TAVAN TOLGOI, Mongolia — “All you need to mine here is a shovel,” said an awe-struck Indian investment manager as he stood behind a barrier, along with dozens of international mining industry executives and other eager investors, gazing at the immense coal pit gouged out of the rust-colored earth below.
Coal may have lured the foreigners to this stretch of the Gobi, but that is just part of the buried treasure to be found now that this nation of livestock herders has started digging in earnest. Mongolia has not only enough coal to fuel China’s huge demand for the next 50 years, but also vast troves of copper, gold, uranium and other minerals the world covets.
While Mongolia may be blessed by geology, it is cursed by geography. Landlocked between China and Russia, its three million people face a geopolitical quandary: Every path to prosperity leads through their mighty neighbors’ territory. And Moscow and Beijing intend to make Mongolia pay dearly for the privilege. Continue Reading →