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N 42° 38′ 33′′, E 109° 59′ 35′′
1,211 MASL
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Trucks moving rare earth at Bayan Obo mine. In the 1940s, Japanese institutions, in particular the investigation bureau of the North China Development Company, conducted geological surveys in Bayan Obo, where rare-earth deposits had first been identified by the Sino-Swedish expedition of 1927–1935. Large scale excavation began at the Baiyun Obo mine in 1957, now one of the largest producers of rare-earth metals in the world.

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A mineral transport train makes its way along the Tavan Tolgoi–Zuun Bayan Railway in southern Mongolia. Designed with a coal handling capacity of 15 million tons/year, the 416.1- kilometer railway line will connect to the planned 281-kilometer Zuun Bayan–Mandula Railway, and then to Baotou via the 262.6-kilometer Baotou–Mandula Railway. The Baotou–Mandula Railway is composed of three segments, namely Baotou–Bayan Obo, Bayan Obo–Bayinhua, and Bayinhua–Mandula.

1862: Not long after it lost the Crimean War (1854–1855), Tsarist Russia rapidly expanded its control in the Far East. Amur Committee of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluded that Russia’s goal should be to form an independent domain in Mongolia and Manchuria if Qing China was to ever collapse.


1895: Russia agreed to restrain from involvement in new railway construction in the Yangtze Basin in exchange for a British promise to do the same for Chinese territories north of the Great Wall in 1895.


1907: After the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Russia and Japan signed a secret treaty dividing Manchuria and Mongolia into two spheres of interest in 1907.


1911: The Chinese government decided that Inner and Outer Mongolia should be formally incorporated into China, and it opened a colonization bureau in Urga (Ulaanbaatar).


1923: The Peking–Kalgan (Beijing–Zhangjiakou) Railway, which was completed in 1909, was further extended westward to Guisui (now Hohhot), the capital of Suiyuan in 1921, and to Baotou in 1923. Situated in an arable region of the Yellow River’s Great Bend, Baotou began spurring some industrial sites and became an important railhead since the early 1920s. Particularly, wool and hides from Qinghai and Gansu were brought down the Yellow River and shipped from Baotou by rail to Beijing and Tianjin.


1924: Outer Mongolia was established as Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924 and recognized by the Republic of China in 1946.


1927: From the late 1920s through the 1930s, Germany exerted arguably the greatest influence among the governing elite of the Nationalist China. The two countries negotiated a set of barter agreements in which China would exchange raw materials for German military and industrial equipment. During the Northwestern Scientific Expedition that focused on identifying iron sources to provision the German, Soviet, and nascent Chinese industries, rare earth deposit was discovered at Bayan Obo, a sacred Mongolian site located 120-kilometer north of Baotou.


1934: A German–Chinese joint-venture in 1934 constructed the Baotou Airport and opened a weekly route connecting Baotou with Ningxia and Lanzhou.


1936: In November 1936, the Japanese-supported Mongolian army invaded Suiyuan, determined to control its mineral wealth under the guise of incorporating the territory into an independent Mongolian state. Bayan Obo remained under the control of the Nationalist government.


1939: Mengjiang, also known as Monkukuo and consisted of the previously Chinese provinces of Suiyuan and Chahar in Inner Mongolia, was formed as a puppet state of the Japanese Empire. Mengjiang returned to Chinese control after the defeat of the Japanese Empire in 1945.


1956: The construction of the Baotou–Baiyun Obo Railway started in 1956 and opened two years later. Being the largest deposits of rare earth metals yet found, Baiyun Obo Mine was officially established in 1957 and located within the Darhan Muminggan United Banner of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.


1992: A new constitution of Mongolia was formed. Mandula in the northern part of the Darhan Muminggan United Banner was approved as a port that opened on a temporary basis.


2002: The Mandula Port was officially opened.


2010: The construction of the extension of Baotou–Baiyun Obo Railway further north to Mandula was completed.


2015: Upgrading of Mandula Port and the construction of the Khangi Port across the border in Mongolia were completed. The port started to open throughout the year.


2017: The construction of the Baotou–Mandula Highway (G210) started.


2019: Several railway projects to better connect different mining districts in the southern part of Mongolia have been planned or are currently under construction. The construction of the 414.6-kilometer Tavan Tolgoi–Zuun Bayan Railway started in May 2019.


2020: The planning of the 281-kilometer railway connecting Zuun Bayan to the Sino-Mongolian border at Khangi–Mandula commenced.

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