DoD issues ammo depot safety warning


The Department of Defence says it is is “still highly concerned” about the encroachment of low cost housing into the blast safety zone around 93 Ammunition Depot just outside Jankempdorp in the Northern Cape and cannot guarantee the safety of those living in the zone.



South African National Defence Force Chief of Logi
stics Major General Justice Nkonyane says a large part of Valspan suburb to the north-east of the high security storage area is within the 2000m safety zone around the facility. This zone starts at the outer perimeter fence of the base.


“A large portion of this the [Valspan] development is within the safety distance of the ammunition warehouses and therefore the safety of the people staying in this extension cannot be guaranteed if a detonation in one of the warehouses happens, Nkonyane said in a written response to a question by Democratic Alliance member of the National Council of Provinces Willem Frederik Faber.


The depot is slated for closure but still contains thousands of tons of redundant, obsolete, and unserviceable ammunition,which is being slowly disposed of.


Nkonyane says there “a continuous communication processes in place between the officer commanding 93 Ammunition Depot and local government to monitor and manage the situation.”


The officer has also twice met the previous Premier of the Northern Cape and once with a previous minister of defence to discuss and execute site inspections “on the uncontrolled building of RDP houses on the north-eastern side of the depot.”


The process is still ongoing and the encroachment is still a threat, Nkonyane says.


The last meeting between the OC and the local council “on these issues” was held on September 23.


Steps to minimise danger to Valspan includes the storing of munition in such a manner as to minimise damage to infrastructure and human live in the depot’s safety zone in case of an accident.


“There are also no ammunition left in field storage and all critical unsafe ammunition that could endanger loss of human life and damage to infrastructure was disposed of.


The storage capacity of the warehouses nearest to the Valspan settlement has also been reduced to minimise the effect in terms of shock wave and shrapnel of a possible primary detonation of ammunition or the secondary explosion of a warehouse on residents in terms of wounds or serious damage to property.

The depot has also ended the field (open air) storage of Condition B, C1, C2 and D ammunition. The munitions concerned were inspected, graded, palletised and moved to identified empty permanent ammunition storage magazines for further safekeeping.


“Although there are still Condition A (serviceable) ammunition at 93 Ammunition Depot, this ammunition is classified as redundant or obsolete and the applicable disposal boards are in progress.”


All still-required serviceable ammunition has already been transferred from the depot to the Ammunition Sub-Depots at De Aar or Naboomspruit as part of the closing down plan of 93 Ammunition Depot, Nkonyane adds.


In addition, the Bergspitz demolition range, situated 36km west of the depot was re-qualified to increase the daily range limit from 50kg (Nett Explosive Content, NEC) per blow to a new limit of 1000kg NEC per day in FY2006/7.


“In doing this the capability to do conventional disposal was increased to ensure that all critical unsafe ammunition could be destroyed immediately,” the logistics chief said.


Among this was 1092 155mm artillery charges and 700 HE shells as well as 1177 81mm mortar bombs that had been stored in the open.


The depot last year also acquired an Inert Deforming Facility developed for it and build by Denel Rheinmetall in Potchefstroom. This mangles inert (explosive-free) ammunition so that it an be sold as scrap metal. Twelve tons of such ammunition has already been deformed.

Pic: DoD and SANDF headquarters, Pretoria