Mongolia's Tavan Tolgoi Coal Resources Could Reach MNT 7.5 Billion
ULAN BATOR, July 20 (Reuters) - Mongolia's massive Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit could hold as much as 7.5 billion tonnes of resources, up nearly 15 percent from the current estimate of 6.5 billion tonnes, Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold was quoted as saying in local media.
Winning bidders selected to develop the western part of Tavan Tolgoi would be allowed exploit the field for 30 years, Batbold was quoted as saying in a major Mongolian news website on Wednesday. (www.news.mn)
"Tavan Tolgoi could hold as much as 7.5 billion tonnes of coal resources. The 6.5 billion estimate was based on a old Soviet study and we're getting new estimates," Batbold said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Batbold said Mongolia welcomes Russia, China, the United States, Japan and South Korea to participate in the Tavan Tolgoi project, but he stopped short of saying if the group of Japanese and South Korean companies were still part of the final list.
"We have to consider the interests of our two neighbours. We also have a third neighbour policy, so we have to find a balance between them," Batbold said, referring to the government's plan to seek out new export markets in Japan and South Korea via Russian ports.
Last week, the Mongolian government said it had reached a deal with China's Shenhua International, U.S. Peabody Energy and a Russian-Mongolian consortium to develop the west Tsankhi deposit, prized for its massive resources of highly sought after coking coal.
But identities of the Russian-Mongolian consortia remain unclear and confusion arose after some Japanese and South Korean firms, that were part of the Russian-led group, said they were not told of the outcome and the South Korean government questioned the fairness of the selection process.
China's Shenhua teamed up with Japan's Mitsui & Co but the Japanese firm's name was also dropped without explanation.
Government officials familiar with the negotiations told Reuters separately on Wednesday that talks were continuing with all parties and the final proposal has not yet been approved by the National Security Council nor has it been submitted to the parliament.
Members of the South Korean firms which participated in the Russian-Korean-Japanese consortium include state-run Korea Resources, POSCO , utility firm KEPCO , trading firm LG International and Daewoo International .
Japanese firms in the group include Itochu Corp , Sumitomo Corp , Marubeni Corp and Sojitz Corp . (Reporting by Khaliun Bayartsogt; Writing by Fayen Wong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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