North Korea: During the past week international news services have repeated a South Korean news service report that North Korea has up to 20 million tons of rare earth metal ores in its mountainous interior. This estimate would make North Korean deposits second only to China's and possibly worth $6 trillion, according to press accounts.
All of the recent reports seem to stem from meetings late last year between North and South Korean mining concerns about how best to exploit the rare earth ores. In those meetings, the North delivered to South Korea samples of the ores for evaluation. Since December the North has not responded to South Korean offers to provide their assessment of the quality of the ores.
Meanwhile, Chinese interests have injected themselves to exploit the ores. Last year, Chinese and North Korean authorities agreed on a Chinese proposal to develop rare earth mines in North Korea, but the details were never published.
Comment: The location of the rare earth ore deposits appears to be a state secret. South Korean media reported the North Korean deposits would make it the second largest source of rare earth metals, after China. China wants to control the market that South Korea is trying to penetrate.
This is potentially a game changing development on the peninsula because demand for and the price of rare earth metals continues to skyrocket. They are essential in the manufacture of modern telecommunications equipment.
A thriving rare earth metals industry in the North could make the country more prosperous than it ever has been. There is no co