The Columboola Munitions Destruction project was the largest and most comprehensive chemical weapons remediation project undertaken in Australia since WWII, resulting in the destruction of 145 individual mustard rounds. The Columboola site had formed part of the ‘Brisbane Line’ of defence during WWII and the US Army had occupied the site for several years during the war. At stayed there unnoticed for a further 70 years had it not been for an open cut coal mine survey encountering a tranche of the munitions during a standard due diligence survey in 2009.
The Munitions Destruction project, commencing in July 2010, involved the establishment of a 70 tonne destruction chamber (TC-60) and its associated pollution remediation systems, the laying of 8 kilometres of heavy load access tracks across floodplains and creeks and the construction of over 20,000 sqm of operating hardstand at this remote site in central Queensland (350km WNW of Brisbane). Later project works on the site involved the de-vegetation, geophysical surveying and clearance of 730 hectares of land in a search for latent munitions. With onsite staff averaging 60 employees at any given time, OPEC ran the project under a 50/50 teaming agreement with the project Prime Contractor, taking responsibility for all structural, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering works as well as logistics management, stores, de-vegetation, rehabilitation, heritage management, site security, medical services and overall site management.
For the 26 month duration of the project OPEC worked closely with the Australian DoD, Defence’s Technical Advisors, the Project Manager/Contract Administrator, various divisions of the US and Australian military, the general public and numerous Local, State, Commonwealth and International agencies.
There have been few site remediation projects of comparable complexity undertaken by private Australian Contractors, particularly in such a remote and physically challenging location. The project was instrumental in allowing OPEC to develop a set of robust Standard Operating Procedures for the prosecution, handling, storage and destruction of chemical weapons in Australia.