Critical metals (CMs), including rare-earth elements (REEs), lithium (Li), and beryllium (Be), provide the foundation for the development of advanced technologies and are essential to national security and economic development in many countries. While China has most of the world’s REE processing capacity, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly possesses significant untapped CM resources. With the size and total value estimated to be worth trillions of dollars, its large resources are reputedly the DPRK’s most significant internal asset. Despite the oft-cited abundance of CMs, evidence-based analyses of the mineral resources are limited. We provide a comprehensive analysis of CM resources in the DPRK based on geological analysis of potential deposits. Three main REE deposits at Ryongpo, Cheolsan, Abdong, and various Li and Be deposits are investigated. Extensive analyses indicate that previous estimates of a large CM resource base for the DPRK are exaggerated. There is no clear evidence for significant resources that are economical. While there remains a possibility of identifying new ore deposits, for the DPRK to access its CM resources, it will need to develop a nationwide exploration and exploitation strategy to attract foreign investments. A strategy of investment and investigation might provide a springboard for cooperation between the DPRK and other nations as these resources are discovered and developed.
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