North Korea upgrading its rail to handle more coal

North Korea is reportedly upgrading its coal haulage rail lines as it plans to increase output.

Reports from the DPRK’s foreign news service Uriminzokkri stated that the number of trains has doubled year on year.

“This year, twice as many freight trains arrived in our station than during the same time period last year,” an employee at Pyongchon station told Korean Central TV.

“By co-operating with the Railway Bureau to reduce delivery times, we are trying to restore railways that we have not been able to use.”

It comes as the country increases its levels of high grade coal exported to China.

“The production of coal increased last year. So they should deliver this to thermal plants, chemical plants, steel mills and so on. They should provide coal to meet their demands. So, they always encourage faster and more frequent deliveries,” Lee Seok-gi at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade told NK News.

The country has made a massive shift in the last few years regarding the development of its mining industry, which sits outside of current UN sanctions.

 “The resources sector has been the first legitimate sector of the economy to take off in the Songun (North Korea’s military first policy) era,” Dr. Ben Habib, a professor of international relations at La Trobe University, told Australian Mining.

“North Korea is coming up, and since 2009 we’ve seen a spike in the country’s income from natural resources, according to data from the Bank of Korea,” Habib told Australian Mining.

“North Korea is the new No. 1 exporter of anthracite,” Georgi Slavov, head of basic materials research in London at Marex Spectron told Bloomberg earlier this year.

This is little surprise as North Korea has high levels of quality coal, as well as iron ore, and the second largest reserves of magnesite, which helped precipitate a growth in Chinese investment in the country’s mining sector.

“The timing of this acceleration coincides with a renewed focus from the North Korean government in developing the mining sector,” Habib said.

“According to Bank of Korea data, for 2011 the mining sector grew 0.9 per cent,” he added, a significant amount for the nation.”

However it has been held back by aging infrastructure, which caused bottlenecks in the supply chian.

“The most advanced transport infrastructure is railroads. Basically, to deliver coal, the railways are connected from mine to plant. But North Korea’s electric rails are in a bad condition, so the volume of traffic by train is low. So, they fail to deliver in time,” Lee told NK News.

It is understood the new rail infrastructure will be completed, according to the North Korean government, in early May.

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