Race for resources – VP hails US growing ties on coal resource with Mongolia
AFP reported that US Vice President Mr Joe Biden has hailed the United States’ growing ties with Mongolia on a rare visit by an American leader to the Asian nation, which is opening up its vast coal reserves to foreign investors. He met Mongolia’s President Mr Tsakhia Elbegdorj in a ceremonial traditional tent, set up on the fifth floor of the government headquarters in the country’s rapidly developing capital, Ulan Bator.Mr Biden is the most senior American leader to visit Mongolia since 2005 and his trip comes months after Elbegdorj promised to give US companies a role in his country’s booming energy sector. He said that “Today, Mongolia is not just a shining example for other nations in transition, but it’s an emerging leader in the worldwide democratic movement. A responsible actor on the world stage, and a close friend and partner of the United States. None of that is an exaggeration. It’s literal.”
Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia has traditionally pursued a careful foreign policy that does not alienate its giant neighbours. But it has also sought closer ties with the United States, and Mr Biden thanked Mongolian Prime Minister Mr Sukhbaatar Batbold for the nearly 400 troops his country is deploying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mongolia is opening up its vast coal reserves to foreign investors, hoping to stimulate growth and pull thousands of people out of poverty in the mineral rich but still underdeveloped country. Last month US mining giant Peabody Energy said it was among the firms chosen to help develop a section of the highly coveted Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi desert, although later reports said the deal was still under negotiation.
Tavan Tolgoi is one of the world’s largest coal fields with 6.4 billion tonnes of reserves, and competition for the government contracts to develop it has been intense. President Mr Elbegdorj was a key leader of the peaceful 1990 revolution that ended 70 years of Soviet-backed communist rule in Mongolia. He was elected in 2009 on promises to end graft and reverse the rich poor gap in the vast nation of fewer than three million people, and earlier this year held talks with President Barack Obama on a landmark visit to Washington