Image Source: Barrons
Rio Tinto, a big mining company, has apologized for losing a small radioactive capsule while moving it across Western Australia.
An emergency search is happening along the 1,400km (870 miles) route for the device, which is about the size of a pea.
The capsule has a small amount of Caesium-137, which is radioactive and could make people very sick if they touched it.
This could include damage to the skin, burns, or sickness from radiation.
Emergency services are looking for the device with radiation detectors and other specialized tools, and they say it’s “pretty likely” that they will find it.
But Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the silver capsule, which is only 6mm (0.24 inches) in diameter and 8mm long, was so small that it might have gotten stuck in the tire of a car driving down the road.
There is also worry that if a member of the public finds it, they might keep it as a keepsake.
The government clearly states that holding the capsule could cause radiation burns, and long-term exposure could lead to cancer.
The capsule could have been lost as recently as two weeks ago.
Rio Tinto, which has a lot of mining operations in Australia and has been in a lot of trouble in the past few years, said it was sorry for the worry it had caused.
In a statement, the company said it would start its investigation into what had happened.
The lost item is part of a density gauge commonly used in the mining industry. It was used in the remote Kimberley region at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine.
A subcontracted company was in charge of moving the gauge. On January 12, they picked it up at the mine site and took it to a storage facility in the northeast suburbs of Perth.
When it was taken out of the box on January 25 to be looked at, the gauge was broken, and the radioactive capsule was gone. In addition, one of the four bolts and screws used to mount the item was also missing.
The authorities said the bolts might have come loose because of vibrations while the capsule was in transit. This let the capsule fall through gaps in the casing and truck.
The search path is very big. It is the same as driving from John O’Groats in Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall or Washington, DC, to Orlando, Florida.
Specialized equipment for finding radiation is being put on patrol vehicles that will go the whole way. For five days, they will drive in both directions on the Great Northern Highway at about 50 km/h (30mph).
Simon Trott, the head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division, said that the company is working closely with the contractor as part of the investigation to figure out what went wrong in this case.
State officials have put out a radiation alert for a large area of Western Australia and warned that the object could be dangerous to touch.
Andrew Robertson, the chief health officer for Western Australia, said that being exposed to small amounts of the metal is like getting 10 X-rays in an hour and the amount of natural radiation we would get in a year just by walking around.
The desert in the state is far away and has one of the fewest people in the country. Only one in five people in Western Australia live anywhere other than the state’s capital, Perth.
But if someone does find the capsule, Mr. Robertson said they shouldn’t touch it.
Rio Tinto is trying to fix its image in Australia after it was criticized for destroying sacred Aboriginal rock shelters in Western Australia. This incident happened at the same time.
Rio Tinto blew up the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in 2020 to expand an iron ore mine. This caused a huge uproar, which led to the resignation of several of the company’s top bosses.
And last year, a parliamentary inquiry found that sexual harassment was common at Australia’s mining companies. This was after an internal review at Rio Tinto found that for five years, more than 20 women had reported rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
Rio Tinto loses radioactive capsule
A small capsule with a radioactive substance that went missing in Western Australia has sparked an urgent search.
The case has a small amount of radioactive Caesium-137 that could make you sick if you touched it.
It went missing between the town of Newman and the city of Perth, about 1,400km away (870 miles).
People have been told not to go near the capsule if they see it.
Read Also: Glencore to pay $180 in latest corruption case
It went missing between January 10 and 16 while being moved on a truck between a mine site north of Newman in the Pilbara region and the northeastern parts of Perth. Caesium-137 is something that is often used in mining.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has said that the capsule can’t be used as a weapon, but it could cause radiation burns and other long-term risks like cancer.