The uranium mine that supplies North Korea’s nuclear weapons has been rocked by a series of collapses, with the extent of the disaster visible from space.
Jacob Bogle, who created a comprehensive map of the country from satellite photos, spotted the collapse in recent images of the Pyongsan mine.
The mine is the regime’s main source of uranium ore, which can be refined into yellowcake and eventually into weapons-grade uranium.
And it’s less than a kilometer from the only operating facility in North Korea that can process the ore into yellowcake.
Jacob Bogle, who created a comprehensive map of the country from satellite photos, spotted the collapse in recent images of the Pyongsan mine
The recent Pyongsan mine collapse appears to be progressive, moving westward in consecutive collapses from 2019 to 2021
Now the mine has been struck by disaster, with satellite photos capturing the sudden appearance of large depressions in the earth near the mine entrance.
Mr Bogle said all signs pointed to a collapse.
He said: “The Pyongsan mine is underground, so the only visible aspects of it should be tunnel entrances, surface facilities such as crushers and coal piles.
“What has developed at the mine, however, is a series of irregular pits with no associated activity – no trucks, no shovels and nothing to suggest they were created to facilitate mining.”
Two such pits, each more than 100 meters in diameter, can be clearly seen on satellite photos.
Mr. Bogle continued, “This area of the mine was weakened by a 100 meter wide collapse at least two decades ago.
“Recent dips appear to be progressive, moving west in consecutive dips from 2019 to 2021.
“This suggests that the mined adits have lost their structural support and water intrusion has further weakened the site, resulting in collapses that follow the paths of the adits.”
The mine is the Kim Jong Un regime’s main source of uranium ore, which can be refined into yellowcake and eventually into weapons-grade uranium. Pictured: Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, January 1, 2023
The human cost of the collapses is unknown, but evidence suggests people are still working at the facility.
With each new satellite photo, the piles of garbage on the site have continued to grow, while new structures have been built above ground.
Mr Bogle said: “The mine is still operational and the main stockpile has been growing each year for the last ten years, indicating continuous operations.
“And although the satellite imagery cannot tell us whether the collapses have resulted in injuries, there is an active mineshaft just 230 meters from the area where the collapses occurred.
“In fact, this shaft has been renovated and additional structures have been built in recent years to allow for greater activity.”
The Pyongsan mine is so large that the flow of uranium for Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons is likely to continue even after the recent collapses.
But Mr Bogle warned these collapses could be just the beginning.
He said: “Mining is one of the most dangerous sectors in North Korea.
“The country lacks modern equipment and is not known to be using advanced technology to determine where mineral veins are located or to locate fractures in rock that could pose a safety hazard.
The mine is less than a kilometer from the only operating facility in North Korea that can process the ore into yellowcake
Satellite photos captured the sudden appearance of large depressions in the ground near the mine entrance
“Wooden beams are the most common method of supporting ceilings, but without proper planning or routine maintenance, the weight of the overlying rock can cause collapse.”
He added: “Kim Jong-un announced in December that he wants to build “exponentially” more nuclear weapons.
“More ore has to be mined in Pyongsan for this.
“Given the track record of the area, that can only mean more accidents and collapses as more and more material is removed for processing.”
The Pyongsan mine is 62 miles southeast of Pyongyang and less than 30 miles from the South Korean border.
During a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in 1992, the Kim regime admitted extracting uranium from coal there.