Locals flock to Taebong Mine to make extra money

The dire economic situation caused by the shutdown of the Sino-North Korean border is one reason why the mine has gotten people's attention

Many people in Ryanggang Province have been flocking to an area around Taebong Mine to pan for gold and tungsten, Daily NK has learned.

The mine is one of North Korea’s largest and is located around eight kilometers from Hyesan, Ryanggang Province.

“Everyone from urban merchants to rural farmers who recently finished planting potato seeds are rushing there to make some extra money,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on May 29. 

The main reason why so many people are going there to pan for precious metals is because of the dire economic situation caused by the shutdown of the Sino-North Korean border, he added. 

But, the source noted, not all of those heading to the mine expect to make extra money by panning for gold. Some have found business opportunities in providing transport to the miners. People operating boats and motorized tricycles are making a significant profit this way. 

North Korean soldiers sifting for gold near the Yalu River. / Image: Daily NK

“There are hundreds of people who ride boats each day, so even [companies affiliated with] the military and Ministry of State Security are rushing in [to earn money],” the source explained.

Some North Koreans have found ways to avoid paying for transport to the mine: they simply set up camp near their gold panning sites. 

Then there are the brokers, called dekko, who help people who want to sell their gold or other precious metals off quickly for fear of losing it in some way later. 

The uptick in panning activities could bring good news to nearby businesses, according to the source. 

“When gold is discovered near the mine, nearby businesses are positively affected,” he said.

Much of the gold panned from around Taebong Mine is expected to be sold to China, although some reportedly think that the gold may be sold domestically because of the ongoing closure of the Sino-North Korean border.

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.