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04 Apr 2008 13:25
Security forces in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Katanga province have intercepted a truck transporting radioactive mineral ore bound for export, local authorities said on Friday.
The truck, carrying 30 tonnes of copper and cobalt ore for Chinese-run firm Hua-Shin Mining, was stopped at an inspection checkpoint near Kolwezi, one of the DRC’s biggest copper belt mining towns, on Wednesday.
Kolwezi mayor Christian Busindi said only part of the load was believed to exceed the acceptable levels of radioactivity and those minerals would be deposited at a secure site to be determined by state copper miner, Gecamines.
“We have detained some of the company’s representatives ... Now we need to find out where [the minerals] came from,” he told Reuters.
Ore mined in Katanga, home to one of the world’s richest belts of copper and cobalt, habitually contains trace amounts of uranium, which the DRC is currently banned from exporting.
The Central African nation is recovering from a 1998 to 2003 war that eroded state authority and left infrastructure in ruins.
Local authorities say they lack the means to properly inspect mineral output, much of it bought from an estimated 150 000 artisanal miners working in Katanga.
Tonnes of seized radioactive ore meant for disposal at an abandoned uranium mine were instead dumped into a river near the mining town of Likasi in October, causing the temporary closure of nearby water treatment plants.
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