Plans for BHP Billiton to increase the amount of radioactive material is transports to Darwin will pose no threat to public health, BHP spokesman Richard Yeeles said at a public meeting in Darwin earlier this week.
BHP’s proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam project in South Australia will see the company transport about 1.6 million tonnes of radioactive copper concentrate to Darwin each year.
But according to Yeeles, the copper concentrate is significantly less radioactive than the uranium oxide which is already shipped out of Darwin.
“We have been shipping uranium oxide out of Darwin since 2005 and of course the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory has been doing it a lot longer than that,” he said.
“The uranium in the copper concentrate is about 2000 parts per million, that contrasts with about 990,000 parts per million for uranium oxide, so you can see that it is a much lower level of radiation.”
BHP spokeswoman Kelly Quirke told MINING DAILY that transporting the concentrate to Darwin was the sole choice currently available from Olympic Dam.
“There are no current alternative options for transporting the concentrates,” she said.
According to Quirke, alternatives avenues, such as a mooted cape size vessel port in South Australia, would be considered if they became available.
“There is no current port option available in South Australia for the bulk shipment of concentrate, but if one became available BHP Billiton would consider it.”