10 tonnes of WWII munitions destroyed in Solomon Islands during month-long mission

Royal Australian Navy clearance divers hauled in over 3.5 tonnes of WWII munitions from the ocean in the Solomon Islands in a single morning during Operation Render Safe in September. Photo: Australian Department of Defence

A month-long multinational mine clearing operation has destroyed over 10 tonnes of World War II munitions in the Solomon Islands.

Led by Australia, operation Render Safe aimed to remove explosive remnants of war which continue to pose a potential danger to local communities across the South West Pacific.

Commander of the Australian Contingent, Royal Australian Navy officer Commander Etienne Mulder said over 2500 individual munitions were found (18.7 tonnes total) in the waters and land around Honiara, the Russell Islands and Florida Group.

“People have come out of their homes, out of their gardens and as they see people from Render Safe walk past, they’ve actually handed them mortars, grenades, bullets and all sorts of other munitions,” he said.

Over 180 personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom were involved in the operation partnered with members from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

The Australian Defence Force contributed two mine hunter vessels, HMA Ships Diamantina and Huon to the operation as well as explosive ordnance disposal specialists from the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.

Commander Mulder said the operation was a success because of the direct input from the Solomon Islands community.

“We fundamentally rely on the people of the Solomon Islands and also the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force because without them it would take us so much longer to actually identify the ordnance to ensure that it’s safe,” he said.

Safety of the people leads to increased confidence, both social and economic, and it means growth for tourism and fisheries.

“We are by no means at the end but we are certainly taking a step in the right direction.”

The operation ran from 12 September–7 October 2016.

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