MonGeoCat: geological data at the click of a mouse

6th of 11, 2017


All geological reports and data of Mongolia can now be accessed by anyone anywhere with an Internet connection. All one has to do is enter https://mrpam.gov.mn, the website of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia (MRPAM), and select WEBGiS - Geographical Information Database, to reach MonGeoCat, or Mongolian geological information catalogue, in both English and Mongolian.

Gone are the days when those interested in getting any such information had to visit MRPAM, and stand in a queue in the library to be able to read old reports. The introduction of the time- and cost-efficient way means a click on a computer takes you within seconds to what you want.

This is the first outcome of joint work by MRPAM and Australia-Mongolia Extractives Program (AMEP) to put printed geological reports and data in the digital format. It is a first-of-its-kind achievement and shows the progress that Mongolia has made in developing a geological data catalogue system and in use of technology.

AMEP provided significant support in system development, as also in hardware and technology. High capacity servers and data processing equipment were provided to MRITC of MRPAM. AMEP invested over MNT700 million for system development.

Both the State Policy on the Mineral Resources Sector, adopted in 2014, and the Action Plan of the Government of Mongolia for 2016-2020 are clear that geological data should and would be open, accessible and transparent to attract investment. MRPAM, with support from AMEP, developed MonGeoCat over a period of five months and the system was formally launched in August, 2017. The impact on potential foreign and national investors in exploration work has been positive. Within just one week of the launch, it was visited from all around the world, including over 100 logged from Vietnam alone. For investors, time is money. Informed decisions also lead to at least 5% higher productivity. Geology is a risky sector, and possession of high quality and reliable data is a key prerequisite for risk mitigation.

A special feature of MonGeoCat and its meta-data system is that one can trace how, when, where and why the geo-data was collected. In other words, it gives data about data.

MRPAM employees have already entered meta-data on over 300 geological reports into the MonGeoCat system, and are now working on doing the same with 400 others that have been identified as the ones that most users looked for between August 2016 and May 2017. The figure is expected to reach 1,000 by the end of this year. They will be available in both English and Mongolian, and will be linked spatially. Half of these 1,000 are in Russian, so geologists at MRPAM are first translating them into Mongolian and then from Mongolian into English.

Around 8,200 of these are mapping work reports, survey reports and explorations reports, as well as feasibility studies. Survey/exploration and reserve estimate reports are further divided according to type of minerals. 

As it becomes likely that all geological data and reports that are currently stored in the archives of MRPAM will gradually be uploaded on to MonGeoCat, concerns have been raised over technological solutions and data security. Officials of the Mineral Resource and Information Technology Center (MRITC) of MRPAM say they do not expect any difficulties with either as the work will be done according to regulations on access to information under the State and Official Privacy Law which has come into effect on 1 September.

Earlier, all 1:100.000 scale geological maps were treated as classified, and though the new law determines confidentiality according to content, the status of such detailed maps is unlikely to change. Under the Minerals Law, reports and data from exploration made with government money are accessible and open to all, while what is made with private financing will be kept confidential for a period of time.  MRPAM officials have made it clear that data and information classified as “private” and “state secret” would not be inserted into the public domain.

The State has a mandatory obligation to set up a national geo-scientific database, and the proposed National Geological Survey (NGS) will be responsible for maintaining and administering the catalogue of such data. Until such time as the NGS is established, the job will fall to MRPAM, which has adequate human resources to optimize and further develop the MonGeoCat system.

Use of MonGeoCat will greatly help investors in making informed decisions, and at the same time make it easier for Mongolian government agencies to process geological and mineral data, for more efficient management of resources.

MonGeoCat is open to everyone, and accessing it requires no authorization. Browsing for information of a general nature is free of charge, but for full access to reports, users must pay MRPAM a service fee. The Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry wants more widespread use of the Internet to gain access to geological reports and data, and working towards that end, MRITC of MRPAM has taken up a programme to digitalise current geo-scientific data services and develop these to international standards, in addition to MonGeoCat. “With support from international organizations we are working to  improve transparency and the institutional capacity of the extractive sector, and shall continue to move step by step to improve our human resources capacity. AMEP has laid the foundation for this goal,” says G.Zolsaikhan, Chairman of MRITC.

Suggestions on how to improve and expand MonGeoCat would include adding features such as receiving online applications, plans and reports from licence holders so that these can be directly fed into the database, entering records of information exchange between government agencies, ensuring that users have comprehensive access to data, and developing linkages to information systems.

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