Kumya Youth Coal Mine in South Hamgyong Province. (Yonhap)

Mines in South Pyongan Province were recently involved in a scramble to send coal to Nampo Port, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in the province told Daily NK last Friday that local coal mines were ordered to engage in a week-long campaign to earn foreign currency from Feb. 15. The campaign involved having mines in the province send more than 20 large cargo trucks filled with coal to Nampo, 10 vehicles at a time.

In handing down the order, North Korea’s leadership emphasized that “rational plans” had been discussed that would allow local authorities to fund mines and organizations in the province with the foreign currency earned by exporting coal from just 10 of the 20 trucks the mines could send to the port. 

The source said the provincial trade bureau and provincial cadres rushed around anxiously, afraid they might miss this opportunity to earn such a considerable amount of foreign currency. However, many of the trucks sent to the port were almost empty as mines in the province have produced so little coal. 

In fact, in accordance with a Central Committee order last year to restart “state-led smuggling,” mines had already been busy shipping coal to Nampo from November 2021. In addition, mines were providing coal to enterprises for the winter along with private merchants who sell coal to individuals. Given all of this consumption, mines in the province have had little coal to spare. 

South Pyongan Province authorities, however, were loath to miss the opportunity to earn foreign currency, so they called on the mines to ship a certain amount of coal to Nampo no matter what, even encouraging them to borrow coal from other mines with more coal or by accepting help from mines in other provinces. 

However, given that the campaign lasted only a week, the province also ordered that if the mines could not ship the set amount of coal, they should do so during the “next opportunity.”

The source said officials scrambled to take advantage of this opportunity because they believed there will be no more chances to earn a 50% cut of the foreign currency earned from the sale of coal, despite the fact that they expect that state-led efforts to earn foreign currency will continue. 

The source noted that one vehicle can transport 15 tons of coal and that the mines did not have enough coal on hand to fill 20 trucks.

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

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish(at)uni-media.net.