Graphite mine in North open in ’07

Joong Ang Daily
Jung Ha-won

In early 2007 South Korea is expected to begin its first graphite shipments from a new mine in North Korea that has been co-developed by the two countries since 2003.

The mine development project in Jeongchon, which cost $10.2 million, was completed in April, but electricity shortages and diplomatic tension over North Korea’s nuclear test delayed testing operations for months.

According to Korea Resources Corp., South Korea’s state-run mineral developer that took part in the project, the new mine, located near the western part of the border with South Korea, recently began test operations, and graphite shipments will begin early next year.

“North Korea authorities recently guaranteed a stable supply of electricity,” said an official with Korea Resources.

The mine is expected to produce about 3,000 tons of graphite a year, and Korea Resources Corp. plans to bring about 1,830 tons of graphite, or 20 percent of annual production, to South Korea each year for next the 15 years. The firm is also involved in an iron ore mine development project in the North’s Deokhyun, North Pyeongan province.

North Korea is known to have more than 200 varieties of minerals worth about 2.2 quadrillion won ($2.4 trillion) still unexplored in its mountainous areas. Chinese companies have wasted no time exploring those resources, with the North Korean government thirsty for cash and outside investment. China’s state-run steelmaker, Tonghua Iron and Steel Group, last year was granted rights to develop the Musan iron ore deposit in North Korea, the largest open-air iron mine in Asia, for the next 50 years. North Korea also granted exploration rights for more than 10 mines to China’s Wookwang Group and other Chinese developers.

South Korea has been sluggish by comparison, due to political issues and a lack of infrastructure, such as roads and electricity. There remain untapped resources in the reclusive North.

“There is a wealth of magnesite buried in the Dancheon area,” said the Korea Resources Corp. official. “We will carefully review the plan to explore the area.”


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