The Spring days have been busy for us at the Mongolian Mining Journal, but there is a feeling of satisfaction that this working under pressure with new ideas and plans has led to some positive achievements. We would like to share with you information on some projects we have taken up or already completed. Our MMJ team is small but we think big.
The Mongolian Mining Journal established the NGO Journalism for Development in 2010. Our goal was to help ourselves and our fellow journalists improve our professional skills, particularly in understanding the new economic framework which was unfamiliar, in varying degrees, to most of us. The first trainings were on understanding how the stock market works and on how to make sense of economic information and data.
Local News Network was established in 2015, as we felt it was imperative to have a much larger number of journalists in Mongolia qualified to present economic news and analysis in a professional way. They were most needed in media organizations in the districts, where the mining operations were, and where local citizens lacked a proper understanding of how things worked in general in the mining sector, and also could not access much actual information on the ground. This project was started in May 2015, and was supported by GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation.
We prepared the first training modules ourselves, drawing on our own experience and practices. It became gradually apparent that more was needed, and that we, MMJ journalists, did not have the theoretical base to teach others. We write on mining and economic issues, and can share our practical experiences, or discuss the challenges we faced, but our target groups needed some theoretical grounding, some teaching. Local journalists were very happy with what we did offer in our training sessions, and strongly urged us to continue with the project.
We had also thought of Local News Network as an ongoing experiment and now, with support from GIZ, which saw gains from the trainings so far, the Local News Network project started working on enriching the contents of the trainings. These were used in the first training this year, which was conducted by Dr. Dirk Asendorpf, chosen for the assignment by GIZ for his experience as a media person with special interest in mining and environmental topics. The Mongolian section of this issue contains an interview with him where he gives his impressions of the training.
The next training to improve the professional skills of our journalists will be held in August in Uvurkhangai, to be followed by one in November in Ulaanbaatar. These will also be conducted by German experts, and participants will receive a certificate.
This is our tribute to our late and much lamented editor, Luntan Bolormaa. Her dream was to extend advanced-level training facilities to all corners of the country. Her motto was ‘A reporter never stops learning’, and we are now enabled to put this into practice, thanks to the GIZ IMRI team, its Director, Dr. Stefan Hanselmann, and its Deputy Director, O.Batbold.
EITI REPORTS MADE EASY
We have been successfully working together with GIZ IMRI on another project, this one for simplifying the rules for preparing EITI reports at the aimag level and then presenting it in an easily understandable manner. In 2015, this was done with reports from Bayankhongor and Selenge aimags, and this year our target is four more aimags.
Mongolia has been an active member of EITI, which has been adopted by 51 countries, for 10 years. The initiative calls on companies to reveal how much they paid to whom and for what, and on governments to reveal how much they received from whom and for what. Such transparency on both sides will empower the public to follow how mining revenue is used. Factual reporting also helps dissemination of unbiased information on the extractive sector, thus clarifying uninformed perceptions which encourage conflicts. The work is by no means easy, but this is the very foundation of EITI activities. As EITI gets stronger it will have more impact on transparency and accountability in the mining sector.
EITI reports in Mongolia contain a great deal of raw information, but its presentation requires sensible arrangement in a form to make it easily understandable to the public. The Mongolian EITI Secretariat has taken up the task of preparing simple graphics and explanatory notes to accompany the complex and huge reports in their online version.
This is the second year that MMJ has been sharing in this task, aimed at simplifying aimag-level Mongolian EITI reports. Adopting methods suggested in the collaborative project, MMJ journalists S.Bold-Erdene and B.Tugsbilegt have done comprehensive analysis of information submitted by companies in Bayankhongor, Uvurkhangai, Selenge, and Uvs aimags, and then restructured it. This can be done with local-level reports from other aimags also.
ARRANGING AIMAG-WISE DATA
We have also used MEITI’s 2014 report to list the impact and benefits of the extractive industry’s operations across the country. Our reports give the area, population, number of mining licences, nature of extraction operation, production and sales figures, amounts of taxes paid, amounts paid as donation, extent of and expenses on reclamation, specific benefits for the local communities from mining, and share of revenue transferred to the Local Development Fund in every single one of all 21 aimags. This is the first time nationwide data have been organised and presented in this manner, and MMJ is justly proud to have done the work successfully.
We are even prouder that our achievement received international recognition when B.Tugsbilegt of MMJ made a presentation on the project at a seminar in Bangkok, Thailand. This was held from 28 March to 31 March and was devoted to resource governance topics including EITI, Natural Resource Charter, and Strengthening Assistance for Complex Contract Negotiations (CONNEX). A report on the seminar appears in this issue’s Mongolian section.
IDENTIFYING THE BEST COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Mongolian Mining Journal has been selected by the Australia-Mongolia Extractives Program (AMEP) to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Mining (MoM) and the Mineral Resources Authority of Mongolia (MRAM) on their communications strategy. The three-month agreement with the AMEP is that MMJ will evaluate possible media strategies before identifying the most promising, and suggest the best plans for its implementation, as also recommend ways to further improve the communications profile of MoM and MRAM.
This assignment and the Local News Network project are complementary in that both stress the importance of delivering accurate and actual information to people. This is all the more true in the case of the Mining Ministry because of the special position of mining in the Mongolian economy, and also because people usually overpoliticise all developments here.
We believe the success of both projects will lead to a permanent commitment to making mining information available to the public, as a positive information flow in a truly open society and not just a public relations exercise.