Archive for the ‘Graphite’ Category

DPRK and ROK held secret talks over rare earths

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

According to the Donga Ilbo:

South Korea held two rounds of secret talks with North Korea at an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong at Pyongyang`s request late last year on joint development of rare earth metals in the North. Called the “vitamins of high-tech industries,” rare earth metals are minerals necessary for making smartphones, notebook computers and hybrid vehicles.

The North’s proposal to hold the meetings was made after the South stopped almost all inter-Korean economic cooperation in May 2010, soon after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Whether this will lead to the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation remains to be seen.

The Korea Resources Corp., a South Korean state-run resources developer, said Sunday that it held working-level talks with officials of the North’s National Economic Cooperation Federation at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in September and December last year.

In the second contact, the federation handed over four rare earth samples to the South Korean side. An analysis showed that the samples were a type of rare earth metals used to manufacture LCD panels and optical lenses.

A South Korean official who participated in the talks said, “The North strongly proposed that the two Koreas jointly develop coal mines as well as rare earth metals.”

The resources corporation tried to brief North Korea on the results of the sample analysis. No further talks have been held since, however, due to changes in Pyongyang’s political situation following the death of leader Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17 last year.

Still, the corporation said it maintains a “hotline” with its North Korean counterpart and plans to develop resources in the North. CEO Kim Shin-jong briefed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the results of the sample analysis in February. He said, “The president encouraged us to carry on after we reported that North Korean rare earth metals are economically promising.”

The South Korean resources development industry estimates that North Korea has 42 types of minerals, including rare earth metals at nearly 700 mines under development. Their value is estimated at nearly 6,984 trillion won (6,133 billion U.S. dollars). In particular, the industry says that while China has made rare earth metals a strategic resource, the North has up to 20 million tons of rare earth deposits. China’s rare deposits are estimated at 55 million tons, accounting for about half of the world’s total.

A South Korean official involved in economic projects in the North said, “We cannot rule out the possibility that inter-Korean economic cooperation projects will be resumed, as (the North`s No. 2 man) Jang Sung Taek and (military bigwig) Choe Ryong Hae, who are known as pragmatists, have rapidly emerged as powerful men,” adding, “Resource development is what the North needs the most and the South can approach this without political burden.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time adds additional details:

North Korea makes occasional claims to have large deposits of rare earths, a potential source of hard currency for the impoverished nation. There are no reliable data on North Korea’s rare earth deposits.

China controls about 95% of the world’s rare-earth production. Rare-earth minerals are used in products ranging from consumer electronics to batteries to defense systems.

Kores invested 6.25 billion won ($5.5 million) in 2003 to jointly develop a graphite mine in North Korea. The project has capacity to produce as much as 3,000 tons of graphite annually and the deal allows Kores to take half of the annual produce for 20 years, according to the official. So far, Kores has collected 850 tons of graphite.

Economic ties between North and South Korea remain almost completely suspended following two attacks on South Korea in 2010 by the North that killed 50 people.

Additional information below:
1. The graphite mine mentioned above is called the Janchon Graphite Mine.  You can learn more about it here.

2. More on rare earths in the DPRK can be found here.

Read the full stories here:
Koreas held 2 secret talks on rare earth metals last year
Donga Ilbo
2012-7-23

South, North Korea Discussed Rare Earth Mining
Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time
2012-7-24

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DPRK mineral exports to China increase

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

UPDATE 1 (2014-1-21): See more recent data here and here.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-11-6): According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s mineral exports to China have tripled this year compared to a year ago, a study showed Sunday.

A joint study of Chinese data by Yonhap News Agency and Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute showed that China imported 8.42 million tons of minerals from North Korea from January to September this year, worth US$852 million.

Over the first nine months of last year, China brought in 3.04 million tons of minerals from the North for $245 million.

Most of the minerals were anthracite coals, the data showed. This year, of 8.42 million tons, 8.19 tons were anthracites.

China is the sole major ally and the biggest economic benefactor for North Korea, a reclusive regime under international economic sanctions following its nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK institute, said North Korea may be trying to earn much-needed hard currency as it aims to become a powerful and prosperous country by 2012.

“Last year, North Korea ordered its institutions to meet their goals in foreign currency income by this year,” Cho said. “Since exporting minerals is a military business, we can see that the military is trying to meet its target. In addition, the steep mineral export growth was attributable to the lifting of the cap on the amount of mineral exports, as ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.”

China appears to be trying to stockpile mineral resources at affordable prices, Cho added. North Korean anthracites were traded at an average of $101 per ton, whereas the international standard for quality anthracites is $200 per ton.

“Given that North Korean coals are of very good quality, trade with China must have been made at a fairly low price,” Cho said.

Meanwhile, sources said North Korean authorities last month entirely halted its coal exports, as the impoverished country fears a shortage of energy resources during the upcoming winter.

From January to September this year, China exported 732,000 tons of minerals to North Korea, most of them crude oil.

Here is the IBK web page.  If anyone can find a copy of this report and send it to me to post, I would appreciate it.

Additional information:
1. The economics lessons: A. The more isolated the DPRK’s economy from the global trade and financial system, the greater monopsony power Chinese firms can exert on their North Korean trading partners. B. The rents earned in the current DPRK-China trade regime are visible and have organized constituencies.  Unfortunately the much greater gains that could be reaped if the North Korean economy was more open, integrated, and dynamic remain unseen and their potential beneficiaries remain unknown and unorganized.

2. The Nautilus Institute published a very interesting paper by Nathaniel Aden on China DPRK trade back in June. See it here.

3.  Here is the most recent US Geological Survey report on the DPRK’s mineral sector.

Read the Yonhap story here:
N. Korea’s mineral exports to China tripled from last year: study
Yonhap
2011-11-6

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The mining industry of the DPRK

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Last week the Nautilus Institute posted a paper on the DPRK mining industry written by Choi Kyung-soo.  You can see the full report here.  A couple of the mine locations were incorrectly reported, so I thought I would correct the record (as I understand it), as well as offer coordinates and satellite imagery of all the facilities mentioned in the paper:

Sangnong Mine (상농광산)
40°36’0.38″N, 128°43’35.40″E
Sangnong Worker’s District, Hochon County, South Hamgyong Province. According to the paper, the mine is located in the “Dancheon district of Hamgyeongnam-do”.

Holdong Mine (홀동광산)
38°52’18.15″N, 126°26’21.98″E
Holdong Worker’s District, Yonsan County, North Hwanghae

Hyesan Youth Mine (해산청년광산)
41°21’52.36″N, 128° 9’28.35″E
Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province

Komdok (Geumdeok) Mine (검덕광산)
40°55’9.41″N, 128°49’13.76″E
Kumgol-dong, Tanchon, South Hamgyong Province

Taehung (Daeheung) Mine (대흥청년영웅광산)
41° 4’24.63″N, 128°51’4.68″E
Taehung-dong, Tancheon City, South Hamgyong

Musan Mine Complex (무산광산련합기업소)
42°14’16.22″N, 129°15’59.70″E
Musan, North Hamgyong

Oryong Mine (어룡광산?)
42°18’13.59″N, 129°22’51.70″E (estimated)
According to the paper, the Oryong Mine is near Ryungchon-ri (42°20’18.19″N, 129°24’39.48″E) in Hoeryong and opened in 2007. The satellite imagery of the area is from 2006 and shows an area under construction near the village. Another source claims this mine is located in Obong-dong, closer to the city of Hoeryong and is a uranium mine.

Jongchon Graphite Mine (정촌광산)
37°55’7.23″N, 126° 6’49.34″E
Jongchon-ri, Yonan County, South Hwanghae.  The paper claims the mine is located in “Jeongchon-gun”, which does not exist.

2.8 Jiktong Youth Coal Mine (2.8직동 청년 탄광)
39°29’42.68″N, 126° 2’3.50″E
Jiktong, Sunchon, South Pyongan

Kogonwon (Gogeonwon) Mine (고건원탄광)
42°40’25.03″N, 130°12’47.28″E
Kogonwon Worker’s District, Saepyol County, North Hamgyong Province

Apdong Mine (압동광산)
38°25’6.96″N, 127°21’8.17″E
Apdong-ri, Phyonggang County, Kangwon Province

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Recent DPRK publications

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules,Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex
Mark E. Manyin, Coordinator, Jeanne J. Grimmett, Vivian C. Jones, Dick K. Nanto, Michaela D. Platzer, Dianne E. Rennack
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
June 2, 2011

Download the PDF here.  This publication has been added to the list of previous CRS reports on the DPRK here.

________

Trade with China 1995-2009
Nathaniel Aden
Nautilus Institute
June 7, 2011

View the paper here.  A link to this paper has been added to the DPRK Economic Statistics Page. The Nautilus Insitute has also posted links to some very interesting presentations from the 2010 DPRK Energy and Minerals Working Group.

________

[Book] The Contemporary North Korean Politics: History, Ideology, and Power System (현대 북한의 정치: 역사, 이념, 권력체계)
Jong Song-Jang (정성장)
More information TBA, but see here and here (Korean).

________

[Book] Architekturführer Pjöngjang (German: Pyongyang Architecture Guide)
Philipp Meuser
Order here at Amazon. More here and here.

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Inter-Korean mining projects suspended

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Pictured above on Google Earth: Ryongyang Mine Ore Dressing Plant (Pre-renovation)

According to the Hankyoreh:

“We invested a lot of money, and now we cannot even find out the present status.”

Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) President Kim Shin-jong let out a deep sigh as he explained about the development status of the Hwangnam graphite mines in North Korea at a forum held by the corporation on Apr. 15. The event was organized amid a sense of profound concern, with a number of North Korean mineral resources development efforts running aground amid worsening inter-Korean relations.

According to accounts Sunday from officials with the Ministry of Unification and KORES, South Korea is currently involved in a total of ten North Korean coal mine development efforts. Investment for seven of these comes from the government, including the ministry and KORES, while the other three involve private sector investments. None of them has followed their original schedule since the Lee Myung-bak administration came into office.

The most representative case is that of the Hwangnam graphite mines. This was the first North Korean resource development effort undertaken as an inter-Korean economic cooperation venture, and progress was quick enough that the graphite produced there was being imported into the South right up until the Lee administration came into office. Now, the situation has changed completely.

A company official conveyed the situation by saying, “Since 2008, the Hwangnam Coal Mine has been forgotten completely.”

The situation is the same for the Komdok, Ryongyang, and Taehung coal mines in the area of Tanchon, South Hamgyong Province, an effort spearhead directly by the Unification Ministry.

An official with the ministry said, “We had already finished the third feasibility examination by February 2008, but since then there has been no further progress as inter-Korean relations have worsened.”

The Ryongyang mine contains large deposits of the rare metal magnesite, a material South Korea does not produce.

Exploration has also been effectively halted at the Ayang mine in Sinwon County, South Hwanghae Province, where KORES completed an on-site investigation following the signing of a September 2007 memorandum of understanding on mineral development with North Korea, and the Pungchon mine in Yonan County, South Hwanghae Province, where the first inter-Korean joint drilling effort was undertaken in October 2008.

The situation has been particularly severe for the privately invested projects.

An official with one company engaged in a fertilizer effort said, “We carried out three rounds of working-level discussions in North Korea and China regarding the mining of apatite, but all of them have been suspended since the current administration took office.”

“If these projects had just gone ahead properly, we would not have had to buy apatite at high prices from faraway places like Nauru,” the official lamented.

Apatite, one of the key ingredients in fertilizer, is one of the mineral resources for which South Korea depends entirely on imports.

With South Korea’s development projects in North Korea at a standstill, China’s have taken flight. According to KORES figures, Chinese exports of North Korean military, which stood at the $300 million level in 2005, showed a sharp rate of annual increase to reach more than $900 million in 2010. In the space of five years, the amount of North Korean minerals purchased by China rose more than threefold. Industry observers are calling the situation “hoarding” of North Korean minerals by China. Government authorities are known to have determined that even strategic minerals listed as forbidden for overseas export, including uranium, have been going into China since late last year.

The problem is that the situation is becoming more severe as time passes. Because North Korea’s mineral transportation infrastructure of highways and ports is still deficient, the focus has been on developing minerals in areas near the North Korean-Chinese border, but there is a strong chance that China will extend its reach further into the country going ahead.

“China wants to seize North Korea’s mineral resource industry through expanded infrastructure cooperation with North Korea,” said Jeong U-jin, head of the natural resource strategy office at the Energy Development Institute.

Many observers are saying that thawing inter-Korean relations is an urgent priority if South Korea is to take full advantage of the value of North Korean mineral resources. Noting that the potential value of North Korean mineral resources is as much as 7 quadrillion won, a KORES official said, “Suffice it to say that as improvements in inter-Korean relations get put off, North Korean resources will all head overseas.”

According to the North Koreans, production at the mines is up nonetheless!

Read the full story here:
Inter-Korean coal mine projects suspended during Lee administration
Hankyoreh
Ki Kyung-rok
4/25/2011

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Increase in DPRK’s mineral resources exports to China expected again for this year

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2/24/2011

The trade volume between North Korea and China has steadily increased, reaching its record high of USD 3.4 billion in 2010. Total exports amounted to 1.19 billion USD while imports doubled that figure to USD 2.22 billion. Imports have continued to grow, increasing by 2.4 times over the previous year.

Since the Cheonan incident and the implementation of May 24 sanctions, inter-Korean economic cooperation has come to a halt, naturally resulting in rise in exports to China. In particular, a significant growth in anthracites exports was observed. The monthly anthracites exports that averaged around USD 10 million surpassed USD 70 million mark last August and maintained USD 50 million monthly average between September to November. In addition, cost-per-ton of anthracite in March which was USD 52.2, jumped to USD 82.8 in November, a climb of 60 percent. This boost is attributed to its increased export.

The current supply of electric power consists mostly of hydroelectric power — reaching over 60 percent– but during the winter season most of the hydropower plants are unoperational due to frozen facilities from harsh winter weather. Anthracites were the alternative resource to fill this gap. Sacrificing power production and exporting great amount of anthracites despite severe winter is a strong indication of the poor foreign currency situation in North Korea.

In its New Year’s joint editorial, North Korea placed heavy emphasis on its anthracite export that took up 60 percent of its total exports. In the statement, four vanguard sectors of coal, electricity, metals, and railroads were highlighted as important industries as “rich underground resources that will help with securing funds and resolving raw material problems.” This is the first time in 13 years – that is, since the Arduous March — for coal to be mentioned first in the New Year’s message.

North Korea also began to lift export restraints of mineral resources like coal and silver from the latter half of last year and ordered to increase imports of rice and corns in place of minerals.

The reason food procurement is placed first at the expense of its mineral resources is believed to be associated with the implementation of the succession involving Kim Jong Un, and to keep North Korean people’s dissatisfaction under control and manage the domestic situation.

North had placed restraints on coal, gold, silver, lead, and zinc exports from 2007 through adopting export control of mineral resources.

In addition, North Korea and China will meet in Beijing to sign an agreement on joint development of underground resources. This agreement will include Musan Mine and rare-earth mines that POSCO (The Pohang Iron and Steel Company of South Korea) has shown interest in in the past for development. China’s moves in this sector are suspected as China’s attempt to monopolize the DPRK’s underground resources.

The DPRK’s Joint Venture and Investment Guidance Bureau and China’s Ministry of Commerce were expected to meet on February 15 to discuss agreements related to underground resources development. On the agenda was Musan Mine, abundant in gold and anthracite, and other mines rich in rare-earth elements. Other mines are also known to be specified in the agreement.

China is expected to bring private companies into the underground resources development project after reaching an agreement with the DPRK. According to our source, “both parties will establish a joint venture investment corporation in Hong Kong after signing the agreement.”

Construction of a highway connecting Heilong City of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture to Nampyong and Chongjin of North Korea and railway system linking the cities of Heilong, Nampyong, and Musan are currently underway, expected to be in operation by end of this year. Jilin Province and Ministry of Railways of China began construction of this railway system from October 2010 investing CNY 1.19 billion, which runs a distance of 41.68 km. However, it is expected to extend further onto Chongjin and is considered to become the major transportation hub, integrating economic cooperation between the two countries.

Musan Iron Mine is known as the largest outdoor iron mine in Asia and Tonghua Iron and Steel Group along with three other Chinese corporations acquired 50-year development rights of Musan Iron Mine. They are bringing in about 120 tons of iron ore each year and more is expected to be brought in once the Heilong-Musan rail link is completed.

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Rumor of DPRK plans to focus on light industry

Friday, January 7th, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo,

The North Korean regime wants to divert some of budget for the all-powerful military to the civilian sector and increase exports of mineral resources to China in its Quixotic quest to become “a powerful and prosperous nation” by 2012.

A senior member of the Workers Party who attended a meeting held in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province on Monday was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying, “This year, the party decided to divert some of the budget earmarked for the munitions industry to the people’s economy to develop the light industry.”

“People will undergo a sea change in their lives next year when we reach the goal to become an economic power,” the U.S.-funded broadcaster quoted a senior party official from North Pyongan Province as saying. “There’ll be big investments.”

The North did not even reduce military spending even during the famine of the mid to late 1990s, when more than a million people starved to death, telling people to “tighten belts until the peninsula is reunited.” The regime’s annual military spending is estimated at about US$1.7 billion.

A South Korean security official said the North managed to overcome a food shortage early last year by releasing some rice from its military stockpiles, “but it may not be as easy this year.”

Meanwhile, the regime has been increasing exports of mineral resources to China to earn hard currency.

“In 2009, Kim Jong-il banned exports of coal after receiving a report that factories weren’t working due to coal shortage, but the regime sold $300 million worth of coal to China in 2010,” a North Korean source said.

Coal accounted for 30 percent of the North’s total exports to China of about $900 million last year.

A Chinese businessman dealing with the North said in early December last year, a delegation from Resources Development Corporation of the North’s National Defense Commission agreed with the Chinese province of Liaoning on the development of 350 million yuan worth of graphite in the North. He added Chinese officials last November looked around Pyoksong, Yonchon and Haeju in Hwanghae Province, which have abundant graphite deposits.

The regime ordered officials to earn hard currency by selling coal from Pukchang, South Pyongan Province, and iron ore from Unyul, Hwanghae Province, to China, a member of a North Korean defectors organization said.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea Diverts Military Budget to Light Industry
Choson Ilbo
1/7/2011

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2007 US Geological Survey published on North Korea

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

An advanced copy of the 2007 US Geological Survey of North Korea has been published. 

Here is the outlook from the author, John C. Wu:

For the next 3 to 4 years, the North Korean mining sector is likely to continue to be dominated by the production of coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, and zinc. Because of the continuing strong demand for minerals by China, its investments in North Korea’s mining sector are expected to continue to increase beyond its current investments in coal, copper, gold, iron ore, and molybdenum into other mineral commodities, such as nickel, crude petroleum, steel, and zinc. North Korea’s economy is expected to recover slowly but its real GDP is expected to grow at less than 1% during the next 2 years.

The whole report is fairly brief and worth reading in full.  You can download it here: usgs-dprk.pdf or read it on line here.

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DPRK Energy Experts Working Group Meeting

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

From the Nautilus Institute (presentations at bottom):

Background
Energy insecurity is a critical dimension of the North Korean (DPRK) nuclear challenge, both in its making, and in its reversal. One of the Six-Party Talks working groups, the Economy and Energy Working Group, is largely devoted to this topic, and energy assistance will play an important role in the process of denuclearization of the DPRK. Nautilus Institute maintains a unique database and set of quantitative and qualitative analytic tools to evaluate and track the DPRK’s energy economy, and has maintained working relations with North Korean scientists and technical personnel from the energy sector for more than a decade. With this capacity, Nautilus has provided a stream of policy analyses and briefings at their request to US, ROK and other officials on the DPRK’s energy needs, its likely negotiating postures and demands, and possible negotiable options. The need for such expertise in support of the Six-Party Talks is increasing.

This project ensures that the underlying data and technical analysis available at Nautilus is as up-to-date as possible, and that analysis and policy advice are available when needed by US and other officials.
The Second DPRK Energy Experts’ Working Group (2008) served to provide information and views from key experts in the field to inform the Nautilus DPRK energy sector analysis update. Experts in attendance at the meeting provided both pertinent, recent data and special insights that are being used to help to make the database as reflective as possible of actual conditions in the DPRK. This in turn provides crucial input to the analysis needed to help to inform the parties to the 6-Party talks regarding possible approaches to DPRK energy sector redevelopment.

In addition, the DPRK Energy Experts Study Group Meeting served, as did the first Meeting, as an opportunity for experts on the DPRK to exchange views on the appropriate “next steps” in DPRK energy sector redevelopment. Key outcomes of this discussion are being reflected in the updated DPRK Energy Sector Analysis. In the process of discussions, the experts in attendance helped to further develop and elaborate-as well as providing input on the prospects for-the activities and means by which the various parties concerned with Korean peninsula affairs might engage and work with the DPRK to help resolve both the DPRK’s energy problems, and, in so doing, begin to address and ameliorate the regional and global insecurities of which the DPRK’s energy problems are a key part. In particular, through the focus of the second day of the meeting on Building Energy Efficiency, progress was made on consideration of possible benefits from and approaches to improving the effectiveness of energy use in the crucial DPRK buildings sector.

The Second DPRK Energy Experts Study Group Meeting convened by Nautilus and its partners will was attended by experts in a variety of areas related to energy supply and demand in the DPRK-including electricity, coal and other minerals, the DPRK economy as a whole, trade into and from the DPRK, and the DPRK’s rural household and agricultural sectors, and energy use in buildings in general in the DPRK and elsewhere (the primary topic of the second day of the Meeting)-to review and discuss the results of existing and newly-commissioned research, and to provide insights from their own experience and their own research. A total of approximately 15 experts on the DPRK and on matters related to DPRK issues attended the Meeting, not including an additional 15 experts, representatives from the organizations partnering to fund and organize the meeting (Nautilus, Tsinghua University, USDOE), including observers from bilateral aid agencies associated with a number of countries, from international organizations, from the business sector, and others, who also lent their expertise to the workshop. On the second day of the workshop, supported by funding from a private foundation, a five-member delegation from the DPRK also attended the meeting, providing presentations and insights of their own on energy use in DPRK buildings, and on related energy sector problems and plans in the DPRK.

Presentations:
Presentation: North Korea’s Mineral Resources and Inter-Korean Cooperation
By Woo-jin Chung

Presentation: Nautilus Institute’s Analysis of the DPRK Energy Sector and DPRK Energy Paths: Update
By David von Hippel

Presentation: Analysis on DPRK Power Sector Data & Interconnection Option
By Yoon Jae-young

Presentation: DPRK Energy and Energy-Related Trade with China: Trends Since 2005
By Nate Aden

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S. Korea to develop two resource rich areas in N. Korea

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Yonhap
12/27/2007

South Korea plans to develop two resource rich regions in North Korea that can benefit both countries and fuel cross-border economic cooperation, the government said Thursday.

The blueprint calls for more funds to be funneled into North Korea so prospective developers can conduct geological surveys and compile detailed data for future reference, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said.

Resource-poor South Korea imports most raw materials to operate its heavy industry-centered economy. Lack of social infrastructure and mining knowhow have prevented North Korea from fully developing resources.

(more…)

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