Demand for recycled M6 is down because of declines in coal mining. Factors in the decline include low natural gas prices, a mild winter and difficulty obtaining permits, said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
Bissett said the coal industry really began to feel the effects in the first quarter of 2012. That would have been around when Explo asked the Louisiana Guard to rent more bunkers, but was turned down because of $400,000 in unpaid bills, Guard officials say.
After the discovery of the improperly stored M6, the Guard let Explo Systems use an additional 22 bunkers, up from 78 it already had, but that still wasn't enough to store it, authorities say. Louisiana authorities are still looking for bunkers to store the M6 that is now in buildings on the base.
Explo has been selling some of the material, but not as fast as authorities would like. Any M6 Explo sells is less that authorities have to worry about."In my personal opinion, I think they defrauded the military on their ability to store this material in Louisiana," Sheriff Sexton said. The Army visited the Louisiana facility at least twice in 2010 after the propellant contract was awarded and two more times in 2011, according to Abney. Records showed no serious problems. But this isn't the first time the company has come under scrutiny. A series of about 10 explosions at the facility caused an evacuation of Doyline in 2006. And in 2007, The Mine Safety and Health Administration said Explo Systems "displayed a reckless disregard for the health and safety of miners" in West Virginia when a blast injured one worker and exposed others to toxins from an old military explosive called tetryl, according to documents reviewed by the AP. The material that caused the evacuation was found by an investigator looking into an October explosion involving a different type of explosive.