Mongolia will ship 25,000 tons of coal to North Korea’s Rajin port this year as part of a trial export project, the chairman of the Mongolian Railroad Authority said.
Mongolia has a thriving coal industry, but its lack of coastline and undeveloped rail infrastructure limit its export options. North Korea’s Rajin port in the country’s far northeast was recently upgraded to handle larger volumes of coal exports, as part of a Russian-backed infrastructure project.
North Korea has already shown interest in having Rajin as a hub for non-DPRK exports, last year partaking in a trilateral project that saw Russian coal shipped to South Korea via the North.
“There are no technical problems with delivering coal to North Korea, and we are seeking ways to deliver coals through trans-Siberian railway to Rajin,” the Mongolian Railway Authority’s chairman said in comments carried by the Korean Broadcasting System.
According to the report, Mongolia is also investigating how to deliver other metals such as copper and gold, and will consider the profitability of doing so.
This announcement comes just as North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is wrapping up an official visit to Mongolia. During the trip the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and finalized agreements on numerous forms of cooperation.
During the trip Ri met with Mongolia President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg, former U.S. State Department Foreign Service officer Alicia Campi told NK News.
“In addition to his meeting with the Mongolian Foreign Minister Purevsuren, his meeting with Mrs. Burmaa, minister of food and agriculture, is key because of food cooperation,” Campi added.
Last year, Mongolia exported more than 22 million tons of coal, mostly to China. Mongolian coking coal is favored in the region as it is significantly discounted when compared to global prices.
North Korea itself also has relatively large coal exports, which are mostly bound for China or Russia. Coal shipments from North Korea jumped rapidly at the end of the last decade, and are currently the most significant DPRK export, generating approximately $1 billion a year.