falling off in prices reflecting not only the cyclical downturn in China, but a cyclical downturn against a backdrop of a restructuring of the Chinese economy, that is, less emphasis on major traditional industrialization and the working out of a different economic model," he said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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