The population of Mongolia is only about 3 million, giving it one of the lowest population densities of any country in the world, similar to the arctic areas of northern Canada. Approximately 1.377 million people live in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital and largest city. Other major cities include Darkhan, an industrial center near the northern border, and Erdenet, a copper mining center, also in the north. Around 30% of the population lives in the countryside, primarily as nomadic livestock herders, while the rest live in the few major cities or small towns spread throughout the country.
The Mongolian latitude (between 42 and 52 degrees north) is roughly the same as Central Europe or the northern states of the USA. Because the country is landlocked and distanced from the world's oceans, and has a large proportion of its landmass at a relatively high altitude, the climate exhibits large temperature fluctuations and low total rainfall (the average in Ulaanbaatar is 220 mm per annum, approximately 10 inches). Most of the precipitation falls during the brief summer season, while winters are generally dry and extremely cold.
While the climate and geographic conditions of the country limit crop agriculture, they are well suited to expensive livestock production. Nomadic herding of livestock, primarily sheep, goats, horses, cattle, yaks and camels, is one of the mainstays of the Mongolian economy, and forms the basis of its cultural identity. Approximately 65% of the country is steppe grasslands; the southern third is Gobi desert, while forests and mountains cover approximately 12% of the total land, mostly in the northern areas.
Mongolia is rich in mineral resources with substantial deposits of gold, fluorspar, ferrous metals such as molybdenum, and non-ferrous metals such as lead, copper, nickel, aluminum, tin and bismuth.