Bombs Away

A Los Angeles-based nonprofit is using the weapons of war to clean up battlefields.

Three decades of violence have left the landscape of Afghanistan riddled with land mines, unexploded bombs, and stockpiles of aging guns and ammunition. Now a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group has found a way to turn that raw stuff of war into an asset rather than a threat.Most anti-land-mine organizations spend much of their money importing explosives to detonate the devices they uncover. The Golden West Humanitarian Foundation is taking another approach: It's using the unexploded ordnance itself to do the job. Its Explosive Harvesting System-essentially a $75,000 portable weapons lab-extracts explosive materials from outdated ammunition and converts it into tiny charges, which are later used to detonate land mines. Allan Vosburgh, a retired Army colonel and the director of explosive safety for the organization, says that the new system is not only cheaper but also keeps munitions off the black market. "Every one we get rid of," he says, "is one less thing being used for unwanted purposes."LEARN