Mongolian Industries: Mining Natural Resources

For the month of April, we’ll be covering the main industries in Mongolia, and for this first post, we’re talking about natural resources and mining. Mining has been a key industry in Mongolia since the 1970s when the mine in Erdenet opened as a joint venture with the USSR. Erdenet’s mine produces copper and molybdenum, a metallic element that can be used in alloys, plant fertilizer, or for medical uses. Erdenet’s mine contributes to a large portion of Mongolia’s export revenues. Other ores that are mined in Mongolia are fluorite, gold, tin, silver, iron, and zinc.

Copper and molybdenum pit mine in Erdenet, operated by the Erdenet Mining Corporation

In addition to the abovementioned resources, Mongolia also mines coal. Coal, in reality, is the most commonly mined natural resource in Mongolia and is used widely in the country as a source of heat and power. (This, unfortunately, contributes to issues of winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar especially.) The majority of coal produced in Mongolia is used domestically; however, with newer mines developed, the country is also exporting coal to China.

Trains loaded with coal are a pretty common sight in Mongolia.

Petroleum was discovered in the 1950s, at which point, small scale extraction operations were put into place. In recent years, international developers have invested in more widespread drilling and extraction processes. Crude oil is sent to China for refining. The last natural resource of which Mongolia has a lot is uranium. I haven’t found out which countries have partnered with Mongolia to extract those deposits, although I’m sure the information is out there.

With mining being a major industry, this means that many people are employed at different levels of the mining process. Often, that means that employees work several weeks in a row at the mines and return home for one week before returning to a long stint at the mine. We had several students in UB who only saw one of their parents for a week out of every month. This seems to be a pretty common practice for mining in general and not a unique aspect of mining in Mongolia.

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