Policies & Issues

Rio Tinto Issues Apology After Radioactive Capsule Goes Missing

Policies & IssuesJan 31, 2023

Rio Tinto Issues Apology After Radioactive Capsule Goes Missing

The tiny capsule, which is believed to have fallen out of a truck, was lost somewhere along an 870-mile stretch of desert road.

20230131_Rio Tinto iron ore.jpg
This file photos shows Rio Tinto employees in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where the company mines for iron ore. On Monday, Rio Tinto apologized after a radioactive capsule being transported from the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine was lost during transport. (Image courtesy of Rio Tinto)
Melbourne, Australia—Rio Tinto Group is making another public apology, this time over a tiny radioactive capsule lost in a vast expanse of desert in Western Australia.
The Melbourne, Australia-based mining company issued the statement of apology Monday, with Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Simon Trott stating, “We are taking this incident very seriously. We recognize this is clearly very concerning and are sorry for the alarm it has caused in the Western Australian community.”
The round, silver capsule is tiny—about 6 mm (0.2 inches) in diameter and 8 mm (0.3 inches) long—and was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed in the crushing circuit of the fixed plant at the Gudai-Darri iron ore mine, the company said.
The capsule contains a small amount of cesium-137, a radioactive isotope of the element cesium (Cs).Other cesium isotopes include barium and mercury. 
Rio Tinto said the gauge was picked up from the mining site on Jan. 12 and loaded onto the truck of a third-party company it uses to transport hazardous materials. 
It was then transported about 870 miles south to a suburb of Perth, Australia, where the third-party company has a storage facility for radioactive materials. It arrived on Jan. 16. 
The contractor informed Rio Tinto of the missing capsule on Jan. 25, after the gauge was found “broken apart with one of the four mounting bolts missing and the source itself and all screws on the gauge also missing,” the government of Western Australia said. 
It’s believed the gauge broke during transport and the radioactive capsule fell out of a gap in the truck. 
The misplaced miniscule capsule has caused Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to issue a hazmat warning stretching from remote regions in the north of the state to Perth.

“Exposure to this substance could cause radiation burns or radiation sickness … Risk to the general community is relatively low, however it is important to be aware of the risks and what to do if you see the capsule,” the warning notes.
DFES said anyone who spots it is advised to stay at least 5 meters (about 16 feet) away—don’t try to pick it up or put it in a car and take it anywhere—and call the authorities. 
DFES and radiation specialists are driving north and south along the Great Northern Highway looking for the capsule. 
 Related stories will be right here … 
Rio Tinto’s Trott said the company is aiding in the search while also trying to figure out how the capsule got lost. 
“As well as fully supporting the relevant authorities, we have launched our own investigation to understand how the capsule was lost in transit. As part of this investigation, we are working closely with the contractor to better understand what went wrong in this instance,” he said. 
“We have offered our full and ongoing support to authorities in the search for the missing device. We have completed radiological surveys of all areas on site where the device had been, and surveyed roads within the mine site as well as the access road leading away from the Gudai-Darri mine site.”
Rio Tinto’s statement regarding the misplaced radioactive capsule comes just a few years after its executive director and chief executive along with other top officials resigned after the mining company blew up ancient caves sacred to two Australian Aboriginal groups—the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people—in Western Australia’s Juukan Gorge in order to get to the iron ore underneath.

The resignations took place in September 2020, with Rio Tinto issuing a statement at the time acknowledging what happened to the culturally and historically significant site in the Juukan Gorge was “wrong.” 
The following February, the mining company apologized to Australian aboriginals again after failing to tell them the iron ore division was under new leadership.

Editor's note: This story was corrected post-publication to clarify that it is the third-party contractor that has a radioactive materials storage facility outside of Perth, not Rio Tinto, and that it was the contractor that discovered the missing capsule, not Rio Tinto.

The Latest

Timex ReWound video screenshot
WatchesSep 21, 2023
Timex Wants Your Old Watch

The company just rolled out “Timex Rewound,” a new takeback and resale program.

GIA logo
GradingSep 21, 2023
Retailers Warned About Fraudulent Email Purportedly From GIA

The lab confirmed it did not send the message.

Reginald Brack
AuctionsSep 21, 2023
Hindman Appoints New SVP, Director of Jewelry and Watches

Reginald Brack has worked at StockX and Christie’s.

Brought to you by
Top 5 Ways to Promote Safety and Security Awareness Among Your Staff

Awareness is essential to proactive protection. Learn how to promote and maintain safety and security awareness in your business.

Natural Diamond Council brand ambassador Lily James
SourcingSep 21, 2023
Natural Diamond Council’s Latest Campaign With Lily James Is Here

The second installment of “To Treasure Now and Forever” is intended to emphasize diamonds’ versatility.

Weekly QuizSep 15, 2023
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge with this short test.
Take the Quiz
The Artistry Ltd. 2024 catalog cover
MajorsSep 21, 2023
Artistry’s 2024 Catalog Has Shipped

It features colored gemstone, pearl, diamond, gold, and sterling silver jewelry styles.

Stock image of diamonds
SourcingSep 20, 2023
Natural Diamond Outlook: Indian Diamantaires Navigating Multiple Storms

Economic slowdowns, geopolitical tensions, and the rising popularity of lab-grown diamonds are clouding the outlook for mined diamonds.

Dialog Solutions
Brought to you by
A Conversation with Dialog Solutions

Do you always want the right diamonds at the right price in your store? Introducing Dialog, the world’s first diamond subscription service.

Chemical vapor deposition reactors
Lab-GrownSep 20, 2023
Lab-Grown Diamond Outlook: Price Declines Aren’t a Deterrent

Some Indian manufacturers think the potential in this young, evolving market outweighs current price concerns.

The new Surat Diamond Bourse
SourcingSep 20, 2023
New Surat Diamond Bourse To Be World’s Largest Office Complex

The massive space spans 7.1 million square feet with more than 4,000 offices and 131 elevators.

Online holiday season shopping
SurveysSep 20, 2023
Why Bain and Deloitte Think Sales Will Grow This Holiday Season

From holiday spending to inflation’s impact, here’s what analysts are forecasting for the season.

Tiffany & Co. X Rimowa collaboration suitcase and jewelry boxes
MajorsSep 20, 2023
Tiffany Collabs With Fellow LVMH-Owned Rimowa

The jeweler and luxury luggage company have teamed up on jewelry cases and a suitcase.

Navneet Gems and Minerals portrait-cut ruby
GradingSep 20, 2023
Navneet Gems Introduces Portrait-Cut Rubies

The geometric collection is on view now at the Jewellery & Gem World Hong Kong Show.

Bleu Royal diamond
AuctionsSep 19, 2023
‘Bleu Royal’ Diamond to Fetch $35M-$50M at Auction

The 17.61-carat stone leads Christie’s “Magnificent Jewels” sale in Geneva this November.

Surveillance footage of bear spray robbery
CrimeSep 19, 2023
Man Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison Following Bear Spray Robbery

The suspect used bear spray to subdue employees and bystanders then stole $800,000 worth of jewelry.

Fuli Gemstones Fuli Cut
GradingSep 19, 2023
Fuli Gemstones Unveils New Peridot Cut

The ‘Fuli Cut’ is based on an antique cushion.

Erlend Bore discovers ancient jewelry
MajorsSep 19, 2023
Norwegian Man Uncovers Ancient Jewels with Metal Detector

The jewels, including gold rings and pendants, are said to be from 500 A.D.

Greenland Ruby rubies and pink sapphires
SourcingSep 18, 2023
Greenland Ruby Update Confirms Operational Suspension, Layoffs

The company anticipates resuming exploration and mining operations and rehiring staff in 2025.

A jewelry display at the New York City Jewelry and Watch Show
Events & AwardsSep 18, 2023
New York City Jewelry & Watch Show Announces 2023 Exhibitors

The antique and vintage jewelry and watch selling event is scheduled for Oct. 26-29.

Sotheby’s For the Boys: A Jewelry Exhibition men’s jewelry sale
AuctionsSep 15, 2023
Men’s Jewelry Takes the Spotlight in Sotheby’s Selling Exhibition

Frank Everett curated “For the Boys: A Jewelry Exhibition,” opening in New York City in September.

De Beers Mic Drop Seize the Day ad
SourcingSep 15, 2023
‘A Diamond Is Forever’ Is Back Again, Backed by $20M

De Beers is putting the emphasis on natural diamonds in Q4 and ending Lightbox’s lab-grown diamond engagement ring test run.

Lindsey Scoggins transformable tourmaline, diamond, and rose gold flower earrings
TrendsSep 15, 2023
Piece of the Week: Lindsey Scoggins’ Transformable Earrings

The brand-new style can be worn three ways.

A Gucci purse and a YSL purse
TechnologySep 14, 2023
EBay Is Diving Deeper Into the Pre-Owned Pool

The tech company is launching a consignment service for sellers of luxury fashion goods, starting with handbags.

Kendra Scott at Target rendering
MajorsSep 14, 2023
Kendra Scott Heads to Target

With prices starting at $15, the Kendra Scott at Target collection launches next month.

JCK Industry Fund
Policies & IssuesSep 14, 2023
The JCK Industry Fund Is Accepting 2024 Grant Applications

The fund provides grants to organizations that better the jewelry industry.

CD Peacock and Zillion logo
MajorsSep 14, 2023
CD Peacock To Offer Jewelry Insurance Through Zillion

The Chicago retailer will now offer in-store customers instant quotes and coverage.

Danecraft jewelry
MajorsSep 13, 2023
American Exchange Group Acquires Danecraft

The accessories conglomerate is expanding its reach in the jewelry industry.


This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy

Additionally, paste this code immediately after the opening  tag: