North Korea’s coal exports increased in the first six months of the year when compared to 2014, the state run Rodong Sinmun said Wednesday.
While data published by North Korean state media is not the most reliable, the figures are actually below volumes published by Chinese customs. The Rodong article also comes on the heels of a Bloomberg report highlighting North Korea’s growing coal exports to China.
Although June’s trade figures have yet to be released by Chinese authorities, as of May the DPRK had exported more than 140 million tons of coal more than in the first five months of 2014.
“The coal production from January to May has increased by 20 percent compared to same time last year, showing that they are indeed producing more,” Lee Seok-gi at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade told NK News.
The extra exports are not, however, earning North Korea much extra in trade revenue as falling global coal prices have weighed heavily on the DPRK’s increased production.
“Despite the increase in production they are making 3 percent less (revenue) from exporting coal as the world price of natural resources went down. Even if China is decreasing the importing amount of coal, still it is the No. 1 source of income for North Korea,” Lee added.
Coal, particularly anthracite, is North Korea’s most valuable export. The status of its coal industry is often the subject of speculation.
Often conflicting reports indicate mine closures, or decreases in production stemming from unstable electricity supplies.
“Mines closes, and mines open. Some mines find the way to produce more coal with new technology so focusing on mine closures can be inaccurate,” Lee said.
According to the Bloomberg report, North Korea had surpassed both Russia and Mongolia in the list of China’s top coal exporters. Compounding the change was a 91 percent drop in Chinese imports of Vietnamese coal.
Additional reporting by JH Ahn