Banjawarn Station is a remote cattle station that previously operated as a sheep station in Western Australia. In the 1990s Banjawarn was owned by the Aum Shinrikyo and following the Tokyo subway attack was the subject of an Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation. Banjawarn is one of the seventy largest stations in Australia.
It is situated 220 miles (350 km) north of Kalgoorlie and 500 miles (800 km) north east of Perth, on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert in the community of Leonora. It covers an area of 404,680 hectares (999,986 acres).
The land is a mix of Wanderrie, mulga, saltbush and grasslands that support both annual and perennial grasses. Gum trees and mulga follow the four main creeks and other watercourses. Several waterholes and lake systems are also found on the property.
The station was established in 1903 and has had several owners.
In 1928 Banjawarn was owned by the Warren brothers and was supporting a flock of 1,000 sheep.
Wool produced at the station was bought for a record price of 91d per pound in 1948. The station sold a total of 19 bales of AAA combings for the record price. The station, owned by A.A. Warren sold another nine bales of AAA for 84d. per pound.
A new record price for greasy wool of 128d was reached in May 1950 for 5 bales of AAA combings from Banjawarn by French buyers Kreglinger and Ferneau.
It was owned for a year in 1993 by the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult. In 2010 the leasees were Colvin and Adele Day, Banjawarn is operating under the Crown Lease number CL135-1987 and has the Land Act number LA3114/1212. It was for sale in 2013, with an asking price of A$2.5 million. The property was carrying a herd of about 2,500 head of droughtmaster, shorthorn and brahman cattle.
Aum Shinrikyo was a Japanese doomsday cult responsible for a range of criminal and terrorist acts. In April 1993 they purchased Banjawarn and built a facility there. "The Chairwoman for the aboriginal community living near the sheep station, Phyllis Thomas, said that she and other Aborigines saw about five people wearing full-length suits and helmets on the remote site in late August 1993. The suited sect members were standing by a twin engine airplane and others were in the plane."
In September 1993 a team of Aum scientists arrived in Australia with mislabeled hydrochloric acid among other chemicals.
- The Aum group traveled with chemicals and mining equipment on which they paid over $20,000 in excess baggage fees. According to the Australian Federal Police report, among the baggage was a mechanical ditch digger, picks, petrol generators, gas masks, respirators, and shovels. A Customs duty of over $15,000 was paid to import these items. Because of the large amount of excess baggage being brought in by the group, Australian Customs searched the entire group. This search revealed four liters of concentrated hydrochloric acid, including some in containers marked as hand soap. Among the other chemicals that Australian customs officials found were ammonium chloride, sodium sulphate, perchloric acid, and ammonium water. All of the chemicals and some of the laboratory equipment were seized by Australian authorities.
New chemicals were purchased in Australia, and a research facility of unknown purpose was established at the site. When raided by the Australian government in 1995, it contained computers and laboratory equipment.
The Australian government, finding that the wells in the region were not operating properly, demanded that a manager be hired to take care of the sheep. The Aum group complied. In early 1994 the research equipment was removed and replaced with sheep farms. The Aum group demanded that they would be the only ones to shear the sheep. 2000 sheep were shorn and sold to a slaughterhouse. "The manager did not witness any experiments or mineral exploration."
The site was sold in October 1994. On 20 March 1995, the Aum group released toxic sarin gas into part of the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 people and injuring over 1000. In the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that they had purchased the Banjawarn Station, and so the AFP examined the site.
The site also contained the corpses of a number of sheep that showed signs of exposure to sarin. The soil in the area contained traces of methylphosphonic acid, a residue of sarin use. The conclusion was that Banjawarn had been used as a test site for chemical weapons use.
On the night of 28 May 1993 a mysterious seismic disturbance was detected in Western Australia and found to have emanated from south of Banjawarn.
The event sent shock waves through hundreds of miles of desert but was witnessed only by a few long-distance truck drivers and gold prospectors. They reported seeing a fireball in the sky and hearing a protracted low-frequency sound. The cause of the event remained a mystery, however.
A asteroid impact would have left a large crater, perhaps 300 yards (270 m) across, none of which was found. Alternatively, a bolide, or air burst, caused by a stony asteroid of up to some tens of meters in diameter, would not have reached the surface but likely would have exploded in the atmosphere, creating a large shock wave but not an impact crater. This option, the possibility of which was driven home by the widely observed February 2013 Russian meteor event, would have led to measurements and observations that are entirely consistent with data and eyewitness reports, far more so than a seismic disturbance, which would be difficult to reconcile with fireball sightings.
A mine explosion was unlikely, as it was 170 times more powerful than the largest mining explosion known in Australia up to that time. The Urban Geoscience Division of the Australian Geological Survey Organisation determined that the seismic traces of the event "showed similar characteristics consistent with typical seismic activity for Western Australia," and that the event was most likely an earthquake.
Following the revelation that Banjawarn was owned by the Aum, there was also speculation in 1997 that this event might have been the result of a test explosion of a nuclear device they had built. The event was determined to have had the strength of "a small nuclear explosion, perhaps equal to up to 2,000 tons of high explosives". It was known that Aum were interested in developing nuclear as well as chemical weapons, as they had recruited two nuclear engineers from the former Soviet Union and had been mining uranium at Banjawarn. This was reported in 1997 in the New York Times. However, the AFP investigation found no evidence of this or of any equipment that might indicate such research.
- List of ranches and stations
- List of pastoral leases in Western Australia
- List of the largest stations in Australia
- "Banjawarn Station Leonora". 1 June 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- "Banjawarn - 1,000,000 acres (404,680ha)". No Agent Property. 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Appendix I - The Rangelands' Sub-regions" (PDF). 28 February 2005. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- "The Pastoralist". Western Mail. Perth, Western Australia: National Library of Australia. 7 June 1928. p. 44. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- "Record 9 ld. For WA Wool.". The Daily News. Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 14 June 1948. p. 1 Edition: HOME. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- "Wa Wool Jumps To New Record, 9ld.". The Daily News. Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 14 June 1948. p. 10. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- "French bids twice break WA's record wool price.". The Daily News. Perth, Western Australia: National Library of Australia. 15 May 1950. p. 2 Edition: Final. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Talk about Town.". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954). Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 8 August 1954. p. 6 Supplement: MAGAZINE. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- William J. Broad, "Seismic Mystery in Australia: Quake, Meteor or Nuclear Blast?", New York Times, Jan 21, 1997
- "Did the Aum Shinrikyo cult detonate an atom bomb in Australia?" Cecil Adams, The Straight Dope, 17 August 2001