Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Uranium hunt on for both Russia & China

Since the opening up in the mid-1990s, uranium exploration in Mongolia by international companies has not been  subject to any clear national policy or close regulation.

In the last few years, however, the Government has sought to exercise more control over the whole mining sector and earlier this year it set up MonAtom to undertake uranium exploration and mining on behalf of the state, as well as to pursue nuclear energy proposals. It will hold the state’s equity in uranium and nuclear ventures, under the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency.

In mid-July, after consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Parliament passed a Nuclear Energy Law to regulate the exploration and mining of uranium and give the state a greater degree of ownership and control of those resources. Along with this the Government set up Dornod Uran, a joint venture company between MonAtom and Russia’s ARMZ to develop two uranium mines in Mongolia — Dornod and nearby Mardai. A Japanese partner, evidently Marubeni, is also expected to be later involved in the work of this joint venture.

The development is of particular interest to Russia due to its proximity to the Priargunsky operations, allowing possible creation of a ‘single infrastructure. At least until mid-August, Canadian based Khan Resources owned a 69% share in the Dornod project, mostly through its 58% subsidiary Central Asian Uranium (CAUC). The balance of CAUC, which holds Mongolia’s only uranium mining license, was owned by MonAtom and ARMZ, each with 21%.

A definitive feasibility study released in March 2009 showed that the $333 million project was sound, on the basis of 24,780 tons of indicated resources, including 20,340 tons of probable reserves. Annual production of 1,150 tons over 15 years from 2012 was envisaged.

However, the Nuclear Energy Agency has announced that the joint venture of MonAtom with ARMZ will develop the project to annually produce about 2000 tons. Khan is uncertain where it stands, having apparently been dispossessed as it sought to negotiate an investment agreement with the Government.

Gurvanbulag is another deposit, about 30 km away, which has been held by the Canadian Western Prospector Group. This March the company agreed to a $25 million takeover by China’s CNNC International, a 74% subsidiary of CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding and through it, of SinoU. MonAtom appears to be positive about this development.

As an aside, I think the photo above says a lot about Sino-Russ relations ….

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Emerging markets: Is the cloud truly global?

cloud computingAs we evolve to a hybrid of internal and external IT Services, companies in developed markets have invested significantly on infrastructure, so they are not rushing to outsource operations.

Emerging markets have lower data center investments…Are they more fit to consume cloud services? Can we use the same tactics to reach them?

Over the last 18 months I’ve been working on enabling the “cloud software services” transformation for Microsoft Latin America. The journey has been harder than expected:

  • Customers. As in any other region of the world, you will find early adopters, late majority and skeptics. Academic institutions are leveraging free e-mail offers faster than any other segment, but when provided to them as cost reduction only. The collaboration market for consumer is there, but for enterprises still focused on the interior.
  • Latency. Most governments require that at least their data is kept in-Country… if you target private organizations, most US data centers can effectively cover Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. For all South America you will need to invest on a hoster partner to effectively deliver services. Be prepared to extremely low upload speeds.
  • Local billing is simply not there. “Software services” can generate tax issues that make it a lot more expensive. Billing is a complex issue for small and medium size organizations that do not use international credit cards. They are also bad for SaaS providers, impacting 15-25% of the total “per user” cost.
  • Marketing. The Social media is just starting to develop on emerging markets, you will need to promote using traditional media and existing partners or might not reach critical mass. Expect promotion cost to be higher than expected, because targeting is still limited.
  • Partners. Business is conducted on different ways on each Country. Most customers are not ready to buy direct. This is a huge challenge because intermediaries expect to make a significant “traditional” margin. If your service is free then the problem you face is volume.
  • Do you plan to use online support? Sorry, Latin America organizations demand phone support… The lower costs of HR make it possible and desirable.
  • Internal Incubation. Most software organizations cannot afford the incubation process required to initiate the motion of software services sale, they rely on their existing workforces.

For Microsoft, 2007-2009 was a period to establish hundreds of partnerships that will make it possible to offer the choices to customers: internal, partner or vendor hosted mixed services. The vertical and horizontal application still need the “multi-headed” treatment so that they can be consumed by a smart client, browser or a mobile device.

The vision of getting access to your information from any device and on any place – including emerging markets – is becoming real, but will take at least 5-10 more years before it becomes truly global.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Luis Daniel Soto, who is Senior Director of New Technologies, in Latin America for Microsoft

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