Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, today announced that the destruction of old World War II chemical munitions found at Columboola in Queensland in 2009 is scheduled to occur next month.
“Prior to commencing the work, Defence will hold a second round of consultations to inform the community about the munitions destruction and removal process being undertaken on the site,” Senator Feeney said.
He said the most recent meetings, at Cameby, follow similar consultations in Chinchilla and Miles in November 2010.
“It’s important that the local community is kept fully informed of the work Defence is doing to safely destroy the munitions, and ensure no others remain buried on the site,” Senator Feeney said.
Columboola was a former United States WWII ammunition depot and demolitions range. To date, more than 140 confirmed old chemical munitions containing mustard agent have been excavated. This is the largest find of this kind ever made in Australia. The US provided military experts to assist in the identification and testing of these munitions, which confirmed the presence of mustard agent.
In their current state, specialist advice is that the munitions do not pose a risk to the public. The risk from mustard agent is only to those who come in direct contact with the munitions and who are not wearing the required protective equipment.
Defence will manage the destruction of these old chemical weapons on behalf of the Government of Australia, in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the international Chemical Weapons Convention. To ensure the safe disposal of these old munitions, specialist equipment and expert technicians have been contracted to undertake the destruction work.
In accordance with the standard processes of the Chemical Weapon Convention, a team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) conducted an inspection of munitions at the site in late September. Plans for the destruction of the munitions are weather dependent.
Further information about the project can be found at www.defence.gov.au/id/columboola/fact_sheets.htm
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,