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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04KINSHASA1492
2004-08-09 12:47:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kinshasa
Cable title:  

MONUC FEARS URANIUM SMUGGLING IN CONGO

Tags:   PGOV  PINS  EMIN  PINR  KNNP  CG 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L KINSHASA 001492 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014
TAGS: PGOV PINS EMIN PINR KNNP CG
SUBJECT: MONUC FEARS URANIUM SMUGGLING IN CONGO

REF: EMAIL E.BESTIC-J.BERNTSEN 4/9/04

Classified By: Poloff Edward Bestic for Reasons 1.5 B and D

C O N F I D E N T I A L KINSHASA 001492

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014
TAGS: PGOV PINS EMIN PINR KNNP CG
SUBJECT: MONUC FEARS URANIUM SMUGGLING IN CONGO

REF: EMAIL E.BESTIC-J.BERNTSEN 4/9/04

Classified By: Poloff Edward Bestic for Reasons 1.5 B and D


1. (C) SUMMARY: A MONUC official based in Katanga province
recently visited Shinkolobwe, a local mining area and source
of uranium, and expressed concern to Kinshasa-based diplomats
about possible illegal uranium-related mining activity.
Although Post sees no cause for immediate alarm, Shinkolobwe
is definitely a long-term problem, because the Congo's weak
state institutions and easily corrupted officials cannot be
counted upon to secure the mine site. END SUMMARY.


MONUC Tries to Investigate Shinkolobwe
--------------

2. (C) On July 23, MONUC/Lubumbashi chief Magda Gonzales
briefed P5 plus South African and Belgian diplomats on her
recent visit to the mining center at Shikolobwe, in Katanga
province. (Note: Shinkolobwe is the source of the uranium
used by the USG to develop and manufacture the original
atomic bombs used during WW2. End Note.) She provided a
written report in French, forwarded reftel. Gonzales, a
geologist from University of Lubumbashi named Prof. Loris,
and a Radio Okapi journalist traveled o/a July 14 to the city
of Likasi and the mining site at Shinkolobwe, to investigate
a reported cave-in that killed nine and injured possibly a
dozen more. Gonzales' group first visited four survivors at
Daco Hospital in Likasi. The survivors were "in bad shape,"
she said, and their skin was green--which the professor told
her was a sign of radiation poisoning. She added that the
attending physician said the four men would be dead within
six months (NFI). Gonzales later said that other artisanal
miners in the area reportedly have developed cancerous tumors.


3. (C) The group next proceeded to the reported accident site
at Shinkolobwe (NFI). Local authorities at first refused
them entry, then relented, but other officials countermanded
this closer to the supposed site. To Gonzales' surprise,
members of the GDRC national atomic energy commission and
officials from the Presidency were already there, with
"sophisticated equipment." While Gonzales argued, the latter
group left to examine the mine's apparently disused uranium
concentrator, but the Radio Okapi journalist secretly
followed them. According to Gonzales, the instruments
carried by the GDRC group signaled a high level of
radioactivity (NFI) at the concentrator. In the end, local
authorities escorted the U.N. team to the supposed accident
site, but instead led them astray and took them to a
different area. When the U.N. team realized this, Gonzales
said, she decided to leave Shinkolobwe without having seen
the real accident site.


4. (C) After the aborted visit, Gonzales met with the state
prosecutor at Kipushi, who reportedly had begun an
investigation into the accident. The prosecutor told
Gonzales he believed a Congolese army officer had sent a
group of young miners to the uranium site at night, but they
inadvertently caused the mine to collapse. The same
prosecutor also "confirmed" that civil, military and local
security authorities were all engaged in exploiting this
particular site. Gonzales added that previously, the foreign
buyers of illegally-exploited minerals in south Katanga were
mostly of Pakistani or Indian origin, but that today, they
tend to be from China or Korea.


5. (C) The Belgian poloff attending the MONUC meeting
reported that a Lubumbashi-based human rights organization,
ASADHO, had drafted a report on the accident but later
"withdrew it under pressure." He added that the
International Atomic Energy Agency visited Shinkolobwe only a
few weeks earlier, and according to the IAEA internal report,
said there was nothing to be concerned about at Shinkolobwe.


COMMENT
--------------

6. (C) Post has previously reported on Shinkolobwe, and sees
no cause for immediate alarm. In our view, MONUC's
"findings" in this case are short on detail and therefore far
from conclusive. Shinkolobwe is definitely a long-term
problem, however, because the Congo's weak state institutions
and easily corrupted officials cannot be counted upon to
secure the mine site. END COMMENT.
MEECE