• Friday, July 19, 2019

[China's best pupil: Part5] North Korea's Rare Earth Reserves

Discussion in 'China & Far East' started by Galactic Penguin SST, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. Galactic Penguin SST

    Galactic Penguin SST FULL MEMBER

    Aug 10, 2017
    +0 / 602 / -0
    Hong Kong
    Korea, Democratic Peoples Republic Of
    [China's best pupil: Part5] North Korea's Rare Earth Reserves

    China's Rare Earth Reserves
    Rare Earth Elements: What Are They? Who Has Them?

    July 27, 2016

    There are 17 rare earth elements that are used in the production of high tech devices such as smart phones and computers, defense equipment such as radar systems and guided missiles, and energy technologies such as electric cars and wind turbines. The elements are found in tiny concentrations and are mixed together, making them difficult to isolate. China has the most global reserves of rare earth elements (42 percent)[1] and produces around 89 percent of global output, which it uses to fuel its high-tech industries, exporting the remainder. Global consumption of rare earth elements in 2016 is expected to be about 155,000 tons—almost 3.5 times greater than the 45,000 tons used 25 years ago. [ii]

    According to the Energy Information Administration, reserves are “estimated quantities of energy sources that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions. The location, quantity, and grade of the energy source are usually considered to be well established in such reserves”. Thus, reserves are not the entire resource base since more sources are bound to be found with additional exploration.

    ▲ Rare-Earth Reserves, 2015

    Top 6 Countries Producing Rare-Earth Elements

    China is the global leader in the production of rare-earth elements, producing 105,000 tons in 2015, of which it exports about 30 percent. Because of their value and its near monopoly, in 2010, China cut its exports by 40 percent and cut off supplies to Japan over a territorial dispute, causing prices to soar. These actions were challenged by the United States, the European Union, and Japan, resulting in a ruling against the country’s export quotas by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO ruled that the quotas represented an unfair export restriction that allowed China to control global rare earth prices.[iii] Because China does not impose the regulations on mining rare earths that other countries do, “toxic wastes from rare-earth facilities have poisoned water, ruined farmlands, and made people sick”.[iv]

    Australia, the second largest producer of rare earth elements, beginning operation in 2007. It produced 10,000 tons in 2015. Australia has the third largest known reserves of rare earth elements—after China and Brazil. Australia based Lynas Corporation is the only operating rare earth miner outside of China, operating the Mt Weld mine and concentration plant in Australia and the rare earth refining and processing plant in Malaysia.

    The United States produced 4,100 tons of rare earth elements in 2015—about 25 percent less than in 2014. Molycorp’s Mountain Pass mine in California was the only producing rare earth mine in the United States and its production was reduced when the company filed for bankruptcy protection last summer and shuttered its Mountain Pass operations later in the year. When Molycorp filed for chapter 11 protection, it had over $1.7 billion in debt, much of it occurring when rare earth prices were high due to Chinese trade restrictions.[1] Before bankruptcy, Molycorp invested over $1 billion into the Mountain Pass mine.[v]

    Russia produced 2,500 tons of rare earth elements in 2015—the same amount as in 2014–after having invested $1 billion in its production in 2013. The country’s production goal is to meet its own demand in 2017. Russian companies are working on new technologies to recover rare earths from uranium ore.

    Thailand increased its production by almost 40 percent in 2015, producing 1,100 tons. It is not clear how much reserves the country contains.

    Malaysia produced 200 tons of rare earths in 2015. Malaysia has the world’s largest rare earth refinery, Lynas Corporation’s Lynas Advanced Materials Plant that handles refining for Lynas’s mines in Australia.

    ▲ Top Rare-Earth Producing Countries, 2015


    China has almost a virtual monopoly on rare earth elements that are needed for high tech (smart phones and laptops), defense equipment, and energy technologies. It not only produces the majority of rare earth elements, but it has the most rare earth reserves. The United States had one operating mine in California up until last year when Molycorp filed for bankruptcy protection and idled the mine. Australia is the only other country with major production of rare earths at a tenth of China’s production last year. Russia hopes to produce enough rare earth elements to satisfy its own demand in 2017.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
    • Thanks Thanks x 2
  2. Galactic Penguin SST

    Galactic Penguin SST FULL MEMBER

    Aug 10, 2017
    +0 / 602 / -0
    Hong Kong
    Korea, Democratic Peoples Republic Of
    North Korea's Rare Earth Reserves

    ▲ As the Land Of The Morning Calm has been blessed by the heavens, the most auspicious meteorite shower coming literally out from the blue, have deposited in ancient times, one of the largest rare earth mineral deposit on its soil.
    The DPRK differs from other super powers in that it uses its rare earth to produce not only cell phones, PCs and TV displays, rare earth magnets, X-ray tubes, computer memories, neutron capture, MRI contrast agent, NMR relaxation agent and other civilian consumer products, but also military technologies like tank sights, lasers, masers, radars, missile-guidance systems, satellites and aircraft electronics, etc...

    Rare earths bankroll North Korea's future

    Aug 8, 2012

    Those who travel to North Korea regularly might have noticed that the last couple of years have brought significant improvement in the country's economic situation. Newly built high-rise apartments, modern cars on the roads and improved infrastructure come as a surprise to visitors. It begs the question, where does Pyongyang get the money from?

    The ambitious rocket and nuclear programs, which North Korea continues to pursue despite international condemnation, are expensive and harmful to its economy. International sanctions continue to bite the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's foreign trade and investment prospects. Regular floods and droughts, animal epidemics and other natural disasters hit the fragile economy even harder.

    According to expert estimations, the DPRK should have ceased to exist in the mid-1990s, after the demise of the Communist Bloc and Kim Il Sung died. But North Korea has fully recovered after the famine and even shows steady signs of economic growth.

    Foreign critics looked everywhere with hope to unravel the mystery. After 2008, the stalled inter-Korean cooperation left North Korea without South Korean financial assistance. Western humanitarian aid has also been exhausted or reduced to a number of goods with little market value. Although the volume of North Korea's foreign trade is negligible, the domestic economic situation continues to improve. Pyongyang is routinely suspected of violating international sanctions by trading arms, smuggling drugs, counterfeiting US dollars and other crimes.

    These activities would be expected to refill the impoverished state with badly needed foreign exchange. However, anti-proliferation operations and bank account arrests have never disclosed anything criminal nor did they manage to answer the main question: where does the money come from?

    In fact, North Korea is sitting on the goldmine. The northern side of the Korean peninsula is well known for its rocky terrain, with 85% of the country composed of mountains. It hosts sizeable deposits of more than 200 different minerals, of which deposits of coal, iron ore, magnesite, gold ore, zinc ore, copper ore, limestone, molybdenum, and graphite are the largest and have the potential for the development of large-scale mines.

    After China, North Korea's magnesite reserves are the second-largest in the world, and its tungsten deposits are almost the world's sixth-largest. Still the value of all these resources pales in comparison to prospects that promise the exploration and export of rare earth metals.

    Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements found in the earth's crust. They are essential in the manufacture of high-tech products and in green technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels or hybrid cars.

    Known as "the vitamins of high-tech industries," REMs are minerals necessary for making everything that we use on a daily basis, such as smartphones, flat-screen TVs, and notebook computers. Some rare earth metals, such as cerium and neodymium, are crucial elements in semiconductors, cars, computers and other advanced technological areas. Other types of REMs can be used to build tanks and airplanes, missiles and lasers.

    South Korea estimates the total value of the North's mineral deposits at more than US$6 trillion. Not surprisingly, despite high political and security tensions, Seoul is showing a growing interest in developing REMs together with Pyongyang.

    In 2011, after receiving permission from the Ministry of Unification, officials from the Korea Resources Corp visited North Korea twice to study the condition of a graphite mine. Together with their counterparts from the DPRK's National Economic Cooperation Federation they had working-level talks at the Kaesong Industrial Complex on jointly digging up REMs in North Korea. An analysis of samples obtained in North Korea showed that the type of rare earth metals could be useful in the manufacture of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels and optical lenses.

    The joint report also revealed that there are large deposits of high-grade REMs in the western and eastern parts of North Korea, where prospecting work and mining have already begun. It also reported that a number of the rare earth elements are being studied in scientific institutes, while some of the research findings have already been introduced in economic sectors. The North built a REM reprocessing plant in Hamhung in the 1990s but has been unable to put the plant into full operation due to power and supply bottlenecks.

    Rare earth minerals are becoming increasingly expensive, as China, the world's largest rare earth supplier, puts limits on its output and exports. In February, China's exports of rare earth metals exceeded the price of $1 million per ton, a nearly 900% increase in prices from the preceding year.

    China, which controls more than 95% of global production of rare earth metals, has an estimated 55 million tons in REM deposits. North Korea has up to 20 million tons of REM deposits but does not have the technology to explore its reserves or to produce goods for the high-tech industry. Nevertheless, in 2009 the DPRK's exports of rare metals to China stood at $16 million, and as long as someone invests, exports will continue to expand.

    This growing rise in REM prices and strong demand gives the young leader Kim Jong Un a good chance to improve the economic standing of North Korea without actually reforming its economy.

    Following the Gulf States' and Russian example of catching the wind of rising oil prices in their sails, Pyongyang is likely to follow suit, becoming rich and powerful through the exploration and sale of natural resources. The export of rare earth metals will replenish the state coffers; stimulate the loyalty of the elites to Kim Jong Un's rule; and secure the growth of consumption among the ordinary people.

    Relations with South Korea, China and Japan are also likely to improve due to the large scale cooperation on exploring, processing and utilizing REMs - the mineral of the 21st century.

    Pyongyang needs international assistance through joint projects to explore its mineral resources, and mainly its rare metal and rare earth minerals. North Korean and Chinese teams have been cooperating to explore mineral resources in the DPRK for many decades. Seoul has recently expressed interest in working with Pyongyang on mining projects and technological innovations.

    Perhaps, Japan and Taiwan, which look for alternative REM supplies for their micro-processor and other cutting edge industries, might also decide to contribute to the development of this economically promising venture.

    Therefore, the promise of Kim Jong Il will soon come true and North Korea may become a "rich and prosperous state" - rich in natural resources and empowered by nuclear technologies. In that case, North Korea might not even need to go through a painful and potentially destabilizing economic reform.

    Although the political system will remain socialist, the idea of unification with the South by war or absorption will soon become meaningless. Gradually the level of prosperity in the two halves of the divided Korea will start equalizing, opening more opportunities for greater exchange and cooperation.

    Largest known rare earth deposit in the world discovered in North Korea

    Dec. 5, 2013

    Privately-held SRE Minerals on Wednesday announced the discovery in North Korea of what is believed to be the largest deposit of rare earth elements anywhere in the world.

    SRE also signed a joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop REE deposits at Jongju in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

    The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands, has also been granted permission for a processing plant on site at Jongju, situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital of Pyongyang.

    The initial assessment of the Jongju target indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6 billion tonnes with total 216.2 million tonnes rare-earth-oxides including light REEs such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium; mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals. Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 million tonnes consists of more valuable heavy rare-earth-elements.

    According Dr Louis Schurmann, Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and lead scientist on the project, the Jongju deposit is the world's largest known REE occurrence.

    The 216 million tonne Jongju deposit, theoretically worth trillions of dollars, would more than double the current global known resource of REE oxides which according to the US Geological Survey is pegged at 110 million tonnes.

    Minerals like fluorite, apatite, zircon, nepheline, feldspar, and ilmenite are seen as potential by-products to the mining and recovery of REE at Jongju.

    Further exploration is planned for March 2014, which will includes 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling, with results reported according to the Australia's JORC Code, a standard for mineral disclosure similar to Canada's widely used National Instrument 43-101.

    An industry in turmoil

    The majority of the 17 rare earth elements – used in a variety of industries including green technology, defence systems and consumer electronics – were sourced from placer deposits in India and Brazil in the late 1940s.

    During the 1950s, South Africa mined the majority of the world's REEs from large veins of rare earth-bearing monazite.

    From the 1960s to 1980s, rare earths were supplied mainly from the US, mostly from the massive Mountain Pass mine in California, which was eventually mothballed in 2002.

    China then took over the industry completely, producing more than 95% of the world's REEs centred in Inner Mongolia and also becoming the top consumer ahead of Japan and South Korea.

    Worries about China's monopoly of production sent prices for all rare earths into the stratosphere from 2008 onwards with some REEs going up in price twenty-fold or more.

    That reignited interest in the sector with dozens of explorers active around the globe making major discoveries from Canada and Greenland to Madagascar and Malawi.

    Molycorp's (NYSE:MCP) Mountain Pass is almost back to full production, Lynas Corp's (ASX:LYC) Mount Weld mine in Australia and plant in Malaysia opened last year, while Saskatoon-based Great Western Minerals (CVE:GWG) is recommissioning the Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa with Chinese backing.

    Prices have now come back down to earth with most REEs dropping in price by 70% or more after peaking in 2011.

    For instance, the most abundant and cheapest of these, cerium oxide which is used to polish TV screens and lenses is now trading at $8.50 from all-time highs of $118 in the September 2011. The price for cerium oxide was $4.56 in 2008.

    The reversal in europium oxide – the priciest of the widely-used heavy REEs used in medical imaging and the nuclear and defence industries – has also been dramatic.

    The price of europium increased more than 10-fold from $403 in 2009 to an average of $4,900 in the third quarter of 2011.

    It is now worth $1,110 a kilogram in the export market, while Chinese domestic europium is another $500 cheaper at $630/kg.


    Rare earths, in order of atomic number

    There are 17 elements that are considered to be rare earth elements. Here they are listed in order of atomic number (Z):

    • Scandium or Sc (21)

      Scandium, a silvery-white metal, is used in many consumer products, such as televisions and fluorescent or energy-saving lamps. In industry, its primary use is to strengthen metal compounds. The only concentrated sources of scandium currently known are in rare minerals such as thortveitite, euxenite, and gadolinite from Scandinavia and Madagascar.

    • Yttrium or Y (39)

      Yttrium is used in many vital applications, such as superconductors, powerful pulsed lasers, cancer treatment drugs, rheumatoid arthritis medicines, and surgical supplies. A silvery metal, it is also used in many consumer products, such as color televisions and camera lenses.

    • Lanthanum or La (57)

      This silver-white metal is one of the most reactive rare earth elements. It is used to make special optical glasses, including infrared absorbing glass, camera and telescope lenses, and can also be used to make steel more malleable. Other applications for lanthanum include wastewater treatment and petroleum refining.

    • Cerium or Ce (58)

      Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, cerium is a silvery-white metal that easily oxidizes in the air. It is the most abundant of the rare earth elements and has many uses. For instance, cerium oxide is used as a catalyst in catalytic converters in automotive exhaust systems to reduce emissions, and is highly desirable for precision glass polishing. Cerium can also be used in iron, magnesium and aluminum alloys, magnets, certain types of electrodes, and carbon-arc lighting.

    • Praseodymium or Pr (59)

      This soft, silvery metal was first used to create a yellow-orange stain for ceramics. Although still used to color certain types of glasses and gemstones, praseodymium is primarily used in rare earth magnets. It can also be found in applications as diverse as creating high-strength metals found in aircraft engines and in flint for starting fires.

    • Neodymium or Nd (60)

      Another soft, silvery metal, neodymium is used with praseodymium to create some of the strongest permanent magnets available. Such magnets are found in most modern vehicles and aircraft, as well as popular consumer electronics such as headphones, microphones and computer discs. Neodymium is also used to make high-powered, infrared lasers for industrial and defense applications.

    • Promethium or Pm (61)

      Although the search for the element with atomic number 61 began in 1902, it was not until 1947 that scientists conclusively produced and characterized promethium, which is named for a character in Greek mythology. It is the only naturally radioactive rare earth element, and virtually all promethium in the earth's crust has long ago decayed into other elements. Today, it is largely artificially created, and used in watches, pacemakers, and in scientific research.

    • Samarium or Sm (62)

      This silvery metal can be used in several vital ways. First, it is part of very powerful magnets used in many transportation, defense, and commercial technologies. Second, in conjunction with other compounds for intravenous radiation treatment it can kill cancer cells and is used to treat lung, prostate, breast and some forms of bone cancer. Because it is a stable neutron absorber, samarium is used in control rods of nuclear reactors.

    • Europium or Eu (63)

      Named for the continent of Europe, europium is a hard metal used to create visible light in compact fluorescent bulbs and in color displays. Europium phosphors help bring bright red to color displays and helped to drive the popularity of early generations of color television sets. Fittingly, it is used to make the special phosphors marks on bank notes that prevent counterfeiting.

    • Gadolinium or Gd (64)

      Gadolinium has particular properties that make it especially suited for functions such as shielding in nuclear reactors and neutron radiography. It can target tumors in neuron therapy and can enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), assisting in both the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. X-rays and bone density tests can also use gadolinium, making this rare earth element a major contributor to modern health care solutions.

    • Terbium or Tb (65)

      This silvery rare earth metal is so soft it can be cut with a knife. Terbium is often used in compact fluorescent lighting, color displays, and as an additive to permanent rare earth magnets to allow them to function better under higher temperatures. It can be found in fuel cells designed to operate at elevated temperatures, in some electronic devices and in naval sonar systems. Discovered in 1843, terbium in its alloy form has the highest magnetostriction of any such substance, meaning it changes its shape due to magnetization more than any other alloy. This property makes terbium a vital component of Terfenol-D, which has many important uses in defense and commercial technologies.

    • Dysprosium or Dy (66)

      Another soft, silver metal, dysprosium has one of the highest magnetic strengths of the elements, matched only by holmium. Dysprosium is often added to permanent rare earth magnets to help them operate more efficiently at higher temperatures. Lasers and commercial lighting can use dysprosium, which may also be used to create hard computer disks and other electronics that require certain magnetic properties. Dysprosium may also be used in nuclear reactors and modern, energy-efficient vehicles.

    • Holmium or Ho (67)

      Holmium was discovered in 1878 and named for the city of Stockholm. Along with dysprosium, holmium has incredible magnetic properties. In fact, some of the strongest artificially created magnetic fields are the result of magnetic flux concentrators made with holmium alloys. In addition to providing coloring to cubic zirconia and glass, holmium can be used in nuclear control rods and microwave equipment.

    • Erbium or Er (68)

      Another rare earth with nuclear applications, erbium can be found in neutron-absorbing control rods. It is a key component of high-performance fiber optic communications systems, and can also be used to give glass and other materials a pink color, which has both aesthetic and industrial purposes. Erbium can also help create lasers, including some used for medical purposes.

    • Thulium or Tm (69)

      A silvery-gray metal, thulium is one of the least abundant rare earths. Its isotopes are widely used as the radiation device in portable X-rays, making thulium a highly useful material. Thulium is also a component of highly efficient lasers with various uses in defense, medicine and meteorology.

    • Ytterbium or Yb (70)

      This element, named for a village in Sweden associated with its discovery, has several important uses in health care, including in certain cancer treatments. Ytterbium can also enhance stainless steel and be used to monitor the effects of earthquakes and explosions on the ground.

    • Lutetium or Lu (71)

      The last of the rare earth elements by atomic number has several interesting uses. For instance, lutetium isotopes can help reveal the age of ancient items, like meteorites. It also has applications related to petroleum refining and positron emission tomography. Experimentally, lutetium isotopes have been used to target certain types of tumors.



    Rare Earth Development in DPRK

    Pyongyang, September 21 (KCNA) 2011? -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea pays much effort to developing rare-earth goods which are of weighty importance in updating overall science and technologies and upgrading the people's livelihood.

    The country boasts of large deposits of rare earths, including fluorocarbonic cerium, monazite, phosphor johnstrupite and pyrochlore.

    Researches into rare earths have been intensified in the country from the 1960s.

    At first, a basic research for selecting rare-earth elements from minerals was made, followed by a metallurgical research for deriving rare-earth metals from them. Then technologies were developed to make rare-earth goods and apply them to different economic sectors.

    A method of processing fluorocarbonic cerium was established, with rare earths applied to making molecular fertilizers, various kinds of additives for stockbreeding, fish farming and silk raising, permanent magnet, alloys, medicines and medical instruments.

    Kim Il Sung University and other research centers are now making researches in quantum chemistry for rare-earth compounds and materials and in manufacture of rare-earth nano materials with use of supercritical fluid.

    The country has also paid attention to preventing environmental pollution and invigorated scientific and technological exchange with other nations in developing rare earth resources. -0-


    DPRK Encourages Foreign Investment

    Pyongyang, March 23 (KCNA) 2012 -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is willing to further improve its environment for foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a vice department director of the DPRK Committee for Investment and Joint Venture, told KCNA.

    He said:

    The joint development and management in the two economic zones takes on a new way of cooperation. Now it has been under way in a creditable way, driven by the active efforts of both sides of the DPRK and China.

    Rare earth abundant in the country and infrastructure projects lure foreign investment in the DPRK.


    See also
    • Thanks Thanks x 2