From: Defence Media Centre
Sent: Fri 6/12/2013 8:42 AM

Australian-led Operation RENDER SAFE concludes in Solomon Islands

The Australian-led Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 has concluded in Solomon Islands after disposing of more than 12,000 items of unexploded World War II ordnance.

The operation consisted of a Task Force of nearly 200 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialists and support staff from the Australian Defence Force (ADF), New Zealand Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Navy and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

Commander of the Task Force, Commander Doug Griffiths, said global experts estimate that some areas in the Solomons have among the worst explosive ordnance contamination in the world – even more contaminated than Laos or Cambodia.

“The international team located 12,164 items of unexploded ordnance over an intensive three-week period,” Commander Griffiths said.

“I understand that the local police deal with around 10,000 items per year, so for us to locate 12,000 in three weeks is a real credit not just to us but also the partnership we have had with the local police and communities.”

“Given that these items have been here for 70 years, the assistance we have had from local villages and communities in finding the ordnance was critical.”

He said items discovered by the Task Force since ranged from 1000lb bombs to individual hand and rifle grenades. While the ordnance was predominantly United States and Japanese, a range of other material was found including some French and British ordnance.

These items were “rendered safe”, usually by a controlled explosion, in location or at the Solomon Islands’ main EOD site near the nation’s capital Honiara.

Ships and divers also surveyed more than 25 km2 of seabed including eight kilometres of beachfront near Honiara and numerous channels in the Russell Islands.

“Our Task Force members have no shortage of battlefield experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Bosnia, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan and a multitude of other conflict zones across most continents, but the sheer volume of items in such a short period of time has certainly provided a challenge,” Commander Griffiths said.

Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Ash Power, said RENDER SAFE was another example of the important work ADF personnel carry out each year with our international colleagues to improve the lives of our Pacific neighbours.

“There is no doubt the work these personnel have undertaken in hot and arduous conditions will improve the lives of people in Solomon Islands who have spent the past 70 years dealing with the remnants of battle from World War II,” Lieutenant General Power said.

“Their efforts over the past month have freed up areas of land and sea that can allow people to farm, build houses and fish and also allow children to play without the fear of unexploded ordnance taking their lives or leaving them with permanent injuries.

“Our people can also be proud of their efforts to assist the Christian Care Centre in removing unexploded ordnance from the grounds, and the renovation and refurbishment works to the Yandina Community High School.”

The Australian Government and the ADF will continue to assist Pacific nations through EOD training initiatives, which develop awareness and support these nations to develop their own capabilities.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 was conducted from 29 October to 3 December 2013.

Factbox

• Personnel deploying in support of Operation RENDER SAFE 2013 were drawn from the following ADF units:

o Mine Warfare & Clearance Diving Task Group (FHQ – Sydney)

o Australian Clearance Diving Team 1 (HMAS Waterhen – Sydney)

o Australian Clearance Diving Teams 4 (HMAS Stirling – Perth)

o Mine Warfare Geospatial Deployable Support Team (HMAS Waterhen – Sydney)

o 6 Engineer Support Regiment (20 EOD SQN) (Enoggera Barracks – Brisbane)

o 1 Security Force Squadron (EODF) (Orchard Hills – Sydney)

o Fleet Health Support (Sydney Area)

o Coastal Mine Hunter HMAS Diamantina and landing craft HMA Ships Labuan and Tarakan

Media note:

http://images.defence.gov.au/S20131896

Media contact:
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999