Munitions dumps 'kill more' than landmines: UK firm seeks cash to clear them

John Reid is the man who developed those little security tags that go "beep" when thieves do a runner out of shops. By Reid's own admission, that made him "a lot of money".

Opening up his laptop – and once past the screensaver of Gnasher, his black Labrador – he shows images of where his current business interest lies: big, unexploded munitions. He has pictures of thousands of munitions stored haphazardly near a port in Central Europe. Holiday homes sit on the clifftops above.

If just one of these munitions explodes, the others will go off. "It is a catastrophe waiting to happen," says Reid. "Already there are a lot more people killed by munitions stockpiles than by landmines, which have received a lot more attention because of the likes of Princess Diana's campaign."

No one can be certain just how many of these munitions there are worldwide, but the consequence of war is that they can be measured in the tens of millions of tons. There are 2.5 million tons in Lithuania alone, says Reid.

The munitions are difficult to destroy. Typically, they have to be taken to fixed buildings where they are decommissioned. The travel involved makes this a time-consuming – and potentially highly dangerous – process.

Disarmco, Reid's company, is trying to raise funds to develop a mobile facility – a much cheaper alternative as about half the cost of destroying munitions derives from transportation.

Reid, although founder of Disarmco, is chief technical officer ("I'm more your oily-rag type"). He says he and managing director John FitzGerald are in talks with India to develop 19 of the units. Without allowing for bulk discount, these would be sold for about £4m each, and Reid claims a margin in "the very high double-digits".

Even more money would be made out of the decommissioning process itself. Although Disarmco, as a UK company, would be unable to operate the system in a separate sovereign state, it could team up with local firms. In India, Tata, the conglomerate that owns steelmaker Corus and the Land Rover and Jaguar brands, is interested.

Each unit can process about 7,000 tons of munitions a year. The cost is $1,400 (£715) a ton, meaning potential revenues of nearly $10m a unit every year.

The snag is, Disarmco lacks the money to develop the product, thanks to the universal debt-market squeeze. Disarmco has worked with the fund management business Pre-X Capital through the Enterprise Investment Scheme. "We raised nothing like enough," sighs Reid.

The company is now in talks with the likes of Close Ventures and high net-worth institutions for the latest round of fundraising. Reid wants £1.5m to build a prototype, and once the system "is demonstrable", Disarmco will try to raise £10m after Christmas. This would be used to build the first tranche of units.

If successful, Reid's ultimate aim is to sell up or to float the company. "I have no ego about owning this business. This is going to be gobbled up by one of the big defence companies."

And that, like anti-theft devices, is sure to snag Reid another lot of money.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine