A Silent Killer

December 17, 2021

Article contributed by: Palivath Inthavong, Superintendent – P&S Delivery

While fatalities from road accidents, smoking, cancer, and COVID-19 are highly visible on media platforms, deaths and injuries from UXO accidents continue to impact on communities in Lao PDR.

In 2021, Lao PDR has recorded 31 UXO accidents involving 44 injuries and 11 fatalities.

UXO work has been delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak resulting in a higher number of casualties compared to previous years.

In perspective, Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. Over two million tonnes – estimated 270 million – of explosive ordinance was dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973. Up to 30% failed to detonate, and only 1% has been removed or destroyed since 1996.

Sepon mine is situated in one of the most bombed districts in Laos. That is why LXML has integrated UXO clearance as part of our mining operational cycle to ensure employees, community, and our operation are safe from UXO incidents.

Since 1996, LXML has invested US$52 million in UXO clearance and destroyed 60,000 items, of which 90% of these are UXOs – ready to explode on impact.

Over the last decade, the golden rule for the UXO Team is to not dismantle or unnecessarily remove UXOs. They must be destroyed where they are found.

“Everyone in our team understands the high risk associated with our work. Incidents can happen anytime if we don’t follow technical standards” said Palivath Inthavong, P&S Delivery Superintendent. “Any mistake can mean a loss of life. There is no time for second chances so we must take care to ensure our teams are well trained and experienced to carry out this dangerous work.”

LXML’s UXO Team is continuing to work closely with local communities and government authorities to detect and destroy UXO surrounding our operations to make everyone safer.

The team has achieved a milestone of five years injury free performing UXO clearance activities.