Updated Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:21pm AEDT
Mongolia may yet become the world’s biggest mining country.
At the forefront of a potential economic boom is a development of the massive gold and copper mine of Oyu Tolgoi, in the country’s south-east.
Mongolia’s attempt to develop its vast mineral wealth of uranium, gold, coal and copper featured in discussions in Canberra today between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Mongolian counterpart, Sukhbaatar Batbold.
Ms Gillard officially welcomed Mr Batbold at Parliament House and four bilateral agreements were signed in areas of education, training, cabinet processes and scientific transfer.
“This is a remarkable day in the history of Australian diplomacy. The first visit by a Mongolian prime minister in the history of our Commonwealth,” Ms Gillard said.
The Mongolian government signed a deal with Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines in 2009 to develop the world’s largest new copper and gold project.
The land-locked country maintains strong ties with neighbours Russia and China, but in a policy called Third Neighbours it has consciously been building partnerships with other Asian and key Western nations.
Mr Batbold says he has great hopes for the development.
“The Oyu Tolgoi project is a very important project,” he said.
“This is one of the world’s largest copper and gold projects and we very much welcome the interest of our partners from our third neighbours.”
Skills and training
Mongolia urgently needs infrastructure development, education and skills training for its workers, along with agricultural aid and technological transfer, particularly in mining.
“Mongolia does have a relatively young democracy for about 20 years but we are very proud that we have achieved a lot,” Mr Batbold said.
“For these achievements we are very grateful to our friends and partners.”
Mongolia has achieved much in recent years.
Once a Soviet satellite state, Mongolia moved towards democracy and a market economy when the USSR collapsed.
Ms Gillard remarked on Mongolia’s strong prospects for the future.
“Your country has some of the world’s richest mineral deposits and we know that Mongolia seeks partners in foreign investment and technical expertise to help realise that potential. Australia has such expertise and we offer it as friends,” she said.
Austrade will open a permanent office in Ulan Bator to support the growing number of Australian companies operating there. Australia is also boosting aid to Mongolia.
Mr Batbold discussed their joint contributions to the ISAF force in Afghanistan and other regional security issues with key Cabinet members.
First posted Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:04pm AEDT