WA lost radioactive capsule search update: Rio Tinto boss apologises

WA lost radioactive capsule search update: Rio Tinto boss apologises

Mining giant Rio Tinto has apologized for losing a highly radioactive capsule over a 1,400km stretch of Western Australia as authorities combed parts of the road in search of the tiny but dangerous substance.

The capsule was part of a device believed to have fallen off a truck while being transported between a desert mine site and the city of Perth on January 10.

The truck carrying the capsule arrived at a Perth depot on January 16. Emergency services were notified of the missing capsule on January 25.

Crews from the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services are searching for a radioactive capsule believed to have fallen from a truck being transported on a freight route on the outskirts of Perth. (AP)

Western Australia’s emergency services have appealed to other Australian states and the federal government for support in finding the capsule, as they lack equipment. The capsule measures 8mm by 6mm, and people have been warned it could have unknowingly stuck in their car tyres.

The cesium 137 ceramic source, commonly used in radiation meters, emits dangerous amounts of radiation, equivalent to receiving 10 X-rays in an hour. It can cause skin burns and prolonged exposure can cause cancer.

The chief executive of mining giant Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Simon Trott, said the company was taking the incident very seriously and apologized for causing public concern.

“We recognize this is clearly very concerning and are sorry for the alarm this has caused in the Western Australian community,” Trott said.

“As well as fully supporting the relevant authorities, we have launched our own investigation to understand how the capsule was lost in transit.”

A tiny radioactive capsule has been lost between a mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and Perth, prompting an urgent health alert. (Supply)

The search involved people scanning for radiation levels from the device along roads used by the trucks, with authorities indicating that the entire 1,400km route should be searched.

Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services publicly announced last Friday that the capsule had gone missing, two days after being notified by Rio Tinto.

Trott said the contractor was qualified to transport the device and it was confirmed to have been on board the truck by a Geiger counter before it left the mine.

Police have determined the incident was an accident and no criminal charges are likely.

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