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Yanggang Province arrests gang that allegedly sold gold from Taebong Mine

coal mine
coal mine
Kumya Youth Coal Mine in North Korea (Yonhap News)

Prosecutors in Yanggang Province recently arrested a gang accused of extracting and selling gold from ore illegally acquired from Taebong Mine. 

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Wednesday that provincial prosecutors arrested the gang in the act early this month.

“However, the case is growing as they testified during questioning that they had sold gold extracted from tons of illegally acquired ore over two years,” he said.

According to the source, multiple prosecutors have been put on the case. He said that unlike ordinary cases involving the collection of alluvial gold or theft of small amounts of ore, this was a relatively large-scale operation involving the sale of gold extracted from tons of wrongfully acquired ore, so provincial prosecutors put an additional six investigators on the case to carry out a thorough probe.

With so many prosecutors put on the case, the authorities appear to be thoroughly investigating accomplices, too.

Located in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, Taebong Mine is a gold production facility used as a ruling party cash cow. Accordingly, compared to other mines, it is reportedly subject to relatively tight control regime and entry restrictions.

For example, ordinary security guards man the tunnel entrances of Hyesan Youth Copper Mine, but at Taebong Mine, armed security personnel reportedly guard the tunnel entrance and quarry 24 hours a day.

Security guards at Taebong Mine carry out methodical searches of all personnel and vehicles moving to and from the entrance of the mine. The guardpost at the entrance of the tunnel also carries out thorough body searches of laborers leaving work for the day.

Besides this, workers are subject to surveillance from the cadres of each workstation and Ministry of Social Security and Ministry of State Security personnel, giving Taebong Mine a multi-layered net of inspections.

That the gang could pilfer tons of gold ore despite this, amid the COVID-19 pandemic no less, and with signs emerging that some of the extracted gold was smuggled overseas, provincial prosecutors are reportedly expanding their investigation.

“Workers at Taebong Mine also hide ore on their bodies when they leave work, selling it to people who extract the gold,” said the source. “However, given how big this case is, one cannot discount the possibility that mine cadres or legal officers were involved or behind it all.”

The source said he thinks it especially unlikely prosecutors will quietly pass on the case since it broke prior to the recent emergency quarantine review meeting in Pyongyang.

“Given that investigations are underway into the gang’s backers and accomplices, those already arrested and everyone else involved will have a tough time avoiding severe punishments,” he said.

Meanwhile, the source said gold has been smuggled across the border several times even since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Most of the money coming in from China comes from smuggled metals, including gold,” he said.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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