The second largest small arms propellant manufacturer in the world remains evacuated as a French hazardous materials company slowly continues to wet down and clear the site, hoping to avoid triggering a secondary blast or fire. An exclusion area extending 350 meters from the perimeter of the factory affecting 31 homes has been mandated until Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 PM, and may be extended. A local news site says it impossible to know when the clean-up will be finished, as each step of the clean-up has to be verified before they can advance.
The PB Clermont facility in Belgium was rocked by an explosion the evening of March 5 at 5:00 PM local time, after most of the plant’s employees had gone home for the weekend. The blast destroyed a building that grinds rifle propellant components, and injured two employees.
Pierre Buttiens, Commercial Director for PB Clermont, issued this statement to Bearing Arms today:
The explosion has destroyed one of the 107 building of the company.
The production is stopped at the moment as we are investigating the origin of the accident.
We will resume the production when the causes will be identified and then we will be in a position to restart the production without risks for all stakeholders.
Confidentiality agreements signed by PB Clermont with their customers prevent the company from telling us which ammunition companies in Europe and the United States will be directly affected by the factory shutting down.
Bearing Arms discovered last week that Barnual uses PB Clermont propellant in two rifle cartridges, and a commenter on an industry forum discussing the blast suggests that a number of major European ammunition manufacturers will be affected, as well as U.S. manufacturers.
One hopeful estimate suggests that the company’s rifle propellant line will be out of commission for just 90 days, though few industry sources seem to believe that this is a realistic figure.
While we’re merely speculating—and want to make it very clear that we’re speculating—the damage done to key machinery inside the plant is likely the deciding factor on when the plant may resume production. Construction on a new building will likely take months, but the replacement of relatively rare equipment might take longer if it has to be fabricated from scratch.