Mongolia shakes its ‘Asia’s mineral state’ reputation, pushes renewables

Mineral-rich Mongolia, host of today’s UN World Environment Day, is trying to shake its reputation as “Asia’s mineral state” by becoming the main renewable energy hub in the region, reports Reuters.

"Mongolia is regarded as one of the centres of this region for wind power. We have high mountains and the Gobi. We have great potential to generate power," president Tsakhia Elbegdorj was quoted as saying.

The Asian country has enjoyed a resource investment led boom that turned it into one of the fastest growing global economies. The sparsely populated country with some 3 million inhabitants grew at a 12.3% clip last year from 17.5% the year before.

Elbegdorj has managed to balance the country’s aspiration to woo investors with legitimate concerns about the possibility of Mongolia’s becoming a mineral state, writes Jonathan Berkshire Miller at World’s Politic Review:

During his first term, he guided Ulan Bator’s diplomatic push to enhance ties with both of Mongolia’s immediate neighbours, China and Russia, as well as with foreign markets in Europe and North America. And he has taken steps over the past few months to ease rigid rules that restricted foreign companies’ ability to develop Mongolia’s mining assets.

However, his efforts to open Mongolia’s mining sector have also brought troubles, such as increased pollution that landed the country’s capital, Ulan Bator, a top position in the list of the world's most polluted cities last winter.

The country is suffering "more pasture degradation, permafrost thawing, and glacial melt,” Sanjaasuren Oyunm, minister of environment and green development, told Reuters.

Elbegdorj added the country will focus on boosting its renewable energies, particularly wind and solar power and will introduce new environmental laws to force companies to pay compensation for the use and consumption of non-extracted resources, such as water and lumber.