It has been confirmed that South Korea and North Korea began work to jointly develop rare earth metal deposits located in the North immediately prior to Kim Jong Il’s death.
Korea Resources Corporation (KRC), a South Korean state-run minerals company, revealed today, “We went to the Kaesong Industrial Complex last September for talks about problems of North Korean resource development. We wanted to discuss matters surrounding Jongcheon Graphite Mine [in Yeonan County, South Hwanghae Province] that we have an investment in.”
It went on, “We received four rare earth samples from an official with the North Korean National Economic Cooperation Federation last November and had them analyzed for their economic value.”
The results proved to be economically significant; however, discussions faltered on news of Kim Jong Il’s death on December 17th.
KRC is currently looking into methods of refining North Korean rare earth resources at two Chinese factories it has investments in, one in Xian and the other in Beijing. However, it is unclear when the project will be able to resume on the ground.
A KRC official said today, “If China participates in joint production; it will reduce the risks of change due to the inter-Korean relationship. However, because the South Korean government is currently prohibiting visits to North Korea, it seems that this project can only be resumed if inter-Korean relations improve.”
Experts estimated that North Korea has about 20 million tons of rare earth metals within its territory. Such metals are important in the production of high tech products due to their ability to transfer heat very efficiently.
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