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Okanagan Indian Band clearing decades-old unexploded ammunition near Vernon

07/21/2015 05:26 EDT | Updated 07/21/2016 05:59 EDT
Members of the Okanagan Indian Band are learning to detect and locate unexploded military ammunition so they can help clear their reserve near Vernon, B.C.

Canada's military used the ranges at Goose and Madeline lakes to train soldiers to fire live ammunition until about 30 years ago. 

Over the past century, there have been 11 casualties from people finding unexploded ordnances in the area.

The Department of National Defense is training nine band members to locate the ammunition.

Okanagan Indian Band member Don Louis has helped find and pull 44 live mortars in the past year alone. He's also collected nearly 5,000 kilograms of metal from the hills.

"We've found the two and three-inch mortars, we've found the 25-pounders, shrapnel, bazooka rocket ends. A variety of old ordnance, just laying in the ground," said Louis.

The risk posed by the ammunition means that 1,500 hectares of the Okanagan Indian Band's 11,000-hectare territory is too dangerous to use for anything other than range land. 

"There is always a risk digging these out," said Louis. "Some of them contain high explosives."

Louis says it'll take 15 to 20 years to free all the range land from the danger lurking in the ground. 

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