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The Shinkolobwe Mine was the best Uranium mine during WW2. It had great concentration of uranium oxides on the order of 20% to 65%. By contrast, all other Uranium mines I've read about had concentrations no greater than 1%. It's located in the Belgian Congo, today the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This makes it a very strategic site for the Manhattan Project.

However, the wikipedia article mentions this:

The mine was closed in 1939 and flooded. The US Army sent a squad from its Corps of Engineers to reopen the mine, expand the aerodromes in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) and Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi), and extend the port at Matadi, on the Congo River. Between 1942 and 1944, about 30,000 tons of uranium ore were sold to the US Army.

(It's worth nothing that there's no citation for any of that.)

This brings up a few questions.

  • Exactly when was the mine flooded?

  • Why was it flooded? No other Uranium mine compared to this. Was it German "Scortched Earth" practice? (Belgian Congo was owned by Belgium, although Belgium had not yet been invaded as of 1939.)

  • Exactly when did the US Army Corp of Engineers arrive?

  • Exactly when did the mine begin producing again?

Googling around only brought me results on current affairs. Apparently the mine is shut down today but the UN monitors it as a security risk with lots of rumors.

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    A common problem with mines is to keep them from being flooded in the first place (hence Watt and the steam engine). So, once closed and the pumps stopped, it would flood naturally. Speculation based on having a mining engineer for a grandfather (who spent the war in South America reopening old tin mines). – Jon Custer Dec 6 '16 at 20:40
  • @JonCuster In that case, "When was the mine flooded" and "When was the mine abandoned" should be synonymous. It still leaves the question as to exactly when and why that mine was shut down. It was a huge producer of Uranium and extremely important to the Manhattan Project. – DrZ214 Dec 6 '16 at 21:25
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    Until the development of nuclear weapons started, uranium mining wasn't a very important industry. The main use for uranium itself was as a colouring for glass. The economic value of uranium mining was for the extraction of radium. Vast quantities of uranium oxide were waste products from that, far more than was needed for glass manufacture. It's very possible that the mine was closed because there was enough ore in Belgium for years of radium extraction, and it was cheaper to close it and re-open it a few years later than to keep it operating. – John Dallman Dec 6 '16 at 22:19
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I believe the commenters are on the money; the mine was unimportant and became naturally flooded. My guess is:

The mine was closed in 1939 and flooded.

This sentence is badly written in a way that implies that someone flooded it in 1939. Instead it should say that in 1939, the mine was closed and became flooded.

Other questions:

Exactly when was the mine flooded?

Wikipedia implies that this was after 1939, but there's no reference. It could be any date after 1921. The 1921 date comes from this old newspaper article, which says the mine was worked on "from 1921 on".

Why was it flooded? No other Uranium mine compared to this. Was it German "Scorched Earth" practice? (Belgian Congo was owned by Belgium, although Belgium had not yet been invaded as of 1939.)

Naturally. The mine is subtropical and the nearby town of Likasi gets a fairly high amount of precipitation. According to this news article, the mine "chugged out radium for more than 20 years before the market soured and the pit was allowed to fill up with dirty, gray water".

Belgium was invaded by Germany in 1940 but large Belgian companies, like the one that owned the mine, simply relocated their headquarters to the US.

Exactly when did the US Army Corp of Engineers arrive?

Probably some time in 1943. The mine was still owned by Union Minière, who sold their uranium stocks on September 18, 1942. Only in 1943 was Edgar Sengier persuaded to sell rights to the mine, with free assistance from the US Army Corps of Engineers. Details are available in the book Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World by Tom Zoellner.

Exactly when did the mine begin producing again?

In 1943.

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