Explosives experts discover WWII munitions in Bougainville

AN INTERNATIONAL team of 60 explosive ordnance disposal experts has discovered a former World War II defensive position complete with fighting pits containing scores of unused munitions in Bougainville.

EOD experts, led by members of the Bougainville Police Service and Australian Defence Force personnel, have made safe more than 6000 kilograms of World War II munitions during the first week of Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 in Bougainville.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 is focussing on 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 airbase for the Allies during World War II.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 Commander, Captain Jay Bannister, said his team was 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," Bannister added.

"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."

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," he said.

"So it is really good for us to come back and do what we can to make this region less dangerous for the locals.

"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."

HMAS Choules is supporting the operation and is carrying some 500 personnel, an MRH90 helicopter and LCM-8 landing craft.

Operation RENDER SAFE 2014 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.

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.

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