Strategy on strategic mineral missing

27th of 9, 2012
By N. Ariuntuya

The term “strategically important” in reference to certain mineral deposits has long been used in the laws of both Russia and Mongolia but there is considerable ambiguity in people’s mind about its intention and application. Some find the demarcation unnecessary, while others go so far as saying it is offensive, but the apparent justification behind identifying some deposits as strategic is to facilitate distribution of profits made from mineral resources among the people, with the State regulating the whole process.

The two appendices to the State Great Khural Decree No.27 of 2007 cover the issue of strategically important deposits in Mongolia. The first lists 15 deposits as already accepted as strategically important while the second refers to another 39 deposits and asks the Government to first estimate their reserves accurately, and then to submit the findings to Parliament which will decide on whether any or all of them qualify to be termed strategically important. The language of the decree makes it clear that the list is not final and sacrosanct. If the reserve in a deposit is exhausted, it loses its place on the list and, by the same logic, if a new deposit with appropriate reserves is discovered, it can be added to the list. It is up to Parliament to do either.

However, nothing has been done in the five years since the decree to take its underlying concept forward. The Government has not published any detail of the 39 candidate deposits. No one knows which ones, if any, of them are to join the list. In recent years, nearly 100 other deposits have had their reserve estimated, but there is no word on whether any of them qualifies for inclusion in the list. Nor has anything been heard about how much of a newly listed strategically important deposit will the State own, or how the profits from it will be distributed. These are issues that matter to the people and the total silence regarding them in the last five years has bred confusion and suspicion about the state’s intention. Also to be remembered is that there are no official guidelines on how strategic mines are to be run.

It is believed three considerations were taken into account when making the list of strategic mines under Decree No.27. These were: reserve amount, whether or not exploration had taken place with State funds and the criteria mentioned in a definition in the Minerals Law. This last goes like this: “Mines that have the capacity to affect national security, have an impact on the national and the local economy and social development, or produce or has the potential to produce more than 5 per cent of the GDP” will be taken to be strategically important mineral deposits.

There has always been criticism that Parliament passed the decree without any reference to professional opinion and the list was prepared on purely political grounds. In the five years since the decree, geological studies in Mongolia have been carried out exclusively by the private sector. It is widely held that application of the three criteria mentioned above will disqualify many of the 39 candidate deposits from ever being on the list as they have run out of reserves. On the other hand, several deposits where the exploration licences are owned by foreign-invested companies will have to be included, on the basis of the amount of reserves, verified by use of international standards, they have had to declare prior to listing on international stock exchanges. Many observers feel up to 60 mines will have to be transferred to full or partial State ownership if the criteria laid down by Decree 27 are to be enforced.

Regular readers would recall that MMJ reported the formation of a working group to study the issue of strategic mines. This group has recommended 10 new criteria for registering strategic mines, and has submitted its report to both the Minerals Professional Council and the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy. It is not known if the present three criteria are among the ten. The Minerals Authority is believed to favour stricter criteria, but both the Minerals Authority and the Ministry are tight-lipped, saying only that the matter is still under study and no definite decision has been taken yet. There are rumours that the list is certain to be expanded.

The Minerals Professional Council has started work on determining the exact boundaries of the strategic mines. Lack of accurate mapping has at times led to conflicting claims by holders of exploration licences but everything is expected to be resolved when the authorities complete the work.

At long last things seem to have started moving and Decree No.27 is possibly heading for implementation in letter and spirit. A new list of strategically important mines is very much on the cards. Once the Ministry approves and accepts the recommendations of the working group, they will be submitted to Parliament for discussion and final decision.

1. Ulaan-Ovoo coal mine

It is located inTushigsoum, Selenge aimag, 17 km from the Russian border, 120 km from Shaamar railway station and the Ulaanbaatar-Sukhbaatar road, and 430 km from Ulaanbaatar. Soviet geologists did the exploration work with State funds in the 1970s and estimated the deposit contained 280 million tons of good grade coal.

Toronto-registered Prophecy Coal Company is the sole owner of the mine. It started buying parts of the mine in 2006 and acquired 100% ownership in 2010, when operations were also started. Technical and economic evaluation work was done by Minarco-MineConsult of Australia. This put the total reserve of the mine at 208 million tons of which 174.5 million tons are Measured and 34.3 million tons Indicated. The mine’s annual capacity is estimated to be 6 million tons.

Since September 2011, Prophecy has sold and delivered 188,915 tons of thermal coal, including 8,055 tons to Russia, 23,543 tons to private Mongolian companies and 157,317 tons to government-owned power plants in Mongolia.

The company has contracts to deliver an additional 228,388 tons in 2012, the majority of which will be for the Darkhan and Erdenet power plants. Russian buyers have shown interest to buy a substantial quantity of UlaanOvoo coal but Prophecy is withholding sales to Russia pending the opening of the Zheltura border crossing and announcement of a revised export royalty scheme from the General Department of Taxation of Mongolia. It is optimistic that the Zheltura border will be opened soon. This will play a significant role in delivering Ulaan-Ovoo coal to Russia and to South East Asian countries through the trans-Siberian railway.

Prophecy is currently doing exploration work in Zheltura area besides its coal project in Ulaan-Ovoo mine.

2. OvdogHudag coal mine

It is in Bayanjargalan and Undurshil soums of Dundgovi aimag and the exploration was done with State funds during socialist times. It is located not far from the Ulaanbaatar-Sainshand railway. The initial estimate of reserves was 169.2 million tons, but a re-estimation in 2011 raised this to 324.9 million tons. TaliinShigtgee LLC owns the mining licence and is currently operating the mine.
During studies on coal liquefaction it was found that the coal from OvdogHudag is one the best in Mongolia for this purpose.  The mine has the advantage of being located alongside the railway to be constructed to TavanTolgoi and OyuTolgoi deposits.

3. Bayanteeg coal mine

Located in Nariinteel soum, Uvurkhangai aimag, this mine is 130 km from the aimag center and 560 km from Ulaanbaatar. The deposit was discovered in 1961 and exploration took place in 1978.

Bayanteeg Shareholding Company is the owner. The company established the mine in 1962 with an annual output capacity of 25,000 tons of coal and has been supplying nearby soums with coal since then. Now it also delivers coal to Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai and Bayankhongor aimags. A fresh re-estimation put the Bayanteeg mine reserves at 29.6 million tons, of which 4.6 million tons have so far been extracted.

The mine covers 584 hectares and the exploration licence number is MV-00367. The State plans to build a 40-MW power plant based on Bayanteeg mine. There is also talk of building a medium-size coal-to-gas plant in Bayanteeg as part of the first phase of the Coal Project which ends in 2015.

4. NuurstKhotgor thermal coal mine

This is in Bukhmurun soum, Uvs aimag and as a big mine it has a significant role to play in the development of the western area. It supplies coal to Uvs and Bayan-Ulgii aimags.

State-owned Korea Coal Corp. bought 51per cent of the total shares of the mine for $10 million in December 2010.

With a big reserve of 109 million tons in NuurstKhotgor open mine, it would be possible to operate the mine for 30 to 40 years even if the annual production capacity is increased. The mine was officially opened in 2011, and from this year, the company’s annual sales target is 300,000 tons, gradually rising to more than 1 million tons. Korea Coal is confident of finding buyers in Russia’s Tuva and Altay and China’s Xinjiang.

The total area the mine covers 128.7 sq km. The unexplored areas are also expected to hold a big reserve, and if this indeed turns out to be true, NuurstKhotgor might become a world class coal mine.

Canada- and Mongolia-invested Mongolia Minerals Company has bought a coal mine in the Khotgor coalfield. A company statement says: “We are working on the Technical and Economic Evaluation of our project. Once this is done, we plan to construct a 325-km road to Dayant port, Bayan-Ulgiiaimag and deliver the coal to Xinjiang, China. There Mongolian coal is to be used for energy and as well as industry.”

Nearly ten companies own mining licences in the NuurstKhotgor coalfield.

5. KharTarvagatai coal mine

Located in Umnugovi and Tarialan soum areas in Uvs aimag, this mine has over 23 million tons of reserve. It is 90 km from the Tarialan soum center. The socialist regime choseto develop this mine to supply coal to three nearby soums and to the border post. The mine has been in operation since 1964 and delivers coal to Uvs and Khovd aimags. There is a plan to build a power plant based on the mine, and there are proposals to arrange for transporting coal from Khotgorshanaga, Uvs aimag and KharTarvagatai mine to Dayant port in Bayan-Ulgiiaimag in the future.

As layers above the coal in KharTarvagatai are thin, it is possible to use it as an open mine. It is also possible that a fresh study will increase the reserve amount.

6. Aduunchuluun thermal coal mine

It is located 6 km from Choibalsan city, Dornod, 665 km to the east of Ulaanbaatar and 100 km from the Mongolia-China border.It was discovered in 1951 and 1952during a Soviet-led study of uranium mineralisation near Bayanbulag mine, 16 km from Aduunchuluun. It has 423.8 million tons of reserve. Apart from this estimation in 1962, several other studies have been made here. These include hydrogeological studies in 1965 and 1981, an industrial geological study in 1975, and a detailed geological exploration in 1988 and 1989 which determined the geological border of the mine.

Small-scale extraction began in 1955, mainly to supply coal to households, and over the years until 1966, annual output rose from 2,000 tons to 11,000 tons. The capacity kept on being increased little by little and starting in 1979, the mine has been extracting 600,000 tons a year, which makes it one of the biggest mines of the country.

The mine supplies theDornod area with coal. The operating company became a State-owned Stock Company in 1995, and in 1999 it was fully privatized, the first such mine to earn that status. Currently, Aduunchuluun Co. operates another coalfield next to Aduunchuluun, under a joint operation contract with its owner, Naingi LLC.

MAK owns the exploration licence on the area that surrounds the coalfields owned by Aduunchuluun and Naingi.  It is economically unprofitable to transport thermal coal from Aduunchuluun to local and foreign markets because the coal is high in moisture and low in calorific value. MAK conducted tests in Germany and Australia to dry the coal from Aduunchuluun and make briquettes of high calorific value. These were successful and MAK now plans to build a coal briquette plant based on output at Aduunchuluun with an annual capacity of 1 million tons of briquette.

The company also plans to build a plant near Aduunchuluun capable of producing 400,000 tons of gas from coal.  The gas will be equal to regular 92 fuel and will meet 40 per cent of the domestic demand. It could even be exported at a competitive price. Just one part of Aduunchuluun has 283.7 million tons of coal, enough to supply the planned fuel plant for 47 years. The coalfield of which MAK owns the exploration licence has 400 million tons of thermal coal reserve and detailed exploration is still to be completed.

The mine is 254 km by railway from Russia’s Solovyevsk port and 130 km by road from Arkhashaat border port of China. The State Property Committee has plans to build a 100-MW power plant in Dornod aimag and is looking for investors. This plant will use 909,100 tons of thermal coal a year and produce 521.2 million KW energy per hour. The proposed plant is to use coal from Aduunchuluun, which is only 7 km away and is connected by road. The mine is connected by railway to Bayantumen railway station, 5.5 km away.

7. TevshiinGovi thermal coal mine

This mine in Saintsagaan soum, Dundgoviaimag, has 923.2 million tons of coal, making it the country’s second biggest deposit after TavanTolgoi, which is 300 km to its south. The reserve estimate was made by Russian and Mongolian geologists. The mine was established in 1990 by the order of the Ministry, and since then it has been extracting 50,000 tons of coal annually.

Now 100 per cent privatised,the mine operates as TevshiinGoviLLC. It supplies Dundgovi aimagcentre, Erdenedalai, Luuz, Delgertsogt, DerenAdaatsag soums and some soums of Tuv aimag, as also the eastern part of Mandalgovi city with thermal coal. Even with its huge reserve, TevshiinGoviis at a disadvantage because of its isolated location. Its coal is also not top grade.

8. Talbulag thermal coal mine

This mine in Sukhbaatar soum, Sukhbaatar aimag was opened in 1970 and privatised in 1997 with ownership going toTaliin Gal Company. The establishment of the Tumurtiin Ovoo processing plant helped the mine increase its output by 50 per cent, as it sells 15,000 tons of coal to the plant every year.

This coalfield is 35 km from the Sukhbaatar aimag centre where another coal mine has started operating. Engui Tal LLC is using the latest technology in its extraction and a new mine established last year is able to supply all the coal needs of Sukhbaatar aimag. The mine has some10 million tons of coal and annual output is estimated to be around 60,000 tons. 

9. Chandgana Tal coal mine

Chandgana Tal is 25 km east of Murun soum centre, Khentii aimag, and 53 km east of aimag center Undurkhaan.  It was discovered in the course of a Russian geological survey in 1941 and explored in detail in 1962 and 1963. The mine was opened in 1967 and extracted up to 20,000 tons of coal every year which went toUndurkhaan city and nearby soums. Several companies own exploration licences in this coalfield with a total reserve of 1.2 billion tons.
Chandgana Coal Project, invested 100 per cent by Canada’s Prophecy Coal, is part of this coalfield. It lies in the northeastern end of the basin and its two licences control a Measured resource of 141 million tons.
The mines are located 9 km from each other and The mines are located 9 km from each other and have access to infrastructure, being close to habitation, roads and power transmitting lines. Chandgana is connected to Ulaanbaatar and the railway by paved road, which gives it direct access to both China and Russia. Chandgana Tal coal project owns mining licence over 32 hectares of land and exploration licence over 300 hectares.

Prophecy obtained full mining licence of the deposit in February, 2011 from the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia. In November, it received the licence from the Mongolian Energy Regulatory Authority to construct the 600-MW Chandgana power plant. The proposed plant will use 2.4 million tons of coal from Chandgana Tal mine every year. When the power plant is expanded, the coal will come from theChandganaKhavtgai mine which has 1.05 billion tons of reserves.

Prophecy considers it will make more sense to produce and sell power rather than coal.

10. KhuutiinKhonkhor thermal coal basin

Not far from the Ulaanbaatar-Sainshand railway, this mine is in Bayanjargalan soum, Dundgovi aimag and holds 104.2 million tons of coal.It was discovered as a result of State funded survey work between 1954 and 1980.
MAK owns a mining licence over 1,444 hectares in Khuut’s oil shale and coalfield, with estimated reserves of 487 million tons of oil shale and 190 million tons of coal. Detailed exploration continues to take place. With help from companies from China, Canada, Estonia and Brazil MAK has been experimenting with producingsyn-oil from oil shale. MAK hopes the detailed exploration and semi-plant experiments and the feasibility study will be complete soon. The company has also conducted studies to extract gas products similar to oil from oil shale. These have revealed that Khuut and Eedemt mines have high grade organic substances.

11. Khuut thermal coal mine

This is in Matad soum, Dornod aimag, and wasdiscovered by geologists led by A.Damiran during State-funded exploration from 1973 to 1979. It is now operated by BumanOlz Co. Last year, 120,000 tons of thermal coal was extracted. There is a plan to build a patent fuel plant based on Khuut coal. A paved road from the mine to Bichigt port is under consideration and will greatly help transport mineral products.

12. Nalaikh coal mine

During its heyday, the mine employed 1200 workers and 200 engineers, but after decades of extraction, it was closed down in January, 1995, with the Minister of Fuel and Energy citing “difficult technical conditions” for his order. Exploration had been conducted with State funds, but even earlier, during the regime of the BogdKhaan, Chinese were busy manually extracting coal, and transporting it to IkhKhuree, the former capital city. Mongolia’s very first big mine was in place by 1920, butthe People’s Government in 1922 cancelled all licences granted to foreigners during the Autonomous regime and also imposed a tax on every owner of mineral resources in the territory of Mongolia. In December that year, the Nalaikh mine was registered as the first Mongolian coal mine, and its job was to supply the capital city. Technological upgrading and expansion between 1954 and 1958 made Nalaikh into a major mining centre.

Since its official closure, miners working individually or in groups have continued to dig for coal in what remains of the mine, and more than 2,000 people work in 300 holesto bring some coal out, at considerable risk to their lives. Most of them do the work manually without any licence.
The initial exploration by Mongolian and Russian geologists put the reserve in Nalaikh at 75 million tons, of which 15 million tons were extractable. A 1978 survey made with Russian funds and using the most detailed 6-phase exploration technique showed that the reserves might be more. Nearly 25 million tons of coal was mined at Nalaikh during its 50 years of life.That still leaves about 50 million tons. Assuming that the annual demand of small and medium enterprises and citizens of the capital city will be 1.5 million tons a year, the mine should be able to supply this for 30-50 years.

The Nalaikh coal basin has three parts. The central part is exhausted but the eastern and western parts are almost untouched. More than 60 per cent of the reserve is in the western part. Mining in the eastern end may not be possible because it is too close to the river. There is a brick kiln in that area now.

The surrounding area is rich with minerals such as gold, silver, white gold, iron, aluminium, tin, crystal, pure crystal, spar and lime.

13. Alagtogoo coal basin

Basic exploration of the deposit in Dalanjargalan soum, Dornogovi aimag was conducted with State funds but geologists from MAK did additional work in 1998. The same year, work started in the mine and coal transportation to the Power Plant No.2 in Ulaanbaatar began. The foundation of an open mine was laid in Eldev area of the Alagtogoo coal basin in 2000 and two years later, the first coal from Eldev was transported via the railroad. That year’s output was 256,842 tons of coal and the Eldev mine is still in operation. The licence covers 420.3 hectares of which 151 hectares are presently workable.

14. Zeegt brown coal mine

The exploration work on this mine in Chandmanisoum, Gobi-Altai aimag was done with State funds during the Soviet regime. Gobi Coal and Energy Company now runs the mine which earlier supplied coal to nearby soums.
The present owner is a foreign invested company registered in the Virgin Islands. It obtained Licence 905A for 25 hectares of land on Zeegt deposit in 1997. It later obtained two more licences -- 11965A and 14217A -- for Sharkhooloi site of the deposit in 2006. Soil removal at Zeegt was done in 2010 and 5,900 tons of coal extracted and sold locally in the aimag. The technical and economic feasibility study of the Zeegt mine was approved this year. Of the 93 million tons estimated by Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC), 64 million tons of reserve is confirmed. The company also has exploration licence 009761 for 663.49 hectares at a site called Zeegt Bosom which is valid until next year. The company hopes to begin the project in 2014, and plans to offernew shares on the Toronto Stock Market to gain additional finance in the second half of this year. 
A few other companies also have exploration licences on the Zeegt deposit. Gobi Consolidated LLC has exploration licence XV-016740 for 857.49 hectares at Zeegt Bosom. Tephys Mining LLC has four exploration licences that are valid until 2014: XV-009422 for 5058.6 hectares at Zeegt-2, XV-009422 for 2683.92 hectares at Zeegt-2-3, XV-013804 for 2117.23 hectares at Zeegt-2-2, and XV-013805 for 4489.72 hectares at Zeegt-2-1.
The coal layer is 16 m thick on average and additional coal reserves have been detected near Zeegt. Drilling work is planned to begin this year.

15. Mogoingol coal mine

This mine in Tsesterleg soum, Khuvsgul aimag, 223km to the west of Murun, was discovered by the Geological Exploration Unit of Khuvsgul aimag in 1967-1970. Geological Expedition Unit IX from Ulaanbaatar estimated 15,508,600 tons of coal reserve for Russian “J” standard in 1976-1978. The detailed calculation of the reserve amount is 16 million tons of A+B-1, 2.89 million tons of C1 and 4.06 million tons of A+B+C1. This is the actual reserve amount which can be extracted. The estimated reserve left for further exploration was calculated as 11.44 million tons of C2. The area was re-explored in 1992 and a new coal reserve found at the east continuation of Mogoingol mine along the layer strip. 

The mine was put into operation in 1971. The deposit area covers 66,000 hectares. Mine life was estimated at 30 years. The mine supplies coal to Zavkhan and Khuvsgul aimags. It is 51 percent locally owned and operates seasonally using 10 percent of the output capacity, selling over 10,000 tons of coal annually. The operation licence MV-000384 covers 89.73 hectares and exploration licence XV-013841 covers 85.21 hectares. It was estimated at the beginning of 2009 that 2.207 million tons of coal had so far been produced and 11.441 million tons were still left.

Chinese-invested Shine Asia Mining Group has started building a 60-MW thermal power station based on the deposit. The company obtained all the necessary permits after signing a build-use-carry over concession agreement with the State Property Committee.

All over Mongolia big deposits, particularly of coal, have been divided and licensed out in parts. Several of the 39 candidates hold such licences, including at Mogoingol deposit. The core deposit was discovered during the Soviet days and now new deposits with huge reserves are being found around it. One of them is Ovoot project of Aspire Mining Company registered on the Australian Stock Market where it trades as ASX:AKM. It has 11 licences in Mongolia. Ovoot is the only one among them to have announced exploration results.It is located 160 km to the west of Murun and has 3 licences covering over 500 sq km. There is 275.7 million tons of coking coal as confirmed reserve while JORC estimates put the total reserve at 330.7 million tons. Some 75 percent of the coal goes down to a depth of 250 m. This means large-scale open mining can be done and the deposit is being prepared for production.

State funds were used for exploration work on the part of the Mogoingol basin which is now the Ovoot deposit. Several locally owned companies feel the Ovoot deposit should therefore be considered part of the Mogoingol mine.  

16. Saikhan-Ovoo coal mine

This is located 22km to the northwest of Saikhan soum, Bulgan aimag. Geogical structure is composed of middle Yuri age moraine. Geological assessment and drilling work were done in the central areas of the deposit in 1987-1999 and 34.7 million tons of coal was estimated with layers under solid rocks in a stretched shape. Saikhan-Ovoo coal is of J catergory and has 21.7% ashflow, 10-46% volatile substance, 0.6% sulphur and 5000-6000cal/kg calorific value.

Exploration work was done with State funds before 1990 and an underground mine covering 14 hectareswas built at the north side of Mt. Saikhan to produce coal to meet local needs. The coal was supplied to soums in Arkhangai, Khuvsgul and Bulganaimags.
Chinese-invested SMI LLC obtained an operation licence for 1,230 hectares in the south of Mt. Saikhan from a Mongolian company. SMI, registered in the British Virgin Islands,holds two licences -- MV-011985 for 1229.15 hectares and MV-002366 for 39.36 hectares. The operation licence was suspended in 2008 because of nonpayment of fees, but it seems the company has got it back. At that time there were protests from the local council of Bulgan aimag that the mine touched their mountain of worship and offering. The local council says 14 licenceshad then been given on Mt Saikhan-Ovoo.

Asian Coal Ltd., registered on the Hong Kong Stock Market, has an operation licence on Saikhan-Ovoo deposit with an estimated JORC reserve of 190 million tons. Their first-half report this year says that no work was done on the project for financial constraints. Some 500,000 tons of coal have so far been produced.

17. Bargilt iron ore mine

The mine is in Darkhan soum, Khentii aimag, 280km from Ulaanbaatar and 18km from Bor-Undur’s concentrate factory. When it was listed in 2007 as one of the 39 candidates, it was not registered in the state mineral reserve. Registration had been refused because its exploration work was incomplete, failing to meet the criteria given for exploration of iron ore, iron and other related elements during the exploration work done by Erel Geophysics Complex Expedition in 1984-1987. That time the reserve amount was estimated to be 31 million tons of C2.

The main parts of the deposit are owned by the Mongol-Russian Joint Venture Mongolrostsvetmet LLC. The deposit’s reserve amount, estimated in 2009-2010, stands at 23 million tons confirmed out of a total of 43 million tons. It is now being prepared for operation after a technical and economic feasibility study. The plan is to produce iron ore using the magnet enrichment method. Production is to start this year. The plan is to produce 2 million tons of iron ore and a million tons of concentrate annually.

Golden Zone International LLC did some exploration on Y-V and YI-C blocks of the east part of the ore area before transferring the licence to Chinese-invested LutChuluu Company. The license was issued in 2007 and sold in 2010. LutChuluu has the right to do 25 years of exploration. The mine annually exports 250 million tons of iron ore got from 84 hectares by the drilling-explosion-excavation-transport-dump method.

TsakhirTsagaanGol Company also has an exploration licence for 1283.75 hectares on this deposit.

18. Tugrugnuur’s coal mine

This deposit of brown coal is in Bayan soum, Tuvaimag, 130km from Ulaanbaatar. Brown coal from the cretaceous age is found from Baganuur to Shivee-Ovoo. This particular deposit is part of the Choir-Nyalga basin, an area that has not been fully explored yet.

The deposit covers 20-30 sq. km. Geologists estimated its reserve amount as 3 billion tons of brown or energy coal of C2+P-3118 million tons during exploration done in the 1980s. The deposit is not registered in the state mineral reserve but is listed in Appendix II of strategically important deposits because of its estimated reserve. Altogether 14 companies own licences on the deposit, including TugrugNuur Energy, Tugrug Gal, TNE, MonrospromUgoli, TegshSaikhan, TsaidamNuur, Tsetsens Mining, Adams Mining and TCL. Area scales and coal reserves for each company are different. There are only two companies doing small scale exploitation and some others are in the process of getting ready. Some other companies havenot done any work at all. Therefore there is no specific information about confirmed reserve estimate inTugrugnuur’s group deposit.

Among the licence-holding companies TugrugNuur Energy is the best known and has licences MV-000228, MV-013533, MV-013553 and MV-015429. The area which the licences cover is called Takhilt and exploration was done in 2005-2008. The company has 1000 hectares from where 68 million tons of coal has been confirmed by the Minerals Professional Council. The State spent MNT113,358 on exploration in Takhilt in 1983 and TugrugNuur Energy repaid the State the required $21,480. The technical and economic feasibility study of a mine in Takhilt area was approved in 2008 and 61 million tons of usable reserve was recorded.

Output from Tugrugnuur group deposit does not meet the standards for thermal coal, and the company is studying how best to use it. They have already built a factory to test produce semi-coked processed coal. They are also doing research on coal gasification, processing and liquefaction. Products from the Tugrugnuur group deposit can be sold at inexpensive prices if energy and transportation issues are solved. 

19. Narantolgoi Gold mine

This is located in Jargalant soum, Tuv aimag, 120 km from Ulaanbaatar. It is in the middle of a crop field 5 km from the soumcentre and covers 375 hectares of land. Between 1974 and 1980, a German-Mongolian joint expedition did exploration work on the site and estimated the reserve amount at В+С1-3158.5 kg and С2-5219.2 kg.

Boroo Gold LLC bought the licence of the mine from BorooMine in 1997. Since then it has changed hands at least four times and the present holder, Chinese invested Ten Hun LLC.,bought it from VostokErdes LLC in 2005, along with the operation licence. Ten Hun belongs to Zijin Mining Group of China and is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Zijin Mining Group is a leading gold refiner in China. As our readers may recall, four years ago, it was convicted of spilling mercury in Ulaanbaatar and its operational licence was suspended temporarily.

The reserve at Narantolgoi amounts to 22 tons and Ten Hun expects to operate the mine for 15 years. It has a processing plant.

20. Tavt gold mine

The mine consists of strips that have gold-silver-copper ingredient. It is in Teshig soum, Bulgan aimag, 540 km from Ulaanbaatar. Russian geologists discovered the site in 1986-1988 and estimated the reserve amount to be 130 tons of gold ore and 370 tons of silver. According to their estimate, the gold reserve amount is С1+С2-1647 kg.

The mine is based on the main gold mine in the northern part of Mongolia and is owned by a Russian-Mongolian joint company, M and Diamond. After its establishment in 1996, it bought exploration licence No. 1781A in the nearby area of Tavt in Bulgan aimag. Major drilling work confirmed additional reserves of 5.6 tons of gold and 25 tons of silver. As a result of the drilling, gold ingredient was estimated to be 7.8 grams per ton and silver ingredient at 45 grams per ton and copper 1.3 per cent.

In 2002, M and Diamond made a contract with BHM, 100 per cent invested by the Malaysian Rimbunan Hijau Group to operate Tavt gold mine for 20 years. BHM invested nearly $1 million on the mine which can produce 350 kg of gold a year and installed high-voltage power transmission lines. However, when digging started, only flour gold was found.Flour gold is much more expensive to mine and BHM appealed to a court of arbitration against M and Diamond.

AFK-Tavt LLC is currently working on the main gold mine of Tavt. In 2011, their operation was suspended temporarily as they had not prepared an environment protection plan, environment survey programme, and water assessment and had not been fulfilling other requirements demanded by state inspectors.

21. Tumurtolgoi iron ore mine

The State owned Darkhan metallurgy plant, the first steel plant of Mongolia, has three iron ore mines. One of them is this in Khongor soum, Darkhan-Uul aimag, 230 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar and 30 km southeast of Darkhan It is about17 km from a paved road, about 25 km from the Ulaanbaatar-Sukhbaatar railway and some10 km from the Darkhan-SharynGol railway. It is at the base of Mt.Tumurtolgoi which is 1075.5 meters high.

Three Russian geologists, N.Gileva, V.Malishev and I.Polishuk, made studies on the mine in 1960, and found the ore to have 57.19 per cent iron ingredient. The reserve was fixed at В+С1=21.3 million tons. V.Taranin decidedopen pit mining could be done up to 200 mof depth. The mine consists of seven orebodies, with three -- the East, the Central and the West -- bigger than the others.

The Darkhan plant acquired ownership in 2005. Before that, a Chinese company, Kharmurun-Mongol, owned its exploration licence which was later changed to a mining licence. Lu.Bold, head of Mineral Resources and Oil Authority, suspended it and transferred the mine to the Darkhan plant, ostensibly to be used as its raw material base.

The mine has been in operation since August, 2009. The East and Central ore bodies are between 1 m and 15 m deep so they are mined by the open pit method. Every year, 1 million tons of iron ore is mined and then processed using the dry magnetic method, giving 650,000 tons of processed ore that is exported to China.

22. Bayandavaa tin and wolfram group mine

This minein Erdene soum, Tuv aimag is close to the capital city. Exploration was done with State funds and the mine is not in operation now, as not much of the original reserve is left. It is not clear which particular deposit from the group is listed. Altogether, it was a small deposit with a reserve amount less than 500 tons located in the four valleys of Bayandavaa, Bayan, Undur and Khukht next to the Bayandavaa’s paved road in Erdene soum, Tuv aimag.

23. Ulaan-Uul tin and wolfram mine

The exploration work in this mine in Nogoon nuur soum, Bayan-Ulgii aimag,was done with State funds in 1980. At the time, the deposit reserve was estimated at C1-8,200 tons and C2-18,360 tons on the 16th strip, C1-5,750 tons on the 32nd strip, C2-4,520 tons on the 9th strip, C2-10,320 tons on the 8th strip and C2-4,520 tons on the 7th strip and such, making a total of 63,000 tons that could be mined over an area of 37.51 hectares. It was operated for years and now Kainar Wolfram mines on a small scale and exports the output.

Ore is located in three zones: West (strips 1-33), Kizil Taug (34-39) and Southeast (40-59). The 33 strips on the West zone are between 300 m and 800 m in length and between 0.4 m and 0.2 m thick. Wolfram is found as flat crystals in brown, reddish, or black with 0.5-3.5% along with small quantities of muscovite shells, small magnetic crystals and ore minerals measuring up to 0.1mm of inlay gold, vismut, halikopirit and bazovismut. Also it has 000.1-0.01% vismut, berill and niobium contents.

24. Janchivlan tin and wolfram deposit

This deposit is in Erdene soum, Tuv aimag, some 3 km to the southwest of Janchivlan’s spring. Exploration work was done with State funds but mining has never been done because of its closeness to the spring sanatorium.

25. Tsagaandavaa tin and wolfram deposit

This deposit in Bayanchandmani soum, Tuvaimag, 76km from Ulaanbaatar, was explored with State funds and a partis still in operation. A small complex for wolfram processing with an ore and brick factory was established with technical support from the Hungarian Government in 1989.

The underground operation is done by Mon Wolfram Company. The confirmed reserve of Tsagaandavaa is B+C1-2,435 tons and C2-686 tons. Total annual output capacity is 500 tons, but due to low technical and financial capacity only 30-50 tons of processed 68% WOZ is explored and exported annually to the U.S and China. WOZ is the acid containing wolfram.
Mon Wolfram has plans of exploring a 142-hectare area next to the current deposit on which it has a licence.

26. Mungun-Undur silver deposit

Discovered in 1983-1992, this is in Umnudelger soum, Khentii aimag,310km to the northwest of Ulaanbaatar, 200km from the railway station near Baganuur’s coal and Otgontsagaan’s molybdenum wolfram mines, and 90km from the Berkh fluoride mine. The total amount of iron ore reserves is 2.4 million tons from which 478,000 tons of silver is extractable.

This deposit also was not registered in the State mineral reserve when it was listed as one of the 39 candidate deposits. It was inspected by the State Geology Centre on April 10, 1992 under protocol No.17. The reserve amount is estimated as C2-1050.5 and O1-2162.2.

Pure silver is rarely found in nature. The pot lead in this deposit is considered silver type. The average main metallic ore is Ag-70gr/t, Sn-0.09%, Pb-1.09% and Zn-0.85%. The estimated evaluation of ore reserve amount is Pb-280,000t, Zn-230,000t and Sn-24,000t.

Two companies own licences on this deposit. Golden hailsobtained a 30-year licence MV-012085 in 2006for operation in 231.01 hectares, and ARIA’s licence MV-010278 for 173.17 hectares is valid until 2035. Mine Info Company is doing exploration work on Mungun-Undur deposit.

27. Khukh Adar copper and zinc mine

This is located in Tolbo soum, Bayan-Ulgii aimag, and fresh exploration is taking place with private funds. The mine has 96,700 tons of copper, 43,200 tons of lead and 18,200 tons of zinc as recorded reserves.

In 2009, EAM Khukh Adar acquired Khukh Adar-1 licence No.MV-015378 for over 893.12 hectares of area for 30 years. The same company now owns six other licences XV-008215, XV-008216, XV-009273, XV-013275, XV-015399 and XV-015400 on Khukh Adar mine.

The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy has listed the mine as one where technical and economical evaluation of further exploration and setting up processing plants has already been done.

28. Shavriin Tsarampyrope mine

Garnet is classified as almandine and andradite and pyrope is one of the andradite species of garnet.
The mine was discovered during a search forgarnet throughout 1970-1990 in Arkhangai, Bulgan, Uvurkhangai, Sukhbaatar and Govi-Altai aimags. Pyrope and chrysoberyl were found in Tariatsoum, Arkhangai aimag. The mine also has moonstone, crystal and mica. Detailed exploration was made between 1974 and 1977.

The reserve amount was re-estimated in 1981 and the fresh placer reserve is: 2,200 kg of B class, 47,830 kg of C1 class, 12,270kg of C2 class.

Non balanced: 15,400 kg of B class, 57,500 kg of C1 class pyrope, 13,220 kg of B class and 25,220 kg of C1 class chrysolyte.
In 1978, the main deposit’s reserve was estimated by the Science and Technical Council of the Ministry as 37,612 kg of C2 class pyrope, 13,996 kg of chrysolyte and 1,059.7 kg of sanidine. Garnet ingredient in the main deposit was estimated to be 78.2 g/m3, chrysolyte ingredient 29.1 g/m3 and sanidine ingredient 0.9 g/m3. Pyrope ingredient in the placer is 191-166.6 g/m3.

A mine was operated until 1990 with an annual capacity to extract 250 kg class /+2.5-1 Омм/ garnet. Altogether, 2,222.8 kg of garnet was mined and 1,629.8 kg was supplied to the jewelleryplant of the Ministry of Finance and also to Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. The jewellery plant received the major part. It processed the metal and exported most of the output. It stopped buying garnet in 1988 as the price was low. Efforts to sell in Italy, Japan, the USSR, England, Poland and Czechoslovakia didnot succeed. Nothing also came of a suggestion to transfer the plant to the Mongolia-Bulgaria Joint Metal Factory. The plant was shut down and was transferred to the nonferrous metal department at the Geological Central Laboratory. The deposit remains as reserve area.

29. Shuden Uul salt mine

Located north of Uvs lake, in the midst of the hills of Tagniin Mountains, 18 km from the Davst soum centre of Uvsaimag, the salt mine is one of the biggest of the world, and is considered to have the capacity to meet the salt need of the whole of Asia for several years. Geologist J.Sumya, also known as “Salt Sumya”, discovered ShudenUul in 1973 and the mine was put into operation in 1974. Local residents, however, had been using the mine for over 300 years.

It is the oldest salt mine in Mongolia, and was operated by the livestock feeding factory inTes soum, Uvs aimag. Its salt layer is 9-50 metres thick and the total reserve amount is 73.2 million tons. It is also one the few salt mines located in a landlocked country. The salt at the bottom of the sea stayed there when the sea disappeared millions of years ago.

Currently, two companies own 30-year licences over this area. IkhTemuulel LLC got licence No.MV-000874 over 62.84 hectares of land in 1997 and ZuunnaimanSuvarga LLC owns licence No.MV-010061 over 29.39 hectares of land since 2005. Zuunnaiman this year began workon a salt factoryat the mine.

Several small companies do business using stone salt. ShudenUul’s stone salt is included in the “One village, one product” initiative of the UN as an Uvs aimag brand. Small local enterprises and a few other Mongolia-Japan joint companies are iodising stone salt or making other natural products, supplying these to local residents as well as throughout the country. A small amount of packaged salt is exported to Japan.

30. Shiree Uul limestone mine

This mine in Delgerkhangai soum, Dundgovi aimag is one of the four big limestone mines in Mongolia. It was discovered between 1958-1960, followed by detailed exploration in 1985-1986. The reserve was estimated to be 4,450,700 tons.
Operation licences are held by Tumental(MV-005356), Tumen-And (MV-016668), Tumentsatsal(MV-016920),Mongolyn Alt (MV-016898), and Khuld-Olz (XV-008425 over 389.23 hectares).

31. Uvdug Khudag brown coal mine

This mine in Undurshil soum, Dundgovi aimag, was explored with State funds. The reserve was estimated to be А+B+C1-114.5 million tons at that time. It was re-estimated in 2011 and TaliinShigtgee LLC holds the operation licence. Experts and scientists consider that along with Khuut coal and oil shale mine, UvdugKhudag brown coal mine is a future source of gas and chemical raw materials.

32. Tsaidam Lake brown coal mine

Located 117 km from Ulaanbaatar city, in Bayan soum, Tuv aimag, the mine is served by good infrastructure. It is 27 km east from the Ulaanbaatar- Choir asphalt road and 28 km from the railway. Tsaidam was the second big coal deposit found in the south after Baganuur. It is said geologists working on a 1:50000 scale map discovered it. The reserve was estimated roughly at 6 billion tons.
Currently the mine is divided into more than 20 operation licences. Tsetsens Mining and Energy LLC’s Buuruljuutiintal project covers over 10,000 hectares and the coal deposit consists of three parts.  Several recent studies have put the JORC compliant reserve at 6.8 billion tons, and the company expects to start mining in 2012. Tsetsens plans to build a 600-MW thermal power plant, as well as coal gasification and coking coal and briquette plants. Studies by some well-known foreign companies have indicated that the prospects for all this are positive.
According to agreements with the Government,licence holders of Tsaidam Lake, Tugrug Lake and Khushuut brown coal mines are to sell thermal coal and briquettes to domestic consumers. Tsaidam Energy is to build a 600-MW thermal power plant, which will be environment friendly with advanced technology and should be commissioned in 2015. The power output is to be connected to the central power system. The formal permission to build the plant was received in August 2011 from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy.
Other licence holders in the Tsaidam lake basin include Tengri Oil Shale (MV-006453 over 132.99 hectares), Tenrgipetro Chemicals (MV-015090 over 227.64 hectares, acquired in 2003 and 2009), Peabody Winsway Resources (XV-007715 over 624.77 hectares), and
Tsetsennonas(XV-009855over 1782.74 hectares).

33. Tsagaan Tsav zeolite mine

Located in Saikhandulaan soum, Dornogovi aimag, the mine is 45 km southeast of Sainshand, 540 km from Ulaanbaatar, and 23 km from the railway.
During the Socialist regime, a team led by geologist D.Ivanjav did the exploration work and estimated the reserve and clinoptilolite content. The clinoptilolite of the zeolite family,eminently suitable for agricultural and industrial purposes, is spread throughout a 1.6-sq km area of the deposit. In general, the deposit has 30-95 per cent of clinoptilolite content, with 6 million tons having 60-90 per cent. The total reserve is estimated to be 179 million tons.

TugrugNuuriin Energy LLC holds the operation licence and has been doing soil removal and exploration work since 2006. A 1:10000 scale map of the deposit has been made and detailed laboratory tests done. An experiment to feed chickens and pigs with natural zoelite from the deposit was successful, indicating that the mineral nutrient could have great economic potential in preparation of animal feed.

An experiment by the company using zeolite to help retain moisture in the soil was successful in showing its value in agricultural work.

34. Mankhan Uul phosphorite mine

Mongolia is one of the ten most phosphorite-rich countries, holding 4-5 per cent of the total world reserve of 155 billion tons. The Khuvsgul and Zavkhan areas are the phosphorite centres in Mongolia. State-funded exploration from 1974-1988 in Khuvsgul found 20 deposits with altogether 1.6 billion tons of reserve. MankhanUul mine in Alag-Erdenesoumis one of these. Exploration work at Burenkhaan near Khuvsgul lake was stopped by a movement to protect the lake from human activities. MankhanUulis much closer to the lake than Burenkhaan and there has been no plan to work the mine for the same reason.

35. Ongilog Lake phosphorite mine

Exploration work on this mine west of Khuvsgul lake, in Alag-Erdene soum, Khuvsgul aimag, was done with State funds. There is an estimated amount of 1.5 billion tons of reserve in Ongilog Hill and Jankhain Hill area, but as the deposit is almost at the lakeside, it has been agreed not to do any mining.

36. Khongor spar mine

Exploration work at this mine in Dalanjargalan soum, Dornogovi aimag was done with State funds in the Socialist period. Mongolrostsvetment owned the mine but it is believed the resources are exhausted and the licence suspended.

37. Lug River rare earth element mine

Located in К-49-37, К-49-25 coordination of Khatanbulag soum, Dornogovi aimag, Lug River rare earth element mine covers 5,472 sqmetres. It is 750 km from Ulaanbaatar, 160 km from OyuTolgoi, 300 km from TavanTolgoi, and 300 km east from the railway line.
Studies on rare earth elements began in 1985 with help from the USSR and Poland. A joint Mongolia-Poland team explored the Lug river area and estimated the reserve to be 12,000 tons. However, it was not clear if the reserve could be used for industrial purposes. In recent years, some foreign countries have shown strong interest in the deposit, and a few have even started some work.

Hong Kong invested Reo explored all four rare earth element deposits of Mongolia -- Lug River, MushgiaKhudag, Khotgor and Khalzanburgedei-- and roughly estimated the total reserve at 6.6 million tons. $3.6 million was spent on work at Lug River, which has been estimated to hold 500,000 tons of rare earth metal ore and 13,500 tons of iron oxide. They also found lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, samarium, europiumand gadolinium in the deposit, making it one of the biggest such mines in the world.

Laws governing rare earth elements mining and trade in them are not yet in place, and so the mine has not been worked until now. Japan’s Sumitomo once started a project here, but nothing came of it. Chinese firms also came once and took back samples. Realco Korea LLC is believed to have obtained an operation licence on Lug River in 2008.
Since April 2012, Green Technology Solution of the USA has been working at Lug River and has sent extracted samples to South Korea. Test results are expected by the end of the year. The company appears keen to continue work on the deposit but how it will do so in the absence of governing regulations is not clear.

38. Ulaan zinc andlead mine

Detailed exploration at this deposit in Dashbalbar soum, Dornod aimag was done by the Geology and Exploration Authority of the Russian Ministry of Mining and results submitted in 1986. The reserve estimate of 38,826,500 tons, of which 738,000 tons of 50 per cent zinc concentrate can be extracted,was approved by the Mining Reserves National Committee at the Ministers’ Council in November 1989. There is also 164,000 to 424,000 tons of lead, 652,000 to 2,047,000 tons of silver, 3,661 to 8,069 kg of gold and 8,953,000 to 2,601,000 tons of copper. Some rare earth elements such as 1,124 to 3,867 tons of cadmium, 91 to 272 tons of selenium, and 98 to 272 tons of tellurium are also believed to be in this deposit, apart from an approved reserve of 250 tons of uranium.

Shin Shin LLC, 100 per cent Chinese invested, owns the operation licence, which it got transferred from Asia Far East in 2004. The company had to reimburse the State $1,302,205 as costs of exploration, and all dues were cleared in January, 2007.
Shin Shin is currently building a zinc processing plant at the site, with a daily capacity of 3,000 tons of iron ore or 900,000 tons annually. The iron ore is estimated to contain 1.31 per cent lead, 2.71 per cent zinc and 59.46 g/tons of silver. The plan is to produce 10,021 tons of lead, 20,975 tons of zinc and 26,746 kg of silver every year. Total investment amount is $55 million.

Two years ago, the company’s operation was suspended following an inspection by the Nuclear Energy Authority and the aimag Inspection Authority which found that large amounts of radioactivity was being released from ore that contained uranium. The company was allowed to resume work after it agreed to separate the uranium from the ore, protect employees’ health and stop emission of radioactivity. It is believed China’s Government-owned CNNC, which is to build a uranium processing plant in Gurvanbulag, 6 km away, has made an agreement with Shin Shin to extract 250 tons of uranium from the Ulaan deposit.

Shin Shin has a low reputation. It is suspected of fudging the actual extent of the reserve, mining only the best parts, omitting minerals other than zinc and lead in its technical and economic feasibility study, spilling harmful substances in the soil and illegal extraction of uranium. There is talk that senior managers were charged with several illegalities and work on the deposit was suspended, but the case is believed to have been quietly closed.

39. Tsav zinc and lead mine

Located in Choibalsan soum, Dornod aimag, it is one of the biggest zinc and lead mines of Mongolia, holding 123,000 tons of extractable zinc. Shanlun, 100 per cent Chinese invested, is currently operating the mine under licence 6098A obtained in July 2003. The known reserve is 3.5 million tons of iron ore, 226,200 tons of lead, 123,300 tons of zinc, 881,900 tons of silver and 5.6 tons of copper. Zinc ingredient is 3.4%, silver 150 g/ton, gold 0.8 g/ton, copper 0.3 g/ton,sulfurite 5.22%, bismuth 0.012%, and cadmium 0.0012%. 

Shanlun is continuing Russian operations during the Socialist times. A pit mine has been built andan iron ore processing plant was commissioned in July, 2006. However, the plant uses dated technology and so only semi-processed ore is exported to China. Unofficial reports say they silver, cadmium, lead, iron and gold are also sent to China and that uranium has been found in the deposit. The company denies all this.

The Dornod expedition explored the Tsav mine and estimated the reserve amount of lead and zinc. In 1990, more studies were done by Japan’s JICA, which found that the deposit has indium which is the main ingredient in LCD display screens. The technical and economic feasibility study submitted byShanlun says nothing about indium, however.

Mongolian experts led by B.Palam joined an Italian team to work on Tsav mine and discovered a large amount of silver and some rare earth elements. In order to use these elements, a processing plant is necessary. Their view was that the worth of the mine would be enhanced if the galenite in Tsav is shown to include not only lead and zinc, but silver also. However, Shanlun’s licence is only for zinc and lead.

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