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Mongolia Nears Significant Mining Agreement with French Multinational

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Mongolia is close to reaching an agreement with French multinational nuclear company Orano to exploit a vast uranium mine, Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene told AFP in Davos.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Mongolian counterpart Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh signed a memorandum of understanding in October to allow Orano to exploit the Zuuvch-Ovoo mine in southwest Mongolia.

An investment agreement was initially expected by the end of this year, but it may be reached sooner.

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“At the moment, our governmental working group is working on environmental and technological evaluations on the project to reach a final agreement with the French side,” Oyun-Erdene told AFP on the margins of the annual World Economic Forum summit in Switzerland.

Oyun-Erdene said he had spoken at the Davos luxury ski resort with the owners of both Orano and British-Australian mining group Rio Tinto, with whom Mongolia has signed an agreement on the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mining mega-project.

“It is crucial for us to share the knowledge and good practices that we had with Rio Tinto, with Orano too, so that we can reach a good quality agreement in a short period of time,” Oyun-Erdene said through an interpreter.

Speaking to AFP in Paris, Orano confirmed negotiations were ongoing with the Asian landlocked country sandwiched between giants China and Russia.

“Orano is committed to collaborating with the Mongolia government in order to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said the company based southwest of the French capital.

Mongolia’s mining sector is “really important”, stressed Oyun-Erdene, “It’s the main sector of our export”.

But it is not the only one, and at Davos the premier met with tourism agencies, think tanks and representatives of the energy sector, including Chinese renewable energy multinational Envision.

“So in the future we are trying to develop other sectors of (the) economy as well as find innovative solutions,” said Oyun-Erdene.

Mongolia remains largely dependent on coal but the country is “making efforts to develop our renewable energy sector.”

In an attempt to diversify the economy, something Oyun-Erdene insists is “crucial for developing countries like Mongolia”, the country is “working on the possibilities to produce hydrogen from coking coal”.

Mongolia is one of the world’s largest coal exporters and the capital Ulaanbaatar is often one of the most polluted on the planet.

Oyun-Erdene addressed another issue blighting Mongolia: corruption.

The country stands 116th out of 180 on the Transparency International corruption perception index.

Pope Francis even discussed the issue during a visit there last year.

“Corruption remains… one of the greatest challenges in Mongolia,” Oyun-Erdene acknowledged, although he insisted it was something the country is trying to tackle.

“We have made publicly available the expenses of the state owned enterprises, their procurement, the process of tenders.

“And also we have disclosed information on the involvement of some of the politicians in corruption cases and the loans they got.”

Oyun-Erdene said he met with Transparency International at Davos to seek advice in the fight against graft.

Mongolia will “continue this fight against corruption, whether I will stay as the prime minister or not,” he added.


Source: Barrons

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