North Korea has recently ordered cement factories to produce cement with technology and raw materials acquired domestically.

“The authorities have been telling factories not to use as much imported heavy fuel oil to make cement,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK on Mar. 20. “Another order regarding this was handed down on Mar. 16.” 

Specifically, Daily NK sources said that North Korean authorities are ordering cement factories to use lignite coal instead of anthracite coal to reduce the need for imported crude oil. 

North Korean cement factories primarily use anthracite coal in their cement production. The use of anthracite coal requires large amounts of heavy fuel oil. Cement production using lignite coal, however, does not require the same levels of heavy fuel oil. 

Sanctions passed by the United Nations Security Council restrict North Korea’s import of fuel oil to four million barrels a year and refined oil to just 500,000 million barrels a year. North Korea has reportedly worked around these difficulties by smuggling extra oil from Russia and China.

The closure of the Sino-North Korean border in late January has reportedly led to a fall in heavy fuel oil supplies from China. 

“Construction projects require a large amount of cement, but cement makers are struggling to produce enough because of the sudden fall in heavy fuel oil,” one source told Daily NK. “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s order to implement this new production method must be carried out by Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Rodong Sinmun reported on Mar. 1 that the North Hamgyong Province Party Committee had established “ambitious” goals to implement production processes at the Komusan Cement Factory using lignite coal and that local officials were actively preparing for the shift in production. 

The newspaper also stressed that the use of lignite coal would provide the “breakthrough” necessary to mass produce cement at the Komusan Cement Factory.

The central government is reportedly providing support to cement factories throughout the country to implement the new production processes. 

“Researchers at the State Academy of Sciences have been sent to cement factories [specifically, a cement factory in Sunchon, South Pyongyang Province],” one source told Daily NK. 

“Scientists, technicians and engineers in the field are all working together so that they can carry out the order to complete these changes in the cement production process before Oct. 10,” he added.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time reporters and covers North Korean economic and diplomatic issues, including workers dispatched abroad. Jang has a M.A. in Sociology from University of North Korean Studies and a B.A. in Sociology from Yonsei University. She can be reached at skjang(at)