Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

North Korean coal piles up as Russian product sails away
By Sebastien BERGER
Rason, North Korea (AFP) Dec 4, 2017

A three-metre-high metal fence topped with razor wire in a North Korean port marks the front line of the United Nations' ban on coal exports by Pyongyang.

A mountain of North Korean coal -- which would once have been bound for China -- is piled up on one side of the barrier in Rajin harbour, stranded by the interdiction.

On the very next dock, around two million tonnes of Russian coal has come in by train and been shipped on to China this year by Russian port operator RasonConTrans.

Its activities are specifically excluded from the UN Security Council's sanctions resolutions -- but attempts have been made to use it as a way to bypass the restrictions.

"They asked but we said no, we don't do it," said RasonConTrans' deputy director Roman Minkevich.

The black mounds on the neighbouring wharf were evidence his firm was complying with the rules, he added.

"Behind the fence it's Korean coal, it's under sanctions now so it's still here," he told AFP.

He declined to elaborate on the source of the requests. "People," he said. "Different people."

The UN Panel of Experts on North Korea said in its midyear report that Pyongyang has been "deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities".

For years the coal trade was a lucrative earner for Pyongyang -- its main ally and key economic partner China imported 22 million tonnes worth nearly $1.2 billion in 2016.

But while Beijing says North Korean imports have come to a halt, RasonConTrans' business is booming.

Since starting operations in 2015 its volumes have doubled each year, and Minkevich is targeting three million tonnes next year, with a goal of five million in future.

It has between three and six ship movements a month at its pier -- number 3 in the port, which can take vessels up to 180 metres (600 feet) long -- loading 50,000 tonnes of coal on each, most of them heading for Shanghai.

- Women crane operators -

Over a hill at the back of Rajin town stands a sprawling disused oil refinery, originally built to process crude from the Soviet Union, in the days of Communist brotherhood provided Pyongyang with cheap or free materials.

Locals blame sanctions for the closure but it has been inactive for years, its throttled chimneys standing sentinel over an unfulfilled economic dream.

Two large bronze statues of the North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il look out over Rajin.

Despite the looser economic rules applying in the area, the town is bedecked with propaganda slogans seen throughout the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known.

Using North Korean labour -- North Korean women are particularly skilled crane operators, Minkevich notes, probably due to their care in performing repetitive tasks -- costs at Rajin are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than at Russian ports.

Those competitors on the Russian Pacific coast are also close to capacity, he says, as China and the energy-hungry but resource-poor economies of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan suck coal from Russia's vast reserves.

Moscow and Pyongyang have long had fraternal relations, and a picture of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-Il meeting Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital in 2001 hangs in a RasonConTrans office.

The company is 70 percent Russian-owned, with 30 percent held by the port of Rajin.

It is the third-biggest taxpayer in the Rason Special Economic Zone, set up by Pyongyang to try to attract trade and businesses to the area where North Korea, China and Russia meet.

North Koreans need special permits to enter the SEZ, and a large checkpoint at its southern entrance enforces the rules.

RasonConTrans has around 300 North Korean personnel and 110 Russian staff, and brings in much of its needs, such as diesel for its generators, directly from Russia.

It is almost entirely independent of the rickety local electricity supply, which Minkevich said was offline around 30 percent of the time.

Some aspects of the North reminded him of the former Soviet Union, said the Muscovite, but working under the sanctions regime was a "unique experience".

There were difficulties importing parts and building supplies, he said, and "much more paperwork".

"It's interesting but it's hard."

N. Korea blasts 'dangerous' US-South joint military drill
Seoul (AFP) Dec 3, 2017
North Korea Sunday blasted the United States and South Korea as "warmongers" on the eve of their largest-ever joint air exercise, saying it could trigger a nuclear war. The comments came as White House National Security Advisor H.R McMaster warned of the "increasing" possibility of war with the impoverished but nuclear-armed North. The five-day Vigilant Ace drill - involving some 230 a ... read more

Related Links
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at
Learn about missile defense at
All about missiles at
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Does the Outer Space Treaty at 50 need a rethink

NASA to send critical science, instruments to Space Station

New motion sensors major step towards cheaper wearable technology

Can a magnetic sail slow down an interstellar probe

Russia to build launch pad for super heavy-lift carrier by 2028

Flat-Earther's self-launch plan hits a snag

Mechanisms are critical to all space vehicles

SSTL ships CARBONITE-2 and Telesat's LEO-1 for PSLV launch

Gadgets for Mars

Ice shapes the landslide landscape on Mars

Winds Blow Dust off the Solar Panels Improving Energy Levels

Previous evidence of water on Mars now identified as grainflows

Nation 'leads world' in remote sensing technology

China plans for nuclear-powered interplanetary capacity by 2040

China plans first sea based launch by 2018

China's reusable spacecraft to be launched in 2020

Orbital ATK purchase by Northrop Grumman approved by shareholders

UK space launch program receives funding boost from Westminster

Need to double number of operational satellites: ISRO chief

Space Launch plans UK industry tour

Saab intros augmented reality training tool for military

Device could reduce the carbon footprint of ethylene production

Researchers inadvertently boost surface area of nickel nanoparticles for catalysis

UCLA engineers use deep learning to reconstruct holograms and improve optical microscopy

Scallops have 200 eyes, which function like a telescope: study

Researchers prolong life by curbing common enzyme

Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula reveals a cryptic methane-fueled ecosystem in flooded caves

First known interstellar visitor is an 'oddball'

Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected

Jupiter's Stunning Southern Hemisphere

Watching Jupiter's multiple pulsating X-ray Aurora

Help Nickname New Horizons' Next Flyby Target

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement