Just a few miles from clashes between government troops and rebels, earth movers claw out a huge pit to extract millions of dollars worth of diamonds.
One hundred Russians and dozens of Brazilians and Israelis work alongside 700 Angolans in the Catoca diamond mine, located in northeastern Lunda Sul province.Yuri Jeliabovski, Catoca's exploration manager who hails from Siberia, believes UNITA rebel attacks in the area may be aimed at shutting down the mine and depriving the government - a partner in Catoca along with diamond companies from Russia, Brazil and Israel - of revenue.
Much of the recent fighting in Angola centers on diamond-producing areas, especially Lunda Sul and northeastern Lunda Norte, as each side seeks to choke off their enemy's source of funds.
Security has been tightened since fighting escalated in June. Government army troops patrol nearby. Elite anti-terrorist police are camped just down the road. Whenever Catoca employees have to drive to the provincial capital of Saurimo, private security guards armed with Kalashnikovs accompany them.
But there is little need to go to the decaying town, with its pervasive stench of human excrement and prevalent piles of trash.
The mining consortium has carved out its own town from the surrounding bush, with an air strip, medical post, minimart, bakery, restaurant, billiards room and sauna. Workers can watch Moscow TV, CNN, and cable sports and movie channels in their air-conditioned rooms.
Catoca's total production and other details are confidential, but mine officials say the investors are repaying the project's start-up money with diamonds already extracted and expect to reap profits.
"At this moment, we are all satisfied," Jeliabovski said, smiling and showing his gold-capped teeth.