According to Australian authorities, a tiny radioactive capsule that went missing last week has been discovered.
Authorities in Western Australia reported that emergency responders had “actually discovered the needle in the haystack.”
When the item went missing during shipment across the state’s 1,400km (870-mile) border, a massive search was launched.
Rio Tinto, a major mining company, expressed regret for missing the item because it could have been handled in a dangerous manner.
The radioactive capsule, which is 6mm (0.24 inches) in diameter and 8mm in length, contains a tiny amount of caesium-137 that could result in radiation sickness, burns, or skin damage.
During their search, emergency services employed specialised tools like radioactivity detectors.
The state emergency services praised “inter-agency coordination in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances” when they announced their discovery on Wednesday.
According to officials, the radioactive capsule was discovered when a vehicle equipped with specialised equipment, moving at 70 km/h, detected radiation.
The radioactive capsule was later located using portable detecting technology and was discovered about 2 metres off the side of the road, they added.
The capsule was being verified by the military, and on Thursday it will be transported to a secure location in Perth.
The component is a density gauge that was in use at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region. The business had earlier committed to looking into what had happened.
According to Western Australia’s chief health officer Andrew Robertson, exposure to trace amounts of the metal is equivalent to “getting 10 X-rays in an hour, just to put it in perspective, and… the amount of natural radiation we would receive in a year, simply by walking around.”
Up until two weeks ago, it was considered that the capsule might have vanished.
The location of the lost capsule’s search was rather large. It is roughly comparable to the distance travelled by car from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida, or from John O’Groats, in Caithness, to Land’s End, in Cornwall.
One of the least populous areas in the nation is the state’s desert, which is far away. Only one out of every five people in Western Australia reside outside of Perth, the state’s capital.
On January 12, a subcontracted business picked up the gauge from the mine site and moved it to a storage location in Perth’s north-east suburbs.
The radioactive capsule was missing and the gauge was broken when it was unpacked for inspection on January 25. Additionally, one of the four mounting bolts and screws was absent.
The bolts may have broken free due to vibrations during transport, according to the authorities, which allowed the capsule to fall through openings in the truck’s shell.
Rio Tinto is attempting to restore its reputation in Australia at the time of this occurrence.
Rio Tinto destroyed the 46,000-year-old rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in 2020 to expand an iron ore mine, igniting a significant uproar that resulted in the resignation of several of the company’s top executives.
After an internal assessment at Rio Tinto revealed that more than 20 women had claimed actual or attempted rape or sexual assault over a five-year period, a parliamentary committee last year concluded that sexual harassment was widespread at Australian mining companies.