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Title: Physical dispersion of radioactive mine waste at the rehabilitated Radium Hill uranium mine site, South Australia
Contributor(s): Lottermoser, B (author); Ashley, Paul (author)
Publication Date: 2006
DOI: 10.1080/08120090600632383
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Abstract: The Radium Hill uranium deposit, in semiarid eastern South Australia, was discovered in 1906 and mined for radium between 1906 and 1931 and for uranium between 1954 and 1961 (production of 969,300 t of davidite ore averaging 0.12% U₃O₈). Rehabilitation was limited to removal of mine facilities, sealing of underground workings and capping of selected waste repositories. In 2002, gamma-ray data and samples of tailings, uncrushed and crushed waste rock, stream sediment, topsoil and vegetation were collected to assist in examining the current environmental status of the mine site. The data indicate that capping of tailings storage facilities did not ensure the long-term containment of the low-level radioactive wastes due to the erosion of sides of the impoundments. Moreover, wind erosion of waste fines (phyllosilicates, ore minerals) from various, physically unstable waste repositories has caused increasing radiochemical (from a background dose of 35 - 70 nSv/h to max. 0.94 μSv/h) and geochemical (Ce, Cr, La, Lu, Rb, Sc, Th, U, V, Y, Yb) impacts on local soils. Plants (saltbush, pepper tree) growing on waste dumps display evidence of biological uptake of lithophile elements, with values being up to 1 - 2 orders of magnitude above values for plants of the same species at background sites. However, radiation doses associated with the mine and processing site average 0.67 μSv/h; hence, visitors to the Radium Hill site will not be exposed to excessive radiation levels. Although rehabilitation procedures have been partly successful in reducing dispersion of U and related elements into the surrounding environment, it is apparent that 20 years after rehabilitation, there is significant physical and limited chemical mobility, including transfer into plants. Additional capping and landform design of the crushed waste and tailings repositories are required in order to minimise erosion and impacts on surrounding soils and sediments.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53(3), p. 485-499
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Place of Publication: United Kingdom
ISSN: 1440-0952
Field of Research (FOR): 040299 Geochemistry not elsewhere classified
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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