North Korea is known as a country which is abundant in mineral resources including zinc, iron, gold, lead and uranium let alone coal. For this reason, N. Korea was once a battling object of lease for the western powers to gain more mineral sources in early 20th century. Also, this laid a foundation in fostering heavy industries in North Korea, particularly after DPRK period.
What is the current state of mining industry in N. Korea?
According to Washingtonpost article, mining business is emerging as one of the significant money-making industry in North Korea, as mineral price rises in the world. In reality, exports of North Korean coal and zinc to China have jumped sharply in the past three years, as have zinc exports to South Korea and gold exports to Thailand. The CIA estistimated that North Korea made profit from the mineral mining up to $1.4 billion in 2006 and, more importantly, the value of reserves is still presumed more than $2 trillion.
Like other pundits, I also perceive that this money finantially beneficial to N. Korea, indeed. However, the question is how N. Korea spend this money. The effects or repucussions of obtaining dollar through mining business appears to be limitted or petty at best, as long as N.Korea keeps pursuing military-oriented self-relince.