Trekking down a tourist trail 20 kilometres outside Norseman, in Western Australia’s Goldfields region, a couple were shocked to find explosives scattered around the area where they had stopped for lunch.
- Explosives and detonating products were found lying in the Great Western Woodlands 20km south of Norseman, WA
- Police say identifying where the explosives came from will be a challenge
- Oversight of the mining industry in Norseman has come into question since the closure of the mines office in 2018
The couple alerted Shire of Dundas CEO, Peter Fitchat, who went to investigate the scene.
There he found around six undetonated plastic explosives scattered on the ground, a detonation cord wrapped around a tree, a detonator and a product called Pentex booster, designed to be used with other explosives.
Mr Fitchat reported the explosives to Norseman Police.
Norseman Police officer in charge, Sergeant Aaron Honey said he had no reason to suspect “nefarious or deliberate” activity and it looked like the items had been there for a number of months.
“Obviously there’s a lot of mining that goes on in these areas, lots of prospectors that go through these different areas, whether it’s fallen off the back of a vehicle, whether it’s been left there by accident after a campsite.”
After contacting the WA Police bomb squad, Sergeant Honey said they were able to safely remove the items.
Sergeant Honey said the incident was under investigation and had been referred to the Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety (DMIRS).
The company who made the explosives, Orica, market their products to the mining industry, although other industries such as quarrying, agriculture, civil construction and demolition also buy them.
A spokesperson from Orica said the company only supplied explosive products after ensuring an individual or company held the appropriate licence, with the corresponding security clearance.
But Mr Fitchat said there were only a few pastoralists in the shire and they had not applied for permits to build new dams, or any other activity that might require explosives.
He said the other industries were not applicable to Norseman and believes the explosives could only have come from the mining industry.
“We don’t know if someone has found it in an abandoned mine site or where people have vacated mining tenements, we don’t know, but whatever the outcome is there are now explosives lying around in the woodlands.”
Mining office closed
Mr Fitchat said he was concerned about the lack of oversight of the mining industry in Norseman since the closure of the DMIRS office in town.
“There’s no compliance officer in town based here anymore, from a practical point of view it’s highly dangerous,” he said.
Member for the Mining and Pastoral region, Robin Scott, said if DMIRS were present in town they could send inspectors to investigate the scene.
“But when there’s nobody in the vicinity that’s not going to happen because they’re not going to send somebody from Perth, it’s just totally unfair.”
Sergeant Honey said the department had made contact with him and were sending someone from the Kalgoorlie office this week to recover the explosives.
A ‘serious issue’
Mr Scott said it was a “really serious issue” and it was lucky no one was injured.
“These things are reasonably safe in the right hands, but people handling them who don’t know what they’re handling, it’s very dangerous.”
Director of Dangerous Goods and Petroleum Safety at DMIRS, Steve Emery, said the department would work with the supplier to ascertain the history of the explosives, and may take enforcement action if appropriate.
Mr Emery said Dangerous Goods Safety (Explosives) Regulations and the Dangerous Goods Safety Act, were in place to support community safety.
The ABC asked DMIRS whether they would be reopening their office in Norseman but no response was provided by Mr Emery.