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Gobi Desert, Mongolia

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Sig in the Gobi Desert

Sig is standing at a mining project located in the south Gobi Desert of Mongolia, approximately 560 km (348 miles) due south of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Road access to the property from Ulaanbaatar requires 12 hours travel time but a landing strip on the project can accomodate small aircraft. The Chinese-Mongolian border sits 80 km (50 miles) south of the project.

Many of us have heard expressions like, "They banished him to Outer Mongolia," but what does that mean? As you might imagine, Mongolia has a long history. Great hordes of horsemen have repeatedly swept down from Mongolia into N China, establishing vast, although generally short-lived, empires. In the 1st century A.D. Mongolia was inhabited by various Turkic tribes who dwelt mainly along the upper course of the Orkhon River. It was also the home of the Hsiung-nu (the Huns) who in the 1st to 5th centuries ravaged N China. The Uigur Turks founded their first empire (744-856) with its capital near Karakorum in W Mongolia. The Khitan, who founded the Liao dynasty (947-1125) in N China, were from Mongolia. Many smaller territorial states followed until about 1205 when Jenghiz Khan conquered all Mongolia, united its tribes, and from his capital at Karakorum led the Mongols in creating one of the greatest empires of all time. His successors established the Golden Horde in SE Russia and founded the Hulagid dynasty of Persia and the Yuan dynasty (1260-1368) of China.

After the decline of the Mongol empire, Mongolia intruded less in world affairs. China, which earlier had gained control of Inner Mongolia, subjugated Outer Mongolia in the late 17th century, but in the succeeding years struggled with Russia for control. Outer Mongolia finally broke away in 1921 to form the Mongolian People's Republic (now Mongolia). Inner Mongolia remained under Chinese control, although the Japanese conquered Rehe in 1933, which they included in Manchukuo, and Chahar and Suiyuan in 1937, which they formed into Mengjiang (Mongol Border Land). These areas were returned to China after World War II. In 1944, Tannu Tuva, long recognized as part of Mongolia but under Russian influence since 1911, was incorporated within the USSR (now Russia). The Chinese Communists joined most of Inner Mongolia to N Rehe province and W Heilongjiang province to form the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region in 1949.

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