The Minerals may as well be on the moon for all the good it will do North Korea !
North Korean mining production has decreased significantly since the early 1990s. It is likely that the average operational rate of existing mine facilities is below 30 per cent of capacity. There is a shortage of mining equipment and North Korea is unable to purchase new equipment due to its dire economic situation, the energy shortage and the age and generally poor condition of the power grid.
It doesn’t help that private mining is illegal in communist North Korea, as are private enterprises in general (at least technically). Or that the ruling regime, now led by third-generation dictator Kim Jong-un, has been known to, seemingly on a whim, kick out foreign mining companies it’s allowed in, or suddenly change the terms of agreements.
Despite all this, the nation is so blessed with underground resources that mining makes up roughly 14% of the economy.
After North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, the UN began imposing ever stronger sanctions against it. Last year the nation’s underground resources became a focus. In November 2016, the UN passed a resolution capping North Korea’s coal exports and banning shipments of nickel, copper, zinc, and silver. That followed a resolution in March 2016 banning the export (pdf) of gold, vanadium, titanium, and rare earth metals.
The resolutions targeting the mining sector could hurt the Kim regime. Before they were issued, a 2014 report on the country’s mining sector by the United States Geological Survey noted that (pdf, p. 3), “The mining sector in North Korea is not directly subject to international economic sanctions and is, therefore, the only legal, lucrative source of investment trade available to the country.”
Meanwhile China’s overall trade with North Korea actually increased 37.4% (paywall) in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Its imports of iron ore from North Korea shot up 270% in January and February from a year ago. Coal dropped 51.6%.
China particularly covets North Korea’s rare earth minerals. Pyongyang knows this. It punished Beijing in March by suspending exports of the metals to China in retaliation for the coal trade restrictions.
Meanwhile Russia, which also shares a (smaller) border with North Korea, in 2014 developed plans to overhaul North Korea’s rail network in exchange for access to the country’s mineral resources. That particular plan lost steam (pdf, p. 8), but the general sentiment is still alive.
The rocket man is playing Russia and China .https://qz.com/1004330/north-korea-is-sitting-on-trillions-of-dollars-on-untapped-wealth-and-its-neighbors-want-a-piece-of-it/