Musan Mine into Chinese Hands?

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

An insider North Korean source said in a phone conversation on the 22nd, “With long-term suspension of exports for the break in China’s investment in North Korea’s iron ore production, the lives of citizens and the Musan Mine laborers have become extremely difficult. There have been talks that this might be the 2nd March of Tribulation (Mass starvation period in the 1990s).”

The South Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a report, the “North Korean Underground Resource Joint Development Strategy” on the 21th saying that China has cleared with a clean stroke North Korean minerals, Musan Mines being a representative example.

The report introduced the contract which gave 50-years-mining rights to the Musan Mine in North Hamkyung, which is North Korea’s best iron ore, for 70 hundred million Yuan (approximately DSD950 million) to China, which can take 10 million tons of iron ores from Musan every year for 50 years.

However, investment in Musan Mine, which was considered the China’s representative investment in North Korean underground resources, was ruptured due to the fact that opinions surrounding on the retrieval ways of shares and investment funds could not be narrowed down. Accordingly, Musan Mine laborers going through difficulty with the operation of the mine have fallen into a severe hardship in living.

The South Korean intelligence authorities confirmed the veracity of the breakdown in investment negotiation early June of this year.

North Hamkyung Province’s Musan Mine is a strip mine containing 30 hundred million tons of coal reserves, 13 hundred million tons of coals capable of digging and several hundred tons of steel concentrate, has offered these materials to the Kim Chaek and Sungjin Steel Mills, but with the unreliable operation of these mills, mining came to a halt in early 2000.

In 2005, the North Korean government closed an investment contract with the Chinese Tonghua Steel Group Consortium and China’s investment in Musan Mine began the fall of that year. As the exports of iron ore started, the North Korean authorities resumed the provision system to mine laborers and their families.

With the influx of many goods including food, gasoline, and construction materials as a reward for exporting iron ore to China, the lives of citizens in Musan have stabilized in these last two years.

However, the volume of production was known to have rapidly decreased with the cease in iron goods export to China and the rupture in joint investment with China.

The source said, “With the cease in iron ore exports to China, provision to the miners have ceased, which has incurred significant damage. We are in the ‘March of Tribulation’ again. When we are barely able to get by, something else occurs.”

The source introduced the current situation of withdrawal for Musan Mine laborers, “With only 500 thousand won (approximately USD 152), a person can get out of mining. It takes 100,000 won at the mina labor department and another 100,000 won to receive a diagnosis at mine hospitals and about 300,000 won to receive approval from the Safety Agency and the county labor department leaders as bribes. The despair of people are so heavy that people hope to come out of mining, even with the granting of provisions.”


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