Brisbane-based geologist Louis Schurmann linked to huge North Korea rare earths mining project

7 11 2014

Louis Schurmann(By Mark Willacy, ABC, 6 Aug 2014) A leading Asian human rights activist has urged the Federal Government to investigate a Queensland-based resources company and a prominent Australian geologist over mining deals with North Korea that he believes may breach United Nations sanctions.

One of the deals involves the mining of a potential deposit of 216 million tonnes of rare earths, which are minerals used in everyday items including smartphones, flatscreen televisions and computers, but also essential for sophisticated weapons such as guided missiles.

The deposit, discovered at Jongju, about 150 kilometres north-west of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, is reportedly one of the world’s largest.

It could also provide a significant boost to the rogue state’s economy.

Late last year, a British Virgin Islands-based private equity firm, SRE Minerals, signed a joint venture with the regime-run Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation to develop the site for the next 25 years.

The project’s lead scientist and director of operators is Dr Louis Schurmann, an experienced Brisbane-based geologist and fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Tokyo-based Human Rights in Asia director Ken Kato has told the ABC that he wants the joint venture project investigated.

“Rare earths are an indispensable material for guided missiles,” he said.

“North Korea’s mining resources are a major source of revenue for its nuclear and missile programs.”

Activist who questioned deal labelled ‘doomsday prophet’ in email

UN Security Council resolution 2094, passed in response to the regime’s 2013 nuclear weapons test, bans the transfer of any financial or other assets, or resources “that could contribute to the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] nuclear or ballistic missile programs”.

The question remains whether this could in any way apply to rare earths mined in North Korea.

The ABC has obtained correspondence between Mr Kato and Dr Schurmann, in which the activist warns the geologist that the project could be in violation of resolution 2094.

The exploration geologist dismissed the concerns in a reply email.

“Have you ever thought that doomsday prophets like your [sic] cause most of the problems?? What we are doing is making a difference … a POSITIVE one … try it,” Dr Schurmann wrote.

Mr Kato has referred Dr Schurmann to the Sanctions Section of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, urging an investigation.

The Sanctions Section replied: “Australia takes its sanctions obligations … very seriously and we will provide due consideration to the matters you have raised.”

When Lateline asked the department whether Australians or Australian companies involved in the Jongju mining project were in breach of sanctions, it refused to comment, or to confirm if an investigation was underway.

Rare earths could ‘change the whole game’ for North Korea

North Korea expert Leonid Petrov, from the Australian National University, warned that if the rare earths deposit was as big as being touted, it would provide a huge boost to the country’s economy.

Dr Petrov said such an injection of hard currency into the impoverished and brutal regime would strengthen its chances of survival.

“If they really do have substantial amounts of rare earths in North Korea it can actually change the whole game of survival for North Korea,” he said.

“The regime does not need to reform [with such an injection].”

Mr Schurmann is not the only Australian link to the Jongju rare earths project.

Brisbane-based Salva Resources assessed the deposit for the proponents, and found it to be a considerable and economically viable prospect.

At the time of the company’s involvement, Salva Resources was owned by Brisbane mining executives Lachlan Broadfoot and Grant Moyle.

Last year, in a deal that media reports said had netted them millions of dollars, they sold the company to US engineering group HDR.

Lateline contacted the new company, HDR Salva, seeking comment about the Jongju assessment and an interview with Mr Broadfoot, who works at the merged company.

In a statement, HDR Salva said: “Salva Resources was contracted to do a geological review of historical data. The nature of this work was thus not relevant to your other comments.”

Those “other comments” relate to the ABC’s queries about UN sanctions against North Korea.

Under Security Council Resolution 1718, to which Australia is bound, it is “an offence to engage in conduct which assists, or results in, the sale, supply or transfer of specified goods on the luxury goods list to [North Korea]”.

Number 22 on the prohibited list is “precious metals”, an appellation sometimes given to rare earths.

It is unclear whether resolution 1718 applies to materials mined inside North Korea.

Gold and silver also appear on the list.

Lateline has discovered that Dr Schurmann’s mining interests in North Korea are not just confined to rare earth minerals.

Dr Schurmann is a director of Australian Stock Exchange-listed EHG Corporation, which last year announced it had acquired a sub-licence “to mine, process, extract and sell all minerals from the North Hwanghae province” in the closed communist state.

Those minerals would include gold, silver, lead and copper.

Dealing with North Korea ‘controversial business’

ANU’s Dr Petrov said dealing with North Korea was fraught with dangers.

“The money that goes to North Korea can be used by the regime to suppress its own people or to beef up its nuclear or missile capabilities. So doing business with North Korea is controversial business.

“It’s highly advised if you don’t want to end up on the list of sanctioned people and banned from doing business with other countries, you’d better check the list and check what is prohibited and what it allowed.”

Lateline emailed Dr Schurmann, sent him a Facebook message, called his home phone number, and visited his Brisbane home seeking comment. The program finally made contact. But the geologist told the ABC he has been advised by his lawyers not to comment at this stage.

As well as potential sanctions breaches, questions remain about who Dr Schurmann and his colleagues are dealing with in Pyongyang.

Human rights activist Mr Kato said most of Pyongyang’s biggest money making ventures were run by a secret unit of the regime called “Office 39”.

Mr Kato has told the ABC that while Office 39’s agents were sometimes involved in legitimate ventures, they were also responsible for counterfeiting, drug smuggling and weapons trafficking, he said.

“Office 39 controls most of the mining in North Korea. It’s like a big exclusive conglomerate for the Kim family,” said Mr Kato.

“The US Treasury Department says Office 39 provides capital to North Korea’s leaders and it is subject to sanctions in Australia, the US, and Europe.”

Do you know more? Email: investigations@abc.net.au

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Northeast Asia – a Region without Regionalism

20 05 2012

(Leonid Petrov for East Asia Forum, 23 May 2012)

Last week once again demonstrated to the world the sad truth about the inability of Northeast Asian nations to establish good working relations in political and economic spheres. The ambitious plan to build a Free Trade Zone across China, South Korea and Japan was pompously declared, only to stumble over old unresolved issues. The legacies of colonialism, international wars and civil conflicts persist, thwarting any attempts to rebuild trust and achieve multilateral cooperation.

The creation of a network of FTAs between the neighbouring states could serve as a confidence building mechanism toward deepening regional integration in East Asia, but efforts have been lagging. Japan and China have yet to enter talks for a bilateral FTA. South Korea and Japan suspended negotiations for a bilateral FTA in 2004 and have made little progress since. This year Seoul has agreed with Beijing to start negotiations for a bilateral FTA, and the first session took place in Beijing on 14 May.

The trade ministers of South Korea, Japan and China for the first time agreed to launch negotiations for a three-way FTA by the end of this year. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for annual summit talks, where they discussed the future of tripartite economic cooperation. The three leaders shared the view that a trilateral FTA would boost trade and investment among the three countries and provide a framework for comprehensive and structural cooperation.

But at the press-conference after the summit, South Korean President Lee looked less enthusiastic than his Chinese and Japanese counterparts. Lee said the trilateral FTA would be meaningful to the countries’ future, but avoided answers regarding the possibility of concluding the FTA negotiations within two years. Also further undermining confidence among the three countries, Chinese President Hu Jintao refused to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda without any explanation. Speculators have suggested Hu’s cancelation may have been triggered by the heated debate on May 13 between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Noda over the sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, or Japan’s granting of a visa to Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to run the World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo.

The three leaders also discussed the continuing North Korean provocations, but the absence of North Korea in these negotiations was conspicuous. A successful regional FTA could allow products produced in North Korea to be freely sold in South Korea and Japan, helping its flagging economy. Similarly, the lack of consumer goods in North Korea could be rectified by an influx of quality products from South Korea and Japan. But for ideological reasons this opportunity remains closed for North Korea.

It is no coincidence that just days prior to the trilateral summit in Beijing, the President of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, went for his first foreign trip since the death of Kim Jong-il. But rather than heading to China, he went to Southeast Asia where he met with the President of Singapore, Tony Tan, and the city-state’s parliamentary leader Michael Palmer. Kim Yong-nam was accompanied by Ri Kwang-gun, who heads the Joint Venture and Investment Commission, and An Jong-su the Minister of Light Industry. Obviously, North Korea is trying to attract foreign investment by offering itself to manufacturers interested in cheap labour, and to boost exports of its own consumer products and minerals. In Singapore the leaders discussed a variety of issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula and bilateral relations, but President Tan and Mr Palmer stressed that while Singapore was open to advancing bilateral relations with North Korea, they were constrained by the fact that North Korea remains subject to UN Security Council sanctions.

The following day, Kim Yong-nam flew to Indonesia, where he also drummed up support for foreign investment. Most western multinational companies avoid direct business with North Korea because of US trade embargo. Washington has warned financial institutions in Southeast Asia that they should not do business with North Korea. Banks in Macao and Singapore stopped doing business with North Korea several years ago. Given this backdrop, what is the reaction of Indonesia to such pressure?

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for dialogue to resolve problems on the Korean peninsula, while Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa suggested that isolating North Korea further was not a constructive solution. When discussing the issue of the controversial rocket-satellite launch, Yudhoyono underlined that misunderstandings should be avoided through dialogue and communication. Kim Yong-nam was assured that there are areas where cooperation is possible. For example, the two leaders resolved to raise bilateral political relations by promoting visits by officials, ministers, managers, and media professionals of the two countries. The media swap deal will allow networks in both North Korea and Indonesia to share content and participate in journalist exchanges.

North Korea is clearly trying to curb its excessive reliance on China by reaching out to other countries in Asia. But how many countries can or will help North Korea integrate successfully? Why should North Korea look for partnerships away from its own region? Would not it be more logical to improve relations with its immediate neighbours, namely South Korea and Japan? Is the US or Russia willing to see the three countries building a genuine free trade platform in the region? The combined population of the three major Asian powers is around 1.5 billion people, with an aggregate GDP of US$15 trillion or 20 per cent of the world total. The establishment of a multilateral FTA would definitely help lay a foundation not only for strong economic partnership, but also for trust, reconciliation, and reliable peace in the region.

But developments over the last week have shown once again that domestic affairs appear to carry more weight for national leaders than regional projects. The disputes of the 20th century continue to affect the hearts and minds of politicians in the two Koreas, China and Japan. And it may take longer than expected before regionalism in Northeast Asia will prevail over political mistrust and economic protectionism.

See the Korean version of this article here…  동북아시아- 지역주의 없는 지역

Also published by The Korea Times (23.05.2012)





“My Father, Kim Jong Il, and I: Kim Jong Nam’s Exclusive Confession”

27 01 2012

ImageYoji Gomi, Senior Staff Writer, Tokyo Shimbun, author of “My Father, Kim Jong Il, and I: Kim Jong Nam’s Exclusive Confession” gave press conference given at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Jan 24, 2012.

For journalists, getting reliable information out of North Korea is notoriously difficult. Getting a one-on-one interview with an insider with unique insight into the family that has run the country since it was created, the party, the politics and the people definitely counts as a scoop.

Yoji Gomi, a journalist with the Tokyo Shimbun, must thank the gods of journalism for the chance meeting in a Beijing airport with Kim Jong-Nam.

The oldest son of the recently departed Dear Leader, Kim Jong-nam was apparently being groomed to succeed Kim Jong-il as leader of the reclusive state until he was arrested in May 2001 trying to enter Japan on a forged Dominican Republic passport with two women and a boy aged 4. He told Japanese police that he wanted to visit Disneyland.

Furious at his son’s indiscretion, Kim Jong-il banished him to Macau and turned to Kim Jong-un as his eventual successor.

After meeting Gomi in Beijing, the journalist interviewed the man who could have been ruling North Korea, in Macao and through more than 150 e-mails. The result is the timely release, on January 20, of “My Father, Kim Jong-Il, and I: Kim Jong-Nam’s Exclusive Confession.”

Gomi commented on Kim Jong-Nam’s opposition to the hereditary transition of power to his half-brother and his ambition to one day return to his homeland.

Listen to the audio record (MP3) of the press conference here…





Korea, Be a Stabliser for Asian Community!

12 12 2009

Prof. Gavan McCormack, “Re-Constructing Asia” (Kyunghyang Shinmun, 07 Dec. 2009)

Much has changed in the Northeast Asian region in that space of two years. The US-centred, US-dominated world – the time of overwhelming US economic, cultural, and military weight on and in the world – fades before our eyes. Its moral credibility in particular has been eroded by aggressive wars, the practices of torture and indiscriminate killing, and the refusal to abide by the principles of international law. However, while in so many respects the US diminishes in importance, in strategic and military terms it remains paramount. The system of regional alliances linking Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines to the US as hub is anachronistic and only the absurd claim that North Korea is a major threat serves to keep it in place.

It we lift our eyes from the changes of the past two years or two decades, and fix them instead on the longue duree of centuries, the pattern is clear. The wave of Western imperialism that washed over Asia for roughly two centuries, based on Europe’s weapons and its primacy in the adoption of industrial capitalism, recedes steadily. The Asian share of global GDP, around half in 1820, is expected to recover to that same level within the next two decades. Asia today gradually resumes the global weight of pre-imperial times. A growing Asian autonomy and identity for itself is apparent. A consensus has steadily grown that security, environmental, and energy problems are shared, and ideological divisions have faded in significance.

But what shape will this new “Asia” take? While bureaucrats formulate pale versions of an expanded free trade zone or a Nato of the East, representative figures within civil society dream of an Asian community beyond the imperialism, war, and Cold War of the past 200 years and beyond the European global hegemony of the past 500, and they seek paths towards a post-capitalist order in harmony with the planet…

…The most recent community proposals have been the East Asian Summit (2005), Kevin Rudd’s (2008) for an “Asia Pacific Community” and Hatoyama Yukio’s (2009) for an “East Asia Community.” All tended to be APEC-like in their inclusiveness and vagueness, and both Japanese and Australian schemes bore the same marks as those of their former conservative forbears: a neo-liberal bent and the reservation of a special place for the US (even though Japan’s Foreign Minister initially denied that that would be the case with the Hatoyama project).

There are three problems with such proposals. First, something to which everybody belongs ceases to be a community. If the US must be part of an Asian community, must not China, Japan, and Korea also belong to NAFTA and the EU? When today Washington insists on getting “an invitation” to any “East Asian Community” (as Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell did in October), it displays its fear of challenge to its global hegemonism. Polite dissent is the appropriate response.

Secondly, good relations do not depend on shared identity, even less on dominance and subordination, but rather on difference and respect. An Asia that has a shared view of its identity and global role and can articulate it to the US would better serve global stability and peace and better share global responsibilities with the US than an Asia forever subordinate and divided. It would articulate its own interests, but that is what communities do.

Thirdly, a different approach to global economic and security concerns is necessary precisely because of the disastrous failures of US-centred neo-liberalism on the one hand and militarist hegemonism on the other. Asia needs to maintain a certain distance from the US in order to generate and project a different perspective and make a distinctive contribution to constructing a new global order…

…The civic, humanist energy that long radiated from its democratic revolution (undermining bureaucratic and statist agendas on all sides, not least to the North) pulses less vigorously. There are of course reasons for this, but it is up to Korean civil society now to regain its momentum and to commit itself again to the great tasks of community, value, and meaning. Korea has been, and I have no doubt will become once again, a pole-star pointing towards a future democratic, citizen-led Asian or East Asian community.

See the full text of this article here…





North Korea: a silver lining

30 05 2009

BrendanTaylorby Brendan Taylor, ABC Unleashed (27 May 2009)

North Korea’s second nuclear test has drawn widespread international condemnation. Yet in the short run, little will change as a result of this development.

The international community will almost certainly impose a fresh round of sanctions against Pyongyang. But these measures will be very hard to enforce and will have little impact on a paranoid and reclusive Kim Jong-Il regime that seems intent on becoming Asia’s newest nuclear power. Ultimately, the world will have little choice but to try and coax North Korea back to the negotiating table. Another deal will be struck, which will subsequently be broken. In this nuclear crisis, the more things change the more they really do seem to remain the same.

Notwithstanding the international criticism which has been heaped on North Korea as a result of its latest nuclear test, however, the enduring ramifications of this development may not be altogether negative. Indeed, when viewed from a longer-term strategic perspective, there are at least three good reasons as to why there may well be a silver lining to the metaphorical mushroom cloud which currently lingers following Pyongyang’s latest provocation.

First, the nuclear test can only be good for relations between China and the United States….

Second, the North Korean nuclear test will also create further diplomatic distance between Beijing and Pyongyang…

Third, the North Korean nuclear test has also further diminished the prospects for any near-term reunification of the two Koreas…

Japan, however, seems destined to be the biggest loser in all of this. North Korea’s nuclear test will serve to further deepen Tokyo’s sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the missile and nuclear threat posed to it by the North. That is why Japan has taken such an assertive stance in responding to the test and why Tokyo is seeking tough measures through the United Nations…

See the full text here…

* Dr Brendan Taylor is a lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. He is the author of American Sanctions in the Asia-Pacific (Routledge, forthcoming 2009).





Что случилось с Ким Чен Иром?

29 10 2008

Леонид Петров, Сеульский Вестник

Вот уже полтора месяца, как СМИ всего мира задают вопрос – “Что случилось с Ким Чен Иром?”  А.Ланьков, И.Захарченко и К.Асмолов уже уделяли этому вопросу немало внимания. Самые последние сообщения говорят о том, что КЧИ лежит в больнице, приглашает к себе нейро-хирургов из Китая и Франции, но страной по-прежнему руководит (AFP: Kim Jong-Il likely in hospital: Japan PM). Причём, в качестве источника этой информации журналисты сегодня цитируют нового Премьер-министра Японии Таро Асо и известного историка, профессора Токийского Университета Вада Харуки…

Японский фактор

До сегодняшнего дня все слухи о болезни КЧИ исходили из Японии, а именно из японских газет, которым (по оценкам А.Ланькова) доверять можно не более чем на 2%. Западная пресса эти слухи дружно поддерживала и активно муссировала. Своим непоявлением на важных мероприятиях общенационального значения (парад 9 сентября, празднования 10 октября, и т.д.) сам КЧИ этим слухам придавал новый импульс. Почему именно Япония стала источником такого рода интригующей информации? ( See the full text here… )

LP





“Exodus to North Korea”

20 08 2008

Exodus to North Korea“EXODUS TO NORTH KOREA: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War”

By Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Australian National University)

“This is the story of one of the most extraordinary forgotten tragedies of the Cold War: the “return” of over 90,000 people, most of them ethnic Koreans, from Japan to North Korea from 1959 onward. Presented to the world as a humanitarian venture and conducted under the supervision of the International Red Cross, the scheme was actually the result of political intrigues involving the governments of Japan , North Korea , the Soviet Union, and the United States . The great majority of the Koreans who journeyed to North Korea in fact originated from the southern part of the Korean peninsula, and many had lived all their lives in Japan . Though most left willingly, persuaded by propaganda that a bright new life awaited them in North Korea , I drew on recently declassified documents to reveal the covert pressures used to hasten the departure of this unwelcome ethnic minority. For most, their new home proved a place of poverty and hardship; for thousands, it was a place of persecution and death. In rediscovering their extraordinary personal stories, this book also casts new light on the politics of the Cold War and on present-day tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world.” (Tessa Morris-Suzuki)

You can find a short video linked to the book here… and buy a copy on-line here…

EXODUS TO NORTH KOREA MUSEUM website by the author

The Forgotten Victims of the North Korean Crisis
By Tessa Morris-Suzuki

Between 1959 and 1984, these few were among the 93,340 people who migrated from Japan to North Korea in search of a new and better life. There were several particularly ironic features of this migration. First, it took place precisely at the time of Japan’s “economic miracle”. Secondly, although it was described as a “repatriation”, almost all those who “returned” to North Korea originally came from the south of the Korean peninsula, and many had been born and lived all their lives in Japan. Third, the glowing images of life which tempted them to Kim Il Sung’s “worker’s paradise” came, not just from the North Korean propaganda machine but from the Japanese mainstream media, supported and encouraged by politicians including key members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

After decades in North Korea, around one hundred migrants have now escaped the harsh realities of life there, and made the perilous return journey back to Japan. Other survivors of the same project who managed to escape have settled in South Korea.

The story of their migration has been almost entirely unheard by the rest of the world. But it urgently needs to be heard, not least because it involves an injustice that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and is still causing the deaths and untold suffering today. The history of this migration also reveals the complexity of postwar Japan’s connections with North Korea: and without understanding this, it is impossible fully to understand the impasse which their relations have now reached.

As secret documents from the Cold War era are declassified and testimony from survivors emerges, the true story of this mass movement is now starting to emerge for the first time. We now know that it was the product of a deliberate policy, very carefully designed and implemented at the height of the Cold War by the North Korean and Japanese governments often working in concert, and supported in various ways by the Soviet Union, the United States and the International Red Cross movement. It is a history that sheds important light on the complex background to Northeast Asia’s contemporary conflicts. It also evokes chilling echoes of other coerced or manipulated migrations, including the repatriation of Eastern Europeans to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries in the immediate post-war era.

More at Japan Focus