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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 14:59 GMT
Congo wants help at uranium mine
A mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, Japan, after the US dropped an atomic bomb in 1945
The uranium used in bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 came from the mine
Authorities in DR Congo say they need help from the international community to control access to a mine which has produced uranium for nuclear bombs.

The country's Mining Minister Diomi Ndongala told the BBC that dangerous activities were taking place at the Shinkolobwe mine, in Katanga province.

Earlier, the UN's nuclear watchdog said it was concerned about the mine.

The government says it shut down the mine, but a BBC correspondent found 6,000 illegal miners at work there.

They are extracting large amounts of material containing cobalt, copper, platinum and uranium, says our correspondent.

The uranium is allegedly sold to nearby furnaces operated mainly by private businessmen from China and India. It is then reportedly illegally exported to the world market via neighbouring Zambia.

Minister Ndongala said during recent years officials from North Korea and African countries expressed interest in the Congo uranium.

Out of reach

The government has declared the mine a no-go area.

However, the country's infrastructure has been crippled by seven years of war and the government's edicts have had little effect at the mine - which is 2,000km (1,250 miles) from the capital Kinshasa.

Congo is obliged to report any uranium mining activities as well as exports
Melissa Fleming
IAEA spokeswoman
"We're very concerned. Congo is obliged to report any uranium mining activities as well as exports," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told the BBC's Newshour programme.

"We are of course aware of the turbulent situation in terms of security and political situation in the region, we're aware that the government may not itself be fully aware of the activities ongoing in some parts of the country," she said.

"That said, we are demanding information from the government on this alleged illegal mining."

Diplomats based in Kinshasa have also expressed concern.

Uranium extracted from the Shinkolobwe mine was used by the Americans in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War II.

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