Rio Tinto apologized for losing a highly radioactive capsule that fell from a truck on a 1,400km desert highway in Western Australia.
The miner and Australian authorities are scrambling to locate the missing piece of a sensor used in mining, measuring just 6mm by 8mm, that disappeared on its way from a facility in the Pilbara region to a warehouse in the state capital of Perth.
The silver capsule contains small amounts of cesium-137 and is dangerously radioactive. Experts said that one hour of exposure from a distance of about one meter is equivalent to 10 X-rays, and prolonged contact can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness and cancer.
Rio’s role in the radioactive hunt in such a long part of the state is the latest for a company still trying to repair its reputation. demolition In 2020, a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site in the Juukan Strait in Western Australia ultimately led to the departure of its then-general manager and president.
published last year to report demonstrating sexual harassment, bullying and racism at a systematic level in mining sites. It also took a hit on lithium ambitions, with the Serbian government withdrawing a $2.4 billion mining development license in the country due to strong environmental and public opposition to the project.
The search for the missing capsule involved people scanning for radiation levels from the piece along the extensive trucking route. The instrument was used at the Gudai-Darri mine to measure the density of the iron ore feed.
President Simon Trott, iron ore division appointed shortly after the Danish financial director, Jakob Stausholm, took office. Rio In 2021, the CEO apologized for the “alarm” caused.
“We take this incident very seriously. We recognize that this is clearly very worrying and we are sorry for the alarm it has created in Western Australian society,” Trott said on Sunday.
The mining company uses SGS Australia, a local subsidiary of Swiss-based testing company SGS, to specially package and transport the device that delivered the radioactive element.
Rio said the component was transported by a separate logistics company to an SGS lab in Perth, and an investigation will determine how the part was deciphered during the process. A Geiger counter was used to verify that the capsule was inside the package before leaving the area.
Western Australian emergency services have appealed to other Australian states and the federal government for support in finding the capsule, as they lack the necessary equipment.
The chief medical officer of the Western Australian Government Department of Health, Dr. Andrew Robertson urged people not to touch the capsule. “Exposure to this substance can cause radiation burns or serious illness – if people see the capsule or anything that looks similar, stay away from it and keep others away from it,” he said.
SGS was not immediately available for comment.
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