Sainshand Industrial Park, Mongolia

An Approach to Materials Handling for a very large Industrial Complex

08/24/2012 | Autor / Editor: Michel A. Thomet * / Marcel Dröttboom

A large, integrated industrial park being planned at Sainshand in the southern Gobi.
Gallery: 10 Pictures
A large, integrated industrial park being planned at Sainshand in the southern Gobi. (Picture: Bechtel Corporation)

A large, integrated industrial park being planned at Sainshand in the southern Gobi. Major primary transformation industries will be located there to supply the country’s basic needs, as well as earn export revenues. A central material handling and storage facility is being planned to serve all the plants.

Coal will be brought in from the Tavan Tolgoi fields to feed the coal gasification plant, the cement plant and a metallurgical coke pellets plant. The coal gasification plant will generate synthetic fuel gas that will supply the energy needs of the power plant, the iron ore pelletizing plant, and the iron reducing plant (DRI/HBI). Iron ore will be brought from the Tomertei mines to manufacture iron pellets, and hot briquetted pellets. Copper concentrate from the Oyu Tolgoi mine will supply a copper smelter, which will produce copper anodes and also substantial quantities of gold and silver. The copper operation will also generate industrial quantities of sulfuric acid. A cement plant will receive trainloads of limestone and various other minerals to produce bulk cement on a national scale. The power plant will also provide high, medium and low pressure steam to the coke oven, the copper smelter and the iron reducing plant.

A central material handling and storage facility is being planned to serve all the plants. It will have multiple rail loops for both unloading (rotary dumpers) and loading (towers) unit trains. The storage facilities will have stockpiles for several grades of coal, iron ore, and copper as well as for the coke and iron pellets being produced. Stockpiles of several other minerals used by the cement plant and some other processes will also be included. Storage and distribution will be handled by several large stacker/reclaimers and a complex network of conveyor belts connecting the plants to the central facility.


Mongolia is well endowed with mineral resources, which are at various stages of exploitation. Erdenet has one of the largest copper mines in the world and produces a significant amount of molybdenum. Dornod has significant reserves of uranium ore which have been exploited since the soviet days. Large deposits of iron ore are found around Tomortei and are being exploited and some are processed locally.

More recently one of the largest, still untapped, coal fields in the world, at Tavan Tolgoi started development with an initial exploitation phase moving coal by truck to China. This is a rather expensive and environmentally damaging way of operating, but until suitable infrastructure is in place, it is the only feasible way. Nearby at Oyu Tolgoi, one the largest ore bodies of copper is now being developed by a major western mining company. This copper mine will also yield substantial quantities of gold and silver.

Mining and development projects are being actively promoted and facilitated by the Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Agency (FIFTA) of Mongolia. This agency has services to facilitate incorporation of foreign investors and permitting for development projects, as well as partnering with local firms. Mining codes, investment laws, and banking have been revised and made more transparent, following the western model, to bring Mongolia into the global community as a business-friendly country.

The Government’s strategy is to promote development pro-jects that will add value to its substantial mineral resources, develop a national industry, provide for local needs through import substitution, and diversify the economy into the secondary and tertiary sectors. This will be made possible and even accelerated by allowing foreign investors to participate in these projects.


Currently, the rail network consist of the Trans-Mongolian railroad that runs north to south from the Russian border to the Chinese border and a spur off this line that runs to the oil fields at Zuunbayaan. There are also branch lines in the north to service the copper mines of Erdenet and the iron mines and industry of Darkhan. At Sainshand, there is an existing passenger terminal of the Trans-Mongolian railroad and an industrial rail yard for off-loading commercial goods and coal for the local heating plant.

The Trans-Mongolian railroad predominantly carries freight to and from Ulaanbataar from the interchange terminal of Erenhot (Erlian) in China, south of Zamin Uud (Fig. 2). Both the Trans-Mongolian railroad and the Zuunbayan spur are built using Russian wide gauge track (1520 millimetres) carrying predominantly Russian rolling stock pulled by Russian diesel locomotives. Both lines are essentially single track with passing sidings at regular intervals along the railroad corridor.

Shipments of goods into and out of China require trans-shipment to the Chinese standard gauge changes at Erenhot, south of the border (Zamin Uud). Currently, freight shipments are unloaded from Mongolian railcars and reloaded on Chinese railcars. Bulk shipment of copper concentrate from Oyu Tolgoi is now shipped by trucks in 2-tonne supersacks to both facilitate transloading at the border and to reduce product loss during transportation on Chinese rolling stock. Once the industrial park is operating, the copper concentrate will go by gondola railcars from Oyu Tolgoi to the Sainshand smelter. Mongolian rolling stock can make border crossings to Russia without transloading.

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