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Although it sounds like something straight out of a movie, it’s real life and it’s serious.

Rio Tinto has issued an apology for losing a radioactive capsule in Australia. The capsule is 6 mm in diameter and 8mm long.

The tiny capsule went missing as a representative of the mine transported it across the country. What makes this capsule extra special and dangerous is that it contains radioactive Caesium-137, which could cause “serious illness to anyone who comes into contact with it”.

According to the mining giant, the serious illness includes skin damage, burns or radiation sickness. Long-term exposure could cause cancer.

At the moment, emergency services are fine combing the 1,400 km route that the capsule was transported on.

Although Rio Tinto feels that the chances of finding the tiny capsule are “pretty good”, Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services fears that the capsule might have become stuck in a car’s tyre as it was travelling along the route.

The other fear is that the person who picks it up might know exactly what it is and keep it as a souvenir.

To make matters worse, Rio Tinto has acknowledged that the capsule might have gotten lost almost two weeks ago already.

The BBC reports that the lost device is part of a density gauge, which is common in the mining industry. It was being used at Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri mine in the remote Kimberley region. The gauge was being transported by a subcontracted company, who picked it up from the mine site on 12 January to move it to a storage facility in the north-east suburbs of Perth.

Image credit: The West Australian

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