ENVIRONMENT

Rio: Radiation studies on QMM showed safe levels

Rio Tinto has said a study conducted by third-party experts on radiation in a mineral sands project in Madagascar showed all levels were all safe, after concerns were raised by a UK-based NGO.

 Creeks of Lokaro near Tolagnaro (Fort Dauphin), southern Madagascar

Creeks of Lokaro near Tolagnaro (Fort Dauphin), southern Madagascar

The miner said a study by JBS&G Australia concluded that there is no need for heightened health concerns around local radiation levels at the Rio Tinto QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) mine in Fort Dauphin, Southern Madagascar.

"The analysis received on the five cycles covering various seasons from November 2019 to October 2022 showed that local food sources, water, air and dust are safe from a radiological perspective."

Andrew Lees Trust, a UK-based charity that supports people affected by mining pollution, had claimed in 2019 that elevated background levels of radioactive uranium and thorium, and lead in water bodies near the mine, were most likely a result of mining activity. The group noted that some community members have reported experiencing health problems, such as skin rashes and respiratory problems.

However, Rio said mineral elements deposited broadly across the region contain natural radiation.  

"QMM's contribution to radiation dose within the community has been assessed and found to be far smaller than the variation in natural background radiation levels and below national and international regulatory limits for radiation. "

Rio said the study was initiated in an attempt to quantify the surrounding community member radiation doses from naturally occurring radioactive materials and any contributions from mining activity. It involved collecting samples containing radionuclides within surface water, groundwater, soil, sediment, land foods, aquatic foods, air and dust. In all, more than 260 samples (including 377 individual fish) were collected under strict quality control conditions and analysed using a variety of highly specialised analytical techniques that were adapted to ensure reliable and precise data.

 

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