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The Gobi’s amazing heritage…

A scientific conference looking at the historical and cultural heritage of the Gobi was held on 26 November, Wednesday in Ulaanbaatar. The conference, organised by the Academy of Sciences and the Umnugovi aimag Governor's office, was sponsored by Oyu Tolgoi.

The conference was attended by prominent academics, the management of the Academy of Science, and scientists and scholars including: B.Enkhtuvshin, T.Galbaatar, T.Dorj, R.Barsbold (Secretary General of the International Association for Mongolian Studies), D.Tumurtogoo, L.Dashnyam (Director of Mongol medleg college) and Kh.Dondog (Head of the Science and technology Foundation). The Governors of all Umnugovi soums also attended, along with Professor S.Chuluun (Director of the Institute of History), Prof. Dr. D.Serdaram (Head of the School of Social Sciences of the University of Science and Technology), Dr. Ch.Amartuvshin and N.Erdene-Ochir (Institute of Archaeology), Prof. Dr. J.Gerelbadrakh (lecturer at the Mongolian State University of Education), G.Enkhbat (Director of the Cultural Heritage Centre)and Ts.Otgontuya. The participants made presentations and discussed the heritage of the South Gobi.

During the conference, a new exhibition of paleontological finds and artistic pieces was launched in the heart of the capital. The exhibition has been made possible after Oyu Tolgoi worked with Umnugovi aimag’s Department of Culture to support talented artists and promote their work to the public.

Opening the exhibition, L.Batchuluun,Head of the Citizen’s Representative Council of Umnugovi aimag said: "The South Gobi has been inhabited since ancient times. It is very rich in history and culture. We are delighted to present afew examples.”

Professor Dr. Kh.Tsogtbaatar, Director of the Palaeontology Centre told the conference that South Gobi is abundant with historical and cultural landmarks and monuments, including dinosaur fossils.

Professor D.Tseveendorj, Director of the Institute of Archaeology mentioned that the Gobi’s historical and cultural heritage complemented the natural beauty of the Gobi desert. He called for the establishment of a Gobi Research centre and stressed importance of protecting rare monuments. Professor Tseveendorj praised Oyu Tolgoi’s role in balancing the development of the the natural wealth of the Gobi with the need to protect and preserve its historical and cultural heritage.

M.Chultemsüren, a teacher of technology at a local school has been making tapestries for the last 20 years. He spent almost half a year to decorating his work: “Mighty Four". He says the application of his work requires painstaking effort, time and skill. His understudy, G.Oyunchimeg, is an 11th grade student from the school. She studied this form of art for over two years and together they have created more than twenty pieces of work.

The judging team selected seven of the best pieces of work. T.Enkhbat, who has been making stone and wood carvings for 22 years, received an award for his horse carving decorated with mocha stones.

Other winners include: D.Tsolmonbaatar’s white coral snuffbox decorated with eight dragons, Khanhongor soum secondary school technology and fine-art teacher Kh.Odbayar’s Yolyn am gorgepainting, E.Khatantumur’s Noyon and Sevrei silver works, M.Chultemsuren’s Mighty Four, G.Oyunchimeg’s Mongolian toy papercut decoration, and Umnugovi Statistical office employee N.Chimedbaljin’s embroidered snuffbox pouch.

The public was also shown a large number of paleontological exhibits including a 71 million year-old baby Hadrosaurid skeleton and an 85 million year-old Protoceratops skull found in the Gobi’s Tugrug iin Shiree area.

Other exhibits include a 95 million year old Hadrosaurid skull, the front paws of a Therizinosaur, dinosaur eggs, a 100,000 year old spear found on Zurkh uul mountain in Khanbogd soum, bronze and bone weapons, bowstrings, iron knives, bows and arrows, a corked arrow case, iron stirrups, a silver cup, earrings, ceramic bowls, a spinning wheel, a women’s bogtag high hat, gold earrings, bronze rings, bracelets, buttons, earrings, engraved decorations and other rare items and artefacts found in Xioungnu era tombs and ruins.

Vice President of the Academy of Sciences, Academic T.Dorj noted the importance of establishing a research centre for the Gobi and said the state, private sector and local communities must play a key role in preserving and protecting local historical and cultural heritage for future generations. He mentioned that the ancient silk and tea roads passed through the Gobi and that all nomadic culture might have its origins here. Ancient fauna and flora and rare human artefacts point to this theory. In recent years, there has been global interest in nomadic culture and the idea of a establishing a natural history museum and a history museum was supported by several participants. It was reported that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has earmarked more than MNT20 million for these museums.

Since the discovery of its world-class copper-gold deposit in the South Gobi, Oyu Tolgoi has been making significant efforts to protect local historical and cultural heritage and has spent a significant amount on programmes in this area. The company built fences around dinosaur tracks found in the Shar Tsav area of Manlai soum. Excavations were conducted along the route of the water pipeline from Gunii Khooloi to Oyu Tolgoi and over 80 rare artefacts were discovered and sent for laboratory study. Oyu Tolgoi’s manager of Social Performance Sh.Baigalmaa told the conference that the company’s cultural heritage programme is helping to protect and preserve the region’s cultural heritage and historic artefacts. She gave an example of the company’s support for the restoration of the tradition of the Gobi camel caravans, which had been lost for more than 40 years. She also talked about how Oyu Tolgoi’s infrastructure, including Khanbumbat Airport and paved roads will support the development of tourism in the Gobi. Ts.Tsendsuren, Head of the Cultural Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also highlighted the success of measures being undertaken by Oyu Tolgoi.

Ts.Bat-Ulzii, Chairman of the Seniors Association of Umnugovi aimag, O.Ulamtsetseg, Cultural Inspector at the State Specialised Inspection Agency, and former Khanbogd soum Governor, B.Dendevsamba praised Oyu Tolgoi for providing financial support for the conference, citing Oyu Tolgoi as " exemplary for other Mongolian companies in the protection and preservation of historical and cultural heritage."

Pparticipants at the event resolved to promote the establishment of a regional research centre for the Gobi, perhaps the most lasting legacy from the conference. Oyu Tolgoi’s cultural heritage expert D.Amarbayasgalan said that the establishment of this centre would provide great opportunities to increase protection of cultural heritage. "Our company’s procedure for treating relics and artefacts found during operations can serve as a manual for other mining companies,” he said. It is hoped that the funding for the centre will be generated by allocating a portion of mining income from companies operating in the South Gobi.

About Oyu Tolgoi LLC (www.ot.mn)

Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Mongolia's largest copper and gold mining company, is a strategic partnership between the Government of Mongolia, Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto. Located in the South Gobi, Oyu Tolgoi commenced shipment of product to customers in July 2013. Oyu Tolgoi is managed by Rio Tinto, which is investing global expertise and cutting-edge technology to help develop Mongolia’s mining industry and ensure Oyu Tolgoi is one of the world’s most advanced mines. For Oyu Tolgoi, nothing matters more than safety. The business operates under the principle that if a job cannot be done safely, it will not be done at all.

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