(EnergyAsia, July 4 2012, Wednesday) — Aspire Mining Limited said it and rail giant JSC Russian Railways (RZD) are discussing the possibility of extending the Trans-Mongolian Railway across northern Mongolia that would help deliver coking coal from the Australian firm’s Ovoot mine.

The discussion is provided for under a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) that it signed with RZD’s Mongolian subsidiary, Infrastructure Development LLC, to explore a strategic partnership with Aspire’s infrastructure subsidiary, Northern Railways LLC, to build, own and operate an extension of the existing railway at Erdenet through to Ovoot via the town of Moron.

The MOU provides a framework for Aspire and ID to discuss the application for a rail concession for the Erdenet-Moron-Ovoot rail line, investment and network rail capacity and integration.

The Trans-Mongolian Railway network is operated and developed by the Ulaanbaatar Railway Mongolian-Russian Joint Venture (UBTZ), a company that is equally owned by the Russian and Mongolian governments.

Aspire’s managing director, David Paull, said: “The MOU with Russian Railways represents a step forward in the development of infrastructure to support the Ovoot coking coal project.

“It demonstrates the importance of the Erdenet Moron-Ovoot rail line to the economic and national interests of Mongolia. The development of this rail line would establish an important new source of export revenues for Mongolia and routes to seaborne markets via the Russian rail system.”

ASX-listed ASX, which fully owns Ovoot in northern Mongolia, recently completed a pre-feasibility study for the proposed large scale open pit mine to produce between 10 and 12 million tonnes of saleable coking coal a year.

Aspire is targeting first production at Ovoot in early 2016 subject to approvals and licences.

JSC Russian Railways (RZD) is one of the world’s largest transportation companies and operates over 85,000 kilometres of rail network.