Mine action

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Mine action is a domain within humanitarian aid and development studies concerned with activities which aim to reduce the social, economic and environmental impact of landmines and the explosive remnants of war (ERW). Mine action deals with the many effects of landmine and ERW contamination on people and societies.


Mine action is commonly represented as comprising five complementary groups of activities:

The objective of mine action is to reduce the risk caused by landmines and ERW to a level where people can live safely. This state is a situation in which economical, social and health development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine and ERW contamination,[1] and in which the victims’ needs can be addressed.Gender mainstreaming in mine action will ensure that the needs of affected women, girls, boys and men are taken into account and the response tailored accordingly.

The coordination of mine action activities in affected countries is commonly conducted by Mine Action Coordination Centers (MACC) managed either by the United Nations or the host country government.


Clearance of mines and explosive remnants of war[edit]

In its broad sense, mine clearance includes surveys, mapping and minefield marking, as well as the actual clearance of mines from the ground. This range of activities is also sometimes referred to as demining.

Humanitarian mine clearance aims to clear land so that civilians can return to their homes and their everyday routines without the threat of landmines and unexploded remnants of war (ERW), which include unexploaded ordnance and abandoned explosive ordnance. This means that all the mines and ERW affecting the places where ordinary people live must be cleared, and their safety in areas that have been cleared must be guaranteed. Mines are cleared and the areas are thoroughly verified so that they can say without a doubt that the land is now safe, and people can use it without worrying about the weapons. The aim of humanitarian demining is to restore peace and security at the community level.

Mine clearance methods[edit]


Non-technical surveying, or the formal gathering of mine-related information, is required before actual clearance can begin. Impact surveys assess the socio-economic impact of the mine contamination and help assign priorities for the clearance of particular areas. Impact surveys make use of all available sources of information, including minefield records (where they exist), data about mine victims, and interviews with former combatants and local people. Technical surveys then define the minefields and provide detailed maps for the clearance operations.


Maps resulting from the impact surveys and technical surveys are stored in an information management system, including a variety of programme databases, and provide baseline data for clearance organisations and operational planning.

Minefield marking[edit]

Minefield marking is carried out when a mined area is identified, but clearance operations cannot take place immediately. Minefield marking, which is intended to deter people from entering mined areas, has to be carried out in combination with mine awareness, so that the local population understands the meaning and importance of the signs.

Manual clearance[edit]

Manual clearance relies on trained deminers using metal detectors and long thin prodders to locate the mines, which are then destroyed by controlled explosion.

Mine detection dogs[edit]
Dog search for mines in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mine detection dogs, which detect the presence of explosives in the ground by smell. Dogs are used in combination with manual deminers.

Mechanical clearance[edit]

Mechanical clearance relies on flails, rollers, vegetation cutters and excavators, often attached to armoured bulldozers, to destroy the mines in the ground. These machines can only be used in certain terrains, and are expensive to operate. In most situations they are also not 100% reliable, and the work needs to be checked by other techniques.

Mine-risk education (MRE)[edit]

Mine-risk education, or MRE, refers to educational activities aimed at reducing the risk of injury from mines and unexploded ordnance by raising awareness and promoting behavioural change through public-information campaigns, education and training, and liaison with communities.

MRE ensures that communities are aware of the risks from mines, unexploded ordnance and/or abandoned munitions and are encouraged to behave in ways that reduce the risk to people, property and the environment. Objectives are to reduce the risk to a level where people can live safely and to recreate an environment where economic and social development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine contamination.

MRE, along with demining (which includes technical surveys, mapping, clearance of unexploded ordnance and mines, marking unsafe areas, and documenting areas that have been cleared), contributes to mine-risk reduction, or limiting the risk of physical injury from mines and unexploded ordnance that already contaminates the land. Advocacy and the destruction of landmine stockpiles focus on preventing future use of mines.

According to the Landmine Monitor Report (2009),[2] in 2008, MRE was provided in 57 states and areas, compared to 61 states and areas in 2007. However, in the 1999 MRE programs were identified in just 14 states. MRE activities increased significantly in Yemen and Somaliland, and also increased to some degree in 10 other states. In Palestine, RE decreased in 2008 but rose sharply in response to conflict in Gaza in December 2008–January 2009. Some of the main players in MRE include Catholic Relief Services,[3] German Caritas international, the Mines Advisory Group, Handicap International, Save the Children, INTERSOS, DanChurchAid, Norwegian People's Aid, the Mines Awareness Trust, Association for Aid and Relief, Japan and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Within the UN system UNICEF is the lead agency for MRE and supports programmes in 30 countries.

International standards have been developed to guide the management of MRE programmes.[4] These standards emphasize that MRE should typically not be a stand-alone activity; it is an integral part of overall mine-action planning and implementation.

Public information dissemination[edit]

"Public information" in the context of mine action describes landmine and unexploded ordnance situations and informs and updates a broad range of stakeholders. Such information may focus on local risk-reduction messages, address broader national issues such as complying with legislation or raise public support for mine-action programmes.

Public information "dissemination", however, refers primarily to public-information activities that help reduce the risk of injury from mines and unexploded ordnance by raising awareness of the risk to individuals and communities, and by promoting behavioural change. It is primarily a one-way form of communication transmitted through mass media. Public information-dissemination initiatives may be stand-alone MRE projects that are implemented in advance of other mine-action activities.

Education and training[edit]

"Education and training" in MRE encompasses all educational and training activities that reduce the risk of injury from mines, unexploded ordnance and/or abandoned munitions by raising awareness of the threat to individuals and communities and promoting behavioural change. Education and training is a two-way process, which involves the imparting and acquiring of knowledge, changing attitudes and practices through teaching and learning.

Education and training activities may be conducted in formal and non-formal environments: teacher-to-child education in schools, information shared at home from parents to children or from children to their parents, child-to-child education, peer-to-peer education in work and recreational environments, landmine safety training for humanitarian aid workers[5] and the incorporation of landmine safety messages in occupational health and safety practices.

Community liaison[edit]

Community liaison refers to the systems and processes used to exchange information between national authorities, mine-action organisations and communities on the presence of mines, unexploded ordnance and abandoned munitions. It enables communities to be informed about planned demining activities, the nature and duration of the tasks, and the exact locations of marked or cleared areas. Furthermore, it enables communities to inform local authorities and mine-action organizations about the location, extent and impact of contaminated areas. This information can greatly assist the planning of related activities, such as technical surveys, marking and clearance operations, and survivor-assistance services. Community liaison ensures that mine-action projects address community needs and priorities. Community liaison should be carried out by all organizations conducting mine-action operations.

Community liaison services may begin far in advance of demining activities and help the development of local capacities to assess the risks, manage information and develop risk-reduction strategies.

Stockpile destruction[edit]

Stockpiled anti-personnel landmines (APM) far outnumber those actually laid in the ground. In accordance with Article 4 of the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty, State Parties must destroy their stockpiled mines within four years after their accession to the convention. Sixty-five countries have now destroyed their stockpiles of antipersonnel landmines, destroying a combined total of more than 37 million mines. Another 51 countries have officially declared not having a stockpile of antipersonnel mines and a further three countries are scheduled to destroy their stockpiles by the end of the year.

There are many options available to states in destroying their stockpiles. Stockpiles are usually destroyed by the military, but an industrial solution can also be employed. The techniques used vary depending on the make-up of the mines and the conditions in which they are found. The complete destruction cycle involves aspects such as transportation and storage, processing operations, equipment maintenance, staff training and accounting, as well as the actual physical destruction.

Pre-process technology[edit]

It is may be necessary to disassemble or breakdown anti-personnel mines prior to the destruction process. This is necessary because of limitations on the amount of contained explosive that can be incinerated, the anti-personnel mine design or the requirement for different components to have separate destruction methods. All of these methods require the movement of exposed bare explosive to the final destruction facility. Available technology includes: manual disassembly, mechanical disassembly (pull apart, defuzing and depriming), robotic disassembly, mechanical breakdown (bandsaw, guillotine, cracker mill, rock crusher, punch), cryofracture, hydro abrasive cutting, laser cutting, and microwave explosive melt-out. The following are brief descriptions of these techniques:

Manual disassembly[edit]

This technique implies the use of human resources to physically dismantle APM by manual labour using simple hand tools. It has the advantage of requiring limited capital investment required, but is a labour-intensive process which results in relatively slow production rates. This method requires well-trained, yet semi-skilled staff.

Mechanical disassembly[edit]

The use of mechanically operated systems to dismantle APM. The different technologies are available, as noted above are: Pull Apart, Defuzing and Depriming. In contrast to manual disassembly, mechanical disassembly has the advantages of high production rates, it is an efficient system of work and has low staff requirements. It is environmentally friendly for this stage of the demilitarisation cycle and the technology is readily available. A major disadvantage, however, is the requirement for high capital investment. This is further complicated by the need for a wide range of equipment necessary to cope with all pre-processing requirements.

Robotic disassembly[edit]

A fully automated disassembly system. Similar advantages and disadvantages to mechanical disassembly, however the initial capital costs are much greater. This system would only be economically efficient for very large production runs due to the high start-up costs.

Mechanical breakdown[edit]

This process is mainly concerned with techniques required to expose the explosive fillings of APMs prior to the destruction phase. There are low staff requirements for mechanical breakdown, and it is an environmentally friendly operation during this stage of the demilitarisation cycle. The technology is now readily available and there is no secondary waste stream, which reduces scrap salvage and disposal costs. A major disadvantage is the requirement for high capital investment. This is further complicated by the need for a wide range of equipment necessary to cope with all pre-processing requirements. Production rates per machine can be slow and there is always the danger of induced initiation of the target APM during processing.


This process is used to break down an APM into small enough pieces to be processed through an incineration destruction method. It involves the use of liquid nitrogen to change the mechanical properties of the munition casing to a more brittle phase by cooling it to -130 C. The munition can then be easily shattered using simple mechanical shear or press techniques. A cryogenic wash out system is in the early stages of development. The principle is similar to cryogenic fracture; except that the filling is attacked with liquid nitrogen in order to make its removal easier.

Cryofracture is an environmentally friendly technique during this stage of the demilitarisation cycle with low staff requirements. The technique can also be used for any other type of munition, explosive or propellant with limited pre-preparation of the munition required. There is no secondary waste stream, hence cutting final disposal costs. In financial terms low capital investment only is required for set up costs. Sensitivity tests have shown that even at -196C there is little change to the insensitiveness of the munition.

The disadvantage of high operating costs for liquid nitrogen usage must also be considered, however. Unfotunately, today there is only one proven production system in place. APMs with metal or aluminium casings are not susceptible to embrittlement and variations in the shear forces or pressures are required to fracture the munition casing. Further trials are necessary, as analysis has shown that the failure modes for the munition casings involved a mixture of brittle fracture, plastic deformation and shearing. Results are currently unpredictable and there is an obvious low temperature hazard to personnel.

Hydro abrasive cutting (HAC)[edit]

The use of water and abrasives at pressures from 240 to 1000 BAR to cut open APM bodies by an erosive process. There are two distinct technologies; 1) "entrainment" or 2) "direct injection". Research has now proven that the direct injection technology should be the preferred option for safety reasons. There are low staff requirements for HAC systems and a wide range of target munitions can be attacked. The explosive safety of systems is well proven and it is a cost effective technique in comparison to other pre-processing methods.The major disadvantage is the requirement for initial high capital investment for infrastructure. The systems also produce contaminated waste-water, which requires a complex filtration system to clean it up. In terms of post-process operations, the explosive content is "grit sensitised" and requires careful handling during any further processing or destruction.

Laser cutting[edit]

Still in the research phase in the USA.

Microwave melt-out[edit]

This technology is also under development in the USA. It utilises microwaves to heat up TNT based explosive fillings. It is a rapid, clean technique but has one major disadvantage, the lack of control over heating can lead to the formation of "hot spots" with a resultant initiation of the filling. Work continues on its development, but it is not yet a feasible production technique. It is more energy efficient that steam and improves the value of any recovered explosives.

Destruction technology[edit]

There are a wide range of industrial technologies available for the final destruction of anti-personnel mines. The selection of the most suitable principle depends primarily on the pre-processing techniques to be utilised, and vice versa. The system must be designed to result in efficient production rates.

Open-pit incineration[edit]

Waste material is placed on a tiled floor in a purpose built pit equipped with perforated air pipes to supply forced air to the system. A turbulent air current is created above the fire that re-circulates the combustion gases and particulates, which assists in full oxidation of the evolving gases. The principle has been tested, but no large scale trials have yet been conducted.

Rotary kiln incineration[edit]

This is perhaps the most common, and certainly most mature demilitarisation destruction technology available. The rotary kiln is an unlined rotary furnace originally designed to destroy small arms and bulk explosives. The kiln is made up of four 1.6 metre long, 1 metre outer diameter retort sections bolted together. The 6 to 8 cm thick walls of the kiln are designed to withstand small detonations. The kiln contains internal spiral flights, which move the waste in an auger-like fashion through the retort as the kiln rotates. The flights also provide charge separation for the in-process materials, and discourage sympathetic detonations and scattering of materials. The kiln is equipped with a variable speed drive, which allows varying rotation speeds and material residence time.

Car bottom furnace[edit]

Car bottom furnaces are used to destroy small amounts of explosive or explosive residue left after flush-out pre-processing techniques.

Directly heated retort[edit]

A thin walled and ceramic lined furnace in which the feed system uses an auger. Pre-processed by a crusher. Used to process general chemical waste and explosive in solution. A typical production rate of 10,000 tonnes per year.

Plasma arc[edit]

A plasma torch, at temperatures in the region of 4000C to 7000C, is used to heat a container into which waste products are fed. The plasma is an ionised gas at extremely high temperature, which is used to initiate rapid chemical decomposition by the action of this extreme heat. The material is currently fed in a slurry form, although research is ongoing for the destruction of entire munitions. It is a complex production system that has a high power requirement.

Mechanical destruction[edit]

The use of high strength and capacity commercial crushing or shredding machines. Only suitable for APMs with a very low net explosive content.

"Silver II"[edit]

An electro-chemical oxidation process. The organic waste is treated by the generation of highly oxidising species in an electro-chemical cell. The cell is separated into two compartments by a membrane that allows ion flow but prevents bulk mixing of the anolyte and catholyte. In the anolyte compartment a highly reactive species of silver ion attacks organic material ultimately converting it to CO2, H2O and non-toxic inorganic compounds.

Biological degradation[edit]

This technology has been demonstrated at the pilot level for the destruction of perchlorate contaminated aqueous streams. The potential exists for bacteria to be used to consume the explosive content of APM, converting it into inert material. It requires extensive storage capacity whilst bio-remediation is taking place and only has limited applications. There is also a requirement for an element of mechanical breakdown prior to the addition of the bacteria.

Contained detonation[edit]

The destruction of ammunition and explosives by detonation in an enclosed chamber. The evolving gases are then processed by an integral pollution control system. Limited pre-processing is required and a wide variety of ammunition natures can be destroyed. However, the available systems are currently limited to 15 kg Net Explosive Content. There is also a requirement for a donor charge for each detonation, therefore the process is expensive in serviceable ammunition usage.

Molten salt oxidation[edit]

Only demonstrated at prototype scale. Can destroy finely divided and consistent organic waste, therefore significant pre-processing required. These wastes can be destroyed by incineration anyway. A purely technical solution, but too expensive and impracticable at the moment.

Scrap processing technology[edit]

The final disposal of arisings from any of the above systems will require some form of scrap processing facility. Commercial advice is required in this area to determine the production rates, technical capability and availability of systems.

Industrial scrap processing systems work by crushing, shredding, cracking or compressing the feed material into an easily manageable form for further salvage or recycling processes. There may be a requirement for a combination of techniques for scrap that is difficult to process.

Mine victim assistance[edit]

Mine victim assistance is a humanitarian effort which aims to organize a collaborative support for injured victims from mine and ERW as well as their families, thus enabling them to live normal lives. The approaches include physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and recovery of the victimized family and community. The work involves different level of actors, various organizations and State Parties who are obliged to perform the task under the Article 6 of the Mine Ban Treaty and Article 5 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is another active participant cooperating with other actors under United Nations, recently presenting the 6-year plan according to mine action, "The Strategy of the United Nations on Mine Action 2013-2018".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ International Mine Action Standards, Chapter 04.10 - Glossary of mine action terms, definitions and abbreviations
  2. ^ Landmine Monitor Report (2009)
  3. ^ Yen, Ta Thi Hai (Catholic Relief Services) (2013). "Catholic Relief Services Develops MRE Materials". Journal of ERW and Mine Action. 17 (1). ISSN 2154-1485. Retrieved June 2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ (Link to the standards)
  5. ^ (Learn about the Landmine and ERW Safety Project)
  6. ^ "UN Mine Action Gateway : Victim Assistance". United Nations. Retrieved 25 September 2013. 

External links[edit]