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Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 19:16:17 CST
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
From: Frank Sayre <dnedre@netshop.net>
Subject: Landmines and Mine Clearance Technologies

From: Chris Scheurweghs <scheurwe@stc.nato.int>

AM 314
STC (95) 13

Landmines and Mine Clearance Technologies

By Mr. Vehbi Dincerler (Turkey), Special Rapporteur

International Secretariat, October 1995




Anti-Personnel Mines
A. Conventional Anti-Personnel Mines
B. Improved Conventional Anti-Personnel Mines
C. Scatterable Anti-Personnel Mines
D. Self-Disabling Mines
A. The Human Cost
B. The Economic Cost
C. Restrictions on Peacekeeping and Reconstruction
A. Mine Breaching
B. Mine Clearance
C. Improving Mine Clearance Techniques

ANNEX : Glossary of Terms

Thousands of lives are lost to explosions; entire regions are denied basic services because repairs to infrastructure are impeded; humanitarian aid shipments are disrupted; and societies are thrown into chaos.

The world must recognize the landmine problem for what it is: a global crisis."(1)


1. In February 1995, the Sub-Committee on the Proliferation of Military Technology was briefed by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross on the grave problems created by landmines. The political and arms control aspects of this subject are being addressed by the Defence and Security Committee, but it was felt that it would be useful for the Scientific and Technical Committee to lend its support by preparing a short Report addressing the technical nature of the landmine problem.

2. An estimated 65 to 110 million landmines have been planted in over 60 countries, and the figure is growing by almost two million per year,(3) while 100 million more have been stockpiled in readiness for use. In contrast, in 1993, about 130,000 mines were cleared, approximately 84,000 by United Nations teams and another 46,000 by other agencies. Just to clear the mines now in place would take between 500 and 850 years at present rates of mine clearance. But since the current rate of mine laying far outstrips the rate of mine clearance, the problem simply continues to get worse.

3. This Report describes the nature of the main types of landmines and the measures being taken to clear them.


4. Mines have become an integral part of warfare and a weapon that the military are reluctant to give up. The first types were large, pressure-activated devices used to counter armoured vehicles. These types were relatively easy to locate and remove by hand, but the process was time-consuming so the presence of a mine field could greatly impede an armoured advance. 5. As is normally the case in military technology, measures lead to the development of counter-measures and the first anti-personnel mines were designed to keep enemy mine clearers away from anti-armour devices. Subsequently, anti-personnel mines became used more extensively and for purposes other than protecting anti-armour devices. They are now used to deny freedom of movement to infantry and to protect specific military targets. They are also used widely in civil wars to disrupt the economy and cause maximum distress, death and dislocation to communities. Approximately 75 per cent of all uncleared mines are anti-personnel mines, and it is this category of landmine which has caused most concern.

Anti-Personnel Mines

6. There are three broad classes of anti-personnel mines: conventional anti-personnel mines, "improved" conventional anti-personnel mines and scatterable anti-personnel mines.(4)

A. Conventional Anti-Personnel Mines

7. Based on designs from the 1940s-1960s, conventional anti-personnel mines are very cheap to produce. Depending upon the specific type, they can be manufactured using mass production techniques or in a basement workshop. They are usually activated by pressure or by a trip-wire and are laid by hand (thus allowing a record to be made of a mine field's position, if so desired). Conventional anti-personnel mines are normally simple blast mines. These are frequently lethal to the person who treads on them and they can wound bystanders with flying fragments of shrapnel.

B. Improved Conventional Anti-Personnel Mines

8. Conventional anti-personnel mines have been refined in many ways. Fragmentation mines shoot small pieces of metal - ball bearings or fragments from the mine casing - into the air upon activation causing a more widespread effect. Some types, usually triggered by a trip wire, are directional, blasting the fragments into a pre-determined arc. Others, known as bounding mines, shoot the fragmentation bomblet upwards to about groin height before the explosive charge detonates. Fragments from these can be lethal at ranges of up to 200 metres.

9. Some types are designed to maim and wound rather than kill in order to hamper attacking forces more effectively. (Injured combatants impose a heavier burden on support service.)

10. Another refinement is to construct the mine using little or no metal. If no metal is used, the mine is known as a "plastic" mine. Mines of this sort are extremely difficult to detect using conventional mine clearance techniques. Mine clearance efforts can also be hindered by fitting anti-disturbance devices so that the mine detonates if tampered with.

C. Scatterable Anti-Personnel Mines

11. Scatterable anti-personnel mines can be dropped from aircraft or special artillery projectiles to cover a wide area or they can even be launched from a hand- held weapon. These means of delivery make it impossible to tell with any degree of precision where they have been sown. These mines have evolved rapidly during the last 15 years and have blurred the distinction between anti-personnel and anti-tank weapons since some types can be used against armour or personnel. The development of certain types has required considerable research and development thus introducing a strong incentive for their producers to pursue new export markets.(5) As with the conventional anti-personnel mines, scatterable anti-personnel mines can use a simple explosion to kill their victims or they can include fragmentation devices.(6)

D. Self-Disabling Mines

12. Many mines were developed for use on a rapidly changing battlefield. Concepts of operations included using mines to protect the flanks of advancing forces; to impede retreating forces; and to blunt offensive thrusts. For some of these operations, friendly forces could be expected to occupy the territory where mines had been laid. Designers therefore introduced self- disabling mines. One technique is to permit the detonation of mines using remote control, perhaps a coded radio signal. (This could also allow the mine to be detonated when it could still affect hostile forces.) Another technique is to use a timing device which detonates the mine after a certain time.

13. Other mines use self-neutralizing techniques (whereby an internal mechanism disables the triggering device) or self-deactivating methods (whereby the mine renders itself inoperable by venting an essential component). Another technique is to use self-destructing mines which explode after a pre- determined period of time.(7) The prolonged devastation that mines have caused in regions long freed from hostilities has led to calls for all mines to incorporate self-disabling techniques of this kind.

14. Since the landmine problem has achieved such a high profile and proposals have been made to outlaw mines which do not have disabling mechanisms, some Western companies have been switching their production to the manufacture of self-disabling mines in the belief that they will soon be the "mine of choice", and the cheaper, "everlasting" mines made in the Third World will be outlawed. (8)

15. In fact, self-disabling mines are not a panacea for the landmine problem. The failure rate for disabling devices is as high as 20 per cent, but an area is not considered clear unless 99 per cent (9)of the mines are cleared. Thus, a mined area still has to be swept even if self-disabling mines were used to mine it. And clearance methods cannot distinguish between disabled and active mines so every mine still has to be located.


A. The Human Cost

16. The indiscriminate nature of mine laying in many countries has ensured that killing and disruption continue long after hostilities have ceased. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 800 people per month are killed by landmines and 1,000 to 1,500 are injured. Furthermore, the injuries sustained are frequently horrific, involving the loss of limbs, genitalia, and/or eye-sight. The main casualties are civilians.

17. Injury occurs when a victim steps on a mine, is within the vicinity of a mine and receives fragment wounds, or is handling a mine. Pressure-activated blast mines predominantly injure the legs and genitals. Directional, bounding and stake (10) mines can blast fragments into any part of the body. The further away the victim is from the core explosion, the more likely one is to receive fragment wounds, rather than blast wounds. (11)

18. Death from landmines can depend on many factors: the type of mine, the time taken to reach medical help, the type of footwear worn by the victim and the type of help available.(12) Some explosions will blast off a leg, but not kill outright. If the victim is not killed immediately, death can follow swiftly from blood loss or secondary infections. (Earth and clothing are often blasted into the victim's body.)

19. Those who survive usually require surgery which often involves amputating a leg, both legs or an arm. In Angola it is estimated that there are 70,000 landmine amputees (nearly 1 per cent of the population) and a further ten million unexploded landmines, one for every inhabitant. In Cambodia, mine injuries have left over 30,000 amputees in a country with a population of eight million.

20. The presence of thousands of amputees within a country places a heavy and continuing medical burden on the community. Many war-ravaged states cannot fund a comprehensive healthcare system and often cannot even provide victims with a prosthesis which typically costs about $125. As a result amputees often remain limbless and difficult to rehabilitate. With the economic problems that result from war, the amputees become a burden on their families and a drain on a feeble economy. The psychological problems that can result from the loss of a limb and the hardship of new circumstances are often untreated.

B. The Economic Cost

21. Landmines are no longer planted simply for purely military purposes. High civilian casualties are not just a result of overeager mine sowers in wartime but are part of a deliberate strategy. Mines are planted with the intention of maximizing economic disruption, particularly in civil wars. Mines are therefore strewn around wells and within fields used for agricultural production. The land is thus made useless and those who are not blown up trying to get water or produce food, are starved and often flee the country. Even after the end of a war, until an area is clear of mines, normal agricultural activity cannot be revived. In Afghanistan, for instance, large tracts of land are likely to remain unproductive for decades due to the estimated ten million unexploded mines which need to be removed.

22. To remedy the problem, mined areas must be cleared but the expense of comprehensive mine clearance is beyond the means of many affected countries, and others are unwilling to devote the resources to that purpose.(13)

C. Restrictions on Peacekeeping and Reconstruction

23. The presence of mines in a country receiving humanitarian aid, or with peacekeepers on their soil, introduces immense difficulties into the attempt to bring relief to a crisis-stricken state. In Angola the UN Military Observers are not able to monitor ceasefire agreements because their ability to travel is restricted by the threat of undiscovered mines. In Mozambique and Cambodia, humanitarian agencies are unable to return refugees to their homes and begin the process of rebuilding local infrastructure.

24. Landmines, incidentally, are the second leading cause of operational death for UN troops serving in Bosnia, just after shelling. As with civilians, the peacekeepers can be victims of a widespread and unrecorded sowing of mines.


25. The United Nations currently co-ordinates programmes for mine clearance, awareness and training in eight countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Somalia. However, the $27 million spent on clearing operations in 1994 had little impact on the problem globally.

26. The total number of active mines is rising by 1.9 million per year and mine disposal can cost from $300 to $1,000 per unit, and the aggregate cost of destroying them is rising by up to almost $2 billion per year.(14) The simple fact is that mine clearance is painstaking, time-consuming and expensive.

A. Mine Breaching

27. On the battlefield, mine breaching is the usual military response to landmines. The purpose of mine breaching is simply to clear a path through a mined area to allow forces to pass through it. This can be achieved in a number of ways. One is simply to blast a path using explosives or artillery and another is to use specialized vehicles equipped with heavy rollers or flails which beat the ground.

28. Mine breaching is militarily effective but it does not leave the whole area safe for subsequent use. It can leave damaged mines in or around the path created and typically only clears a few per cent of the total mines laid in the area.

B. Mine Clearance

29. Mine clearance, on the other hand, tries to create truly safe areas, free of at least 99 per cent the mines laid. Unfortunately, while mine technology has progressed rapidly over the last few decades, mine clearance methods have remained virtually unchanged since the 1940s.

30. The main mine clearance tools are still trained personnel equipped with metal detectors, dogs and sticks. Metal detectors pick up the metallic content of the mine, dogs sniff out mines, and the ground is prodded with sticks by the mine clearers to locate the mines. This done, the mines are unearthed and deactivated or exploded. These methods are basic and although this makes them generally applicable, it also means that they are slow, far from reliable and often dangerous. Plastic mines are particularly difficult to deal with, and the risk of death and injury to the mine clearers is continually present. The current generation of metal detectors produces about 15 false alarms per find,(15) and mine clearers typically suffer one casualty for every 2,000 mines cleared. Incidentally, locally trained and hired mine clearance personnel typically earn $6,000 per year and foreign experts up to 30 times that amount.

C. Improving Mine Clearance Techniques

31. One person clearing mines by hand can clear an area of 20 to 50 square metres per day. If conditions are suitable, a vehicle equipped with flails can cover about 15,000 square metres per day, but the clearance rate is often much lower. If the landmine problem is to be reduced significantly, clearance experts estimate that techniques must be developed to improve clearance rates by a factor of about fifty. Several technologies are being investigated which could lead to substantial improvements in mine clearance rates, but it is not yet clear whether they would achieve a fifty-fold improvement.

32. South Africa is at the forefront of mine clearance technology. It has had to cope with large numbers of mines and has devoted a great deal of effort to the problem. South Africa has developed a range of vehicles that is relatively immune to mine explosions and can operate more freely in mined areas.(16) These vehicles have been used as part of the Mechem Explosives and Drug Detection System (MEDDS) which has proved to be highly effective in detecting mines. Essentially, vehicles cover large areas taking air samples and use a variety of technologies including the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate precisely where each sample was taken. Specially trained dogs then identify which samples contain traces of explosives and the relevant areas are then swept using mainly traditional techniques (including dogs to locate individual mines). This technique is approximately four times more rapid than clearance using free-running dogs. One novel approach also used is to lay an inflatable bag over a mined area using a remotely controlled vehicle. The bag is then filled with fuel- air explosive which is then detonated. The pressure wave sets off the mines in vicinity of the bag.

33. Using techniques such as these, South African teams have been able to clear an average of 20 kilometres of road per day compared with other teams who have only managed a few hundred kilometres in six months.(17)

34. Research is being conducted into a variety of other mine detection and clearance techniques. These include thermal and radar imaging and chemical sensors; biologically-based sensors (certain types of animal muscle tissue produce a distinct response to extremely low concentrations of explosives); and more sensitive magnetic detectors. Some of these techniques might be sufficiently sensitive to locate mines from aircraft which would permit large areas to be covered rapidly. Research is also being conducted into the chemical neutralization of mines and more advanced mechanical devices for mine clearance.

35. This research is being conducted in many nations, but levels of funding are relatively modest. The United States, for instance, spends about $10 million per year on new mine clearing technologies. Even so, there are welcome signs of technological progress. In July 1995, at the United Nations International Meeting on Mine Clearance, the United States announced new methods for removing landmines. These included improved mine rollers and blades, sonar and ground penetrating radar and chemical devices that can "sniff" the explosives in anti-personnel mines. To help de- mining teams, the United States Defense Department has also produced a CD-ROM compendium of every known landmine from the last 50 years. Using this, 675 different types of mines can be visualized and identified.(18) NATO, incidentally, is pursuing international co-operation on systems to detect and neutralize mines and mine fields as a matter of priority in the Conference of National Armaments Directors.


36. It is relevant to raise a few additional points related to landmines. One particularly important point is the problem of mines laid by terrorists. Terrorists bombs have plagued many societies all over the world. One consequence of developing new techniques for detecting explosives is that these techniques might find applications in dealing with bombs planted by terrorists, and this possibility should provide additional impetus to promote explosive detection techniques.

37. It is also relevant to point out that several manufacturers of commercial explosives have agreed to add chemical "tags" to their products. This enables the source of explosives used by terrorists to be traced. It would be well worth exploring the feasibility of placing similar chemical tags in military explosives. This would help to identify the source of weapons acquired illicitly, even if the weapons - such as bombs and landmines - had been made by cannibalizing military ordnance. By the same token, it might be possible to use specific isotopes to permit tagging using radiological methods.

38. In conclusion, it must be stressed that although most public attention to the landmine problem is focused on Africa and Southeast Asia, the problem is truly global. To cite just two other examples, the Croatian government estimates that almost one third of its country is plagued by up to one million landmines with partiuclarly heavy concentrations at river crossing sites and lines of communication. In 1993, 42 people were killed and 195 people were seriously injured by mines. In Turkey, Iraq laid many mines along the border between Turkey and Iraq between 1988 and 1991. Many of these are on the Turkish side of the border. Turkey itself uses mines as defensive measure along its borders with Iraq and Syria as well as on infiltration routes used by the outlawed Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK). The PKK has also laid mines on transportation routes in Eastern Turkey.(19)

39. The problems posed by large numbers of mines laid in various regions of the world is of grave concern. The tragic human costs are enormous, and every effort must be made to deal with mines already in place and restrict the emplacement of further mines. This matter is being addressed in fora such as the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the North Atlantic Assembly. This Report is intended to highlight the problems for the members of the Assembly's Scientific and Technical Committee. The Committee will no doubt wish to join the Rapporteur in expressing wholehearted support for the work of the Defence and Security Committee in addressing this issue.


Glossary of Terms (20)


Any munition designed and manufactured to be detonated after it has been laid by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person or vehicle.
Self-Destructing Mine
A mine that automatically destroys itself by means of an incorporated mechanism.
Self-Neutralizing Mine
A mine that automatically renders itself inoperable by means of an incorporated mechanism.
Command-Destructing Mine
A mine that can be detonated by a remotely delivered command.
Self-Deactivating Mine
A mine that automatically renders itself inoperable by means of exhaustion of a component of the mine that is essential to the operation of the mine.
Non-Reconstitutable Mine
A self-deactivating, self-neutralizing, or command- neutralizing mine that, once it has self-deactivated, self-neutralized, or command-neutralized, cannot be re- activated by means available outside its manufacturing plant or a comparable facility.
Self-Eliminating Mine
A mine that is self-destructing, self-deactivating, and non-reconstitutable.


The complete removal of all landmines from an area in order to safeguard civilian populations.
Host Nation
For the purposes of this Report, a mine-plagued country which requests demining assistance from the United States.
Mine Awareness Training
A programme to assist host nation governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to train local populations to deal with landmines until the mines can be permanently removed. The programme minimizes the danger of uncleared landmines by training host nationals in mine detection, identification, marking, avoidance, reporting, mapping, rudimentary extrication, and first-aid skills.
Mine Clearance Training
A programme to train host nation military, government, or NGO groups in the techniques of locating and permanently clearing landmines, using the "Train the Trainer" methodology. Mine clearance training includes mine detection and disposal techniques, emphasizing destruction of the mine on site.
Train The Trainer
A concept for training instructors who then train other personnel in learned techniques. This method develops a host nation infrastructure capable of training other host nation personnel to execute mine awareness and mine clearance operations.
US Demining Programme
As enacted by Congress, the programme aims to establish sustainable host nation mine awareness and mine clearance training programmes in nations which are experiencing adverse humanitarian effects from uncleared landmines.


(1) Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, State Department report to Congress, 27 January 1995

(2) The Rapporteur would like to thank Tabitha Swann for her assistance in preparing this Report.

(3) Reports vary from 55 countries to 69. Most estimates are over 60.

(4) Steven Askin and Stephen Goose in "The Market for Anti-Personnel Landmines -A Global Study", Jane's Intelligence Review, September 1994

(5) Organizations involved in clearing mines have also called for restrictions on cluster munitions which release "bomblets" over a wide area. Some of these fail to explode immediately but can be subsequently activated by being stepped on, creating a similar hazard to a mine field.

(6) In August 1995, the first detailed report emerged of a new scatterable mine believed to be manufactured by China and which has been used in various parts of Southeast Asia. This mine is less than five centimetres in diameter and two and a half centimetres high. As many as 128 of these mines can be sown by one delivery rocket with a range up to 15,000 metres. The small size of this mine makes it extremely difficult to detect and clear.

(7) Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, State Department report to Congress, 27 January 1995

(8) Leonard Doyle, "West finds riches in deadly mine trade", The Independent, 6 June 1994

(9) Ibid.

(10) Mines mounted on a stake and usually set off by a trip-wire. They can be placed at different levels, enabling the mine-layers to target a specific body area - legs, chest, head - for injury.

(11) Landmines: Time For Action, International Committee of the Red Cross, 0574/002.5/94.3000 ex.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Angola is one of sub-saharan Africa's wealthiest countries, with one of the most serious landmine problems. But the $3 billion a year in oil-export revenues has gone to weapons purchases and war profiteers. Paul Taylor, "War-Torn Nation Faces a Hidden Foe for Years to Come", International Herald Tribune, 15 February 1995

(14) Financial Times, 24 January 1995, "Controlling landmines" - editorial

(15) Patrick Blagden speaking at a countermine symposium held in South Africa, November 1994. Reported in International Defense Review, 1/1995 - "UN losing the War against landmines"

(16) International Defense Review, 1/1995 - editorial

(17) "UN losing War against landmines...", Ibid.

(18) See "'Humanitarian' Ways To De-Mine Unveiled", Herald Tribune, 7 July 1995.

(19) Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, State Department report to Congress, 27 January 1995, pp.24- 26

(20) Ibid., pp.60-61

For further information and reports in French contact:

Carolyn BUTLER
North Atlantic Assembly

3 Place du Petit Sablon
B - 1000 Brussels

Tel (32-2) 513.28.65
Fax (32-2) 514.18.47
E-mail butler@shape.nato.int