Archive for the ‘Rare Earths’ Category

DPRK -china trade dips slightly in H1 2014

Monday, August 4th, 2014

According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

Grain Imports Decrease, Rare-Earth Mineral Exports Increase in the First Half of 2014

It has been reported that Chinese grain imports in North Korea have fallen drastically in the first half of 2014. According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association (KFTA), Chinese exports of grain to North Korea totaled 58,387 tons in the first half of 2014, totaling a mere 47 percent of the grain exported in the first half of the previous year (124,228 tons).

China’s most heavily exported grain product to North Korea is flour, which made up 68.8 percent (40,142 tons) of all total grain exports for the first half of 2014. China also exported 13,831 tons of rice and 3,420 tons of corn to North Korea. Corn exports did not even reach twenty percent of the amount exported at the same time last year (17,655 tons).

It is postulated that China’s sharp decrease in grain exports to North Korea is due to the souring relations between the two nations in 2014. Another theory is that the decrease in exports could be due to North Korea’s recent increase in agricultural productivity over previous years.

In the first half of 2014 China exported 109,531 tons of fertilizer to North Korea, 21.3 percent less than the amount exported during the same timeframe last year (139,161 tons). In the first three months of 2014, North Korea aggressively imported Chinese fertilizer at a rate of twenty thousand tons over its monthly average. However, this decreased markedly in the months of April, May and June.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been exporting large quantities of rare-earth resources (which are used in manufacturing high-tech products) to China over the last few months. Reportedly, in May of 2014, North Korea exported 550,000 dollars’ worth of rare-earth ore to China. This figure more than doubled the following month, reaching 1.33 million USD in June.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, as North Korean rare-earth resource exports to China had come to a standstill after the first round of exports (totaling 24.7 thousand USD) in January 2013. Suddenly, after fifteen months, North Korea has exported 1.88 million USD worth of rare-earth ore (approx. 1.93 billion KRW, 62.66 thousand kilograms) over the last two months.

Since 2011, North Korea has in fact been exporting rare-earth carbonate mixtures to China; however total exports of these products have only reached 170 thousand USD over the last three and a half years.

North Korea has been placing attention on these underground rare-earth resources, of which the nation reportedly has ample quantities of in various deposits around the country. Recently, much effort has been put into surveying for deposits of these so-called “vitamins of the 21st century’s high-tech industry.” In 2013 a company for the development of rare-earth materials in North Pyongan Province was established with the cooperation of the international private equity firm “SRE Minerals.”

In July 2011, the Choson Sinbo, a news affiliate of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported in an interview with top executives from the National Resources Development Council that rare-earth resource deposits in North Korea total approximately 20 million tons. The drastic increase seen in rare-earth resource exports can be attributed to North Korea’s attempt to diversify its resource exports. In other words, the DPRK is investing in rare-earth material exports in order to reduce its dependency on other leading mineral exports such as anthracite, iron ore, and lead.

Exports of anthracite to China decreased by 23 percent in the first half of 2014 (compared to last year), totaling approximately 571 million USD. Iron ore exports, North Korea’s second leading resource export, reached approximately 121 million USD in the same time period – a drop of 5 percent when compared to the same time period last year.

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

North Korea’s trade with its economic lifeline China fell 2.1 percent on year to US$2.89 billion in the first six months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday, in another sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.

During the six-month period, North Korea’s exports to China declined 3.9 percent to $1.31 billion and imports slipped 0.6 percent to $1.58 billion, according to the data provided by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).

There were no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea from January to June, the data showed.

“Despite the six-month absence of oil shipments, the scale of North Korea’s decline in imports is minimal,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s exports of rare earth to China jumped 153.7 percent on year during the January-June period, the data showed, without providing the value of the exports.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China falls 2.1 pct in H1
Korea Herald (Yonhap)
2014-08-04

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DPRK increases exports of rare earths to China

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea has increased its rare earth exports to China amid worries within the international community that its mineral exports could weaken the effect of sanctions imposed on the reclusive state.

The cash-strapped communist country exported goods to the value of $550,000 and $1.33 million in May and June, respectively, according to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

Last January, the North exported elements worth nearly $25,000 to China for the first time and continued them this year. The country has an estimated 20 million tons of rare earth elements.

The North’s resources exploitation have stirred speculation that the impoverished state may further diversify mineral exports to China, where it has previously mostly exported anthracitic and iron ore.

The KITA report identified the changing trend in North Korea’s earnings from mineral exports.

In the first half of this year, earnings from anthracitic and iron ore exports decreased 23 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

These earning deficits were compensated for by exports of rare earth elements. There has been a sharp increase in global demand over the last recent decade because several high-tech devices, including smartphones, and other high technology devices use them in core components. Rare earth elements are a group of 17 elements on the periodic table referred to by the US Department of Energy as “technology metals” because of their use and application.

The communist country relies heavily on mineral exports as a major source of hard currency after international sanctions were imposed on the Pyongyang regime for its continuing missile launches and testing of nuclear weapons.

Natural resources account for 73 percent of North Korea’s bilateral trade with China in 2012. The North exports 11 million tons of anthracitic to China annually.

Yonhap coverage:

North Korea exported rare-earth elements worth $1.87 million to China from May to June, resuming outbound shipments of the crucial industrial minerals to its key ally and economic benefactor in 15 months, data showed Sunday.

North Korea shipped rare-earth minerals worth $550,000 and $1.32 million to China in May and June, respectively, which amounted to a total of 62,662 kilograms, according to the Korea International Trade Association based in Seoul.

The communist regime first exported rare-earth metals worth $24,700 to China in January 2013 and had stopped selling them until recently.

Separately, Pyongyang has sold carbonate-containing rare-earth compounds to China since 2011, but the size of outbound shipments is small, with the total amount is estimated at about $170,000 over a period of three and a half years.

The impoverished nation is known to have large reserves of rare-earth minerals, which are crucial ingredients used in many tech products as well as the military and medical sectors.

The latest move comes as the North has stepped up developing rare-earth deposits to support its moribund economy.

Last year, the North’s state-owned Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation signed a 25-year deal with British Islands-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited to mine deposits in Jongju, northwest of the capital, Pyongyang.

Experts said the recent surge in North Korea’s rare-earth shipments may be part of its attempts to diversify sources of mineral exports, which account about half of its total exports.

The North’s export of anthracite coal fell 23 percent in the first half of this year to $571.2 million from a year ago, while ironstone declined 5 percent to $120 million in the cited period, according to trade data.

“The rare-earth minerals sold to China were valued at $30 per kilogram, and they were considered to be processed iron concentrates or oxidized substances,” said Choi Kyung-soo, chief of the Seoul-based North Korea Resource Institute. “It could be seen as an attempt to diversify items of mineral resource exports, but it remains to be seen whether the North will start exporting large volumes of rare-earth minerals.”

Read the full stories here:
Rare earth elements boost NK income
Korea Times
Kang Hyun-kyung
2014-7-27

N. Korea exports US$1.8 mln worth of rare earth to China in May-June
Yonhap
2014-7-27

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Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in DPRK

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

2013-12-Jongju

Pictured above (Google Earth): Jongju County

According to Mining.com:

Privately-held SRE Minerals on Wednesday announced the discovery in North Korea of what is believed to be the largest deposit of rare earth elements anywhere in the world.

SRE also signed a joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop REE deposits at Jongju in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands, has also been granted permission for a processing plant on site at Jongju, situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital of Pyongyang.

The initial assessment of the Jongju target indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6 billion tonnes with total 216.2 million tonnes rare-earth-oxides including light REEs such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium; mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals. Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 million tonnes consists of more valuable heavy rare-earth-elements.

According Dr Louis Schurmann, Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and lead scientist on the project, the Jongju deposit is the world’s largest known REE occurrence.

The 216 million tonne Jongju deposit, theoretically worth trillions of dollars, would more than double the current global known resource of REE oxides which according to the US Geological Survey is pegged at 110 million tonnes.

Minerals like fluorite, apatite, zircon, nepheline, feldspar, and ilmenite are seen as potential by-products to the mining and recovery of REE at Jongju.

Further exploration is planned for March 2014, which will includes 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling, with results reported according to the Australia’s JORC Code, a standard for mineral disclosure similar to Canada’s widely used National Instrument 43-101.

Also from Mining Weekly:

SRE Minerals Limited announces the results of exploration and studies in collaboration with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

SRE Minerals Limited (“SRE” or “the company”) announced today their joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop all rare-earth-element deposits at Jongju, North Pyongan Province.

The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited has the rights under the joint venture agreement which includes the exploration, mining, beneficiation and marketing of all REE deposits in the Jongju area for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

Under the terms of the JV agreement SRE has also been granted permission for a National Rare Earth Mineral Processing Plant on site at Jongju, which is situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital city of Pyongyang, within the North Pyongan Province, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Leading Australian mining and geological consultancy, HDR Salva Resources Pty Ltd, has been SRE’s technical representative for the project and has been commissioned to access the mineralised potential of the Jongju REE target* with special reference to detailed mapping, extensive trenching and limited drilling.

HDR Salva Resources (Pty) Ltd.’s initial assessment of the Jongju REE Exploration Target* indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6.0 Bt (216.2 Mt total rare-earth-oxides including light rare-earth- elements such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium (mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals). Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 Mt TREO consists of heavy rare-earth-elements. A detailed classification of mineralised potential present in the Jongju REE Target* is presumed to be:

• 664.8 Mt @ >10.00% TREO,
• 1.1 Bt @ 4.72% TREO,
• 579.4 Mt @ 3.97% TREO, and
• 3.63 Bt @ 1.35% TREO.

Dr Louis Schurmann said: “The Jongju Target* would appear to be the World’s largest known REE occurrence.”

Technical information in this announcement has been compiled by Dr Louis W. Schurmann, who is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and a Professional Natural Scientist with over 18 years of experience relevant to the styles and types of rare earth mineral deposits under consideration, and to the activities which has been undertaken to qualify as a Competent Person as defined by the Australasian Code for Reporting of Minerals Resources and Reserves (JORC) 2004. Dr Schurmann consents to the inclusion of information in this publication.

Further exploration is planned to recommence in March 2014, which will include 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling. Results from the exploration program will be reported according to the Joint Ore Reserves Committee of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Australian Institute of Geoscientists and Mineral Council of Australia (JORC Code (2004 / 2012)).

Investigations by the DPRK’s Academy of Science geologists have also identified several HREE targets*. There are also seven newly discovered carbonatite complexes which have been identified as green-field exploration targets. Exploration programs have been planned to assess their potential in 2014, together with the evaluation of known bastnasite and monazite deposits.

According to the mentioned HDR Salva Resources’ assessment, the Jongju REE Target* also contains economical quantities of rare and critical metals associated with fluorite, apatite, zircon, magnetite, ilmenite, nepheline and feldspar. These commodities will also be addressed during future exploration and further studies.
“This joint venture agreement reinforces the strong and constructive relationship SRE has developed with the DPRK over that time,” he said.

“The REE resource potential of the DPRK, while estimated to be massive has only been lightly explored to date. Given the major economic significance of the effective utilisation of these important minerals to the DPRK, we look forward to working in close co-operation with our partner to progress the development of this excellent opportunity.”

In terms of back ground, the majority of rare earth elements were sourced from placer deposits in India and Brazil in 1948. During the 1950’s, supply came mainly from South Africa, mined from large veins of rare earth-bearing monazite. Then from the 1960’s to 1980’s, rare earths were supplied primarily from the U.S., predominantly from Mountain Pass in California. Competition from China and environmental concerns eventually saw the U.S. operations shut down, and for the last 15 years China has dominated global supply. China today supplies an estimated 90-95% of the global market.

China has recently set quotas to restrict its rare earth exports, and global suppliers have made considerable headway in reducing dependence on Chinese supply. Based on this, several major rare earth companies have been taking advantage of this situation while many junior exploration companies have embarked on exploration programs to add value to small and relatively low-grade REE occurrences.

References to Exploration Target(s)* or Target(s)* in this document are in accordance with the guidelines of the JORC Code (2004). As such it is important to note that in relation to reported Exploration Targets or Target any reference to quality and quantity are conceptual in nature. Exploration carried out to date is insufficient to be able to estimate and report rare-earth mineral resources in accordance with the JORC Code (2004). It is uncertain if further exploration will result in the determination of a rare earth mineral Resource.

Further information will be available at www.pcreml.com and www.sreminerals.com

Here is coverage in Voice of America,  Time, The Diplomat.

Read the full story here:
Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in North Korea
Mining.com
Frik Els
2013-12-5

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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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DPRK-China launch minerals – for – fertilizer program

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Musan Mine, the DPRK’s largest.  See in Google Maps here.

According to the JoongAng Daily:

During his surprise May visit to China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il secured free fertilizer and discounted food to help alleviate the impoverished country’s chronic food shortages.

A source in Beijing who monitors North Korea-China relations told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday that Chinese officials agreed to provide 200,000 tons of fertilizer free of charge as well as 500,000 tons of corn at a discount in exchange for rights to North Korea’s abundant natural resources.

“When 200,000 tons of fertilizer is planted on North Korean soil, it can bring about a three-fold increase in the harvest,” the source said. “This can be the equivalent of giving 600,000 tons of food.”

The source added that China agreed to sell the 500,000 tons of corn for half of the international rate, which would be $30 per ton.

The corn, the source said, had already crossed the border into North Korea from northeastern China.

In exchange, Kim will allow China access to his country’s natural resources.

“The two parties agreed to participate in the extraction of buried rare earth minerals in Musan in Hamgyong Province,” the source said. “It’s quite a profit for China as it is thirsty for materials.”

North Korea is estimated to have around 20 million tons of rare earth minerals, which are vital in the production of high-tech goods.

The Beijing-based source said the agreement gives China the responsibility for the cost of building roads to transport the natural resources as well as lending equipment.

In exchange, North Korea will hand over 50 percent of the extracted rare earth minerals free of charge to China, with the rest to be sold to China at international market rates.

Meanwhile, other sources said that Kim also received a health checkup during his stay in China.

“When Kim Jong-il was visiting Yangzhou, he received a special examination from an oriental medicine doctor that the highest Chinese elite have gone to over the years,” a source familiar with North Korean issues said

The source added: “Kim Jong-il has never trusted China’s Western medicine. I heard from a Chinese official that Kim received an oriental medicine diagnosis by taking his pulse and that it did not involve drawing blood.”

Additional Information:

1. Here is a post linking to all the major DPRK food stories this year.

2. The media has reported on other DPRK food barter deals with Cambodia and Myanmar.

3. The role of the Musan Mine in DPRK-PRC relations has been quite interesting.  Here are previous posts on the mine.

Read the full story here:
North got fertilizer on Kim’s trip to China
JoongAng Daily
Chang Se-jeong
2011-8-19

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