A stockpile of apparently forgotten munitions found near Columboola, Australia, are not expected to be moved until they have been examined and cleared for disposal by U.N. weapons inspectors, the Toowoomba Chronicle reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 11).
Australian Defense Department officials talked with Western Downs Regional Council representatives and emergency personnel Tuesday on the process for dealing with the 144 undetonated 105mm shells.
The munitions, at least three filled with mustard H blister agent, were discovered in August during a survey by a mining company at the site of a former U.S. military weapons facility.
The corroded munitions were unearthed by specially trained workers. The shells have been placed in special containers and put into storage.
Australian Defense Department official Colin Trinder said the munitions did not have any fuses and so could not be accidentally set off.
"We take an extremely precautionary approach to dealing with these things," Trinder said.
Defense officials are now figuring out how to destroy the shells. Australia has never before carried out a chemical weapons destruction program of this sort. One avenue being considered is transporting U.S. disposal technology to Australia.
It is believed that the munitions would be eliminated by June 2010 (Stuart Cumming, Toowoomba Chronicle/Finda.com, Nov. 11).