Congo mine too dangerous

18 November 2004

A uranium and cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is too dangerous for workers and should remain closed, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment has concluded.

UN officials have examined Shinkolobwe mine since a June collapse killing eight miners. It was exploited for uranium in Belgian colonial times, but was sealed off with concrete before the country attained independence in 1960. In the 1990s, artisanal mining for cobalt was allowed, leading, said UNEP, "to uncontrolled and dangerous mining activities." Although its investigation unveiled no formal evidence of uranium mining in recent years, UNEP said workers risked "chronic exposure to ionising radiation" from the uranium and that they could be killed or injured by further collapses in a mine managed with "no respect for safety regulations."

"The situation in Shinkolobwe could be described as anarchistic," said its chief investigator Bernard Lamouille.

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