Recently launched tourism website DPRK Today has reiterated claims that North Korea has huge quantities of rare earth minerals (REEs), however South Korean experts are highly skeptical of the news.
In a piece entitled “The Endless Wealth Under the DPRK” published on March 23, a representative from the DPRK Resource Development Center said North Korea had very large reserves of a wide array of minerals, including REEs.
“Our nation is the treasure island of earth minerals. 80 % of our land is composed of useful minerals … The amount of rare minerals in DPRK is one of the top of the world,” the article reads.
The Resource Development Center employee goes on to sight a 2013 study carried out by an Australian geologist Louis W. Schürmann.
Schürmann made headlines when he announced the discovery of the world’s largest deposit of REEs in the DPRKs North Pyongan province, near Jongju.
However South Korean experts are not sold on the legitimacy of the reserve estimates.
“The numbers are not backed up with any solid data, it is nothing but a list of what they have under the ground. [Schürmann] has absolutely no credibility. Whatever he says, I take it as hoax,” Choi Kyung-soo, a senior researcher at the North Korea Resource Institute told NK News.
“We do not have any data regarding this issue, and the article does not really give us the solid proof about amount of DPRK’s rare minerals nor how profitable it is,” a representative from the Information Systems for Resource of North Korea said.
Choi also told Voice of America (VOA) falling prices of raw materials and minerals were hurting the DPRK’s export revenues. To replace decreasing funds from trade, North Korea is looking to attract foreign investment with inflated resource estimates.
This is not the first time Schürmann’s REE estimates have been called into question. Last year an investment news website said that no drilling or analysis on samples from the Jenjgu area had been done, adding the current numbers “have no basis”.
The Australian geologist is the Director of Operations at Pacific Century Rare Earths Limited. The company is a joint venture between the DPRK’s Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation and the British Virgin Islands based SRE Minerals.
China is the current world leader in exporting REEs, which are widely used within the technology and communications industries.
Additional reporting by JH Ahn
Featured image: Eric Lafforgue