North Korea may not have proved petroleum reserves, but it’s estimated that the secluded belligerent nation sits on reserves of more than 200 minerals—including rare earth minerals—worth an estimated up to US$10 trillion.
Of course, there are no official reports on how much North Korea’s mineral wealth really is, but according to rough estimates from earlier this decade, Pyongyang’s deposits of coal, iron ore, zinc, copper, graphite, gold, silver, magnesite, molybdenite, and many others, are worth between US$6 trillion and US$10 trillion, as per South Korean projections reported by Quartz.
Before the fall of the USSR, North Korea had prioritized mineral mining and trade with fellow communist partners. But the mining industry has been in decline since the early 1990s, due to decades of neglect and lack of funds for infrastructure development to support mining activities.
Now North Korea’s mining sector trade is under a full ban by the UN, as Pyongyang has stepped up both nuclear missile tests and belligerent rhetoric in recent months. The UN started banning trade in metals last year, but there have been reports that Kim Jong-Un’s regime has grown increasingly inventive in circumventing sanctions.