In an initiative that promotes the fight against the illegal use of explosives, AECI Mining Explosives has partnered with Vapor Wake K9 South Africa by providing them with explosives samples to assist in training their dogs.
Criminal activities that involve the use of illicit explosives in South Africa, especially cash-in-transit (CIT) heists and ATM bombings, have been on the rise in recent years, and have been dubbed a national emergency. To provide context, at least one CIT heist a day was recorded between January and mid-February this year.
Although there was a complete lull in the number of CIT cases recorded during the hard lockdown, there has been a dramatic increase in CIT robberies following the relaxation of lockdown regulations.
Meanwhile, terrorist attacks using explosives endanger public safety on a large-scale, and can severely impact the economic and political stability of any country. The fast detection of explosives from the vapor phase would be one way to enhance the protection of society against terrorist attacks.
To help combat these problems, AECI Mining Explosives has provided commercial explosives to help Vapor Wake K9 South Africa (VWK9SA) train its dogs. VWK9SA is South Africa’s largest and locally-owned, fully operational explosive detection patrol K9 Company.
The company provides world-class Vapor Wake K9 trained dogs specialising in explosives and narcotics detection, as well as tactically trained dogs for security purposes.
Brad Wood, owner of VWK9SA, explains that Vapor Wake K9 teams are the most effective counter-measures available for the detection of explosives.
The Vapor Wake K9 teams consist of a SACAA-certified K9 and handler, and are experts in conducting searches for a variety of explosive materials in the vicinity of numerous assigned facilities.
“Vapor Wake K9 teams play a critical role in comprehensive preventative security measures, by supporting strategic explosive detection activities,” says Wood.
“They also provide immediate and specialised responses to bomb threats where unattended packages at airports, for example, or other dangerous items are detected.”
Wood commends AECI Mining Explosives for the provision of samples of commercial explosives that are crucial in the training of dogs.
“AECI’s involvement in this initiative goes a long way in strengthening our training regime, which is really important in fulfilling our mandate,” he says.
Michelle le Roux, Marketing Manager at AECI Mining, is impressed by the work being done by the VWK9SA team and their dogs.
“It’s really a passion for them and they treat these dogs like family. The dogs are heroes with a nose, and we commend them for sniffing illicit explosives out of communities. We at AECI Mining are glad to be part of such a great initiative,” she says.
Christo Peltz, Risk and Safety Manager at AECI Mining Explosives, explains that the products supplied by AECI Explosives range from pyrotechnics to propellants and various other types of high-impact explosives. However, there are plans to supply non-commercially available compounds as well.
“We are not only supplying popular commercial explosives but have also undertaken to prepare explosive compounds in a registered explosives laboratory,” says Peltz.
This is considerably important as the materials used in terror attacks, for example, are sometimes prepared in illegal basement/backyard operations and could be downright dangerous and inherently unstable and are therefore not available commercially.
“We have the ability to produce these energetic materials in a licenced, controlled and safe manner, and provide small, safe amounts of the materials and legally dispose of them once their purpose is served,” he says.
The amounts required for training of the dogs are relatively small. A few grams of each material is sufficient, explains Peltz. The persons receiving the explosives, he adds, also need to be in possession of an explosives permit, issued by the SAPS explosives inspectorate.
This permit stipulates the quantity and type of explosive that may be provided. The persons receiving the materials also have the legal obligation to store the explosives in a safe and secure manner to prevent unauthorised access. VWK9SA is fully accredited with the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority, SAPS Explosives Section and the South African Civil Aviation Authority.
Towards Zero Harm
AECI Mining has a few years ago embarked on a journey towards Zero Harm. The company’s aspiration in this regard is ‘to operate sustainably, without harm to people, the environment and the communities in which we operate’.
“As you can see from this aspiration, we include the community. As a supplier of explosives we believe there is a social responsibility to assist initiatives that work to keep the community safe from the illegal use of explosives.
“We work very closely with the South African Police Services’ explosives division and the Department of Employment and Labour to ensure that explosives are manufactured, handled, stored, supplied, used and even destroyed in such a manner to keep our communities safe. Collaboration with VWK9SA is a natural flow from this philosophy,” concludes Peltz.