Senegal to Move 3,000 Tons of Explosive Chemical From Port

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Senegalese authorities are removing about 3,050 tons of ammonium nitrate — a larger volume of the chemical than involved in the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut — from the port of Dakar.

Trucks are moving the hazardous substance to mines in neighboring Mali, Baba Drame, a Senegalese environment ministry official, said Friday. Mali had taken delivery of 700 tons of the chemical as of Aug. 23, which will be stored at the Loulo-Gounkoto gold mine operated byBarrick Gold Corp., its transport ministry said in an earlier statement.

“Officials were already aware of the large quantity of ammonium nitrate” at the port since July 28, Drame said by phone from Senegal’s capital, Dakar. “After the explosion in Beirut, we decided it was urgent to have it removed,” he said. A London-based Barrick spokesperson declined to comment.

Countries have been beefing up inspections of hazardous chemicals since the Beirut explosion that killed more than 180 people. Around 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate had been stored in a warehouse in the Lebanese city’s port without proper safety measures since late 2013, despite repeated safety warnings.

Within West Africa, Togo plans to inspect warehousing and storage facilities in the region’s biggest container port, authorities said on Aug. 12.

Senegalese President Macky Sall called for a review at the capital’s port at an Aug. 19 cabinet meeting, prompting the ongoing evacuation. The cargo is being moved by road to Mali, despite a blockade against the country that suffered a military coup on Aug. 18.

Ammonium nitrate is exempt from the restrictions, according to Drame. “Mali has large mining operations,” he said. “Thousands of tons of the chemical pass through the port of Dakar to Mali — a landlocked country, every year.”

— With assistance by Kossi Woussou

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