Fairfax links ERA to African spill: Paladin Energy spills radioactive material at African mine
17th February 2014
by Peter Ker
Another Australian uranium miner has been forced to clean up a spill of radioactive material.
ASX-listed Paladin Energy has reported a spill near one of its African mines, saying a truck carrying a container of uranium oxide from its Kayelekera mine in Malawi overturned while negotiating a curve in the road.
The container fell loose and was punctured by a tree stump, the Perth-based miner said in a statement. An amount of uranium oxide concentrate - described by Paladin as a small quantity - spilled out.
The incident comes less than three months after ASX-listed Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) suffered a spill at its Ranger precinct in the Northern Territory.
That spill is still under federal investigation and processing at the site has not resumed since.
ERA is majority owned by Rio Tinto, and the incident at Ranger occurred in the same week as a similar spill at a Rio Tinto mine in Nambia.
Paladin said both the spilled material and the soil that it came in touch with had been removed and taken back to the tailings dam at the mine.
The company said atomic energy regulators assessed the scene and were satisfied with the reparations made.
"This is the first incident involving a uranium oxide container to occur in 92 product shipments transported from Kayelekera mine to the Port of Walvis Bay," the company said in a statement.
The incident occurred just three days after Paladin announced it would cease mining at the loss-making Kayelekera until uranium prices improved significantly.
The World Nuclear Association says that uranium oxide concentrate is "mildly radioactive".
Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said the Paladin incident highlighted the risks that were inherent in mining uranium.
"We have seen costs rising and corners being cut right across Africa," he said.
"Paladin have announced they are closing Kayelekera and this is a toxic and tragic way to say goodbye."