North Korea's been reported to be potentially holding the world's largest deposit of rare earth minerals at 216 million tonnes, which if properly managed and funneled, could make the world's most isolated regime and its people rich and powerful.
State-owned Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation has entered into a joint venture with British Islands-based private equity firm SRE Minerals Limited to explore and develop the deposits in Jongju, northwest of the capital, Pyongyang. Exploration has been scheduled to begin in April.
"It's been no secret that they have a lot of rare earths," the Christian Science Monitor said. "The fact that we've known about it for so long and nothing has really come of it I think says something about North Korea - that they've got a terrible economy and they've got all this marketable resource, but they can't manage to get it together to do anything with it and make any money from it."
According to SRE, the 216 million tonne rare earths deposit includes about 2.66 per cent of heavy REEs, as well as light REEs and rare earth minerals. The value of the natural resources could reach $64.9 trillion. It may likewise be able to produce fluorite, apatite, zircon, nepheline, feldspar and ilmenite as by-products.
"If North Korea was able to launch this program and develop its own industry," Scott Bruce, an associate of the East-West Center in Hawaii, told Voice of America. "It could potentially leverage them to integrate with its neighbors and no longer be the black hole in the center of northeast Asia."
The deposit not only makes China's reserves appear small, but it will also help improve North Korea's relations with Japan and South Korea, two of the world's biggest importers of the minerals.
China is dubbed as the world's stronghold of rare earths deposit, controlling more than 95 per cent of the global trade.