Mongolia: On the Verge of a Mineral Miracle – by Pranay Varada (Harvard International Review – February 11, 2022)

Between the vast expanses of Siberia and the sprawling Gobi desert lies Mongolia, the world’s most sparsely populated country. Over the past 50 years, this nation of just over 3 million, covering a landmass more than twice the size of Texas, has navigated a transition from a mostly nomadic lifestyle to a market economy.

It may not seem like it at first, but Mongolia could be a much wealthier nation within the next 20 years, on the level of the “Asian Tigers” of the 1990s: Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. It’s been called the “wolf” economy, and for good reason: there’s over US$1 trillion—with a “t”—of mineral resources on the land.

On the other hand, Mongolia could remain in its current state, with its immense mineral resources bearing little fruit thanks to political inefficiency, economic downturn, and environmental destruction. What seems like a blessing could quickly turn into a curse, and Mongolia now finds itself at a fork in this road.

Turquoise Hill

In 2001, Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines literally struck gold, along with copper and molybdenum, at the Oyu Tolgoi site in southern Mongolia. Just 50 miles north of the Chinese border, Oyu Tolgoi, which translates to “Turquoise Hill,” was named for the color of oxidized copper.

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