Mongolia’s Long Road To Mining Wealth – by Emily Kwong (National Public Radio – July 31, 2019)

Gulnara Dariiga has been stuck in traffic for two days in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. The 38-year-old mother of four eats and sleeps in a heavy-duty North Benz truck, assigned to her by her Chinese employer — a coal buyer across the border.

“I think today we will cross,” she says with a grin. She shifts from park to drive, clenching her teeth to fight the stiff steering wheel. Her truck is laden with 90 tons of coal briquettes from Mongolia’s Tavan Tolgoi mine, ready for delivery.

This trade road and the immense gridlock of hissing trucks lined up like dominoes, waiting to cross the Mongolia-China border, are an indication of Mongolia’s future: The nation is shifting away from an economy based on agriculture and herding to one based on mining.

With economic transformation comes opportunity, but also environmental damage and growing pains for local residents, as the landscape is carved up by mining machinery and trucks.

This is not the Mongolia that Gulnara grew up in. Born in Selenge, a heavily forested province in the east, she worked on a vegetable and wheat farm. “Selenge is beautiful, with a nice river and berries. The problem is there’s no jobs there for young people,” Gulnara says.

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