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Until the late 1960s, mining in Mongolia consisted primarily of coal extraction. In the 1970s, however, joint exploitation of mineral resources by the Soviet Union and other Comecon nations commenced on a large scale. Comecon and joint Mongolian-Soviet geological teams surveyed the country's natural resources and discovered valuable mineral deposits, such as copper, molybdenum, tungsten, fluorite, gold, and tin. Several joint stock companies, such as Mongolsovtsvetmet, Mongolchekhoslovakmetall, and Mongolbolgarmetall, were formed to develop and to exploit these deposits. By the late 1980s, mining was an important sector of the economy, and accounted for 42.6 percent of exports in 1985. Little information was available on mining output.
In 1985 Mongolia mined 6.5 million tons of relatively low-grade varieties of coal, of which only 225,200 tons, or 3 percent, was exported. Exploited lignite deposits were located at Aduun Chuluu, near Choybalsan; Baga Nuur; Nalayh, near Ulaanbaatar; and Sharin Gol, near Darhan. The Aduun Chuluu coal mine's annual output was 300,000 tons. The Baga Nuur strip mine, developed in the 1980s, produced 2 million tons annually by 1985. The Nalayh coal mine, the country's oldest, produced 800,000 tons annually in the 1980s. The Sharin Gol strip mine, developed in the 1960s, had an annual output of 1.1 million tons in the 1980s. The large Tavan Tolgoy deposit of coking coal remained unexploited because of its remoteness from transportation and industrial centers. The Eighth Plan called for raising coal production to 9 million tons, labor productivity 22 to 24 percent, and the capacity of the Baga Nuur mine.
The copper and molybdenum deposit at Erdenetiyn-ovoo was discovered by Mongolian and Czechoslovak geologists in the mid-1960s and was developed with massive Soviet assistance in the 1970s. Erdenet's development required the construction of a branch railroad line from Salhit, near Darhan to Erdenet; a highway from Darhan to Erdenet; a water pipeline from the Selenge Moron; an electric line from the Soviet Union; and factories, housing, and other facilities. A Mongolian-Soviet construction force numbering 14,000 built the Joint Mongolian-Soviet Erdenet Mining and Concentrating Combine, which included a mine, a concentrating plant, a material and technical supply base, a mechanical repair plant, and a high-capacity thermal and electric power plant. The first stage of the Erdenet combine went into operation in 1978, with a planned output of 50,000 tons for 1979. With the completion of the fourth stage in 1981, planned annual production capacity was 16 million tons of concentrate. From 1979 to 1982, Erdenet's output of concentrates amounted to 250,000 tons of copper and 3,400 tons of molybdenum, with concentrates containing 33 percent copper and 50 percent molybdenum. In 1983 the Erdenet combine was completed. During the Eighth Plan, annual capacity was to reach 20 million tons. No information was available on actual output or exports.
Other nonferrous metals exploited by Mongolsovtsvetmet and other joint ventures were fluorite, tungsten, tin, and gold. The Berh, Bor Ondor, Burentsogt, and Har-ayrag fluorite deposits had an annual output of 786,700 tons; fluorite was exported to the Soviet Union, but no figures were available. The Eighth Plan called for expanding fluorite production capacity by an unspecified amount. No figures were available on output or on exports of tungsten, tin, and gold. In the late 1980s, plans to open the Urandosh phosphate strip mine near Hatgal were delayed by concerns for environmental pollution in Hovsgol Nuur. Exploitation of the Burenhaan phosphate deposit still was planned. Further development of Mongolia's other mineral resources was also planned, and the Eighth Plan called for continued cooperation with Comecon countries in geological prospecting and mining.
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