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At first glance Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s gritty capital, doesn’t hold much promise. Pavements are cracked and crumbling. Beaten-up, growling buses jostle with cars from Japan’s scrapyards. Hawkers squat with folded arms waiting to sell a lollipop, shine shoes or dial a telephone call for passersby. Many Soviet-era buildings sorely need a lick of paint, new windows and a spring clean. But something is up.

Shimmering green, blue and silver office towers are taking shape, pointing to a golden future. A trove of minerals stretching across the Periodic…


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