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article imageDemocratic Republic of the Congo: Six Arrested for Dumping Toxic Waste

By Bob Ewing     Nov 9, 2007 in World
In excess of 19 tonnes of highly radioactive cooper and cobalt has been dumped into a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo rather than being properly disposed of, six people have been arrested.
The order had been given to dispose of the nearly 20 tonnes of toxic material at an abandoned uranium mine, but instead the highly radioactive material was dumped into a river.
Six people have been arrested and the environment minister says that the team that was given the order to dispose of the material properly is responsible for this illegal dumping.
In response authorities have set up an exclusion zone around the site near the town of Likasi in south-eastern Katanga province.
In October, 19 tonnes of radioactive copper and cobalt ore was seized by authorities, the material was to be exported to a Chinese firm.
Katanga has one of the world’s richest belts of cobalt and copper but the ore mined there has traces of uranium and presently the Democratic Republic of the Congo is banned from exporting uranium.
The material that was tossed into the river has been tested and shown to have radiation levels near the area where the material was dumped were nearly 50 times the legal limit.
People in the area around the River Mura, where the waste was dumped cannot drink the water.
"The damage is enormous, we have asked people not to use water from the river and the entire commission charged with disposing of the minerals is now under arrest," DR Congo's Environment Minister Didace Pembe said.
"Nineteen tonnes would be a small mountain. We did not see that, all the minerals were not dumped," the environment minister added.
The full extent of the contamination would be made public after the findings of the experts, who include International Atomic Energy Agency officials, are given to Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga.
Gecamines is the DR Congo's national mining company and has been asked to begin a clean-up exercise of the dumping site.
More about Congo toxic, Waste, Dumping
 
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