Villagers call on authorities in Solomon Islands to investigate and remove dangerous explosives

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There are fears dangerous explosives stored carelessly and with no regard for the safety of villagers in Ruaniu, northeast Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands, could wipe out the village if it explodes.

Close to one hundred 500L storage containers containing ammonium nitrate emulsion were said to be abandoned near the village by a Malaysian mining company some five years ago.

Ammonium nitrate emulsion can present a significant explosive threat because it is an oxidizer — an oxygen-rich compound that can accelerate fires or explosions. The compound is used by the mining industry for blasting during exploration and drilling.

To understand the threat of ammonium nitrate emulsion, one needs to understand that this is the same compound that caused the explosion in Beirut, the Lebanese capital city, which resulted in 190 fatalities and more than 6,000 wounded. Experts confirmed the blast was caused by an estimated 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured for six years in a port warehouse.

Alosio Chobo, an elder at Ruaniu, alleges that the transportation of the dangerous substance involved politicians which is why it was bought directly to the village on a tugboat.

“This man from Malaysia shipped it into the country, and he came and told some in the village involved in his mining project that he will store it temporarily in our area while he finds a place in Honiara to store it. When things did not work out the man disappeared,” he told Solomon Times Online.

“Over the last two months, we noticed leakage from some of the containers and we have no idea how to stop or deal with it, the vegetation around it is dying.

“The rain has really spread the contents of the container, there is a river nearby and we are fearful that it will go and contaminate this water source.

“We are calling on authorities to investigate this and do something urgently before something worse happens, we were lied to and now we are stuck in this very dangerous situation.”

Several calls were made to relevant government agencies but those spoken to would not comment on the issue.

“What we need is a report, so if they can send a complaint or report then we can look into it,” said one officer.

Chobo claims that these officers are aware of the situation, he has personally made numerous complaints over the years but was always ignored.

“I spoke to them many times, but nothing has been done. I went to all the ministries that I thought were responsible and spoke to them, nothing, always nothing from them.”

A well-placed source said that when you are named a third party in the chain of responsibility (CoR) for such dangerous or hazardous materials, you have a responsibility to ensure the law is complied with. This includes, but is not limited to, safe transport or storage, and the duty to inform authorities of the quantities and locations of such dangerous chemicals.

“There is a clear breach of our laws, and someone must be held accountable, this includes the company that imported these chemicals into the country and officials who should be doing their job, said the source.

SOURCE: SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE/PACNEWS