Kinshasa:Congo may sell the mine that provided the uranium for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II to Uramin Inc as it tries to revive its economy after a civil war.
“We have an interest in that project,” Sam Jonah, the chairman of Johannesburg-based Uramin, which is digging a uranium mine in Namibia, said in an interview on 26 February.
The deposit at the Shinkolobwe mine in Katanga province was found in 1915 and supplied the US with nuclear material, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The bombs, known as ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man,’ were dropped in August 1945 on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were the first and only nuclear weapons to be used in conflict and killed over 200,000 people.
Record uranium prices, spurred by rising demand for nuclear fuel, prompted mining companies such as Uramin and rivals to scour the world for deposits and abandoned mines. The price of uranium rose more than sevenfold over the last six years to $75 a pound.
While Shinkolobwe’s shaft was filled with concrete by the Belgians in 1960 before the African country won its independence the site has in recent years been mined informally, prompting the UN to order that it remain closed in 2004 for safety reasons. Both North Korea and Iraq may have tried to source uranium from the mine in the late 1990s, GlobalSecurity.org said.
Congo is becoming more stable after the November election of President Joseph Kabila was accepted by his main opponent Jean- Pierre Bemba, easing concern of a return to a civil war that killed four million people. Companies including BHP Billiton Ltd., Rio Tinto Group and De Beers are scouring the country for commodities including copper, cobalt, gold and diamonds.
Uramin is also seeking other projects in Congo, said Jonah, who led Ghana’s Ashanti Goldfields Ltd. until its $1.5-billion takeover by South Africa’s AngloGold Ltd in 2004. He declined to comment further on the talks over Shinkolobwe.
Uramin, which last week said it will sell at least $200 million to fund its Trekkopje mine in Namibia, on 19 February said that it is seeking to combine with other companies.