Mongolia declared disaster after fierce winter-UN

* Worst winter in 50 years decimated key livestock

* Natural disaster declared in nearly all provinces

* U.N. seeking $16 million to help worst hit

By Robert Evans

GENEVA, May 12 (BestGrowthStock) – Mineral-rich Mongolia is in the
grips of a natural disaster after its worst winter for 50 years
wiped out huge livestock populations vital to the country’s
herders, the U.N. said on Wednesday.

Rana Flowers, the United Nation’s top representative in the
landlocked Asian country, said a hot dry summer in 2009 followed
first by fierce cold and heavy snow, and then a late spring had
left much of the population reeling.

“Predictions are that the effects of all this, and it is
bound to be serious for the economy as a whole, will last well
into next year,” she told a news conference before presenting an
appeal for some $16 million in funding for a relief effort.

She said that by mid-week, over 8 million of the 41 million
cattle on which 30 percent of the nation’s population of 3
million depend not only for income but also for heating, had
died, and the death tolls were still climbing.

Of the country’s 21 provinces, 15 had already been declared
disaster zones by the government and 4 more were expected to
join the list, she added.

Among the rural population, almost entirely herders,
malnutrition was rising fast especially among children and
people who had lost all their livestock were moving to the few
towns and cities in search of work, probably fruitlessly.

Flowers, in Geneva to launch the appeal at a meeting of
donor countries, said that during the long snows transport
across Mongolia had frequently been interrupted, but that there
seemed to have been no effect on mining.

Mongolia, which is potentially sitting on vast amounts of
uranium, coking coal, copper and other minerals, has been
working hard on driving growth by boosting foreign investment in
the mining sector.

On Tuesday, Canadian exploration company Ivanhoe Mines
(IVN.TO: ) said its Oyu Tolgoi project in the the country would be
one of the world’s top three copper-gold mines when it goes into
full production after a start-up in 2013. [ID:nTOE3648086]

In Hong Kong last week, project financiers said they were
looking at the lending opportunities offered by the $4 billion
total investment, including a debt portion of $2.5-$3 billion,
needed to finance the complex in the south Gobi. [ID:nTOE64605E]

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(Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Elizabeth Fullerton)

Mongolia declared disaster after fierce winter-UN