Guiding the Mongolia gold rush

February 19, 2014
Amy Dove
B.Comm graduates Sarah Campbell, Laura Dohan, Lyndsay Cliche, Matt Antwright and Christian Mundhenk spent one month in Mongolia helping small business owners.

The South Gobi looks like what you might imagine Mars to be like and feels just as far away from a Royal Roads classroom. For the five alumni who travelled there in November 2013, however, it proved to be the perfect place to move theory into practice.

“The town of Khanbogd is growing so fast. We could see opportunity around every corner, but the playing field was new,” says Bachelor of Commerce graduate Sarah Campbell. “There are some unique challenges to conducting business in the middle of the desert in Mongolia. It took some getting used to.”

Campbell and fellow graduates Laura Dohan, Lyndsay Cliche, Matt Antwright and Christian Mundhenk were the first Royal Roads alumni fellows to travel to Mongolia under an agreement, signed in October 2013, between Royal Roads and Oyu Tolgoi LLC (OT), the company developing a mine on one of the world’s largest copper-gold resources. The alumni worked with three local small and medium enterprises to assist with their supply chain management and business development requirements. 

Working with safety equipment supplier Khanbogd Khugjil, print shop Anir Khur and tool supplier Khanbogd Bayajikh was not without challenge. A language barrier required translators in many cases and the experience called for a crash course in working in another culture, Campbell says. At the month’s end, however, the businesses were able to incorporate new practices into their current work and had a different perspective on how to expand their businesses.

The alumni lived in gers, a traditional Mongolian home, in Khanbogd. “One of the reasons Oyu Tolgoi wanted us to work with the businesses, (was to) provide them with the tools and knowledge to find additional markets and revenue streams beyond Oyu Tolgoi so that they can be sustained in the long run,” Dohan says.

Now home in Canada, Campbell and Dohan both reflect on the impact the experience had on them personally.

“I gained an appreciation for the importance of really understanding your local, regional and national market, as well as the global market,” Campbell says. “And I fell in love with the Mongolian people. They are tough and open-hearted at the same time.”

“The biggest impact for me both personally and professionally was the comparison between working in the mature, stable economy here in Canada versus working in the Mongolian economy that is still in its infancy stage,” Dohan adds. “It is incredibly rewarding and exciting to be part of a frontier market where everything we worked on played an integral role in the economic development of the region.”

Read the team’s blog.