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Uranium Mine In Dr Of Congo Must Stay Closed

Uranium Mine In Dr Of Congo Must Stay Closed, UN Team Concludes

A United Nations team has found that a uranium mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that collapsed in July, killing eight people, is at high risk of caving in again and must remain closed.

The interagency team, led by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), visited the Shinkolobwe uranium mine in the southwestern province of Katanga between 25 October and 4 November, and is preparing technical recommendations.

The mine had been exploited for uranium but closed before the country gained independence in the 1960s by sealing the main shafts with concrete. In the late 1990s, artisanal mining for cobalt was allowed, leading to uncontrolled and dangerous mining activities. No evidence of uranium mining was found.

Around 15,000 people were dependent on the mining activities and living in the nearby village of Shinkolobwe. However, during the UN team's visit, no artisanal miners were active on-site. Following the evacuation of the mining site in early August, the adjacent village had been destroyed. Artisanal miners and their dependants had reportedly dispersed to other artisanal mining sites and some returned to neighbouring towns.

"No immediate risks to the environment were observed," said Alain Pasche of the UN assessment team, "though we have taken samples of water, soil and sediments, which will be further analysed in Switzerland for heavy metal concentration."

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