MELBOURNE, January 30 (Reuters) – Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) On Monday, it apologized for the loss of a small radioactive capsule believed to have fallen from a truck that set off a radiation alert in parts of Western Australia’s sprawling state.
It is unknown how long the radioactive capsule, which is part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore supplies, has been missing.
The gauge was picked up by a specialist contractor from the Gudai-Darri mine site in Rio on January 12th. Game is gone.
Officials believe vibrations from the truck caused screws and bolts to loosen, causing the gauge’s radioactive capsule to fall out of its packaging and through the cracks in the truck.
Authorities are now grappling with the difficult task of searching along a 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) truck journey north of the small remote Kimberley town of Newman to a storage facility in Perth’s northeastern suburbs. increase. British length.
“We are taking this incident very seriously. Simon Trott, head of the company, said in a statement.
A silver capsule, 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long, contains cesium-137 that emits radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays per hour.
Officials recommend staying at least 5 meters (16.5 feet) apart because exposure can cause radiation burns and radiation sickness, but add that the risk to the general community is relatively low. increase.
The state emergency services department has established a hazard management team and installed specialized equipment, including a portable radiation survey meter to detect radiation levels within a 20-meter radius that can be used from moving vehicles.
Trott said Rio has engaged third-party contractors with the appropriate expertise and certifications to safely pack and transport the gauges.
“We have completed a radiological survey of all areas of the site where the equipment was located, and have surveyed roads within the mine site and access roads away from the Gudaidari mine site,” he said, which Rio also conducts. added. An independent investigation into how the loss occurred.
Analysts said the entry and exit of hazardous materials at the mine site was a daily occurrence, adding that such incidents were extremely rare and did not reflect poor safety standards on Rio’s part.
The incident is another headache for the mining giant after it destroyed two ancient sacred rock shelters in Western Australia’s Pilbara region for iron ore mines in 2020.
Reported by Melanie Burton. Editing by Edwina Gibbs
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