Is Military Planning Blast At Quarry?
Politicians, environmentalists and others are concerned that the U.S. military might conduct a large test explosion at a southern Indiana limestone quarry as soon as next year. Mitchell Mayor Butch Chastain and David Sanders, who is running for the 4th District congressional seat against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Buyer, have planned a news conference Monday to discuss the so-called "Divine Strake" test. The test is scheduled for sometime next year, pending legislation currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate. The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Sept. 5. The $23 million test had been scheduled to take place this summer in the Nevada desert. It would involve detonating 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. However, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency said Aug. 1 it was delaying the controversial project at least until 2007 and considering other locations. Agency spokeswoman Cheri Abdelnour has not said whether the quarry about 70 miles south of Indianapolis is under consideration for the test. However, smaller test explosions using up to 1.5 tons of explosives occurred at Mitchell Quarry in July 2004 and March 2005 as part of a project the military dubbed the Tunnel Target Defeat Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration. Timothy Baer of the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition told 25 people at the Monroe County Public Library on Friday that he believes the military plans to use the quarry for the Divine Strake. The test could help develop weapons to penetrate hardened, deeply buried targets. "This is the largest conventional explosion ever," Baer said. The explosion could harm the region's underlying cave system, Baer said. "It's likely going to do irreparable damage," he said.