The Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant – touted by North Korean authorities as “a creation of self-sustaining strength and prosperity” – has not been able to properly produce phosphate fertilizer since the plant was completed. More than a year ago.
However, to evade criticism of the plant’s non-existent production, authorities reportedly resort to the “gross ploy” of shipping fertilizer produced at other plants at the Sunchon plant.
In a phone conversation with the Daily NK on Wednesday, a source in North Korea said the Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant was unable to produce a finished product, even though the plant had been completed. over a year and two months ago. “It is totally incapable of producing ammonium phosphate,” he said on condition of anonymity. “And as for the lime superphosphate, it’s just packaged with fertilizers produced in other factories.”
The Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant is supposed to produce a dry fertilizer synthesized from ammonium phosphate and lime superphosphate. Unable to produce ammonium phosphate, however, the factory was unable to ship phosphate fertilizers.
The plant has reportedly experienced problems with the supply of sodium sulfate, which is needed during the calcination process for white phosphorus, silica and sodium sulfate.
Sodium sulfate – called Yusan in North Korea – is typically produced in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province. However, with limited production, the Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant did not receive enough chemicals.
In addition, the plant would not be able to import the necessary equipment to remove fluorine from apatite, rendering it unable to manufacture ammonium phosphate.
In addition, although the plant was designed to be fully automated, only manual production is currently possible as the country has not been able to import semiconductor equipment.
Pak Pong Ju, then vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, attended the plant’s completion ceremony in May last year. He said the plant, designed to “produce large quantities of concentrated phosphate fertilizer from low grade ore suitable for North Korean conditions,” was equipped to reduce labor requirements by “achieving the automation and systematization of the injection of raw materials to the packaging of products. . “
At the time, however, it seemed there were only plans to automate the plant. The automation system was not yet complete.
North Korean authorities have reportedly sent scientists to the Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant to develop what the plant needs “through self-sufficiency.”
The source said that a brigade of scientists and technicians consisting largely of researchers from the Academy of Sciences and Kim Chaek University of Technology was organized and sent to the factory to “produce [and acquire] resources and equipment imported as autonomously as possible.
Reporting on the plant’s duct tape cutting ceremony last year, North Korean media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “expressed his satisfaction with the wonderful creation of the integrated production system of the Sunchon phosphate fertilizer plant by teachers and researchers. [sic] of the Kim Chaek University of Technology in cooperation with the relevant units. But according to the source, scientists are still trying to develop solutions for imported equipment and resources.
Meanwhile, North Korean authorities have built farms and ranches near the factory to independently provide food for factory workers.
The source said the state aims to normalize production and produce 50,000 tonnes of P fertilizer during the year, “but whether they will actually be able to do so, that also remains uncertain.”