Australia finds 140 World War II mustard gas shells

Over 140 munitions containing mustard gas buried during World War II were recently excavated from a property in Queensland, Australia.

Australian government officials have made arrangements to have the chemical weapons destroyed using controlled detonation, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The cleanup of the munitions, which is the largest find of its kind made in Australia, will begin next month. Parliamentary Secretary for Defense David Feeney said that the government would inform the local community about the removal and destruction of the mustard gas, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s important that the local community is kept fully informed of the work Defense is doing to safely destroy the munitions, and ensure no others remain buried on site,” Feeney said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The chemical munitions were found at Columboola on the site of a World War II ammunition dump for the United States that is currently owned by a mining company. The U.S. has provided military experts to test and identify the munitions.

Milsearch, a Canberra-based company that specializes in the disposal of unexploded ordnance, will undertake the destruction. The process to destroy the munitions is called controlled detonation, which uses explosives to destroy the mustard gas within a large steel container.

Mustard gas can cause severe blisters and damage to the lungs and other organs if it is inhaled. Like all chemical weapons, it has been banned. Experts expect no risk will be posed to the public.

“The risk from mustard agent is only to those who come in direct contact with the munitions and who are not wearing the required protective equipment,” Feeney said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.