NEWS

Authorities concerned at widespread dynamite storage and smuggling

The unrestricted use of and trade in huge quantities of explosives at quarries and mines has become a major security concern. In violation of the law, dynamite that has not been used is not being returned to the supplier, in accordance with a presidential decree, but is being stored in inadequately guarded warehouses at isolated work sites. In some cases, explosives are being traded illegally on the black market to meet the demands of quarry owners who do not have a valid permit to operate and therefore no right to obtain explosives legally. Although security police are supposed to carry out regular checks on quarries and mines, they indirectly admit that they are unable to maintain checks on the illegal storage of explosives in practice, while instances of smuggling are also on the rise. Permits to obtain and use explosives must be renewed every six months. The law states that the owner of the business in question may obtain explosives legally, but must use them on the day they are delivered. Otherwise, they must be returned to the supplier the same day, under special security arrangements. In practice however, police say it is very difficult to enforce the law. The problem is greater in provincial quarries, where distance from the supplier and the strict transport rules result in illegal practices in order to save time and money. «It is not easy to find stored explosives. The layout of quarry sites is such they are impossible to approach without being seen and therefore there can be no element of surprise in inspections,» said a police official. «The managers of the quarries hide the explosives in inaccessible places,» he added. There have also been reports that staff members who know these hiding places steal explosives without the owner’s knowledge to sell on the black market. Others in the sector say there is a black market in explosives to meet the needs of quarry owners who do not have operating licenses, such as the case of a quarry in Markopoulo, Attica, where large quantities of explosives are supplied and used on a regular basis, even though it has no operating license. «The most likely scenario is that it gets dynamite from other quarries that do not use up all their supplies and decide to sell them off,» said a police official who did not rule out the possibility that, in some cases, explosives could be manufactured illegally in mobile workshops, as has been the case in the past. The quantities of explosives bought by businesses in the sector are to a certain extent set by the security police’s weapons and explosives department. The permitted amount, which is stated on the firm’s operating license, also depends on the quantities of the firm’s previous purchases. There are no data on the quantities sold. However, a staff member at a provincial mine told Kathimerini that large work sites could require 500 kilos or even 1 ton of dynamite for just a single explosion. Considering that there are about 2,000 quarries in the country, the total quantity of explosives sold each year amounts to dozens of tons.