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Business Council of Mongolia: New Mineral Law threatens foreign investment

By B.KHASH-ERDENE

Mongolia’s vast deposits of mineral resource could soon be governed by a resource nationalist regulatory framework, if a new draft of the country’s Minerals Law is passed in its current form, says Mongolia’s largest business group.
The new draft was published by the Mongolian government in December, and makes far-reaching changes to the way mining and exploration licenses are awarded and maintained. It mandates that Mongolian citizens must hold a 34 per cent equity stake in all mining projects, and gives state-owned companies a pre-emptive right to any mining or exploration licenses transferred from one entity to the other, according to a summary from law firm Hogan Lovells reports Financial Times.
The Business Council of Mongolia (BCM) said in a four-page letter sent to President Tsakhia Elbegdorj’s office on January 7 that the law “threatens to shut down the entire minerals industry of Mongolia.”
Mineral product exports account for more than 90 percent of the country’s exports.
“The impact of the draft law on the minerals industry will be to halt current mineral exploration and development in Mongolia and greatly discourage any future foreign investment. Collateral damage is likely to include all other sectors of supply, including but not limited to the; construction and real estate sectors, imposition of a significant chain-reaction burden on the banking and financial institutions which may not be able to withstand. All this would lead to a deepening of a potential crisis,” said the BCM’s letter.
The Business Council of Mongolia, founded in 2007, has 250 members including Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy, General Electric Co. (GE) and Mitsubishi Corp. The Office of the President of Mongolia didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.
The current minerals law was passed in 2006 and is the basis for the Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement between Rio Tinto, which owns 66 percent of the project and Mongolia which owns the rest. The proposed law is twice as long as the current legislation, Mongolia International Capital Corp said in a report last month.
“Nobody expected that the law would be so tough on mining…There’s no way this is not correlated with the presidential elections this year. The majority of the population may favour this law, because it is not happy with mining, especially in the rural areas. The country as a whole benefits from mining, but locals feel they don’t directly benefit,”said Dale Choi, an Ulaanbaatar based associate with Origo Partners MGL to Bloomberg.
The proposed legislation would need to be passed by the parliament for it to become law and at this stage it is more than likely that significant changes will be made to it.
The draft Mineral Law wasdrafted by the president’s office and business groups suspect that this is an early move by the president’s campaign to bolster support in the upcoming presidential election this year.
Last fall, parliament members who promised to get tougher on foreign miners sought to renegotiate the investment agreement of Oyu Tolgoi Project with Rio Tinto, to gain a bigger stake in the project. The Oyu Tolgoi project is expected to account for about 30 percent of the Mongolia’s gross domestic product once in full production.
Foreign investment flow in Mongolia has decreased substantially since a law last year restricted state owned companies from controlling strategic assets. It effectively stopped Chinese state-owned CHALCO from taking control of SouthGobi.
The parliament will have to find the fine line of balancing domestic interests with those of investors.
Mongolia’s economy grew 13.2 percent in the first half of 2012, according to the national statistics office. Expansion for the full year may have slowed to 11 percent, central bank governor Naidansuren Zoljargal said in October. The government has yet to release annual economic statistics.

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Posted by on Jan 11 2013. Filed under Business & Economics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Business Council of Mongolia: New Mineral Law threatens foreign investment”

  1. I truly hope that mining companies investing in Mongolia will remain patient and choose not to abandon development because of this recent turn of events. Understandably, the business community is frustrated by this, but the only way to resolve the situation is to continue a dialogue with the government. It will take time, but I am optimistic the business community can come to an agreement with the people of Mongolia to ensure he prosperity of both.

    Mongolia is a young democracy with much promise, but the legacy of Soviet-era policies (particularly government-managed development) is understandably hard for many to shrug off. For many in the nation, that was the approach to development for much of their lives. It is just a matter of time, though, before they begin to accept fully the benefits of a market economy. As the nation’s economy expands over the next few years, more will see that free markets are better for all than a centralized economy.

    Additionally, the people of Mongolia are rightly concerned about ensuring Mongolia is able to develop other aspects of the economy alongside the development of mineral resources. All too often, resource-rich nations are left without a stable economic base once resource costs fall or deposits are depleted. The people of Mongolia are very cautious about falling victim to this so-called “Dutch Disease” and want to make sure that their development strategy will truly “lift all boats,” not just benefit one industry.

    I am confident that a proper balance can be struck.

  2. It is the duty of the Mongolian Government to protect its people first and cooperate interests second, unless the country will end up like all the other by greed and jealousy dominated Western Democratic run societies. The catastrophic outcome of this experiment is presented in our face on a daily bases.

    Indeed there is a fine line between sovereignty and being degraded to merely serve foreign nations or their cooperative derivatives.
    May it be Russia, China or International Mining Companies and their financial counterparts, they all look for their very own advantage and Mongolia comes always second.

    The Mongolian Government must assure its citizenry that they are not been taken to the cleaners by smart money and corruption. So far the present Government is doing its duty by making perfectly clear that a huge part of Mongolias natural resources will stay under control and for the benefit of the Mongolian People.

  3. Business Council of Mongolia and its staff like Jim Dwyer should stop talking about the bad advertsiement about Mongolia on media like Bloomberg. Do not believe what Jim said. Those old jerks know nothing about the business and never talk on behalf of the well being of Mongolians.

  4. [...] Business Council of Mongolia – UB Post – MongolNews.mn Go to this article [...]

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