North Korea’s claims of uncovering the world’s largest potential rare earth deposit have come into question
In late 2013, a joint venture between SRE Minerals and The DPRK’s Korea Natural Resources Trading Company reportedly uncovered a rare earth deposit, dubbed Jongju ‘Super Target’.
Early reports stated it had the potential of six times the reserves of China (which currently controls more than 90% of the world's resources) and will re-transform the Global Rare Earth industry in the near future".
PCRE went on to state that it could support a 'super mine' status for more than 100 years.
Early drilling on the deposit showed grades of 664.9 Mt at > 9.00% TREO, 634.0 Mt a > 5.70 ≤ 9.00% TREO, 2.077 Bt at > 3.97 ≤ 5.70% TREO, 340.4 Mt @ >1.35 ≤ 3.97% TREO, and 2.339 Bt at ≤ 1.35% TREO are present in the Jongju REE Target (a total of 216.2 Mt TREO).
This translates into a potential mineralisation of around six billion tonnes.
The deposit is believed to have been proved up by Australian-based geologist, Louis W. Schurmann of Chamoni Geoconsultants, a former exploration manager and VP for exploration and Ivanhoe Nickel in South Africa.
However, in a completely unexpected turn of events, the veracity of the deposit is being called into question.
A group of thinktanks in South Korea have rejected the legitimacy of the deposit.
“The numbers are not backed up with any solid data, it is nothing but a list of what they have under the ground. [Schürmann] has absolutely no credibility. Whatever he says, I take it as hoax,” Choi Kyung-soo, a senior researcher at the North Korea Resource Institute told NK News.
“We do not have any data regarding this issue, and the article does not really give us the solid proof about amount of DPRK’s rare minerals nor how profitable it is,” a spokesperson from the Information Systems for Resource of North Korea added.
Choi went on to say the country is simply focused on attracting foreign investment with over-inflated resource estimates, a belief in part backed by the recent Social Change and Business Opportunities in North Korea conference, which stated that “the number of semi-private businesses in North Korea is growing and the regime has been calling for foreign investments”.
However Schurmann has rubbished these claims.
“This is ridiculous,” Schurmann told Australian Mining.
“I don’t think these claims [from the North Korea Institute] are justified.
“I’ve been on site, I’ve seen the drill cores with my own eyes, and I’ve done the work.”
He also took umbrage to claims regarding his professionalism.
“This isn’t about my credibility; it seems to be yet another of the North and South Korean disagreements.”
The North Korean embassy has also previously been contacted in regards to these deposits, however it had declined to comment, or respond.