Mongolia's Mining Boom


The Gobi desert in Mongolia is one of the remotest places in the world. It has a harsh climate with winters well below minus 30°C and hot dry summers. Except for a small number of nomads the Gobi desert has nothing to offer.

With 4 people living on one square mile of land Mongolia is the most sparsely populated countries of the world. It is also among the poorest. In some areas, over 50 % of the population lives below the poverty line. The economic situation of Asia’s largest landlocked country is about to change.


Minerals and raw materials, like coal, copper and gold have recently been discovered in the Gobi region. Geologists, scientists and mining companies from all over the world are coming to Mongolia to seek a portion of this new fortune. Already, many economic experts are describing Mongolia as "Central Asia’s new Kuwait".

A copper deposit that has been discovered belongs to the three largest in the world. In addition, Mongolia is thought to have about 6 billion tons of coal reserves. This is especially important because neighboring China has the world’s largest steel industry.

Oyu Tolgoi is the world’s largest mining project. About the size of Florida, it is a joint venture between the Mongolian government and a Canadian firm. When finished, about a third of Mongolia’s income is expected to come out of the copper and gold mines planned in this region.


oyu Tolgoi mine in southern Mongolia



In order to transport these minerals and raw materials the government is planning to build a 1000 km long rail link northwards to the Trans-Siberian Railroad. From there Mongolian raw materials can be brought to Korea and Japan.

The government is making it easier for foreign investors to come to Mongolia. It is building the infrastructure that western companies need. The mining industry is expected to drive Mongolians out of poverty. People will be offered shares in the mining industry. Within a decade the income of every Mongolian could triple from 3,000 dollars to about 10,000 dollars a year.

The mining industry may also bring along other problems. New mining settlements will be populated by mostly men and begin as small camps with little or no infrastructure. Mining is a dangerous business. Casualties in pits occur often.

For some Mongolians, however, the mining boom is not a blessing. They are afraid that their nomadic way of life will change and that mining will take away their pastures and grazing areas.


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  • billion = a thousand million
  • blessing = a good thing
  • boom = when business goes up very quickly
  • casualty = injured or dead person
  • copper = soft, reddish brown metal, which allows electricity to pass through
  • decade = ten years
  • deposit = a layer of minerals in the earth
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • economic = financial
  • especially = very, above all
  • except for = apart from
  • firm = company
  • foreign investor = someone or a company from another country that gives money to a country or company in order to make more profit
  • fortune = a lot of money
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • graze = animals eat grass on fields
  • harsh = cruel, unforgiving
  • however = but
  • in addition = also
  • income = the money that you get for doing work
  • infrastructure = the important systems and structures that a country needs, like roads, schools, hospitals etc..
  • joint venture = when two companies agree to work together on a project
  • landlocked = with no coast
  • link = connection
  • mining = the industry of digging coal, gold and other minerals out of the earth
  • nomad = a person who travels from place to place in order to find grass for their animals
  • nomadic = the way nomads live
  • occur = happen
  • pasture = land or field with grass on it
  • pit = mine
  • populated = people living in a place
  • portion = part
  • poverty = the situation of being poor
  • poverty line = the income below which a person is thought to be very poor
  • raw material = things like water, coal, wood that exists in a natural form; we need them to survive
  • recently = lately, just
  • remote = very far away
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science or works in a laboratory
  • seek = look for, want
  • settlement = small village or town where nobody has lived before
  • share = part of a company
  • size = as big as
  • sparsely = thinly ; here: not very many in a certain area
  • thought to have = here: experts think it has
  • triple = to become three times as high as…