Now, as international interest in nuclear energy and uranium is surging, the Democratic Republic of Congo's fabled uranium mining site is closed. But there are concerns that informal cobalt mining is taking place in the radioactive soil.
Shinkolobwe is the same old mine, but a new Congo is in control of it. After years of civil war and political instability, the country is now more stable, more democratic and more prudent in its relations with the rest of the world — particularly with regard to the mine.
Moise Katumbi, governor of the province where Shinkolobwe is located, wants the mine off his hands.
As mines go, it's a honey. It has high-quality ore and a history of saving the Allies during World War II. But commercial uranium mining is a delicate business. The ore is dangerously radioactive.
Katumbi says the government can't hand over the keys to just anybody. The right candidate would be in good standing with the International Atomic Energy Agency and have safe uranium extraction practices and secure methods of export.
Today's emphasis on safety is a far cry from the 1990s — and an about-face from how the Congolese lived just a century ago, when the wider world first learned there was radioactive ore at Shinkolobwe.