International Projects

Examples of International Projects

Phu Bia Mining Support, Lao PDR

Figure 1: Lao Team Refresher Training Session Before Mobilization
Figure 2: Typical 2-Stage Analogue Instrument Search Near Phonsavan
Figure 3: Final Manual Excavation Stage for a 500lb Mk82 US bomb

 

Figure 4: Various Aerial Bombs found on Milsearch site

 

Milsearch has been operating continuously in Lao PDR since 1993, initially in joint venture with commercial elements of the Lao PDR Governmentsupporting RioTinto’s former Sepon copper/gold extraction operations in Savannakhet Province as well as numerous major road, transmission line and hydropower projects. Since March 2012, Milsearch continues to provide country-wide UXO services through its fully owned Lao registered subsidiary company, Milsearch Lao EOD Ltd.

 

In 2001 Pan Australia Resources Ltd. acquired the Phu Bia3,000 square kilometer copper/gold/silver exploration tenement, which encompasses the Plaine Des Jarres in the north and in the south includes the town of Long Chieng, where the former CIA Headquarters during the United States ‘Secret War’ was located. As a result, the tenement is contaminated to varying degrees with explosive remnants of war. The contamination is overwhelmingly due to the intensive aerial bombardment which was carried out by the United States Air Force, between 1965 and 1973, with a wide variety of cluster bomblets and large aerial bombs prevalent.

 

Milsearch had been involved in safeguarding various previous owners of the Phu Bia tenement such as Normandy Goldsince its inception around the early 1990’s. The current relationship with Pan Australia Resources Ltd commenced in May 2002 when Milsearch was contracted to provide a UXO contamination assessment within three sites of the Phu Bia Gold Project -comprising the Ban Houayxai, Long Chieng and Phu Kham deposits.

 

Milsearch was subsequently contracted by Pan Australia’s local subsidiary Phu Bia Mining to provide UXO clearance and path finding services throughout the exploration tenement.Influenced by the lack of communications infrastructure and the remote and mountainous terrain involved, a low technology analogue UXO search approach was adopted:

 

Following visual surface search and hand slashing of vegetation, 100% area metal detector searches are conducted to remove metallic fragmentation clutter in the top 25cm strata. Following this‘shallow search’, the area is then subjected to a 100% area ‘deep search’ for ferrous items using Foerster 4.032 Magnetometers. Lastly‘down-hole’ magnetometer surveys are provided in support of exploration drilling programs. This achievesprogressive clearance at depths not attainable from the surface, recognizing large aerial bombs can penetrate in excess of 12 metres.

 

Despite this low technology approach, Milsearch’s geophysicists are continually reviewing emerging search technologies which offer potential improvements over the tried and tested analogue approach. Milsearch is also aware of the continuing improvement in communications infrastructure in the region, which allows consideration of higher technology approaches and the active development of a new technology trialing program to meet the particular terrain and geology demands of the Phonsavan Exploration Area

 

Milsearch also provides UXO pathfinders and a variety of associated support services, such as risk assessments, rapid response teams, inductions and UXO awareness training. To date Milsearch hastrained hundreds of local staff members, cleared hundreds of hectares of land, and destroyed thousands of items of hazardous explosive remnants of war in support of Phu Bia Mining and other Clients throughout Lao PDR.

 

Munda Airfield, New Georgia, Solomon Islands

Date: 2012 ongoing

Client: The Government of the Solomon Islands

Figure 1: Japanese Airfield at Munda Following US Bombardment 1943
Figure 2: Total Magnetic Image Munda Airfield (Japanese Field follows modern alignment and forms the western half of survey task)
Figure 3: GAP TM7 Quad Magnetometer in use

 

Figure 4: TM7 Quad Magnetometer Surveying Corinous Quarry in Torrential Rain
Figure 5: TM7 Quad Magnetometer Survey of Seawall Construction Footprint
Figure 6: Former Solomon Islands Police EOD trained Magnetometer Operators

 

Figure 7: Collected 500lb US bombs
Figure 8: 500 lb. US General Purpose bomb raised from found location in Airfield

 

“Funded by the New Zealand Government’s overseas aid program, Milsearch was selected through international tendering to conduct a geophysical survey and clearance investigations of UXO in support of the Munda Airport Redevelopment Project.

 

Covering an approx. 50 hectare site, Milsearch was required to develop a survey and clearance strategy which would render the site safe for earthworks being conducted by Downer (New Zealand) Limited’s construction crews.

 

The Munda airfield was first built on an Australian owned coconut plantation in 1942. Construction used locally quarried corinous commencing during the furious battles on nearby Guadalcanal between the United States and the Japanese. Soon after completion, the United States air and naval forces operating from Guadalcanal discovered Munda airfield and immediately launched numerous attacks, eventually completely destroying the ‘field, before finally capturing Munda in 1943 after a long and hard-fought amphibious landing and overland assault through heavy jungle from the east.

 

During the period 1942-43, the airfield was repaired first by the Japanese several times, then completely re-profiled and extended by United States SeaBees after its capture. Later in 1976, further re-profiling occurred by New Zealand civil contractors. As a result of this wartime repair and re-profiling, numerous munitions and general wreckage of war was used to fill craters and other UXO originally buried beneath the airfield were unearthed then reburied at indeterminate depths by earthworks.

 

Milsearch specified a magnetic geophysical survey employing the quad sensor TM7 magnetometer system with High Precision GPS accurate to 10 centimeter accuracy. Located some 6 degrees south of the Equator, the location presented difficulties through a weakening of the Earth’s naturally occurring magnetic field by some 20% at those latitudes. Ancient riverbeds containing magnetic pebbles below portions of the site complicated the surveys requiring some areas to be re-surveyed by Geonic EM61 Mark 2A High Power wheeled detectors.

 

The unexpected existence on the Site of some ten large bull-dozed mounds remaining from the SeeBee's re-profiling in 1943 and containing numerous UXO added to the task’s complexity and required progressive survey and cut techniques using Geometrics G858 dual sensor magnetometers.

 

The on-set of the monsoon season mid project with high humidity and torrential daily downpours also had to be contended with, along with the extremely hard compacted corinous airfield surface which could only be penetrated by heavy tracked excavators.

 

To assist in the anomaly investigation task, Milsearch engaged former EOD trained members of the Royal Solomon Islands police Force EOD section who received retraining for the project and operated as the team’s magnetometer operators.

 

Many hundreds of UXO and discarded ammunition stocks were unearthed, ranging from aerial bombs of a wide variety as well as anti-aircraft artillery projectiles, artillery and mortar bombs of both US and Japanese origin, as well as numerous US 6” and 5” naval gunnery projectiles.

 

On completion of the Project, Munda will become the Solomon Island’s second international airfield able to act as a diversionary airfield to Honiara’s wartime Henderson Field”. This was only possible through Milsearch’s professional removal of Wartime UXO hazards creating a safe worksite for all.

 

 

 

 

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