From: Defence Media
Sent: Sun 2/11/2014 9:46 AM

Major clean up of explosives in Bougainville under way

An Australian Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team has already made safe more than 6000 kilograms of World War II munitions during the first week of Operation RENDER SAFE 14 in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

An international team of 60 EOD experts, led by members of the Bougainville Police Service and Australian Defence Force personnel, has found a former WW II defensive position complete with fighting pits containing scores of unused munitions.

The focus of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is Torokina where grounds, villages and community gardens remain contaminated by unexploded ordnance.

The town was the site of fighting between Japanese and Allied forces, and was an air base for the Allies during World War II.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 Commander, Captain Jay Bannister, says his team is getting on with the task of cleaning up the dangerous unexploded munitions.

“The operation has been months in the planning, involving both Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” CAPT Bannister said.

“The people of Bougainville have been most welcoming and we have been working very closely with them to identify explosive remnants of war which pose a threat to local communities.

“We are particularly grateful for the continuing support from the Bougainville Police Service on building community awareness, and we look forward to their assistance in helping maintain community safety during the operation.

“We will be working very hard in the coming weeks to make Bougainville a safer place for generations to come,” CAPT Bannister said.

The sheer amount of ordnance left on the ground has surprised even seasoned EOD operator Warrant Officer Class Two David Austin.

‘They are mostly 2 inch High Explosive mortars and hand grenades, in varying conditions, left in place after the war. So it is really good for us to come back and do what we can to make this region less dangerous for the locals,” he said.

‘As well as helping the community this is a great training opportunity for the younger EOD guys. For the past 10 years we have been focused on the Middle East region but this gets us back to the grass roots fundamentals of our job,” WO2 Austin said.

HMAS Choules is supporting the operation and is carrying approximately 500 personnel, an MRH90 Helicopter and LCM-8 Landing craft.

Operation RENDER SAFE is an ongoing Australian Defence Force commitment to the people of the South West Pacific and this year is being conducted with assistance from EOD experts from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Solomon Islands.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is the ADF’s enduring commitment to the removal of Explosive Remnants of War which continue to pose a potential danger to communities across the South West Pacific.

ADF personnel are participating at the invitation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and with the approval of the PNG National Government.

The Operation concludes on November 8.

Media note:
Defence imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20141718

Media contact:
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999