DPRK looking to export rare earths…

UPDATE 2 (2011-7-23): The Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang news service based in Tokyo, has published an article on rare-earths development in the DPRK.  You can see a PDF of the original Korean article here.

According to coverage of the article in Bernama:

According to resource development senior officials, the amount of rare earth buried in the North amounts to approximately 20 million tonnes.

Estimates on the amount could rise fo the current digging work finds new burial grounds or more elements deeper in existing sites, said the Tokyo-based paper, which serves as a channel for Pyongyang to deliver messages.

So far, no exact amount of rare earth deposits in the reclusive communist nation has been confirmed. The largest burial deposit was located in North Pyeongan Province the paper said, while the rest of the elements were distributed in the southern and northern parts of the nation.

The North is working on using the rare earth minerals in manufacturing industries and is considering joint projects with other nations, Kim Heung-joo, vice chief of the state-run resource development agency, was quoted as saying by the paper.

The government will put limits on its output aqnd exports of rare earth materials, Kim added.

According to coverage in the AFP:

China has 90 million tonnes of rare earth deposits, Russia has 21 million tonnes while the United States has 14 million tonnes, the report said.

The largest deposit was discovered in North Pyongan Province, the paper said, while the rest of the elements were distributed in southern and northern parts of the country.

A senior North Korean official of the state natural resource development agency told the newspaper that North Korea was encouraging joint ventures with other countries to develop rare earth metals.

“It is important that these elements be processed in the country before being exported,” the official, Kim Hung-Ju, was quoted as saying by the Chosun Shinbo.

Currently, China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earths — 17 elements critical to manufacturing everything from iPods to low-emission cars and missiles.

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UPDATE 1 (2011-6-23): Here is the story in KCNA:

DPRK Makes Full Use of Rare-earth Minerals

Pyongyang, June 20 (KCNA) — An effective utilization of rare-earth minerals is of weighty significance in economic growth, said an official of the Ministry of State Resource Development.

Kim Hung Ju, vice department director of the ministry, told KCNA the DPRK government has paid much effort to the exploitation and utilization of rare-earth minerals.

The country has large deposits of high-grade rare-earth minerals in west and east areas.

Prospecting work and mining have been launched in the areas and detailed exploration of new deposits is going on in a far-sighted way in areas with favorable mining conditions.

Meanwhile, scientific institutes have intensified researches in various rare-earth elements.

KCNA has previously boasted about rare-earths development.  See 2002-11-18, 2004-7-29, and 2010-4-9.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-23): According to Yonhap:

North Korea is showing a growing interest in developing rare earth minerals, in an apparent bid to earn much-needed cash from selling the materials abroad.

Rare earth minerals are compounds of rare earth metals, including cerium and neodymium, which are used as a crucial element in semiconductors, cars, computers and other advanced technology areas. Some types of rare earth materials can be used to build missiles.

In a report carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) earlier this week, the communist state said it is working on developing rare earth minerals for economic growth.

“An effective utilization of rare earth minerals is of weighty significance in economic growth,” the report said, quoting Kim Hung-ju, vice department director of the North’s Ministry of State Resource Development.

“The DPRK government has paid much effort to the exploitation and utilization of rare earth minerals,” it said, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The report added that there are large deposits of high-grade rare earth minerals in the western and eastern parts of the country, where prospecting work and mining have already begun. It also said the rare earth elements are being studied in scientific institutes, while some of the research findings have already been introduced in economic sectors.

The article follows another KCNA report in July 2009 that described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s inspection of a semiconductor materials plant, saying he stressed the importance of producing more rare earth metals.

Until now, North Korea’s official media have mostly reported on the use of rare earth minerals in medicine and fertilizers. But its new focus on developing and using the materials appears to stem from the country’s interest in selling the metals for a high price on the international market, according to experts.

Rare earth elements are becoming increasingly expensive, as China, the world’s largest rare earth supplier, puts limits on its output and exports.

“It appears that North Korea only recently started taking an interest in rare earth materials,” said Choi Gyeong-su, head of the North Korea Resources Institute in Seoul. “The country does not have the technology to even determine the exact amount of its reserves, so it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon that the rare earth materials will be used to produce goods for the high-tech industry.”

Read the full story here:
N. Korea seen exploiting rare earth minerals for exports
Yonhap
2011-6-23

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  • colin prime

    “Rare earth elements are becoming increasingly expensive, as China, the
    world’s largest rare earth supplier, puts limits on its output and
    exports.”

    Thats not going to last, Australia and the US are both bringing their rare earth mines back on line in response to China’s limits.  My feeling is that by the time the DPRK gets its rare earth mining operations online, the market will be back down.


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