Of Oyu Tolgoi and Sudden Departures

by sumpteretc

Well, it’s finally happened. After a decade of bickering and 2-steps-forward-3-steps-back negotiations, Mongolia today signed an agreement to allow Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto to exploit Oyu Tolgoi, ostensibly one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world. There has been surprisingly little fanfare over an event that has the potential to significantly change the lives of the average Mongolian. Here are a few of the highlights from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

  • The nation’s employment rate is tipped to jump more than 10 percent. The mine will employ as many as 3,000 workers, with thousands more finding jobs along the supply chain.
  • Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 450,000 tons of copper and 330,000 ounces of gold annually over 35 years.
  • Per capita disposable income is expected to rise by 11.5 percent.
  • The project could boost Mongolia’s per capita GDP, at about 1,800 US dollars in 2008, to 15,000 US dollars by 2015.

If you haven’t bought stock in one of these mining companies, you may have already missed the boat, but hopefully Mongolians will be able to keep corrupt politicians from pocketing the bulk of this windfall.

On a more mundane topic, I started classes with a new teacher today. My former teacher, Nyamaa, has been working on a deal to go to Japan for a few weeks. On Thursday, she told me dejectedly that they were not going to allow her to come to Japan unless she had a translator (since she speaks no Japanese or English) and overcame some other insuperable obstacle. The next afternoon, she walked into my classroom and showed me her visa to go to Japan and informed me that she was leaving Saturday morning at 6 a.m. So… she’s in Japan. It seemed a little sudden, but that seems to be how Mongolians roll.