Archive for the ‘Iron Ore’ Category

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.


DPRK mineral exports top US$860m last year

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s exports of mineral resources jumped 17-fold in a decade with its outbound shipment of coals and iron ores leading the growth, a U.S. report showed on Saturday.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), the communist state’s exports of mineral resources reached US$860 million last year, compared with some $50 million in 2002.

Citing data compiled by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency [KOTRA], the RFA said exports of such minerals as coal and iron ore accounted for 63 percent of its total exports to its strongest ally China.

In the first quarter of the year, the North earned around $154 million by exporting coal to the neighboring country, compared with $9.68 million seen a year earlier.

North Korea’s mineral reserves are believed to be among the largest in the world, worth some 7,000 trillion won, based on 2008 prices, according to an earlier report by the Unification Ministry.

I am unable to locate either the RFA story or the KOTRA report so I don’t have much to say on this.  If you have a link please send it to me.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s exports of mineral resources top US$860 mln last year


DPRK-Chinese mining deal

Monday, February 7th, 2011

According to Yonhap:

North Korea and China are expected to sign an agreement on joint development of the North’s underground resources in the middle of this month in Beijing, a source here said Sunday.

“It has been learned that Pyongyang and Beijing are expected to conclude a deal to jointly develop North Korea’s underground resources on Feb. 15, one day before the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il,” said the source, noting the accord will be signed in Beijing between China’s Commerce Ministry and the North’s Joint Venture Investment Committee.

“Specifically, the two sides may agree to jointly develop natural resources such as gold, anthracites and rare earths under the bilateral deal. Following the agreement, the two countries are likely to establish a joint venture company in Hong Kong,” said the source, asking to remain anonymous.

Trade between North Korea and China reached US$3.06 billion in the first 11 months of last year, which marked a rise of 9.6 percent from the 2008 annual volume of $2.7 billion. Mineral resources like coals and iron ores account for over 30 percent of the North’s exports to China.

Chinese mining investors have had mixed results in the DPRK despite geographical proximity and monopsony purchasing power (the Chinese can offer lower prices because in many cases they are the only purchaser/investor).

At one point, a Chinese firm had a controlling share of the DPRK’s Hyesan Youth Copper mine (Satellite image here).  As best I can tell, the mine is no longer operable because of flooding from nearby dam construction.

A Chinese firm had also invested in the Musan Mine, the DPRK’s largest, conveniently located on the Chinese border (Satellite image here). This deal also fell trough (see here).

I have heard informally that Chinese mining investors do not particularly like doing business in the DPRK because their North Korean business partners routinely violate contract terms and local officials need to be bribed repeatedly.  Today Chinese mining firms operate across the world in both developing and developed countries, so why bother with the DPRK?

The particular deal mentioned in this Yonhap article is interesting because it hints that the Chinese and North Korean central governments are setting the terms for mining investment in the DPRK for the first time.  This will give local officials less room for post-contractual rent-seeking behavior and could smooth the way for regular/predictable business operations in the DPRK.

Again, centralized corruption is preferable to decentralized corruption for investors.

Read the full Yonhap story here:
N. Korea, China likely to ink deal on joint resource development


ROK goods saturate DPRK

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

According to the Hankyorey:

A report on major North Korean indicators released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday revealed that South Korean products are becoming increasingly popular in North Korea, and that there are hardly any North Korean urban youth who do not watch South Korean TV dramas or movies.

In the report, Statistics Korea said it is becoming a fad for young people in major North Korean cities like Pyongyang and along the border with China to watch South Korean television dramas and films using MP3 players or laptop computers. Statistics Korea said MP3 players with 1G of memory cost 60,000 North Korean Won (estimated $419), while a used laptop costs about 2 million North Korean Won. A memory chip with two or three movies costs 10,000 North Korean Won if it is an original, and 5,000 North Korean Won if its a copy.

The report also said many South Korean products are in circulation in North Korea, including blenders, portable heaters, gas ranges, butane cans, lunch trays, gas heaters, rice cookers, dishrags and gloves. According to the report, South Korean shampoo and conditioner is popular with the wives of high-ranking North Korean officials in Pyongyang. Some 470g bottles of South Korean shampoo and rinse go for 40-50 yuan (8,000-10,000 South Korean Won) in Pyongyang. The report said the popularity of South Korean products was also reflected in other goods. South Korean necklaces are sold for about $500 and earrings for about $70-80, while South Korean products like perfume, deodorant, car air fresheners, refrigerator deodorizer and bathroom air fresheners are also selling well.

South Korea’s nominal GNI in 2009 was $837.2 billion, 37.4 times that of North Korea’s $22.4 billion. North Korea’s economic power, all told, is no more than the level of the South Korean city of Gwangju (about 22 trillion Won). South Korea’s per capita income of $18,175 was 17.9 times that of North Korea’s $960. South Korea also conducted $686.6 billion in total trade, 201.9 times that of North Korea, which conducted only $3.4 billion. The only sectors in which North Korea topped South Korea were production of iron ore and coal and length of railroads. North Korea’s iron ore production was 4.955 million tons, ten times that of South Korea (455,000 tons), and its coal production was 25.5 million tons, 10 times that of South Korea (2.519 million tons). North Korea also had 5,242km of railroads, 1.4 times that of South Korea’s 3,378km. North Korea is also believed to have 7 quadrillion Won in underground mineral wealth.

I have been unable to locate the original on the Statistics Korea page.  If any readers can find it, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
In limited N.Korean market, furor for S.Korean products
Hwangbo Yon


DPRK elevates status of national resource development office

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-12-22

On December 1, the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly Standing Committee announced an order to elevate the position of the National Resource Development Office, which is overseen by the Cabinet’s Ministry of Extractive Industry, to the Ministry of National Resource Development. According to the Korea Central News Agency, this measure is aimed at increasing development and export of underground resources as international sanctions against the North further limit Pyongyang’s access to foreign capital.

The regime’s focus on increasing earnings can be seen in Kim Jong Il’s on-site guidance trips, as well. The KCNA reported on December 3 that Kim had recently visited Danchon, South Hamgyong Province, touring the Danchon Magnesia Factory, the Danchon Mining Equipment Factory, and the Danchon Port facilities. During his visit to the magnesia factory, Kim Jong Il emphasized the need for increasing the production of quality asphalt. In addition, after receiving a report on the status of implementation of CNC in the Danchon Mining Equipment Factory, he stated, “The factory needs to normalize at a high level of mass production to turn out the necessary numbers of mining and processing equipment.” Upon reviewing the Danchon Port facilities, Kim Jong Il urged staff to work towards ensuring a loud chorus of boat whistles in the port for the upcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung in 2012.

U.S. financial sanctions levied against the North have made it difficult for Pyongyang to collect export earnings from its mining efforts, one of its key earners of foreign capital. In May of last year, when sanctions were strengthened in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test, European and even Chinese banks froze money transfers to North Korea. The [North] Korea Magnesia Clinker Manufacturing Group could not collect 4.6 million USD in earnings from the export of zinc to Europe. It appears that the North has tried to compensate for these losses by increasing the export of iron ore from Musan. Exports to China passing through the Musan customs office have more than doubled, rising from 1200 to 2500 tons per day.

The mines of Musan, holding more than seven billion tons of iron ore, are the North’s primary vehicle for earning foreign capital. In 2004, China’s Tonghua Steel and Iron Group signed a contract with North Korean authorities granting the group 50-year development rights at some key North Korean mines, and is planning to invest seven billion Yuan in developing the sites. Beijing plans to use the access to North Korean mines to meet some of the expected 80 million ton shortfall of iron ore in 2010. However, there are rumors that North Korea has canceled the contract with no explanation, causing much speculation about the direction of Pyongyang’s export strategy.


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.


China’s tax windfall on DPRK border

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

In the last several months the Daily NK has reported on North Korea’s anti-corruption campaigns, particularly in Sinuiju and Hyesan, major DPRK/China trade hubs. Additionally, we have seen stories of how the Chinese are making life harder for resident North Koreans in the run up to the Olympics.

These measures, both of which should have an adverse impact on trade volume between the two coutries—and thus on tax revenues—made this recent report in the Daily NK all the more surprising. China’s Yanji Customs House (along the North Korean border) has reportedly seen a 226% increase in tax revenue this year from trade with North Korea.

How can China and the DPRK make life difficult for traders/entrepreneurs and still see an increase in the value of traded goods and corresponding tax revenue?  According to the article:

Jilin Newspaper in China reported on the 4th that “[…]For the first half of this year, tax revenues vis a vis North Korea totaled 34.22 million Yuan, up 226.2 percent from the year before.

The newspaper continued, “During this period, entrepreneurs in Yanji imported 64 thousand tons of iron ore from North Korea; that is a 2.3 percent increase from the same period a year ago. Accordingly, the tax amount of collected was 29.13 million Yuan, which is 66.1 percent of the total tax revenue derived from North Korea.”

The Yanji Custom House covers seven border gateways with North Korea, such as Juanhe-Wonjeongri, Shazi-Saebyul, Tumen-Namyang, Sanhe-Hoiryeong, Kaishantun-Sambong, Naping-Musan, and Guchengli-Samjangri.

According to the Yanji Custom House statistics, the Naping-Musan border gateway, where iron ore collected from the Musan mine enters China, is the first ranked for commercial traffic, and Guchengli-Samjangri, the gateway for North Korean timber, is second.

Tonghua Steel Group, Yanbian Tianchi Trade Incorporated Compay, and Zhonggang Group purchased 50-year mining rights for North Korea’s Musan mine in 2005. Since late 2007 they had been discussing a seven billion Yuan additional investment in it but that failed due to conflicting views on cooperative investment rate proportions, methods of withdrawing invested funds and other issues. As a consequence of the stalled investment, the Musan mine’s exports to China have not grown relative to last year’s figures.

So most of the trade that goes through Yanji is in raw natural resources, particularly iron ore and timber, and trade in these resources seems to be carried out by Chinese companies and is probably supported (protected) by senior policy makers on both sides of the border.  Rather than looking at politics as an explanation, it might simply be another result of rising global commodities prices.

The tax windfall could come from one of two sources: A volume (unit) import tax (ex: $1 for each ton of iron) or an ad valorem import tax (ex: tax on the monetary value of the goods).  It is not likely they impose much of an export tax to make a difference.

If China imposed a unit tax, the revenue gains would have to come from surging imports.  In this case, it would be likely that the Chinese companies had fixed-price contracts with their North Korean suppliers, and that  the increase in global commodity prices simply made DPRK iron ore comparatively very cheap.  When (if?) global iron prices fell, we would expect to see China decrease imports from North Korea.  But according to the article, iron imports are up only 2.3%—not enough to explain the surge in revenue.

It is more likely that China imposes an ad valorem tax on North Korean imports and the contracts between the Chinese companies and North Korean suppliers are set at (near) market prices.  Simply put, taxing the monetary value of increasingly valuable imports has been beneficial for the Chinese government.  Even though production at the Musan Mine has not increased much, revenues are probably way up.

Given the status of the Musan Mine as the DPRK’s largest, it is likely that funds raised from this mine are firmly under control.  It would be interesting to know the customs receipts in Dandong, Laioning Province, across the river from North Korea’s Sinuiju.  Sinuiju seems to have suffered the brunt of the DPRK’s anti-corruption drive, and it is the main railway and trade artery between North Korea China.  Most of the companies targeted for inspection were in Sinuiju.  Have Chinese tax collections/trade rebounded there?

Read the full story here:
226% Rise in Tax Revenues at Yanji Custom House
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin


Chinese invest in DPRK mining

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Michael Rank, a China/North Korea specialist based in London reports:

A Chinese company has opened a joint venture iron mine in North Korea with registered capital of €36 million ($57 million), a Chinese website specialising in North Korea reports (link here).

The Chinese partner is S Group, whose main aim includes developing magnesite mines in North Korea, but for some reason it switched from magnesite to iron mining.

The mine in Ongjin-gun (gun=county), Hwanghaenam-do (South Hwanghae, do=province), south of Pyongyang, has been in operation since the second half of last year, and the company running it is the Xihai/Seohae (West Sea) Joint Enterprise, the website says, but gives no further details.

The Chinese report erroneously places Ongjin-gun in Hwanghaebuk-do (North Hwanghae) but it is confirmed as being in Hwanghaenam-do by  조선지도첩 (Joseon Jidocheop, Atlas of Korea, Pyongyang, 1997), p. 45. I have not been able to find any other reference to a Chinese mining company called S Group.

Chinese steel company Tonggang (Tonghua Steel), based in the northeastern province of Jilin, was reported by a Chinese newspaper in January 2006 to be spending four billion yuan ($506 million) to develop the Musan iron mine in Hamgyeongbuk-do (North Hamgyong province), said to be North Korea’s largest iron deposit – and the biggest in Asia, according to some estimates.

Magnesite (magnesium carbonate) is used in protecting the linings of steel furnaces, in the production of synthetic rubber and in making fertilisers.


POSCO looks north

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Kim Dong-Jin, head of South Korean steel company POSCO‘s China branch, visited Pyongyang Tuesday for talks on purchasing more of the DPRK’s coal, iron ore, and other raw materials.

According to the AFP

POSCO, the world’s fourth largest steelmaker, has imported 200,000 tons of coal from North Korea every year.

South Korea’s investment in the North’s rich mineral resources has been sluggish due to the standoff over the North’s nuclear programme and mixed views on whether such investment can be profitable.

North Korea has promoted raw material exports as a means of generating much needed hard currency for some time.  Unfortunately, this development strategy will bring the fewest benefits to the North Korea people. Look at any oil-exporting country for comparison.  Raw materials exports generally enrich the politically connected—and workers, who in North Korea are unable to leave their jobs or negotiate their wages, generally (pun alert) get the shaft.

South Korean firms operating in the North, however, do tend to offer better working conditions than North Korean or Chinese firms.  If POSCO launches operations in North Korea, hopefully public pressure and the profit motive will see an increase in productivity, wages, and working conditions for the DPRK’s miners.

South Korea apparently also operates a graphite mine in North Korea.  If anyone has any information on this, please send it my way.

Read the full story here:
POSCO eyes NKorea raw materials


DPRK Energy Experts Working Group Meeting

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

From the Nautilus Institute (presentations at bottom):

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.

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