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Massive Amount of Explosive Chemicals Missing in Mojave Desert, Authorities Investigating


30 Tons of Ammonium Nitrate Disappear from Railcar Crossing Midwest

California officials are currently investigating the sudden disappearance of 30 tons (61,000 pounds) of ammonium nitrate, a type of fertilizer that can also be used in creating explosives. This chemical was being transported by train from Cheyenne, Wyoming, but when the railcar arrived at its destination in the Mojave Desert two weeks later, the holding car was empty and the nitrate was gone. This news raises concern that the ammonium nitrate may be used to create bombs and cause harm to the public.

Investigation Underway

The company responsible for shipping the ammonium nitrate, Dyno Nobel, has filed a report with the federal National Response Center (NRC) on May 10. The Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, Union Pacific, and Dyno Nobel are working together to investigate the technology, examine evidence, and conduct thorough inspections of the railcar to determine how and when the chemical disappeared during transit.

Dyno Nobel told KQED News, “The railcar was sealed when it left the Cheyenne facility, and the seals were still intact when it arrived in Saltdale. The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the railcar may have developed in transit.”

Expert Opinions on the Disappearance

Former Wyoming lawmaker and retired train conductor Stan Blake told Cowboy State Daily News that each car has two or three sections with a gate at the bottom. Any trained individual could open the bottom gate and drain the train car of the material. This is concerning because ammonium nitrate can be used to make highly explosive bombs.

David King, a Campbell County emergency management coordinator, told Cowboy State Daily News that it isn’t likely the chemical was stolen and said he doesn’t believe it was gathered to be used to create illegal explosives. “If I was going to make an IED [improvised explosive device], ammonia nitrate wouldn’t be my choice of explosive. It’s not a ‘set your hair on fire’ situation,” he said.

Previous Train Mishaps

This recent disappearance adds to the spate of train incidents that resulted in toxic chemical spills, fires, and mass damage to towns as trains in the Midwest have derailed several times in the last six months. In one case, a spill in East Palestine, Ohio caused widespread panic among residents who were quickly evacuated due to the extreme toxicity of the chemicals spilled.

No Risk to Public Health or the Environment

A Union Pacific spokesperson told Cowboy State Daily News that the loss of the ammonium nitrate should pose no risk to public health or the environment because the fertilizer was released to the ground beneath railroad tracks. However, such an enormous amount of explosive material missing still raises alarm.


An investigation is still ongoing to determine the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 30 tons of ammonium nitrate from a railcar crossing the Midwest. While experts may not believe it was stolen for illegal purposes, such a large amount of missing explosive material raises concern for public safety.


What is ammonium nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate is a type of fertilizer that can also be used to make explosives.

What happened to 30 tons of ammonium nitrate?

30 tons (61,000 pounds) of ammonium nitrate went missing from a railcar that was being transported from Cheyenne, Wyoming to the Mojave Desert. The holding car was empty when it arrived at its destination.

Who is investigating the disappearance of ammonium nitrate?

The Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, Union Pacific, and Dyno Nobel are conducting an investigation together.

Is ammonium nitrate dangerous?

Ammonium nitrate can be used to create highly explosive bombs, which makes the disappearance of such an enormous amount alarming.


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