Musan Miners Tumbling into Tribulation

[imText1]An North Korean inside source said in a phone conversation on the 22nd, “With long-term suspension of exports due to the break in China’s investment in North Korea’s iron ore production, the lives of citizens and of the Musan Mine laborers have become extremely difficult. There have been talks that this might be the 2nd March of Tribulation (Mass starvation period in the 1990s).”

The South Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry released in a report on the 21st entitled “North Korean Underground Resource Joint Development Strategy” that China has cleared with one stroke North Korean minerals, the Musan Mines being a representative example.

The report contained the contract which gave 50-years-mining rights at the Musan Mine in North Hamkyung, which boasts North Korea’s greatest supply of iron ore, to China for 70 hundred million Yuan (approximately DSD950 million). According to the contract, China can claim 10 million tons of iron ore from Musan every year for 50 years.

However, China’s investment in the Musan Mine, which constituted the country’s representative investment in North Korean underground resources, was disrupted due to opinions surrounding the retrieval methods of shares and investment funds, which could not be narrowed down. Accordingly, Musan Mine laborers undergoing difficulty with the operation of the mine have fallen into a severe hardship.

The South Korean intelligence authorities confirmed the veracity of the breakdown in investment negotiation in early June of this year.

North Hamkyung Province’s Musan Mine is a strip mine containing 30 hundred million tons of coal reserves, 13 hundred million tons of coals available for excavation and several hundred tons of steel concentrate. These resources were entrusted to the Kim Chaek and Sungjin Steel Mills, but due to the unreliable operation of these mills, mining came to a halt in early 2000.

In 2005, the North Korean government closed an investment contract with the Chinese Tonghua Steel Group Consortium which marked the start of Chinese investment in Musan Mine. When iron ore exports to China began, the North Korean authorities resumed the provision system to mine laborers and their families.

As a reward for exporting iron ore to China, the citizens received an influx of goods including food, gasoline, and construction materials, and their lives in Musan had stabilized over the last two years.

However, now with the suspension of iron exports to China as a result of the ruptured joint investment with North Korea, the volume of production is said to have rapidly decreased.

The source said, “With the cease in iron ore exports to China, provisions to the miners have ceased, which has incurred significant damage. We are in the ‘March of Tribulation’ again. Just when we are barely able to get by, something else happens.”

The source introduced the current situation of withdrawal of the Musan Mine laborers, “Of the mere 500 thousand won (approximately USD 152) a person can earn mining, 100,000 won goes to the mining labor department, it takes another 100,000 won to receive a diagnosis at mining hospitals and about 300,000 won in bribes to receive approval from the Safety Agency and the County Labor Department. The despair of the people is so heavy that they hope to get out of mining, despite any provisions that may be given.”