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Friday, May 25, 2012

NEWS: Old Ways Disappearing In The New Mongolia

Originally posted on NPR on May 24, 2012
by FRANK LANGFITT


Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Last of four parts

Mongolia is a country of tremendous contrasts. Consider this: Two out of every five Mongolians make their living herding goats, sheep and camels.

But last year — according to World Bank estimates — Mongolia's economy grew faster than any other on the planet, driven by a mining boom.

The Central Asian nation seems to be racing from a nomadic culture to an industrial one practically overnight. To appreciate how this transition — and its inevitable tensions — play out in the lives of ordinary Mongolians, spend a few hours with Bat-Erdene Badam and his family.

Bat-Erdene Badam's family raises sheep, goats and camels in the South Gobi region of Mongolia. But his three children have no interest in continuing the family business. - John W. Poole/NPR

Bat-Erdene, 47, is a lifelong herder who lives in a ger, or a yurt, in the middle of the Gobi. He spends each spring combing cashmere from his goats. On a recent day, a goat lies stretched out on its side in a ger, its horns tethered to the ground. A fellow herder rakes off tufts of white cashmere with what looks like a gardening tool as the goat yelps in fear.

Bat-Erdene sells the cashmere for about $20 a pound. Combings from his 300 goats should bring in more than $6,000 this year.

That's decent money in the middle of the Gobi, a mix of moonscape, mountain and increasingly arid grassland in southern Mongolia. But Bat-Erdene's three children have no interest in the family business.

"Young people stopped herding animals," says Bat-Erdene, leaning against the wooden gate of a corral filled with goats. "There are lots of employment opportunities for them in the mining business. Therefore, I could probably say that the generation of herders is ending with me."

A Mix Of Old And Modern

Bat-Erdene heats his felt tent with an iron stove. Rugs cover the dirt floor, and the walls of his corral are constructed of bricks made from goat and sheep droppings.

But he also rides a motorcycle, uses a cell phone and watches limited satellite TV on a small black-and-white set powered by solar panels.

On a recent day, the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days plays silently in the background.

Bat-Erdene lives with his wife and a high-school-age son. Their daughter attends college in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator, about 300 miles away, and their other son, Uuganbaatar, drives a dump truck at a coal mine.

"Two or three years ago, my elder son used to help us out," says Bat-Erdene, who wears a gray cap and a brown sweater that zips up the front. "Now, he's really tired of being a herder, because we depend too much on the weather and climatic conditions."

Rising temperatures are drying out Mongolia's grasslands, while severe weather is taking a toll as well. In recent years, heavy snow and drought killed more than 400 head of the family's livestock, more than half of their herd at the time. Bat-Erdene says for a new generation, herding seems too unstable.

"When someone has a regular job, it doesn't matter if there's severe weather or not," he says. "He can do his work, no matter what."

Credit: Nelson Hsu/NPR

A Blessing And Curse

Bat-Erdene's son Uuganbaatar began working at the coal mine about a year ago. He's 22 and, like many young Mongolians, painfully shy.

In an interview outside the gates of the mine, he studies a water bottle he's holding and kicks the ground with his black Air Jordans. The mine is completely isolated in the desert, but Uuganbaatar says he has more friends there and there's more to do.

"I watch TV," he says. "There's a recreation room with ping-pong and pool and there's a computer room."

A baby Bactrian camel is tied up at the edge of Bat-Erdene's small farmstead. Bactrian camels, like all Mongolian mammals, have thick fur to withstand temperatures of 40 degrees below zero in winter. Even in spring, temperatures regularly dip below freezing. - John W. Poole/NPR

The camp TV is a big, flat-screen. Uuganbaatar follows sports on the Internet, especially the NBA. His favorite team is the Orlando Magic with its towering center, Dwight Howard.

Mining has been good for Uuganbaatar. He makes $500 a month — in a country where the annual per capita GDP is about $2,500 — and Mongolia's mineral reserves are so vast, he could probably spend the next several decades working them.

But his father sees mining as a threat. Mines need water to process minerals and the mine that employs his son plans to tap into an aquifer beneath the family's grazing land.

The local government had designated the area as protected, but Mongolia's central government has an ownership stake in the mine, and last year, it decided otherwise.

Resignation About The Future

Bat-Erdene is bracing himself.

"It was a very hard hit for us, because it is only going to speed up desertification and we can see how desertification is already moving at a very high speed," he said, surrounded by parched clumps of grass.

Rising temperatures and decreasing annual rainfall has led to more sandstorms, and surface water sources such as rivers and lakes are drying out a rapid rate, according to the Mongolian government and nongovernmental organizations. Mongolian officials say that about 70 percent of Mongolia is now suffering from desertification.

Officials at the mine say it will draw from a deep aquifer and won't affect herders' wells, but Bat-Erdene doesn't believe it.

"Animals will be thirsty, people will be thirsty, it will be very hard," he says. Bat-Erdene supports his son's new career in what is becoming Mongolia's national industry. As to the dispute over water, he doesn't bring it up.

"It wouldn't change anything," Bat-Erdene says, "so we don't talk too much about it."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

NEWS: Mongolians Scramble For A Share Of Mining Wealth

Originally posted on NPR on May 23, 2012
by FRANK LANGFITT


Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Third of four parts

Ooarnkoyar Maikhuu spends 12 hours a day behind the wheel of a 60-ton dump truck hauling dirt from a giant, open-pit mine in the deserts of southern Mongolia. The 22-year-old single mother works at Oyu Tolgoi, which in a few years is expected to become one of the world's largest copper mines.

When she started working in the mine's cafeteria two years ago, Ooarnkoyar — Mongolians go by their first names — earned just $96 a month. Today, as a truck driver, she brings in nearly $1,400 a month, compared to the country's annual per capita GDP of about $2,500.

"I just got a loan on my salary and just bought a little plot of land," says Ooarnkoyar, whose work ensemble includes a white hard hat, gold hoop earrings and sparkly lip gloss. "When my son grows up, I want to move into Ulan Bator [Mongolia's capital] and buy an apartment, and I want my son to go to school there."

Credit: Nelson Hsu/NPR

Mongolia is in the midst of a mining boom and people like Ooarnkoyar are among the prime beneficiaries. Last year, the country's economy grew by more than 17 percent, nearly twice the pace of its southern neighbor, China.

Oyu Tolgoi is scheduled to produce its first copper ore next month, and as more mines open, they're providing good jobs in the country of nearly 3 million people, where about one-third of them scrape by on $1.25 a day.

Good Training, Tough Conditions

Thousands of young Mongolians have descended on Oyu Tolgoi to improve their lives. Oyu Tolgoi — which means Turquoise Hill in Mongolian and refers to the color of copper when it's exposed to oxygen — is more than 300 miles south of Ulan Bator, but it might as well be in the middle of nowhere.

The mine camp is a self-contained city of about 14,000 people surrounded by the lunar landscape of the Gobi, where the nearest neighbors are mostly camels, goats and sheep. Weather in the area features sandstorms, tornadoes and temperatures that drop to 40 below zero in winter and soar to 135 in the summer.

Tseren-ochir is a superintendent at Oyu Tolgoi mine who goes by the name "Augie" because it's easier for the foreigners he works with to pronounce. he is overseeing workers digging a nearly 5,000-foot-deep shaft down to reach the copper ore. - John W. Poole/NPR

The camp has two bank branches, a grocery store and a barbershop. In the evenings after work, miners play basketball outside and table tennis inside a Quonset hut.

From 7 to 9 p.m., the camp bar serves beer by the case beneath black lights. The clientele ranges from young Mongolian women just out of college to grizzled, 50-something miners from Australia.

Tseren-ochir, who says he is in his mid-30s, is a mine superintendent. He introduces himself as Augie, because it's easier for the foreigners he works with to pronounce.

He is directing workers to dig a nearly 5,000-feet-deep shaft straight down to reach the copper ore. Augie says Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines, the huge foreign mining companies that are majority owners of Oyu Tolgoi, provide great on-the-job training for Mongolian workers.

Peering into the giant shaft that plunges into the earth, Augie says 18- and 19-year-old men who came to Oyu Tolgoi five or six years ago are now "international miners."

"They can operate the latest technology underground. Those guys are fantastic," Augie says.

People work long stints at Oyu Tolgoi, and Augie is no different. His current rotation is 56 days on site, 14 days back home. He says the hardest part about his work is being away from his young family.

"I've got a 5-month-old baby," he says. "I miss her so much, but there's nothing to do" about it.

Augie makes about $24,000 a year, good money in Mongolia.

Privately, though, Mongolians complain that foreign workers from Canada and Australia with similar skills make at least three times more.

The Unofficial Gold Rush

Mining provides opportunities for Mongolian workers, but it also siphons away talent from other important industries — like tourism.

"We lose at least four people a year," says Batbayar Amgalanbayar, who runs Mongolian Expeditions and Tours in Ulan Bator.

Some Mongolians are striking out on their own. This kind of mining is technically illegal, but many Mongolians do it in order to supplement their incomes. A prospector in the South Gobi shows off the results of two days of labor — a good-sized palmful of pure gold nuggets. - John W. Poole/NPR

He says mining companies routinely poach his best drivers and translators. Mongolian Expeditions offers everything from horseback-riding trips to winter kite-skiing, but Batbayar says he has already had to turn away business this year because he couldn't staff some trips.

"I had to turn down jeep tours. I had to turn down canoeing tours. I had to turn down trucking tours," he says. "This is something that never happened before."

Workers in the Gobi who can't get hired by mining companies often strike out on their own. Mongolia has an estimated 70,000 illegal gold prospectors.

They're called "ninjas," a name a mining union leader says originates from the fact that they cover their mouths and heads with bandanas. Others say they earned the nickname because they carry mining pans on their backs and resemble TV's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A ninja prospecting camp looks like a scene out of the California Gold Rush, updated for the 21st century. In one ravine deep in the desert, miners park their minivans, SUVs and jeeps along a dry river bed.

After selecting a spot with the help of metal detectors, they dig pits with shovels, pickaxes, jackhammers and power drills. They pour soil through sifters until they find pebble-sized bits of gold or, in some cases, actual nuggets.

"We're finding lots of gold," says Batbildeg, a 30-year-old miner.

Various mining teams display their hauls, pouring small, yellow rocks out of tiny, white pill bottles. They say they can sell an ounce for about $150.

Batbildeg has been mining for two to three years.

"It's quite good. Last year, I made nearly $4,000," he says. "Before that, I used to be a herder. My livestock all died out."

Getting A Piece Of Mining Boom

Another prospector, Batbold Badrakh, hovers over his mine, a 4-foot-deep pit. He served as a soldier in the 1980s when Mongolia was a Soviet satellite, but has struggled since.

"I did look for jobs, but now I'm over 40, no one is going to hire me anyway," says Batbold, who wears a gray cap and has a lined face that looks a decade older than his 42 years.

"I tried with Oyu Tolgoi, but they won't hire me," he says. "First of all, my health is not good enough for them. And I have a family. And I can't leave them for a year."

Batbold can't lift heavy objects because he has a bad back, but he can still manage to run a sifter. That seems to be enough for the three other members of his crew, and it's the only way Batbold can get a small piece of the action that is Mongolia's mining boom.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NEWS: Mongolia's Dilemma - Who Gets The Water?

Originally posted on NPR on May 22, 2012
by FRANK LANGFITT


Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

Second of four part


The Central Asian nation of Mongolia has untold riches in copper, coal and gold, which could help many of its nearly 3 million people — more than one-third of whom live in poverty.

But mining is also reshaping Mongolia's landscape and nomadic culture. Camel and goat herders worry that new mega-mines will siphon off precious water in an area that's already suffering from the effects of climate change.

"My greatest fear is we won't have water. I don't care about the gold or the copper, I'm just afraid there won't be water." - Mijiddorj Ayur, whose livestock graze near Oyu Tolgoi mine

Mijiddorj Ayur, whose livestock graze near the Oyu Tolgoi mine, tends camels in a stretch of Mongolia's South Gobi province that's a moonscape of sand and gravel. He relies on the animals for meat, wool and milk, and they rely on hand-pumped well water to survive.

"When we come to the well, we can see the level of the well water is 8 inches lower than it used to be," says Mijiddorj, 76, who wears a golden, double-breasted robe called a deel and a brimmed felt hat.

Mijiddorj — Mongolians typically go by one name — says the well water has dropped in the last several years because of lower rainfall, while the grasslands are shrinking because of rising temperatures from climate change.

Now, he sees another potential threat: Oyu Tolgoi, a giant mine that will need huge amounts of water to process copper ore. The company has already drilled test wells near where Mijiddorj's camels drink.

"My greatest fear is we won't have water," he says. "I don't care about the gold or the copper, I'm just afraid there won't be water."

Threats To Traditional Herding

It's a worry echoing across South Gobi province, a mix of rocky desert and grassland where drought periodically wipes out herds. It's home to thousands of herders and about a million head of livestock.

Herder Mijiddorj Ayur, 76, stands outside his home in South Gobi, Mongolia. He worries about the effects a local mine will have on his livelihood. - John W. Poole/NPR

Officials from Oyu Tolgoi, which has been under construction since mid-2010, say the mine will draw water from a deep aquifer that won't affect wells like Mijiddorj's. But he and other herders are suspicious.

They have already felt mining's impact. Herders say mine trucks hit their animals and kick up dust that chokes pastureland. Indeed, almost all the roads in the area are dirt, and trucks trail plumes of dust so huge they look like they're on fire.

A herder named Chuluunbaatar says he's lost about 40 percent of the pastureland he uses, as well as many sheep, goats and camels, since Oyu Tolgoi built a nearby road a year and a half ago.

"Some of them died, because they were exhausted because there was not enough pasture," he says. He adds that he had to kill some dying animals and sell their meat in order to salvage some of their value.

A Question Of Compensation

Oyu Tolgoi — which means "Turquoise Hill" in Mongolian, a name that refers to the color copper turns when it's exposed to oxygen — is owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto and Canada's Ivanhoe Mines, as well as the Mongolian government.

The mine has offered herders compensation, including simple jobs helping livestock cross roads, in a country where per capita GDP is about $2,500, according to the Mongolia government.

Many herders have signed compensation agreements, but Myagmardorj Mijiddorj, a local government official, says some herders already working for the company complain of coercion.

The biggest risk we face is that we will be seen to be a land of plenty in a sea of stress. - Mark Newby, Oyu Tolgoi water adviser

"Oyu Tolgoi employs people for maybe $230 a month," says Myagmardorj. "When the people are reluctant to sign the contract, they say: 'You are an employee and you have to sign it or there will be measures.'"

In other words, Myagmardorj says, they'll be out of a job.

"We never forced them to sign the agreement," says Suugie Gonchigjantsan, who manages community relations for Oyu Tolgoi.

She denies that the company has pressured anyone and says the complaints are just a negotiating tactic.

"Some of the individuals really want to get more, more and more," Suugie says.

The company's compensation scheme is modest. One option, for instance, would provide an affected family with a $3,800 scholarship to put a child through college. In its first full year of operation, Oyu Tolgoi could produce about $900 million worth of gold and copper, according to company statistics.

So, why not give herders more money and quiet them down?

Suugie rules that option out. Any solution, she says, "has to be equal."

Credit: Nelson Hsu/NPR

Growing Competition For Water

Mark Newby, Oyu Tolgoi's principal adviser for water resources, says the company has monitored more than 100 herder wells in the area for years.

He says Oyu Tolgoi has found no connection between the herder wells, which go down as far as 30 feet, and the aquifer the mine will draw from, which begins about 150 feet below the surface.

At full capacity, the mine will pump about 180 gallons per second from the aquifer. If herders' wells are affected — which Newby says he seriously doubts — Oyu Tolgoi says it will fix the problem.

"In the very worst case, it would require the delivery of treated water to the herder," he says. "For a typical herd, that would require up to a truckload a day."

Newby says a bigger challenge may be managing perceptions and helping herders already struggling for water.

Once a wetland — one of the very few in the Gobi — this area has been drying up over the past several years, thanks to rising temperatures and lower rainfall. - 584213John W. Poole/NPR

"The biggest risk we face is that we will be seen to be a land of plenty in a sea of stress," he says.

Competition for water continues to grow across South Gobi province, which is about the size of Wisconsin. Outside the provincial capital of Dalanzadgad, local officials are at odds with Mongolia's central government and a nearby coal mine.

Two years ago, local officials designated a nearby seasonal lake as a protected area. Last year, the central government reversed the decision and said the coal mine could pump out water underneath the lake.

"That is the only fresh water source of this whole area," says Munkhjargal Batdorj, a local official. Munkhjargal says the central government has a stake in the mine — which like Oyu Tolgoi also has foreign ownership — and appears to be pursuing its own interests.

"The government is probably reversing its own decision because it's just not caring about the people," she says. "I think it's a rotten decision."

Who Benefits The Most?

Mining contributes heavily to both local and central government budgets, and residents complain that officials sometimes use the money to enrich themselves.

Rashboud Tumen, a grocer in Dalanzadgad, cites one local representative in particular.

He says the official had a Russian jeep and traded it in for a Toyota Land Cruiser 80. Then, a few months later, he traded that in for a Land Cruiser 105 — which an incredulous Rashboud notes costs $53,000.

More than 30 percent of Mongolians live on $1.25 a day.

"Animals die in the drought," he says. "You could have bought livestock for 10 families. You could have done so much good with that $53,000. What does a Land Cruiser 105 do for local people? Nothing."

As mines begin to pump more water from the Gobi, herders will be watching their wells and waiting. And as profits continue to pour into mineral companies, some Mongolians will continue to wonder what is in it for them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NEWS: Mineral-Rich Mongolia Rapidly Becoming 'Mine-golia'

Originally posted on NPR on May 21, 2012
by FRANK LANGFITT


Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.

First of four part
s

What country had the world's fastest-growing economy last year?

If you guessed China or India, you'd be wrong.

In fact, it's Mongolia: Its economy grew at more than 17 percent in 2011, according to estimates. That's nearly twice as fast as China's.

The reason — in a word — is mining.

Mongolia is rich in copper, coal and gold, and it's in the midst of a mineral boom. This marks a profound change for a country where two out of every five people make their living herding livestock. Extractive industry has become so pervasive, some Mongolians now refer to their homeland as "Minegolia."

For the poor, landlocked nation of fewer than 3 million people, mining represents a remarkable opportunity, but one that's also loaded with risks.

Credit: Nelson Hsu/NPR

Doubling GDP In A Decade

Much of the focus these days is on Oyu Tolgoi, a mega-mine in Mongolia's South Gobi province, about 50 miles north of the Chinese border.

The mine — owned by international mining giant Rio Tinto, Canada's Ivanhoe Mines and the Mongolian government — is scheduled to produce its first copper ore in June and grow dramatically over the next five years.

Cameron McCrae, Oyu Tolgoi's Australian chief executive, estimates that the mine will be the world's third-largest copper and gold mine.

The mine is playing a substantial economic role even before it's operational, McCrae notes.

"At the moment, during construction, we probably make up 30 percent of the GDP of the country," he says.

Tuvshintugs Batdelger, who runs an economic think tank at the National University of Mongolia, says mining is helping to drive the economy of this Central Asian nation at an incredible pace.

"In the coming 10 years, average GDP growth will be 12 percent," he says. Even when you factor in inflation, "GDP in real terms more than doubles in 10 years' time."

Opportunity In The Gobi

Mining's impacts are visible throughout much of Mongolia, which is wedged between China and Russia and is nearly the size of Alaska. Hummers roll past the Louis Vuitton store and columned Soviet facades in Ulan Bator, the capital. Thousands of young Mongolians have moved to the middle of the Gobi to work at Oyu Tolgoi, which means "Turquoise Hill" in Mongolian, a name that's derived from the color copper turns when exposed to oxygen.

The mine at Oyu Tolgoi, Turquoise Hill in Mongolian, will be one of the world's largest copper mines in about five years. An employee holds up a small sample of the oxidized copper that gave the mine its name.

The mining camp, a mix of prefab housing and gers, or yurts, feels like a cross between a boomtown and a college fraternity. John W. Poole/NPR

The Mongolian workers are mostly in their 20s. At a recent birthday celebration, they sing Mongolian pop songs at the camp bar.

Solongo Namjil is a self-described country girl from the Mongolian steppe. The 22-year-old came to Oyu Tolgoi six months ago to work as a clerk and sees the mine as a crucial opportunity for her country.

"Every Mongolian here is doing their best for this project, which is enormous to Mongolia's future," she says between sips of beer. "We all understand the significance of the project. We do hope that every Mongolian can benefit."

But Solongo — Mongolians go by their first names — worries about mining's broader impact, particularly in South Gobi province, and on the thousands of herders who live there. Many are struggling with water-supply issues, and the mines need huge amounts to operate.

"I'm really concerned about that," she says, "that there won't be enough water for our children and children's children."

Avoiding 'Dutch Disease'

Building an economy on minerals presents other problems as well. For one thing, the economy becomes dependent on commodity prices that fluctuate. When the price of copper crashed in late 2008 during the global financial crisis, Mongolia's government had to call in the International Monetary Fund for help.

Horses were first domesticated in the area that is Mongolia today. The original cowboys, Mongolians ride on wooden saddles and are some of the best horsemen in the world. They're a part of Mongolia's traditional culture, which is under pressure from the mining boom. John W. Poole/NPR

When prices for natural resources are high, they can cause other problems and strangle important domestic industries. Heavy demand drives up the value of a country's currency, which makes its exports more expensive and harder to sell.

Rogier van den Brink of the World Bank says that's what happened after the Netherlands discovered huge natural gas reserves in late 1959. The syndrome became known as "Dutch Disease." Van den Brink, who is Dutch himself, remembers the damage.

"As a boy growing up in Holland, the impact of this was very stark to me," he says. "Sectors of the economy that we long had pride in, like the shipbuilding industry, we had to close them down."

Today, van den Brink is the World Bank's lead economist in the East Asia and Pacific region. He has worked closely with the Mongolian government to enact a law to enforce government savings and control spending and borrowing so it might avoid what happened in the Netherlands.

Threat To Traditional Industry

Landlocked Mongolia doesn't build ships, but it has other businesses that the mining boom could hurt. The Gobi cashmere company in Ulan Bator is already feeling the side effects. The firm turns raw cashmere from Mongolian goats into sweaters, jackets and shawls, and exports them to more than 40 countries.

Clothing designer Ariunaa Suri works in her office at the Gobi cashmere company in Ulan Bator. Before mining, cashmere was Mongolia's main export. John W. Poole/NPR

Mongolia's new mineral wealth drove inflation to more than 12 percent last year, forcing Gobi to raise workers' wages by one-third. Naranbaatar Davva, the company's 30-year-old chief operating officer, says raw material prices are up, too.

"Three years ago, we used to buy 3 kilograms of raw cashmere for $20," he says. "Today, this figure is $60."

Higher prices are good for Mongolian herders, but they cut into Gobi's profits. Naranbaatar says a special government policy is also undermining herders' incentive to work. This year — an election year — the government is giving citizens up to $770 each in one-time cash payments. It's essentially a mining dividend and, for many Mongolians, a lot of money.

"Livestock herding is almost a 16-hour-a-day job. It's a hard job, so you don't see many young herders anymore," he says. "Plus, the government gives out free cash."

Naranbaatar says mining brings many benefits to Mongolia. He just hopes people don't lose sight of an old, reliable industry like his.

"Mining resources are not renewable. Depending on the reserves, it may last 20, 50 or 100 years," he says. "If we use the right policies and preserve our nomadic herding traditions, many people will be employed in the Mongolian cashmere industry for hundreds and thousands of years."

Question Of Distributing The Wealth

Back at the bar at Oyu Tolgoi, it's closing time. Workers pour outside and continue to drink beneath street lights.

Many Mongolians worry that mineral companies and politicians will be the greatest beneficiaries of the mining boom. Solongo, the clerk, hopes some of her nation's new riches are used to improve the hard lives many Mongolians face.

"There is lots of poverty in Mongolia, almost 40 percent, which is unbelievable with this natural resource," she says. "We should find the right way to distribute the benefit of this resource to everyone. They deserve it."

Monday, May 21, 2012

NEWS: BBC Sports: Mongolia Rising

Sangita Myska, a journalist of BBC, reports from Mongolia, a nation with a proud sporting heritage that is looking to build on its success at the Beijing Olympics. She meets the boxer who has moved from street fighting in the back streets of Ulaanbaatar to a gold medal in the Olympic boxing ring.



Friday, May 18, 2012

MV: Puss in Boots - 2011

Years before meeting Shrek and Donkey, the adorable but tricky Puss in Boots must clear his name from all charges making him a wanted fugitive. While trying to steal magic beans from the infamous criminals Jack and Jill, the hero crosses paths with his female match, Kitty Softpaws, who leads Puss to his old friend, but now enemy, Humpty Dumpty. Memories of friendship and betrayal enlarges Puss' doubt, but he eventually agrees to help the egg get the magic beans. Together, the three plan to steal the beans, get to the Giant's castle, nab the golden goose, and clear Puss' name.
Diablo Gato.
  • Diablo Gato” = [Spanish] Hell Cat
Just a fugitive from the law...forever running.
  • fugitive = someone who has done something illegal and is trying to avoid being caught by the police
Searching for a way to clear my name.
  • to clear someone's name = to prove that someone did not do something that they were accused of
One leche, please.
  • leche = [Spanish] milk
Perhaps you gentlemen can help me find a simple score?
  • score = [slang] The proceeds of a crime
A heist like this could set you up for life.
  • heist = an organized attempt by thieves to steal something
We'd like a complimentary continental breakfast.
  • complimentary = if something is complimentary, you do not have to pay for it
And don't even think about skimpin' on them baby muffins.
  • to skimp = to not use or provide enough of something
No hablo inglés.
  • No hablo inglés” = [Spanish] I don't speak English
You just cost me a chance at getting the golden eggs, mi amigo.
  • mi amigo” = [Spanish] My friend
Put up your dukes.
  • put up your dukes” = put up your fists and let's fight
Señorita, wait!
  • Señorita = [Spanish] Miss
Maldito huevo.
  • Maldito huevo” = [Spanish] Cursed Egg.
I had the magic beans in my grasp, and you sent this very attractive devil woman to interfere.
  • grasp = a very tight hold of someone or something
...you of all people know that nobody's ever ripped off the giant's castle...
  • to rip off (someone) = to steal something
How long are you gonna hold a grudge?
  • grudge = a feeling of anger toward someone because they have done something to you that does not seem right or fair
There is one teeny, tiny, itty-bitty problem.
  • teeny = [slang] tiny
  • itty-bitty = [slang] little bit
Silencio.
  • Silencio = [Spanish] Silence!
If you're going to blow your top, you blow your horn instead, right?
  • to blow your top = to get very angry
There was something about this strange little egg that intrigued me.
  • to intrigue (someone) = to make someone very interested in knowing more about something, especially something that seems
Just one of her golden eggs...could set me for life.
  • to set (someone) up for life = to become rich
Gracias, Comandante.
  • Gracias = [Spanish] Thank you
  • Comandante = [Spanish] Commander
Pequeño.
  • Pequeño = [Spanish] small, little, young
Freeze!
  • Freeze = Stop
And I get it now. I got greedy and desperate and I let you down.
  • greedy = wanting more money, things, or power than you need
I was just a stray......but I had beautiful claws.
  • stray = a pet that is lost or has left its home
Humpty! Be quiet! I'm hyperventilating!
  • to hyperventilate = to breathe very fast in a way that is not normal
Look at this. It's egg paradise.
  • paradise = a perfect place or situation
I'm calling it a night, guys.
  • to call it a night = to say you are quitting for the night and going to bed to sleep.
Oh, yeah, I set you up. Of course.
  • to set (someone) up = arrange a situation so that someone is blamed for doing something illegal
Revenge.
  • Revenge = something that you do to hurt or punish someone because they have hurt you or someone else
It is for my glaucoma.
  • glaucoma = a serious disease of the eyes that can make you blind
No, no. Don't stop on my account.
  • Don't stop on my account.” = Don't stop because of me.
Step aside.
  • Step aside = Step to one side, step out of the way
Past Movie word lists can be found
at Movie Vocabulary link at the top of the page

FYI: Free Online Summer Classes

Originally posted on Lifehacker.com titled: Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U

Your education doesn't have to stop once you get out of school—being free of the classroom just means you have more control over what you learn and when you learn it. Let's get started.

Whether you're just finishing the spring semester, or you're out of school and just want to keep learning and growing, there are an incredible amount of free, university-level courses that become available on the web every school year, and anyone with a little time and a passion for self-growth can audit, read, and "enroll" in these courses for their own personal benefit. Schools like Yale University, MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and many more are all offering free online classes that you can audit and participate in from the comfort of your office chair, couch, or computing chair-of-choice.

This list of available courses this summer will inspire you, challenge you, open the door to something new, and give you the tools to improve your life. Grab your pen and paper and make sure your battery is charged—class is in session!

Computer Science and Technology
Codecademy - free development/programing tutorials
Intro to Computer Science | Programming Methodology
UC Berkeley - Computer Science 10
Udacity - CS 101: Building a Search Engine
Computer Science 171: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Stanford - iPad and iPhone App Development

Finance and Economics
The Road to Financial Security
Utah State University - Family Finance
Preparing Your Finances for Times of Disaster
ECON 101: International Trade
MIT - Economic History of Financial Crises

Science and Medicine
Tufts University - Physics for Humanists
Imperial College of London - Physics
Astronomy 103: Introduction to Planetary Astronomy
Astronomy 104: Introduction to Stellar Astronomy
Principles of Human Nutrition
BIMM 134: The Biology of Cancer
Sexual Health, HIV/STI, and Human Rights

Mathematics
The Open University - Math Everywhere
MIT - Problem Solving Seminar
The Open University - All of the Fun of The Fair

Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
Computer Games & Simulations for Investigations & Education
The Open University - Identity in Question
Anthropology 135A: Religion and Social Order
MIT - Classics in Western Philosophy
Criminology, Law, and Society 219: Hate Crimes
MIT - How to Stage a Revolution

Law
Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict
Theft: A History of Music

Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
CS 373: Programming a Robotic Car
MIT - Inventions and Patents
Carnegie Mellon University - Logic and Proofs
Emory University - Emory Looks at Mad Men
University of South Florida - Social Media

If you're looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.
  • Academic Earth has an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world's smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
  • TED talks are well known for being interesting, intelligent, inspiring and informative.
  • Education-Portal.com has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes
  • Open Culture's list of free online courses is by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School's website.
  • The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web.
  • The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills.
  • The University of Reddit is a set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin.
  • iTunes U hosts podcasts, seminars, lectures, and full collections of entire courses from universities around the globe, including many of the ones listed above.
  • The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer, building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FYI: Ulaanbaatar: City of Nomads

I found this series of movies and it does a good job of show what Ulaanbaatar is like now.

City of Nomads is a story that has never been told, of a city the world has forgotten, and ultimately, it is a story of hope, providing practical new solutions developed by the World Bank, to help the people of Ulaan Baatar create a better world for their children.







Monday, May 14, 2012

FYI: Everyday, think as you wake up...

A Precious Human Life

Every day, think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up,
I am alive, I have a precious human life,
I am not going to waste it,
I am going to use
all my energies to develop myself.
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for
The benefit of all beings,
I am going to have kind
thoughts toward others,
I am not going to get angry,
or think badly about others,
I am going to benefit others
as much as I can.


H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MV - We Bought a Zoo - 2011


Benjamin has lost his wife. In a bid to start his life over, he purchases a large house that has a zoo. This is welcome news for his daughter, but his son is not happy about it. The zoo is need of renovation and Benjamin sets about the work with the head keeper, Kelly, and the rest of the zoo staff. But, the zoo soon runs into financial trouble. The staff must get the zoo back to it's former glory, pass a zoo inspection, and get it back open to the public.


Word List:

I believe you should court the girl we met at Jamba Juice.
  • to court = to date
She's a stunner.
  • stunner = [slang] very beautiful
Yeah, looks like Bernie's closed for renovations.
  • renovations = to make something old look new again by repairing and improving it, especially a building
No, I'm not gonna sit around here and spin my wheels...
  • spin my wheels” = working but not going anywhere or getting anything done
A whimsical portraiture of recycling.
  • whimsical = funny
I'm sorry. We have to expel Dylan.
  • to expel someone = to officially force someone to leave a place or organization because of their bad behavior
Substantial, you know, just rolling hills.
  • substantial = large in amount or degree
  • rolling hills = rolling land has gentle slopes continuing for a long distance
Well, actually, the estate is sellin' the property with the stipulation that whoever comes on board and buys the property is going to care and maintain these endangered animals.
  • stipulation = something that is allowed or what is necessary
  • come on board” = to join some group or be hired to a company
The kids are gonna be so psyched.
  • to be psyched = to be excited
Tigers don't growl or roar, they chuff.
  • growl = makes a frightening or unfriendly low noise
  • roar = makes a loud deep sound
  • chuff = sound tigers make to say hello to each other, also to tell you they're in a good mood
Rickety posts.
  • rickety = structure is likely to break if you put any weight on it, often because it is old
I'm pathetic!
  • pathetic = useless or not effective in an annoying way
Not bad. Actually, they're... They're pretty docile.
  • docile = well-behaved, quiet, and easy to control
There is a new shipment of exotic snakes, so just leave them in the travel crates and I'll put them in the exhibit in the morning.
  • crates = a large wooden box used for moving or storing goods
Dad, I have a sick amount of homework tonight.
  • sick amount” = [slang] a lot of
Well, I can see why you still carry the torch.
  • to carry a torch for someone” = to still be in love
She says you're a fraud.
  • fraud = something that is not what people claim it is, and is designed to trick people
10:00, this place'll be packed.
  • to be packed = to be full (of people)
You goofball.
  • goofball = [slang] a silly person


Past Movie word lists can be found
at Movie Vocabulary link at the top of the page

NEWS: One man creates 1,360 acre forest

Originally posted on TrueActivist.com May 9, 2012

Have you ever heard the saying “you have the power to make a difference”? Well, the following demonstrates how one person has proven this. Over 30 years ago, a young teenager by the name of Jadav “Molai” Payeng had an idea to turn a barren sandbar into a thriving oasis. With this vision in mind, he began planting seeds in this very same sandbar near his birth place of Assam, India. Soon thereafter, Payeng moved to the area in pursuit of fulfilling his dream of one day creating a forest out of land that was left for waste.

Fostering a dream

Over the next several years, Payeng spent many of his hours planting seeds, tending to the land and nurturing the growth. After 30 years of dedication, his hard work had finally been rewarded. Not only has Payeng successfully transformed an area that was once considered by many, including the forest department, to be unsuited for planting, but he actually created a 1,360 acre forest. Can you imagine that!

How it all began

The Times India recently sat down with Payeng to discover how his lifelong project had all started.

“It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.”

“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage . I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me. Nobody was interested,” says Payeng, now 47.

Creating an ecosystem

Guided by instincts, and convinced by will and reason to pursue his goal, Payeng had created not only a forest, but an ecosystem covered with lush greenery which now houses several animal species, including numerous birds, deers, rhinos, tigers, and elephants. The once deserted sandbars of Assam India are now a thriving ecosystem all thanks to the selfless efforts of a young man.

The area known today as the Molai woods is an example of compassion and dedication to all living things. Jadav “Molai” Payeng is considered by many today as a hero, even by the local forestry officials.

“We’re amazed at Payeng,” says Assistant Conservator of Forests, Gunin Saikia. “He has been at it for 30 years. Had he been in any other country, he would have been made a hero.”

Our goals may not be accomplished immediately, but if we allow time to nurture our actions, they have the potential to grow, and even flourish into beautiful manifestations. Always remember that our actions, no matter how small they may appear, make a difference in the world. Never cease believing in yourself and one another.

Word List:

  • to demonstrate: to show someone how to do something by doing it yourself
  • to nurture: to provide the necessary conditions for something to grow and develop
  • unsuited: not the right type of person or thing
  • carnage: a situation in which there is a lot of death and destruction
  • manifestation: evidence that something exists or is present
  • to cease: to stop happening or continuing

Want to do more?
Join MyClub "Save the Trees"
Several thousand students have united to plant trees around UB.

  • Save the Mongolian nature
  • Reforestation of desert in Mongolia
  • Recover the nature
  • Increase every civil ecology education.