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http://www.businessinsider.com/rare-ear ... 015-4?IR=T
Rare earth mineral reserves were discovered in North Korea — and it could be a game-changer
Sam Doo, Global Risk Insights Apr. 20, 2015,
The recent discovery of rare earth mineral reserves in North Korea has the potential to redefine the country’s long-term prospects and radically alter geopolitics within the region.
Thinking about the North Korean economy will likely evoke images of outdated factories full of cheap textiles, derelict meth labs, and acres of failing, communal farms.
Throw in its dystopian sociopolitical environment and the future prospects of the North Korean economy appears bleak.
It would be unwise, however, to assume that this picture will remain unaltered. Political regimes will act to address existential threats and a single development could radically alter the political-economic trajectory of a country.
One event that has the potential to be this game-changer for North Korea is the recent discovery of extensive rare earth elements (REE) reserves within the DPRK. Due to their unique properties, REEs are an integral component in a wide spectrum of sophisticated technologies, including clean energy, defense systems, and consumer electronics.
Currently, China controls roughly 90% of the global REE market. China acquired this market dominance by virtue of its substantial REE reserves and the central government’s relaxation of environmental regulations, which made mining highly economical.
In 2013, however, SRE Minerals, a British private equity firm, announced its estimate of North Korea’s REE reserves. According to their assessment, North Korea holds a stunning 216 million tons of REE, a figure that is more than double the current global stockpile of REE and one valued at several trillion U.S. dollars.
To date, SRE Minerals has signed a 25-year joint venture agreement with the DPRK state-owned Korean Natural Resource Trading Corporation for the rights to develop all rare earth elements deposits within Jongju, North Korea. In addition, there are signs that China and Russia are ramping up investment in North Korean infrastructure.
In October 2014, Russia agreed to invest $25 million towards upgrading the North Korean railway system in exchange for access to regions containing mineral reserves. Despite China’s denial of North Korean entry into the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Chinese companies are moving forward on transportation and power projects within the DPRK.
These events make a compelling case to reconsider the future of the North Korean economy. Currently, the penetration of outside information into North Korean society is a highly destabilizing trend that will be increasingly difficult for the state to manage. In fact, many observers contend that this will be a decisive factor if the Kim regime were to fall.
Potential for capitalization
It is possible, however, that North Korea could capitalize on its vast mineral resources to mitigate this threat. This is certainly in the realm of possibility, given that North Korean REE reserves are more than five larger than those of China.
Moreover, North Korean environmental and labor regulations for mining, if they exist at all, would likely be far less stringent than in those developing countries and China. Accordingly, the potential for profit is undeniable.
One future scenario, then, is that the DPRK gradually transforms into a petrostate-type regime. Rather conveniently, North Korea can look to its two closest allies, China and Russia, as a case study in managing that transition. Putin consolidated his power base by dividing up the financial spoils between his allies and eliminating the oligarchs that he viewed as a political threat.
Likewise, the subsequent generation of the Chinese Communist Party ensured their political dominance by monopolizing the lucrative profits derived from the various state-owned enterprises. Similarly, the Kim regime could easily exploit the vast influx of capital and mining revenues to buy the loyalty of key political and military figures, eliminate rival factions, and supply enough public goods to ensure that the populace remains subservient.
From a geopolitical standpoint, a rising North Korean economy would have profound reverberations.
http://www.mining.com/largest-known-rar ... rea-86139/
Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in North Korea
Frik Els | Dec. 5, 2013 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.
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