Erdenet (Mongolia) and a Visit to the Quarry-Mining Complex

Today we tell about our adventures in the Mongolian town of Erdenet and about organizing a tour to the mining quarry there.

Hospitality

A small Mongolian town of Erdenet remained in our memory as a very hospitable place full of surprises. On the way to Khövsgöl Lake, we had a first stop here. At the beginning, we were looking for cheap hostels from in Lonely Planet, and actually, they turned out to be quite expensive: around 30-40 dollars per night. It raining heavily, we were desperately asking for help from a taxi driver, and got lucky. One car stopped near us and the driver offered help in English. He listened to our problem and asked if we had sleeping bags with us. After getting a positive reply, he offered a place in a kindergarten. Our new friend turned out to be a Catholic priest from Congo. In Erdenet, he has a mission and a free kindergarten for poor families.

Volunteers from France worked in the kindergarten. He settled us together with them, and instructed the local Mongol to take us to the kitchen, where we got some warm soup.

This way we got a shelter and some rest. In the morning, we had breakfast and a little talk with the guys there. They found work through the “coup de pouce humanitaire” program (https://www.cdepouce.com/). They have chosen the construction direction, but they are more likely to be assistants. They pay for the tickets themselves, but the government returns 60 percent of the tax from their French salaries in such a case to them, so for some of them with a large income, it makes sense to work for the benefit of Mongolia. After breakfast, our new Congo friend drove us to the bus station.

On the way back from Moron, we were lucky again. The passenger who had studied in Sverdlovsk was traveling with us. The road was long, the conversation was interesting, and we ended o staying overnight at her place.

Quarry-mining complex Erdenet

We learned one more time that Erdenet is very friendly the next day. However, before we had to deal a bit with the Russian bureaucracy together with the Mongolian way of doing business. This is because our goal was to visit the joint Mongolian-Russian enterprise, the Erdenet mining complex.

Getting into the quarry turned out to be both easy and not quite. The guide books said that any hotel in Erdenet would help you to organize a tour. In fact, this is not the case. We asked about it in few hotels, including the hotel fashionable by local standards, and nobody could not help us. Then we found the phone numbers of the enterprise from their web page and called the first one. We were told to come to Gendirekt (yes, that’s exactly what they said this with a funny accent, which means a kind of General Director).

It is turned out to be a building in the city centre near the fountains. For some reason, we were sent to the deputy director of human resource. The man listened to us, we had some small talk about Belarus, and then he called to another guy. It was the head of Safety Department. He promised to pick us up near his house, where he was supposed to have lunch. We were waiting by his house, but nobody came by. We called again, but it turned out that the boss had already left.
We lost a hope of visiting the quarry, but very soon we got a call back. The deputy director said that they sent a car for us to the main office. We went there again: luckily, the distance was not big. After half an hour, the car came and brought us to the quarry. There, we waited for a little while for our guide to come and went to the observation platform with him. For a proper excursion, you need a permit from the general director, safety briefings, etc. It remains not clear how to organize this all correctly.

We drove through the territory, and spent about 20 minutes at the observation point over the quarry. Gennady Petrovich briefly spoke about the company. At that moment (summer of 2016), Russia sold its 49% stake and the company became completely Mongolian. It employs about 6,000 people, mostly Mongols, Russians, and other immigrants from the former USSR. This quarry has existed for over 35 years and its depth is about 140 meters. The main products of the quarry are copper and molybdenum concentrates which are mostly exported to China.

The equipment includes our Belarusian BelAZ with a load capacity of 120 tons and American dump trucks of 136 tons.

Excavators are from Russia and abroad. The mining process is standard: first wells are drilled, and then dynamite is put in there and blown up.

After that, the material is loaded onto dump trucks and transported to the production unit, where the ore passes first through a coarse and then – through the fine grinding mill.

The process finishes with the extraction: a special powder is mixed with water in the beginning and the particles of copper and molybdenum are selected afterwards together with the foam.

Erdenet attractions

The town is rather small, and there are not so many things to see other than the quarry. In addition to the square with fountains, we discovered a bulldozer monument.

We climbed up to the monument of friendship and saw a statue of Buddha from there.

Erdenet has a small museum, the entrance fee is 1,500 tugriks.

It is forbidden to take pictures here, but we did take a couple of shots before receiving a warning.

However, we made this picture with the permission. We explained that this guy in a yurt looks like our president Lukashenko, and the lady on the museum kindly understood why we wanted to take a picture.

The remaining attractions of the city are the stadium and the market. The first is not intended for football, but for competitions in national games. The market is filthy and smelly, with some drunkards. It does not sell anything interesting.

How to get there

We arrived in Erdenet by car. From Suhbator, collective car costs 60,000 tugriks. More passengers – less cost. We went back by train to Ulaanbaatar. We paid 27,600 for a coupe per person, while the berths are much cheaper – 18,000 tugriks, but our friend from Sverdlovsk/Erdenet discouraged us from buying the cheaper ticket as it was “very stuffy and smelly” in such compartments. The taxi from the city centre to the railway station cost 5,400 tugriks.