The following is an excerpt from Brook Larmer | May 2, 2017 | Nytimes.com |
Every weekday before dawn, a morning migration takes place near the desert on Africa’s southwestern coast. At 5:30 in the Namibian enclave Swakopmund, whose century-old buildings still bear the imprint of German colonization, solitary men in khaki uniforms emerge from houses and apartment complexes, the white reflective strips on their pants flashing as they walk briskly through the darkness. They are not African but Chinese. No one else is stirring in the Atlantic Coast town as the men converge on a tidy house on Libertina Amathila Avenue, the only one in the neighborhood with its lights ablaze.
Dylan Teng, a boyish 29-year-old engineer with a brush cut and wire-rimmed glasses, is among the last to arrive. Just as he has done nearly every day since landing in Namibia three and a half years ago, Teng joins the others in wolfing down a breakfast of steamed buns and rice porridge. He picks up a packed lunch prepared by a company chef and at precisely 6 o’clock, with stars still glimmering overhead, he boards a bus emblazoned with the letters C.G.N. — China General Nuclear, a state-owned behemoth that owns the biggest Chinese project in all of Africa.
An hour later, as the sun clears the horizon, the bus winds through a craggy moonscape and descends to the Husab Uranium Mine, a $4.6 billion investment that is the second-largest uranium mine in the world. Teng has made this trip nearly a thousand times, but Husab always seems like a mirage: a virtual city stretching seven miles across the desert floor, from two vast open pits being gouged out of the rocky substratum to a processing plant that, on the last working day of 2016, produced its first drums of U₃O₈, the yellowcake that can be used to generate nuclear power (and also to make weapons). “We had a big ceremony that day,” Teng says.
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