Mongolian Government Begins Tavan Tolgoi Investigation

On December 9th, as protestors gathered again before the Government Palace in Ulaanbaatar to demand accountability, the Mongolian government announced that it would start giving daily briefings on a coal theft scandal. The Cabinet secretariat, meanwhile, said nine contracts related to the state mining company at the heart of the affair, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT), would be declassified and made public. Henceforth, the government would not enter into any non-public agreements on coal export sales, officials also pledged. The confidentiality of non-disclosure agreements (NDA) would be terminated.

The secretariat also announced that parliament will form a temporary committee to probe the coal theft case. Statements from the secretariat also alluded to claims that the protests were incited by political and business groups who were involved in the “coal mafia,” a group of state officials and executives who have apparently robbed the public purse of billions of dollars. Most of those who will be investigated in relation to the coal exports to China are Mongolian customs officials.

One established claim in the affair is that when 379,000 mt of coal went missing in 2010-2011, inspectors at the time determined that 3,758 trucks were registered as “empty” at customs. Nyambaatar Khishgee, the Justice and Internal Affairs Minister, gave a briefing on some details of the coal theft and how law enforcement would proceed with its investigation. The statute of limitations will be lifted in all cases related to the coal theft, with investigators to primarily look into discrepancies between local and foreign customs data, said Nyambaatar.

As featured in Womp 2023 Vol 01 -