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Australia Exploring Small Radioactive Capsule

Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX) apologized for losing tiny radioactive capsule.

It’s unclear how long the radioactive capsule has been missing, which was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed.

On January 12, a specialist contractor picked up the gauge from Rio’s Gudai-Darri mine site. On Jan. 25, the gauge was discovered broken apart, with one of four mounting bolts missing and screws from the gauge also missing, when it was unpacked for inspection.

Authorities believe that vibrations from the truck caused the screws and bolt to come loose and that the radioactive capsule from the gauge fell out of the package and then through a gap in the truck.

Authorities are now tasked with searching along the truck’s 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) journey from the north of Newman, a small town in the remote Kimberley region, to a storage facility in Perth’s northeast suburbs – a distance longer than the length of the United Kingdom.

“We are very concerned about this incident. “We recognize that this is clearly very concerning and apologize for the concern it has caused in the Western Australian community,” said Rio’s iron ore division chief Simon Trott in a statement.

Caesium-137, which emits radiation equivalent to 10 X-rays per hour, is housed in a silver capsule that is 6 mm in diameter and 8 mm long.

Authorities Advice

The risk to the general public is modest, but authorities advise individuals to keep at least five meters (16.5 feet) away because radiation exposure can result in radiation sickness or burns.

The state’s emergency services department has created a hazard management team and brought in specialized tools, such as portable radiation survey meters that can be used from moving vehicles to assess radiation levels within a 20-meter radius.

Trott claimed that Rio had hired a third-party contractor with the necessary training and credentials to package and transport the gauge in a secure manner.

“We have completed radiological surveys of all areas on site where the device had been, as well as surveyed roads within the mine site as well as the access road leading away from the Gudai-Darri mine site,” he said, adding that Rio was also investigating how the loss occurred.

Analysts stated that transporting dangerous goods to and from mine sites was routine and that such incidents were extremely rare and did not reflect Rio’s poor safety standards.

The incident adds to the mining conglomerate’s headaches after it destroyed two ancient and sacred rock shelters in Western Australia‘s Pilbara region for an iron ore mine in 2020.

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