Scrap metal search a risky business

The “UXO Rush” Attracts Diggers Despite the Risks

In the southern province of Vinh Long, people are continuing to search for ordnance at the former military airport, disregarding warnings and bans from authorities. 14-year-old Nguyen Hoang Anh and his father are among the diggers who sift through piles of dirt, looking for live copper-coated bullets, bombs, mines, rockets, and airplane remains to sell as scrap. Despite the risks of explosions and landslides, these individuals prioritize money over their safety, earning a few hundred thousand dong per day, and in some cases, even millions of dong from live bullets.

UXO Salvage in Vinh Long: The Dangers of Searching for Scrap


The “UXO rush” has attracted a diverse group of people, including teenagers, fathers, women, and even a former pedicab driver who turned to digging after the ban. The former airport was given to Vinh Long Province by Military Zone 9 in 2006, but UXO clearing was halted last year and has been unsupervised since. Recently, three men were killed by UXOs in Gia Lai Province and a couple was killed by a Vietnam War-era artillery shell they planned to sell as scrap.

The Ministry of Public Security reports that over 38,000 Vietnamese have been killed and 100,000 injured by unexploded ordnance since the end of the Vietnam War. Salvaging ordnance for scrap is a common practice in poor areas of Vietnam, but it is also a dangerous and deadly one. Authorities urge people to stay away from the former military airport and not to engage in UXO scavenging for their own safety.


■ About 600,000 tons of unexploded ordnance, left over from the Vietnam War, remains scattered around the country.

■ Since the end of the last war in 1975, more than 38,000 Vietnamese people have been killed and 100,000 injured by unexploded ordnance, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

■ Salvaging ordnance to sell as scrap metal is common practice in many of Vietnam’s poor areas.

■ In addition to the value of scrap, some collectors are able to resell live artillery.


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