Mongolia is between opportunity and crisis.

Mongolia’s recent discovery of large mineral deposits has brought the country new opportunities and plenty choices, but also gold fever, rising expectations and resource nationalism.

For a brief time, not too long ago, the country became the fastest growing economy in the world. Today, gold fever has been replaced with growing pains. Mongolia’s modest economy is lacking diversification, volume and capital.

Wide spread resource nationalism has brought ugly sentiments to a country long closed to the outside world.

Herders in the steppe, never pleased to open the earth for fear of disturbing earth spirits, are confronted with massive open-pit mining and clouds of dust originating from the thousands of trucks driving Mongolia’s coal and other resources to China, whilst transforming the steppe into desert.

Never before in Mongolia’s proud history, have so many herders moved to the country’s capital Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia, always sparsely populated, is getting more empty by the day and finds itself caught between vast opportunity and deep crisis.

—Jan Locus