Edith River clean-up
DERAILED FREIGHT TRAIN CARRYING URANIUM TRACES EXEMPTED FROM SAFETY LAWS
The freight train derailment caused by flooding from Cyclone Grant carried a load of copper concentrate that spilled traces of uranium into a territory river. Picture: Willem Westra Van Holthe Source: Northern Territory News
A mining company responsible for a load containing uranium traces that spilled in an NT train derailment was allowed to transport it without complying with safety laws.
The load of copper concentrate spilled in a train derailment at a flooded river in the Northern Territory after tropical storm Grant devastated the region earlier this week.
The mining company involved, OZ Minerals, has been allowed by NT and SA governments to transport the copper concentrate without complying with Australian Dangerous Goods laws, the Northern Territory News reports.
The train was carrying 1500 tonnes of copper concentrate from OZ Minerals' Prominent Hill copper mine in South Australia when it derailed in bad weather caused by ex-tropical cyclone Grant on December 27.
Up to 1200 tonnes of the substance spilled into the nearby Edith River, Oz Minerals said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on December 28.
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The copper concentrate from Oz Minerals' mine contains less than 0.008 per cent of uranium, according to the company's documentation, the Adelaide Advertiser reported on Saturday.
That equates to 96 kilograms in 1200 tonnes of copper concentrate, the newspaper said.
OZ Minerals says radiation levels are below regulatory limits and are monitored to ensure no risk to the workers or public during production or transport.
But it would not provide its monitoring results. NT WorkSafe and SafeWork SA exempted the company from recent regulations requiring copper concentrate be transported in rigid containers with lids.
OZ Minerals has been allowed to transport the substance - classified federally as environmentally hazardous - in containers known as kibbles, which are covered only by tarpaulins.
The company said in its ASX statement that any of the concentrate that entered the water would become highly diluted.
Copper concentrate is itself a toxic substance and Oz Minerals had been given a one-year exemption to transport the material in tarpaulin-covered wagons, the Adelaide Advertiser reported, after government rules for the transport of the substance had been temporarily relaxed.