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The story behind this days-long traffic jam in Mongolia

Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
No cutsies.
  • Johnny Simon
By Johnny Simon

Deputy Photo Editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

China can’t get enough of Mongolia’s coal, thanks to domestic mine closures and a halt on imports from North Korea. Compared to last year, Mongolia coal exports have more than doubled, and the China-Mongolia border is buckling under the flow.

As shown in the photo above, a days-long bottleneck of coal trucks has built up at the Chinese border.

The cause of the hold-up is understaffed customs offices on both sides of the border, who are also under pressure for increased scrutiny of the surging cargo, Reuters reports. At the moment, the border only has capacity to let through 700 trucks a day. Their target for the next year is 3000 trucks per day.

While the truck drivers wait their turn to cross the border, sometimes nearly a week, a small local economy has popped up along the road to the border crossing. Local sellers provide water, cigarettes and fuel for the drivers stuck in the traffic snaking through the desert, seemingly without end.

Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
Thousands of heavy-duty trucks loaded with coal are lined up for up the miles long journey to Mongolia-China border on a sole road in the Gobi desert in Mongolia on Oct. 31, 2017. The journey can take more than a week.
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
A man sits on top of his truck to get a better signal to make a phone call at Khangobd Soum near the border with China.
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
A man carries groceries to men who are digging their coal truck out of the sand at Khanbogd Soum.
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
A man eats instant noodles in the cabin of his truck at Khanbogd Soum
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
Sheep meat and cooking gas are seen in the back of a van on the road to the Mongolia-China border at Khanbogd Soum. Smaller vehicles travel up and down the highway to the Mongolia-China border selling water and food to coal truck drivers who are many days away from a rest stop.
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
Three men eat a dinner of instant noodles and dried beef inside a truck at Khanbogd Soum.
Reuters/B. Rentsendorj
Trucks filled up with coal are lined up in the early morning in Khanbogd Soum.

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