Australian miner says any derailment spill 'diluted'

Dec 29, 2011
A 2006 aerial view of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia. An Australian mining company said Thursday that any hazardous copper concentrate from its operations that may have washed into floodwaters when a freight train derailed had likely been "highly diluted."

An Australian mining company said Thursday that any hazardous copper concentrate from its operations that may have washed into floodwaters when a freight train derailed had likely been "highly diluted."

OZ Minerals said up to 1,200 tonnes of the substance, which is classed as dangerous and has strict transport conditions, was thought to have plunged into the river when the train derailed in the Northern Territory early Tuesday.

"Given the large volume of water flowing through the system it is likely that any concentrate that has been impacted by the water would be highly diluted," the company said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

"From an environmental perspective, in consultation with the relevant authorities, concentrate that is accessible will be cleaned up when the area can be safely accessed."

Due to limited access to the area because of the flooding and associated damage, OZ Minerals said it had been difficult to determine "exactly how much copper concentrate may have been directly impacted by the derailment."

There had been about 1,500 tonnes of concentrate on the train in total, worth US$7-8 million, an amount "not considered financially material for the company," it added.

Head of the territory's environment department Jim Grant said the concentrate was not a highly toxic substance, "but it's not to be ingested or inhaled" and was thought to have washed "all over the place".

"It'll present no danger to livestock or or birds, but it may have a smothering effect or on animals like on the bottom of the stream,' he said.

Because it was not soluble, Grant said the concentrate would not have been diluted but the floodwaters would have caused it to spread, lessening its impact.

He stressed that there was no risk to the local town's water supply and he was not aware of any other being carried on the train.

The rail owner and operator, US-based Genesee and Wyoming, has defended its decision to operate in the heavy weather caused by ex-tropical cyclone Grant, which was downgraded to a tropical low on Monday.

Environmentalists said the accident, which took place after washed away the southern foundation of a rail bridge, showed the dangers of transporting toxic materials by train in the tropics.

"A much bigger risk to Top End rivers would be derailment of trains carrying uranium oxide from the Roxby Uranium Mine in South Australia," said Stuart Blanch, head of the Northern Territory's Environment Centre.

Paul Henderson, chief minister of the territory, said an official investigation would uncover potential failings and he would accept any recommendations made about government regulation to improve safety.

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Kev_C
not rated yet Dec 29, 2011
So the spill was harmless?
Toxicity of copper to aquatic fauna and flora with emphasis on salmonids. Brooks (1995b and 1995c) has reviewed available copper toxicity data. Dissolved copper levels as low as 6.1 ppb have been associated with acute toxicity in the most sensitive marine organisms. The sperm of salmon are effected at 44.2 ppb dissolved copper. Coho salmon smolts have an EC50 of 601 ppb copper.

Brooks, K.M. 1995b. Literature Review, Computer Model and Assessment of the Environmental Risks Associated with the use of CCA Treated Wood Products in Aquatic Environments. Published by the Western Wood Preservers Institute, 601 Main Street, Suite 401, Vancouver, WA 98660. 137 pp.
and
Brooks, K.M. 1995c. Literature Review, Computer Model and Assessment of the Environmental Risks Associated with the use of ACZA Treated Wood Products in Aquatic Environments. Published by the Western Wood Preservers Institute, 601 Main Street, Suite 401, Vancouver, WA 98660. 137 pp
Kev_C
not rated yet Dec 29, 2011
The above was taken from a research document I found online this morning at 0206am at the link below.

www.wwpinstitute....otic.doc

The mine is negligent and the river is likely to suffer greater harm than they are willing to admit. The toxicity of copper is why there is such a hue and cry over the Pebble Copper Mine in Alaska.

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