Aspire Mining has welcomed the signing of a trilateral agreement between China, Russia and Mongolia that establishes a number of trade and cooperation initiatives between the trio, including a new rail corridor between Russia and China through Mongolia.

The agreement identifies a 3500km rail path, the Northern Rail Corridor, connecting the Chinese seaport of Tianjin to the Trans-Siberian Railway at Kuragino, Russia. Approximately 2100km of this corridor already exists and Aspire’s rail subsidiary Northern Railways LLC has been awarded a rail concession from the Mongolian Government to build, operate and transfer a 547km section of the corridor from Erdenet to Aspire’s Ovoot Coking Coal Project.

The agreement was signed by the presidents of China, Russia and Mongolia during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Annual Meeting on June 24 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The Northern Rail Corridor requires completion of the 547km section to Ovoot, 200km to Arts Suuri at the Mongolia-Russia border, 260km to Kyzyl and 410km to Kuragino for a total of 1414km. At Kuragino the corridor would join the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Each of these rail developments will be subject to identifying their commercial feasibility. Two-way trade freight along this corridor will provide a long-term demand for fast efficient rail freight services.

Aspire says the establishment of this Northern Rail Corridor confirms that the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway has developed from being a rail connection to a large coking coal project to now being part of an important new trade route.

It says the inclusion of the Erdenet to Ovoot link in the corridor enhances the recently announced value adding opportunity for Ovoot Coking Coal to be blended with Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi non coking coals.

The corridor forms one of the six key rail and maritime economic corridors that form the basis of China’s One Belt One Road strategy to grow trade with its near neighbours in Asia and Europe.

As Erdenet to Ovoot is now part of the Northern Rail Corridor and part of China’s One Belt One Road trade infrastructure policy, it now becomes, subject to completion of a feasibility study, a priority funding project from China’s Policy Banks, Sinosure, Asian Infrastructure Development Bank and funds such as the Silk Road Fund which has been specifically established to support the establishment of One Belt One Road logistics infrastructure.

Aspire’s managing director David Paull said, “It is very significant news that the Erdenet to Ovoot Railway is now recognised as a key part of a new rail trade route between Russia and China through Mongolia. This new corridor will be of significant long-term value to the people of Mongolia.

“The Erdenet to Ovoot Railway has now officially moved from a rail extension to service a world-class coking coal deposit, to a strategic piece of rail infrastructure to facilitate China’s Silk Road initiative and Mongolia’s Step Road trade initiative.”

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