Mining and Metal Processing
The economy depends to a considerable degree on the
extraction of its many mineral resources for fuels, industrial
raw materials, and metal processing as well as for exports.
Anthracite coal, with estimated reserves of 1.8 billion tons, is
the most abundant of the country's mineral resources. It is
produced in large quantity for both domestic consumption and
export. Coal mines, largely concentrated in South P'yngan
Province, produced 68 million tons and 22 million tons,
respectively, of anthracite and the less abundant lignite coal in
1990. Despite a fairly steady increase in the 1980s, coal
production has not been able to catch up with rising demand. This
situation has created a persistent energy shortage because the
country relies on coal as its main energy source and lacks any
reserves of oil or gas.
The lagging coal industry remains a major bottleneck. The
aging of existing mining equipment and facilities, the
inefficiency that arises from the increasing need to mine deeper
seams, and a lack of modern, efficient equipment are the primary
reasons for the production lag in extractive industries. The
persistence of these problems prompted Kim Il Sung to stress the
importance of developing the mining and power industries and rail
transport even in his 1992 New Year's address--the same theme he
has repeated annually in his New Year's address for at least the
previous fifteen years.
Because of the lack of domestic reserves, the country
continues to rely on foreign sources for bituminous coal. Toward
the end of the 1980s, China was the chief source of coking coal,
followed by the Soviet Union.
The Anju District coal mining complex is the leading coal
fig. 6). A large-scale open-pit mine was being
developed in the Anju District in 1990. High-quality anthracite
deposits are located in the Paegam District of Yanggang Province,
and have estimated reserves of at least 1 million tons. Coal
deposits amounting to 10 million tons also exist in Chunbi, T'-
gol, and Kangdong in Kangdong District.
With estimated reserves of 400 million tons, iron ore
continues to be important for domestic industry and is a major
source of foreign exchange. According to Western estimates,
annual iron ore output increased from 8 million tons in 1985 to
10 million tons in 1990. In the 1980s, new mines were added at
Tksng and Shae-ri; they supplemented older mines at Musan,
nryul, Tkch'n, Chaeryng, and Hasng, all of which received
considerable state investment. The expansion projects started in
early 1988 to increase the production capacity of the Musan
Mining Complex to 10 millions tons per year were completed in
1989. The long-term annual output target, however, is 15 million
tons. The Chngp'yng Mine in South Hamgyng Province was
commissioned to produce ores in February 1991.
North Korea possesses the largest and some of the best
quality magnesite deposits in the world--an estimated 490 million
tons. The mining of magnesite is important for the domestic
industrial ceramics industry and for exports. Magnesite mines are
concentrated in the Tanch'n District in South Hamgyng Province;
annual output of magnesite in 1990 was estimated at 1.5 million
tons. With the completion of expansion projects of the Tanch'n
Magnesia Plant and the construction of the Unsng Crushing and
Screening Plant in 1987, the production capacity of magnesia
increased to 2 million tons annually. The government also began
efforts to expand output capacity of magnesia in the Taehng
District toward the end of the 1980s.
Other important minerals are lead, zinc, tungsten, mercury,
copper, phosphate, gold, silver, and sulfur; manganese, graphite,
apatite, fluorite, barite, limestone, and talc also are found in
great supply. Zinc and lead ingots, among the leading exports,
are produced at domestic smelting plants in Tanch'n, Namp'o,
Haeju, and Munpyng. With a capacity of 15 million tons, the
K mdk Mining Complex in South Hamgyng Province is one of the
leading producers. An estimated 200,000 tons of high-grade
electrolytic zinc and an estimated 80,000 tons of lead were
produced in 1990.
A joint venture project to redevelop the Unsan Gold Mine was
unveiled in March 1987. The successful reexploitation of the
mine, originally opened by a United States firm in 1896, with
deposits estimated at more than 1,000 tons, could make it one of
the world's major gold mines.
Building materials, such as the cement used in almost every
construction project, are manufactured in large as well as smallscale local industrial plants. Annual cement output was estimated
at 11.77 million tons and 12.02 millon tons, respectively, in
1989 and 1990.
Data as of June 1993