For those Mongolians willing to seize the opportunity, the China trade is rich in possibilities. Jambaljamts Odjargal and his Mongolian Mining Corp. has built the country's first paved road to its southern neighbor, which is also its largest trading partner.
Thanks to the road, MMC is Tavan Tolgoi coal basin's largest operator, and moving the company's trucks onto the highway has cut down traffic carving up the desert on impromptu roads while improving fuel efficiency and reducing dust, pollution and accidents.
It's also sped up MMC's volume. The company shipped 5.6 million tons of coal products to China last year, about double that of its two main rivals.
Left: A worker inspects a sample copper-gold ore rock at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Khanbogd, in the South Gobi Desert.