Thursday, 24 September 2020
Ipswich residents worried about ammonium nitrate storage

The 500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at Sun Mining Services in New Chum has residents concerned about safety, but the company says there is nothing to worry about. 

The security sensitive substance, ammonium nitrate is the main ingredient in the manufacture of commercial explosives.

In Australia, an excess of 3,000,000 tons of ammonium nitrate is used a year and in Queensland, an excess of 3,000 tonnes is used every day on average. 

To put the 500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate being stored in Ipswich into perspective, Bajool Explosive Reserve 25km south of Rockhampton and 200m away from Bruce Highway, stores an excess of 50,000 tons of ammonium nitrate by different companies.

The IB53, a comprehensive document developed in 2003 deals with the requirement to handle ammonium aitrate in Queensland and Australia as a whole.  

According to Sun Mining Services Operations Manager, Hossein Asgari, the high-grade explosive is regulated according to the requirements within the document and is nothing to be concerned about.

“Should we worry about that? Not at all. As long as ammonium nitrate is handled as per the requirements stipulated in IB53, the risk diminishes significantly, if not all together,” he said.

According to the IB53, the security sensitive ammonium nitrate (SSAN) needs to be ‘under lock and key’ meaning a compound with a security fence, a locked building, a secure shed with lockable entrances and where relevant, windows that are locked or bared, a secure and lockable freight container, silo or magazine or in the case of ammonium nitrate emulsions, a lockable tank.

President of Ipswich Residents Against Toxic Environments, Jim Dodrill, argues the security grade explosive may be regulated according to the document, but the explosives do not appear to be ‘under lock and key’. 

“It’s not like they have it stored in bunkers or anything like that, it’s just out in the open with white tarps over it.” 

“Now they can say it’s regulated, but we have fires around there all the time,” said Mr Dodrill. 

Despite the recent fire at Cleanaway nearby to Sun Mining Services, Mr Asgari wishes to assure those who raise concern that the explosives held at Sun Mining Services do not pose a risk to residents nearby.  

“In Australia, incidents involving ammonium nitrate catching fire and burning down happens more than once a year. 

However, they never result in serious accidents simply due to the manner it is regulated and handled in this country,” said Mr Asgari.

Mr Dodrill believes, it’s better to be safe than sorry and will continue to raise awareness on the matter. 

“It’s fine to say they’re regulated but accidents do happen,” he said.