First of all, a big & hearty hat tip to Mathias Svalina for this- he was a real sport when I dicked around with iPod, and then he sent me this amazing and terrifying link to this essay by Tom Zoellner in Scientific American:
Shinkolobwe is now considered an official nonplace. The provincial governor had ordered a squad of soldiers to evacuate the village and burn down all the huts in 2004, leaving nothing behind but stumps and garbage. A detachment of Army personnel was left behind to guard the edges and make sure nobody entered.
This was the pit which, in the 1940s, had yielded most of the uranium for the atomic bombs the United States had dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But it was more than historical curiosity. The pit had been closed and the mineshafts sealed tight with concrete plugs when Congo became an independent nation more than four decades ago, yet local miners had been sneaking into the pit to dig out its radioactive contents and sell them on the black market. The birthplace of the atomic bomb is still bleeding uranium and nobody is certain where it might be going.
Click through anywhere above to get to the full article, which is itself an extract from Zoellner’s new book, Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock that Reshaped the World, which is just out now from Viking. The SF-Gate seems to have liked it. Oh, and here’s Zoellner’s own website.