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Munitions plant on ‘bang’

Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) has confirmed there was no explosive-related incident at the Somerset West depot during the early hours of last Wednesday morning (30 September).

The confirmation comes after reports of “a loud bang” heard by surrounding communities.

According to a media statement released on Wednesday morning, RDM said the loud noise or bang heard by the surrounding community had come from the burning grounds facility at its Somerset West site around 00:20 on Wednesday morning.

“This facility is a waste destruction facility for the controlled burning of explosive waste materials,” it explained. “The waste material that was burnt last night was high explosives that could result in a loud noise or ‘bang’ when burnt.

“Whereas, the burning of our other products usually results in smoke or flames. Due to the wind-still conditions last night the noise travelled excessively further than usual.”

The statement pointed out that the burning grounds are a controlled facility that usually operates on a Tuesday and Thursday evening, weather dependant.

This is used to destroy explosive waste material in a controlled manner. Waste material cannot be disposed at off-site landfill facilities and therefore all explosive manufacturing sites have destruction facilities on the premises.

“Our facility holds licences from the City of Cape Town and Department of Labour which permits and regulates this activity,” said RDM. “Due to the variety and nature of the products being burnt, there will be large flames and/or clouds of smoke from time to time. We predominantly burn at night as previously mentioned, due to the favourable wind conditions.

“Our facility is situated along the coastline and we have strong winds on most days that pose a fire risk. The facility has water sprayers all round, our internal RDM fire department does standby and we notify the City of Cape Town Fire department when we operate this facility as a standard protocol.

“The company is sensitive to the concerns of the surrounding community and wishes to reaffirm there is no current risk or existing threat, and that the process being followed is normal. We recognise it was an unusually loud noise and we apologise for any inconvenience or disturbance caused.”

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