| TORONTO, March 6
TORONTO, March 6 Mineral-rich Mongolia plans to
double the amount of land available for exploration in an effort
to tap into the mining industry's appetite for new resources and
help shore up its finances following an IMF-led bailout.
Mongolia will increase the land to 20.9 percent of the
country from 9.6 percent currently, and could announce the
change later this month, the minister of mining and heavy
industry, Dashdorj Tsedev, said in an interview on Monday.
Miners say Mongolia ranks as one of the best prospects in
the world for new copper reserves, as the best quality ore
bodies in many other parts of the world have been depleted and
electric vehicles raise the possibility of a surge in demand.
The expansion reflects improved geological surveys, and the
land open for exploration could increase as further improvements
are made, the minister said at the Prospectors and Developers
Association of Canada conference in Toronto.
"A big amount of land will be up for exploration and
license," said Tsedev, speaking through a translator, adding
that ecologically sensitive areas are excluded.
The land-locked country is home to Rio Tinto's
massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine. Rio decided in June to go
ahead with a $5.3 billion expansion, which will take five to
The mine will eventually be responsible for around 30
percent of the economy, Rio said, but direct benefits
for Mongolia will be delayed. According to a 2009 agreement,
investors must recoup their original investment costs
before Mongolia can collect dividends for its 34 percent
shareholding in the mine.
Mongolia's economy grew at a double-digit annual rate over
2011-2013 as foreign investors rushed in to take advantage of
its vast untapped mineral deposits, but it has been hit hard by
an economic crisis since 2016 due to government overspending and
declining revenues from commodity exports.
Slowing demand for coal and copper, Mongolia's chief
exports, and a plunge in foreign investment have left the
world's most sparsely populated sovereign country with soaring
debts and a rapidly declining currency, forcing government to
hike interest rates and slash spending.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in London; Editing by