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Roads less traveled

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“Dubai is the Hong Kong of the Middle East. It’s politically stable, tolerant and very business-friendly. Given our global expansion plans, we thought it was ideally suited as our international headquarters from which to support all our international operations, as well as from a procurement, logistical and financial perspective.” Apart from Kabul and Dubai, ACCL now has offices in Nairobi, Kenya; Entebbe, Uganda; and suburban Chicago – and, crucially, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.

Mongolia is every bit as challenging as Afghanistan (apart, of course, from the IED’s). The remoteness of the mine sites, which are a primary market for ACCL, is only matched by the extremes of the weather. But that is an attraction rather than a deterrent for a company that has proven itself in Afghanistan, a country that is effectively a war zone.

“You’re dealing with IEDs, local insurgency, and having to be careful who you hire because they might pose a security risk,” says Stukel.

When boys and girls spend their one day a week at Skateistan, it is sometimes the only square meal they get.

Mongolia is more secure politically, but has some parallels in other areas. In Afghanistan, ACCL learned to manage people with vastly differing levels of education, with even basic literacy a problem in some cases.

“To produce first world quality in a very difficult environment is something we have shown we can do. That impresses the mining industry, because they tend to work in places that are remote and not the kind of places you take the family on vacation.”

Once again, ACCL Mongolia is a local company incorporated in Ulaan Bataar. “We are a Mongolian company that plans to stay there, using as much Mongolian labour and resources as humanly possible. Again, we work very closely with the officials there, establishing our bona fides on the basis that we are there for the long term. This is not a project to us, it is a commitment to Mongolia.”

Mongolia is a treasure trove of resources, wide open to extraction projects of every kind. A single mine, Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi project, is expected to earn a third of the country’s GDP. But the activity is all exploration so far. Mining has yet to begin on the numerous sites that are under development in the Gobi Desert, but when it does the activity will be frenetic. Building a mining camp, and supplying it, is very similar to building a training establishment or an academy, and there is certain to be strong demand for ACCL’s services from this sector – it is currently developing independent camp operations in support of a number of south Gobi mines.

Typically, this might include 300-500 man accommodation blocks, shopping and dining facilities, vehicle and heavy equipment repair facilities as well as entertainment and healthcare options. Meanwhile, there is no dearth of projects to keep the local team busy under its local operations manager, Richard Tisdale. ACCL has built and is operating a coal storage facility in the Zamyn Uud free zone on the China/ Mongolia border in partnership with Global Mongolian Holdings. Additionally, it is in the process of developing a low cost housing feasibility study for the Mongolian government, and mining company local resettlement and community development initiatives.

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