WA dismisses uranium mine fears

by 15 Mar 2010

Western Australian Minister for the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), Norman Moore, has dismissed fears that open access to an old uranium mine was a health risk.

Moore rejected a claim by Labor member Ian Bishop that a broken fence on an old mine site - known as the Kalgoorlie Research Project near the Kalgoorlie-Boulder - had been accessed by children.

The mine, formerly owned Western Mining Corporation, is now owned by BHP Billiton-Nickel West.

Moore promised on 2 March 2010 that the state would conduct its own radiation survey.

“Although a number of radiation experts have surveyed the site to ensure it is safe, I will ask the DMP to carry out its own survey to ease any community concerns that Mr Bishop’s scaremongering has unnecessarily enflamed,” said on 2 March 2010.

On 4 March the department released its survey results, noting that the removal of potentially hazardous material had continued between 1983 and 2009.

The survey’s report reveals that it detected .07 Grays per hour (one gray corresponds to one joule of radiation energy deposited per kilogram of matter, it notes.)

The Arizona State University’s Office of Radiation Safety has reported previously that 3 Grays per hour would be enough to produce reddening of the skin while 30 Grays may lead to amputations and skin grafts.

Moore said that vandals appeared to have wrecked the gates to the site.

“There is no evidence young children have accessed the site,” he said, adding that it was unlikely that they would visit there in summer heat.

Moore also rejected claims that hazardous materials were “dumped”.

“The material that is currently safely buried is old plant and tailings and those areas are clearly signed,” he said.

The report noted that “radiological waste material from the KRP site has been buried at significant depth” and that major earth moving equipment would be required to reach it.