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Radiation safety inspections at iron ore loading site by the Radiation Protection Board

Radiation safety inspections at iron ore loading site by the Radiation Protection Board thumbnail

The Radiation Protection Board Secretariat has continued its routine safety Assessment Inspection at the Pepel loading site of African Minerals and Thofeyim loading site of London Mining Limited.  (Photo: Derrick Dunn and Umar Bun-Tejan)

Radiation Safety inspection is one of the main activities of the Radiation Protection Board in its bid to protect the general public, workers, and the environment for  now and future generations against the harmful effects of radiation (ionizing and non- ionizing).

Over the years, mining activities have been going on in several parts of the country without any monitoring of radiation levels.  This has been found to be extremely dangerous as it could expose the general public, workers and the environment to the harmful effects of radiation which could lead to cancer and other related diseases.  This may have been the cause of increased incidents of cancer among Sierra Leoneans.  We look forward to the Ministry of Health to establish a cancer Register so that we could be able to study cancer cases and probably identify their sources and causes.

The lead inspector from the Regulatory Authority Umar Bun- Tejan accompanied by scientist Derrick Dunn inspected with Fifty-Five thousand metric tons of Iron ore Sinter feed at the London mining loading site at Thofeyim in the Port Loko District. During the inspection the team took measurements from various angles of the over 70 feet high stock piles.

Lead inspector Umar Bun –Tejan allayed the fears of workers who were at the loading site that the level of radiation present with their area of duty is below the allowable limit.  He further recommended that their operational section at Marampa Mines should also be inspected.

The trans-shipment and shipment of radioactive materials and sources through another country without the said approval of the transiting country or receiving country constitutes a violation of the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) requirements of the Code-of-Conduct on Transport of Radioactive Materials and sources

In Sierra Leone as a member country of the IAEA, it is also a regulatory requirement that all mineral ores should undergo pre- shipment scanning before shipment.  This is to ensure that mineral ores shipped from Sierra Leone are free from radioactive contamination, in conformity with Regulatory requirement and international standards.

London mining Limited and the African Minerals have been very compliant with this and other Regulatory requirements relating to mining in Sierra Leone.  Inspectors from the Radiation Protection Board on their visits to the sites conduct radiation level monitoring to ensure that the general public, workers and the environment are not unduly exposed to higher radioactive levels that could cause cancer.

It is however worth noting that the ordinary iron ore is non – radioactive but since it is being mined from the ground, there is a possibility that a number of radioactive contaminants may be found in it.  Contaminants like Uranium which produces daughter nuclides like thorium, Radon etc which are highly radioactive.  The concentration of these could be high in the tailings left behind after the mining activity. The rivers and other water sources around the mining sites may be contaminated and could cause cancer in human population on consumption either through drinking or eating the fishes in it which may have been contaminated.   Even the crops around the vicinity of the mining sites may have radioactive contamination and on eating, may cause internal exposure to radiation which is quite dangerous and a possible source of cancer.  The rivers and other waters around the mining and shipment sites are therefore regularly monitored for radioactive contamination to ensure that they pose no danger after human consumption.

The Radiation Protection Board is therefore making a remarkable effort to protect the Sierra Leone population but most people are not aware of this.  Cancer is an almost incurable disease so any effort to prevent it should be commended.  From all indications, government is committed to improving Regulatory activities.  Radiation monitoring should cover the entire country and government should therefore continue to give its full support to the Board for the establishment of provincial offices.

During a chat with the Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr. Josephus J. Kongo he disclosed that Radiation Protection Offices are to be opened in all the Provincial Headquarter Towns with the availability of financial resources.  He said government has at the moment provided near-adequate number of scientists for radiation protection activities.  We appeal that all encouragement should be given to the establishment of the provincial offices to enhance radiation protection in the provinces.

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