PERTH-based uranium producer Paladin Energy has spilt radioactive chemicals in a road incident while closing down its Kayelekera mine in Africa.
The project – 52km west of Karonga in northern Malawi – was placed on care and maintenance in an effort to stem global uranium supplies and drive demand upwards in the face of a market price slump.
However while completing the site’s last shipments, a truck carrying a single container of uranium oxide concentrate toppled sideways, as the driver reportedly failed to negotiate a curve in the road. A “small amount” of uranium oxide concentrate was spilt, 8km from the mine site origin.
The truck was bound for export from Walvis Bay port in Namibia, in a convoy of five other transport trucks and a support vehicle when the incident occurred. Company employees completed a cleanup, recovering some spillage before removing and disposing of contaminated soil in the mine’s tailings dam. Malawi’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority subsequently conducted a radiological check to ensure the area and surrounds were decontaminated.
The World Nuclear Association had graded uranium oxide concentrate as “mildly radioactive”.
Shutdown efforts have since continued at Kayelekera. Paladin stated the site would remain under care and maintenance until a “sustained price recovery occurred”.
Kayelekera’s closure will reportedly remove about 3 million pounds of uranium oxide from annual global supplies.
Paladin Energy’s half year results stated a company net loss of US$255 million, up 32 per cent from its previous half year results. The company said the result was due to three consecutive years of weak global uranium prices, due to continued overproduction.