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N. Korea, China agree to jointly develop three mines in North
SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently signed a deal with China to jointly develop three mines in the North, a North Korean investment firm said Thursday, as the cash-strapped country steps up attempts to earn hard currency from overseas.

   A Beijing unit of North Korea's Committee of Investment and Joint Venture struck the joint development deal with a Chinese international trading company in Beijing on June 9, according to the unit's Chinese-language Web site.

   "The China firm's president and his parties conducted field inspections into one (North Korean) gold mine and two iron ore mines and confirmed the investment and development scheme," the Web site said. "Facility building is now well underway for the project," it said.

   Details on the terms of the deal were not provided.

   Experts said the deal is the first foreign investment deal announced by the Beijing unit, which is run by the Committee of Investment and Joint Venture in charge of luring overseas capital and investment into the North.

   The joint North-China mining venture also illustrates growing exports of underground resources from the North to China, its closest ally and a major source of foreign currency.

   Exports of mineral resources to China reached 8,420,000 tons during the first nine months of 2011, growing sharply from the annual volume of 4,799,000 tons in 2010 and 2,480,000 tons for the whole of 2008.

   Through a previous deal in which China invested US$860 million, it now holds a 51 percent stake in North Korea's biggest copper mine in Hyesan, a northern city bordering China. The country also holds 50-year mining rights over another major mine in Musan, North Hamgyeong Province.

   "It's unusual for the North and China to strike a mining deal in recent years," Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute, said. "It shows that the Kim Jong-un regime is also utilizing underground resources as a means for winning foreign currency."

   pbr@yna.co.kr
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