Wednesday, July 21, 2004

DRC: the uranium mine, "a security threat"

According to an Associated Press story published yesterday, "UN investigators" said illicit mining at Shinkolobwe uranium mine in eastern Congo poses a security threat ... the fear is that the uranium might fall into the hands of terrorists.
UN authorities "recommended that this mine be secured and put in the charge of a private operation for much more disciplined operations, with the aim of avoiding risks including the high rate of radioactivity ... and uranium trafficking with those who shouldn't get it in their hands," UN mission spokesperson Alexandre Essome said in Lubumbashi, capital of the DRC's mineral-rich Katanga province.

[...] The 15,000 miners now working east Congo's Shinkolobwe mine without authorization from the government risk contracting cancer and developing other health problems because of high radiation levels at the site, concluded investigators from the UN mission in Congo.

[...] Congo's colonial ruler, Belgium, stopped uranium mining at the site around the time of independence in 1960, and filled the main shaft with concrete.

But widespread mining has continued in the area, though most miners are digging for cobalt at the site - not uranium. (source)
I assume that the "UN investigators" the story is refers to are the same ones sent by the UN mission to the DRC (MONUC) ...

Part of the Shinkolobwe mine collapsed two weeks ago (July 8), killing nine people. MONUC sent investigators to the area to assess the situation ... but they were not allowed on the site.
"The MONUC delegation had gone to determine what medical and humanitarian aid we could provide... but the district authorities of Haut Katanga told us we were not authorised to access the mine because we didn't warn them in advance of our arrival and, according to them, we had nothing to do with this affair," Alexandre Essome, the MONUC spokesman, said on Friday. (source)
Earlier this year, President Joseph Kabila ordered all mining at Shinkolobwe be stopped ... an order that has been widely ignored.


Back in March, there was a story that DRC authorities had siezed two cases containing uranium. And there is this follow-up post.