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(last updated 21 Feb 2016)

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> See also Data for: Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines · Old Mines and Decommissioning

Congo, Democratic Republic of the   flag

General · Shinkolobwe
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> See also Data for: Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines · Old Mines and Decommissioning

Shinkolobwe, Katanga Province

Aerial view: Google Maps

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> See also: Cleanup of Fernald Silos 1 and 2 (Congo high grade tailings), Ohio, USA
> See also: Niagara Falls Storage Site, New York

Unauthorized mining continuing at former Shinkolobwe uranium mine, report

According to a report transmitted on German national radio station Deutschlandfunk on April 17, 2012, unauthorized mining is continuing at the former Shinkolobwe uranium mine: artisanal miners are getting access to the mine site by bribing the guards. While the miners are after copper and cobalt, some ores also contain considerable concentrations of uranium. The product is exported in the form of copper and cobalt concentrates that still contain the uranium. The uranium can then easily be extracted in the unknown destination countries.
> View Tödlicher Reichtum - Uran in der Demokratischen Republik Kongo, Von Bettina Rühl, Das Feature, 17. April 2012, 19:15 Uhr (Deutschlandfunk - in German)
> Download MP3 Audio (19.8MB MP3 64kBit/s, 43 min. - in German)

DR Congo signs nuclear proliferation deal with US

The United States and Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday (Dec. 21) signed an agreement to prevent trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials, the US embassy said. The deal comes after a November UN report revealed that a group of Rwandan rebels in the east of the country attempted to sell six containers of uranium which dated back to the days of Belgian colonial rule. (AFP Dec. 21, 2010)

Congo armed groups forming criminal gangs, trafficking uranium, among others, UN report says

Armed groups in eastern Congo, including the army, have bypassed international reform programs and have instead formed criminal networks to exploit the nation's mineral wealth, with one group even trying to sell uranium, the United Nations said in a report Monday (Nov. 29).
The report said the armed units have done so despite recent efforts to disarm illegal militias and reform the disorganized, ill-disciplined army. The report said the army has even formed a criminal gang within its ranks. Investigators cited several examples of militants illegally exploiting minerals and natural resources, seizing land, recruiting child soldiers and poaching endangered wildlife.
The report said Rwandan-led Hutu rebels in Congo in 2008 attempted to sell six canisters of what they said was unenriched uranium - an amount that the report said would not be enough to create even a small amount of fissile material - but could not find a buyer for more than a year and gave up. (AP Nov. 29, 2010)
> View UN release Nov. 29, 2010
> Download: UN Security Council report S/2010/596, Nov. 29, 2010 (11.6M PDF)
[According to the report, the material in question was produced at Shinkolobwe during the time of Belgian colonization.]

 

Unauthorized mining at former Shinkolobwe uranium mine

DRC court sentences human rights activist to one year imprisonment: The court in Lubumbashi/Kamalondo sentenced Golden Misabiko, president of the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADHO) to one year imprisonment, suspended for eight months, APA notes here. He was charged with endangering the security of the state. The defendant, Golden Misabiko was arrested in August and brought to justice by the provincial government of Katanga.
After a stormy trial, the court convicted him on the offense of publishing false information with intent to harm. The eight-month suspended sentence imposed on Mr. Misabiko will take effect after four months of detention at Kasapa Central Prison, the court said. (APA Sep. 23, 2009)

The jailed president of a human rights group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been freed on bail because of poor health, his association said on Monday (Aug. 24). Golden Misabiko, an outspoken critic of the role of state agencies in a uranium mine in the southeastern province of Katanga, appeared in court on August 20 charged with "spreading false rumours inciting the population to rebellion." He was freed on bail at the request of his lawyers, who said his health had deteriorated since he was picked up by intelligence agents on July 24 in Lubumbashi, the provincial capital. (IOL Aug. 24, 2009)

On Aug. 17, 2009, the NGO Global Witness appealed to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to release human rights activist Golden Misabiko without delay ahead of a court hearing due to take place on Wednesday (Aug. 19). Misabiko has remained in detention for over three weeks in relation to the recent publication of a report, despite repeated calls for his release by Congolese and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe-Mwamba says Misabiko is no longer in detention and is now "at the disposal" of justice officials "seeking clarification" of his statements. Mwamba says Misabiko is being questioned because he told local and international media the government in Kinshasa was selling uranium to North Korea. (VOA Aug. 12, 2009)

During her visit to Goma on Aug. 11, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the case of imprisoned human rights activist Golden Misabiko with Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe-Mwamba. When asked why Misabiko has been detained, Thambwe-Mwamba said "we would like to have some clarification on the statements he made." (Bloomberg Aug. 11, 2009)

More than 200 NGOs have asked President Joseph Kabila to free a human rights activist who had reported on illegal uranium mining in the southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. "We ask for your intervention (...) to obtain the release of Mr Golden Misabiko," the 221 non-governmental organisations said in a letter to Kabila, a copy of which was sent to AFP.
Misabiko, president of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (Asadho) in Katanga province, was picked up by intelligence agents on July 24 and taken to the court premises in the provincial capital, Lubumbashi, where he is still being held. On July 13, Asadho had published a report on a uranium mine at Shinkolobwe, covering both artisanal mining there for copper and a deal signed between the DR Congo and French nuclear group Areva. Asadho had denounced the roles played by some state institutions during the working of the Shinkolobwe mine, where all activities officially came to an end in 2004. (Moneybiz Aug. 4, 2009)

On July 24, 2009, Golden Misabiko, president of ASADHO/Katanga was arrested in Lumbumbashi for releasing the report on illicit mining at Shinkolobwe. Misabiko was arrested by members of the secret service Agence nationale de renseignements (ANR). He has been accused of endangering the security of the state and of making defamatory statements. (AFP July 26, 2009)

On July 12, 2009, the human rights association ASADHO/Katanga issued a report on the history of illicit mining at Shinkolobwe:
Mine uranifère de Shinkolobwe : D’une exploitation artisanale illicite à l’accord entre la RD Congo et le groupe nucléaire français AREVA, Juillet 2009 (1.1MB PDF - in French)

Security forces have seized at least 300 tons of copper and cobalt ore illegally mined in a uranium-rich part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the army and local officials said. "In all, 6,000 sacks of heterogenite have been seized near the Shinkolobwe site", a uranium mine that has been shut down since 1960, an army officer told AFP, asking not to be named. The DRC's heterogenite contains unprocessed copper and cobalt, often worked by artisanal miners. Industry sources said that mineral smugglers use sacks of either 50 or 100 kilograms, which means the total announced haul in the southeastern Katanga province is between 300 and 600 tons of ore deposit. (AFP Apr. 11, 2008)

On July 20, 2006, a team of experts monitoring a U.N. arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo said they found ample signs of "artisan mining" by small groups of private individuals during a recent visit. Local police and residents told them "local agents of the mining police and of the National Intelligence Agency not only encourage but also charge fees from the miners," the experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council. "These observations stand in stark contrast to the assurances given to the Group of Experts by officials of the Ministry of Mines and of the National Intelligence Agency," the experts said. "They assured the group that the mine is secured and that no artisan mining is taking place," their report said. (Reuters July 20, 2006)

U.N. investigators are to measure contamination and radiation at the Shinkolobwe uranium mine which partially collapsed in July 2004, killing at least nine people. The five-member team will spend Oct. 24 - Nov. 4, 2004, at the mine, where miners continue to dig illegally for valuable copper and cobalt compounds, U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. (Reuters Oct. 22, 2004)
During their site visit between Oct. 25 and Nov. 4, 2004, UN investigators found no artisanal miners active on-site. Following the evacuation of the mining site in early August 2004, the adjacent village had been destroyed. "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." (UN Nov. 9, 2004)
> Download reports of the UN Joint Environment Unit on the Shinkolobwe Mine collapse (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

Since 1997, 6000 miners are entering the former Shinkolobwe mine site each day without authorization. They have excavated a huge open pit next to the former uranium mine, which had been flooded after it was mined out. The miners are interested in cobalt rather than uranium. However, uranium could also be extracted from the ore. In view of the possibility of uranium being extracted and circulated without any control, the United States have demanded the DR Congo government to regain control over the mine site. In January 2004, president Joseph Kabila has decided to interdict access to the mine site. Two months later, no effect could be observed yet. (Le Monde Mar. 24, 2004)
By the end of May, illicit mining at the site was observed to continue uninhibitedly. (AP May 31, 2004)
On July 9, 2004, at least eight miners digging the former Shinkolobwe mine illegally were killed when the mine collapsed. (AP July 12, 2004)
The 15,000 miners now working the 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 U.N. mission in Congo.
Privatizing the mine could bring illicit mining under control, suggested U.N. investigators, who launched their inquiry earlier this month after part of the mine caved in, killing seven miners. U.N. 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," U.N. mission spokesman Alexandre Essome said. (AP July 20, 2004)
On July 16, 2004, district authorities of Haut Katanga prevented an investigation initiated by the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known by its French acronym MONUC, from accessing the site of a uranium mine in Shinkolobwe. (IRIN July 21, 2004)


Gabon   flag

General · Mounana
> See also Issues for: New Mining Projects · Operating Mines · Legislation & Regulations
> See also Data for: Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines · Old Mines and Decommissioning

Mounana

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NGO Sherpa terminates agreement with Areva on health monitoring around its mining sites in Niger and Gabon

> View here

Areva for the first time compensates families of Gabon uranium miners who died of lung cancer

Areva will compensate the families of two former employees who died of lung cancer after having worked in its Mounana uranium mine for years. This is the first time the mining group commits to such compensation after concluding an agreement with Sherpa association in 2009. (Jeune Afrique Dec. 10, 2011)

200 homes to be demolished for excess radiation at Areva's former uranium mine site in Mounana

Two hundred dwellings at Mounana will be destroyed. The decision was made, after a group of experts found excess radiation levels, confirming a 2009 report by CRIIRAD. The measures taken in 2009 confirmed among others that the residences of the executives and the workmen of the COMUF were built with radioactive materials. (AGP/Bongo Doit Partir March 8, 2011)

European Parliament commissions study on use of radioactively contaminated material from uranium mines in building construction in Gabon and Niger

Ecologic Institute completes a study commissioned by the European Parliament on the use of radioactively contaminated materials in the construction of residential dwellings in Gabon and Niger. The study in particular examines the practices in the disposal of materials discarded in the mining of uranium in these two countries and is based, inter alia, on a fact-finding mission to Gabon by Sebastian Veit.
Gabon, major findings: > View Study on the use of radioactively contaminated materials in the construction of residential buildings in Gabon and Niger (Ecologic Institute)
> Download study Potential use of radioactively contaminated mining materials in the construction of residential homes from open pit uranium mines in Gabon and Niger, Nov. 2010 (1.9MB PDF - European Parliament)
> Download Presentation of Mr Sebastian Veit at ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting, Sep. 29, 2010 (3.8M PDF)

Areva and Gabon create health observatory at former uranium mining site of Mounana

On Oct. 19, 2010, Areva, the state of Gabon, and former uranium miners have created the Observatoire de la santé de Mounana (Mounana health observatory), to study the impact of uranium mining at this site on the health of former workers, in particular. In the past three years, all illnesses have been tracked out that have been treated at Comuf's Mounana hospital between 1950 and 2005. This data shall be used to find any excess incidence of diseases around Mounana. (Le Matin Oct. 19, 2010)

Areva's health observatory in Gabon to be launched in October

The Gabonese state and Areva have concluded a "definitive agreement" to create in October a "health observatory". The mission of the "Observatoire de la Santé de Mounana (OSM)" is to study the impact of COMUF's mining activities on the health of its former employees and the local population, according to a communique issued by the two parties. (Le Matin Sep. 1, 2010)

NGO calls for independent study on radiological situation in Mounana

Irradiation, river pollution and low fish stocks are among the effects noted of mining in Gabon by the non-governmental organisation Brainforest in an investigation published Monday (Aug. 16). "Projects that engender billions in investment, for the most part foreign (...) with considerable economic fall-out, should not be undertaken at the expense of local populations and the environment," the report concludes.
Brainforest studied the impact of mining mainly by the French companies Areva and Eramet in the eastern Haut-Ogooué region of the central African country. It chose three sites: Mounana, where uranium was mined for more than 40 years by COMUF (Uranium Mining Company of Franceville), a subsidiary of Areva; Moanda, where COMILOG (Mining Company of the Ogooué), a subsidiary of Eramet, has been mining manganese since 1962; and Poubara, where a large hydro-electric dam is being built to meet COMILOG's energy needs.
"The lack of information concerning the radiological situation (in Mounana) is unacceptable," Brainforest said, noting the proximity of different parts of the town to zones where there is a high risk of radioactivity. Radiation levels are in principle measured by the National Centre for the Prevention and Protecting from Ionising Rays (CNPPRI), but the report said that the centre's independence "raises questions when we know that COMUF has for years been financing this organ 'independent' of the ministry of mines." Measurements taken by the CNPPRI have never been reported to the local authorities or the population, charged Brainforest, which called for an independent study to avoid potential bias.
Areva ceased to mine uranium in Gabon about a decade ago, but mining could resume at fresh sites, the report said. (AFP Aug. 16, 2010)

Areva to set up health institute to monitor health of former uranium miners in Gabon

The French group Areva plans to set up a health institute to check the effect of uranium mining on its former workers in Gabon, according to health director Alain Acker. Following the appearances of some strange ailments in the Mounana, the group decided to monitor some 1,056 of its ex-workers to determine whether exposure to radiation during the uranium mining process has any effect on them. Acker said the health institute would be established in a few weeks. (Pana Apr. 17, 2010)

Toxic waste dumped on former Mounana uranium mine site?

The elected officials of Mounana accuse a subcontractor of the former uranium mining company COMUF to have dumped toxic waste on the former mine site. The accusations are denied by the authorities and those involved. According to first town councillor Rodrigue Bokoko, the waste originates from the Centre international de recherche médicale de Franceville (CIRMF) and was dumped by the company Geofor. (L'Express Feb. 9, 2010)
The NGO Croissance Saine Environnement has demanded a board of inquiry into the subject matter. (L'Express Feb. 11, 2010)

Survey still identifies elevated radiation levels around decommissioned Mounana uranium mine site

In May 2009, French journalist Dominique Hennequin, assisted by the radiation laboratory CRIIRAD, took gamma radiation readings and collected soil samples in the area of the former Mounana uranium mine. The results are showing that elevated radiation levels are still found at various locations. The soil samples showed levels up to 50 times background. In a forest, even abandoned uranium mill tailings were located.
> Download: Note CRIIRAD N°09-118: Contamination radiologique relevée en 2009 sur l’ancien site minier uranifère de COMUF-AREVA à Mounana (GABON), 7 décembre 2009 (350k PDF - in French)
> Public Sénat TV documentary Dec. 7, 2009: Uranium, l'héritage empoisonné (in French)

Areva and NGOs conclude agreement on health monitoring around uranium mine sites

On June 19, 2009, Areva and the NGOs Sherpa and Médecins Du Monde concluded an agreement to establish health monitoring stations around Areva's uranium mining sites and a "pluralistic group" for health monitoring.
> View Areva release June 19, 2009 (in French)
> View Sherpa release June 19, 2009 (in French)
> View CRIIRAD's comments, June 18, 2009 (in French)

Areva establishes local information commission at Mounana

On April 2, 2009, Areva established a Commission locale d'information (CLI) on radiation at Mounana, where Areva used to mine uranium for 40 years. The commission comprises representatives of Areva, regional administration, mayor's office, former employees, NGOs, mining ministry, health ministry, envrionmental ministry and the press.
At present, the French group has resumed prospection with the perspective of relaunching uranium mining in the area (view details). (Xinhua Apr. 3, 2009)

NGOs denounce health and environmental situation at Areva's former Mounana uranium mine, Gabon

On April 4, 2007, the organisations SHERPA , CRIIRAD and Médecins du Monde presented the results of an investigation into the health and environmental situation at Areva/COGEMA's former Mounana uranium mine. The resulting report is based on a site tour in June 2006, and evidence of former miners, among others. In summary, CRIIRAD concludes:

> View related documents available from CRIIRAD (in French)
> Download AREVA AU GABON, Rapport d’enquête sur la situation des travailleurs de la COMUF, filiale gabonaise du groupe AREVA-COGEMA, 4 avril 2007 (474k PDF - in French)

The inglorious legacy of COGEMA in Gabon

From 1961 to 1999, COGEMA's subsidiary COMUF produced nearly 28,000 tonnes of uranium at Mounana, Gabon.
During the first years of operation, COMUF simply released a total of over 2 million tonnes of uranium mill tailings into the next creek. This creek, the Ngamaboungou, then carried them over kilometers to the Mitembe river. Later, another 4 million tonnes of tailings were dumped in the former open pit mine. Only in 1990, COMUF built a dam to hold the tailings produced during the last years of operation. It has received, however, only the small remainder of the total of nearly 7 million tonnes of tailings.

The mine and mill effluents led to high contaminant concentrations even in the Mitembe river, and dead fish were often observed in the river. In 1996/1997, still, levels of up to 3.2 Bq/l of soluble radium-226 and 1.7 mg/l of soluble uranium-238 were found in the river water. After shutdown of the mine in 1999, these values are reported to have decreased to below 0.7 Bq/l for radium, and below 0.1 mg/l for uranium (for comparison: WHO recommends 0.015 mg/l for uranium in drinking water).
The acidic effluent released to the Ngamaboungou creek was not even neutralized, though a neutralization plant had been constructed; but, it was never operated, since the cost of importing the necessary lime would have been prohibitive. In the creek valley, the tailings deposited on the river bed, forming a reservoir for long-term re-mobilization of contaminants. The tailings moreover formed deposits in the valley, presenting a hazard from external radiation and from resuspension of radioactive dust. COMUF calculated that residents crossing the valley to reach their plantations have received annual radiation doses between 2.3 and 2.9 mSv per year. After covering some of the material, the radiation doses are expected to decrease to 0.8 mSv per year.
The tailings dumped in the open pit were left without a cover for long years; children used to play on the dusty surface without being told about the hazards.
The tailings dam built in 1990 was erected across the Ngamaboungou creek, without providing an - elsewhere mandatory - diversion channel for the creek: the creek is flowing through the dam still (!), leaving it via an overflow, without any treatment.

Recently, a large part of the waste piled up at the Ngamaboungou creek has been covered with soil. The mayor of Mounana, however, anticipates that the cover will not last longer than a few years, given the extremely high precipitation rate in the area.
The currently ongoing reclamation works are being paid for by the tax payers of the European Union, rather than by COGEMA: Since 1997, Gabon has been receiving a total of over EUR 50 million in aids for the development of its mining sector. Of this amount, EUR 7 million were diverted by the Gabon mining ministry for the reclamation works at Mounana. It is no surprise that this diversion, at least, worked well: the mining minister of Gabon is a former COMUF director.
(WOZ Wochenzeitung, Zürich, No.30, July 22, 2004)

> Download Gabon: Unregulated Mining Endangers Lives (32k PDF - WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 616, 1 Oct. 2004)

> for details and photo gallery see: The inglorious legacy of COGEMA in Gabon - Decommissioning of the Mounana uranium mine and mill site


Madagascar   flag

General · Vatovory
> See also Issues for: New Mining Projects · Operating Mines · Legislation & Regulations
> See also Data for: Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines · Old Mines and Decommissioning

Vatovory (Vinaninkarena, Antsirabe)

The site has been exploited by open cast mining by French Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA ) between 1937 and 1954. A monitoring survey of the abandoned mine site and its vicinity revealed radiation doses from gamma radiation and radon 13 times "normal" exposure. The gamma dose rate varies between 250 and 1466 nGy/h, corresponding to annual equivalent dose rates of 2.19 - 12.85 mSv/a.

Source: Radiation Dose Assessment in the Vicinity of an Old Uranium Mine: Case of the site of Vatovory, Vinaninkarena Antsirabe, Madagascar, by: Raoelina Andriambololona, H. F. Randriantseheno, J.F. Ratovonjanahary, J.L.R. Zafimanjato, J.B. Ratovoson, H.N. Rabenandrasana, in: 11th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association - IRPA 11 , Madrid, Spain, 23-28 May 2004


South Africa

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Zambia   flag

General · Kitwe
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> See also Data for: Deposits, Proposed and Active Mines · Old Mines and Decommissioning

Kitwe

Abandoned Kitwe uranium mill tailings to be relocated for safe disposal

The Copperbelt Environment Project (CEP) is to spend over $1.3 million to dispose 40,000 metric tonnes of uranium tailings dumped at TD 11 and TD 13 in Kitwe's Mindolo Mine Township.
CEP Communications Speciality Mumbuna Kufekisa told ZANIS in an interview in Kitwe today that CEP, in conjuction with ZCCM-Investment Holdings , has decided to dispose of the uranium tailings dumped at TD 11 and TD 13 from mining activities in the 1960s as they were a health and environmental hazard. Mr Kufekisa said the uranium would be taken for storage where they would be buried in a disposal cell and covered with laterite and vegetation at a Mopani Copper Mine dump site. He disclosed that the exercise, which was being undertaken by Copperfield Mining, would be done over a period of four months and at a cost of $1.3 million. (Lusaka Times July 29, 2009)

Study commissioned on environmental and health hazards from wastes of former uranium mining in Kitwe area, Zambia

Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) Plc has engaged German consultancy WISUTEC Wismut Umwelttechnik GmbH to undertake an environmental and social impact study at two uranium dumps in the Kitwe area. The dumps are in an area where ZCCM-IH already has a programme in place of resettling residents to a safer area. So far, 600 people who were living near the uranium dumps have been resettled elsewhere.
ZCCM-IH environmental officer Cyril Lukeke told media practitioners who visited the company's projects under the World Bank-supported Copperbelt Environment Project (CEP) that study would cost about 500,000 euros. Lukeke said the consultant has already collected samples from the two dump sites to ascertain the effects of the uranium residue on the community living nearby. The study started in April and is billed for completion next year, after which ZCCM-IH will determine the remedial measures to be taken.
Uranium was mined at Kitwe, where the mine is now operated by Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) Plc, during the 1950s when a company called Amco was contracted to sink shafts at Mindola. The uranium was shipped to the United Kingdom, whose colony northern Rhodesia was then, but since then, the mineral has not been actively mined. (Mineweb June 11, 2007)

"The only uranium production [in Zambia] was done in the early 1950's at the Nkana copper mine, Kitwe, in the copperbelt. From about 100,000 tonnes of uranium ore mined at a grade of 0.19 per cent U, about 100 tonnes U were produced." (NEA/IAEA: Uranium Resources, Production and Demand, 1989)

 

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