How the Demining Process Works with Landmines

How the Demining Process Works with Landmines

Landmines are a huge problem in many areas of the world. There are thought to be tens of millions of landmines hidden beneath the ground, which are a lethal legacy from past wars and conflicts and are now potentially liable to catch the unwary and cause crippling injuries or death.

The demining process is one that increasingly relies on specialist demining equipment that not only increases the rate of discovery and disposal of landmines but makes it safer for everyone involved.


The scale of the problem

Some countries have a massive landmine problem.  Cambodia is an example – in a country with just over 180,000 square kilometres of land, there are believed to be 4-6 million landmines.  This stops the expansion of urban areas, means people cannot farm the land and they live in constant fear of what is beneath their feet.  Around the world, some 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed each year due to landmines and over 33% of them are children.

Part of the reason that there are so many landmines is that the process of finding and removing them is a difficult one.  In military areas, large specialist demining vehicles and demining equipment can be used to easily and quickly remove landmines in combat zones but when dealing with civilian areas, things have to be done on a different scale.


Landmine discovery

There are several different ways to find landmines in the ground.  One traditional way is to use a metal detector – there are metal components in many landmines that will provide a signal although increasingly the use of minimum metal mines are becoming more prevalent.  But even if there is high metallic content, the metal detector is not a perfect tool returning the similar reaction to a piece of shrapnel, a soft drink can and a landmine. So false alarms are inevitable which slows down detection rates and makes this process a relatively slow and labour intensive method of landmine detection.


Mine disposal

Mine disposal manufacturers are having to come to terms with the mines that are made with little or no metal in them.  These will not be always be identified by using metal detectors (although this is depth dependent) and therefore other types of technology or methodologies are needed.  Ground penetrating radar, infra-red and magnetic resonance imaging are all possible ways to see what is beneath the ground level but there is no easy fix for quick and completely accurate landmine detection.   Sniffer dogs and rats are also used in some parts of the world to find the landmines before the disposal process can take place.  However, sometimes there is no substitute for full excavation of the ground to the agreed contract depth in order to expose the mines.  This is the method adopted by mine clearance teams in the Falkland Islands clearing minimum metal mines left from the 1982 conflict. This is a UK Clearance Programme which has been running since 2009 and is still a few years away from completion.  In order to speed up the excavation process to the 20 cm contract depth, mechanical clearance equipment including the ArmtracA75T-230 and A20T, are used to prepare and loosen the ground adjacent to the mine lines once technical survey, using the same mechanical demining equipment, has identified the shape and extent of the hazardous areas.

Modern technology and unmanned equipment have risen to the forefront in the battle of mine disposal.  Equipment such as the Armtrac unmanned ground vehicles can be used in a wide range of situations to increase the rate of successfully finding the landmines and also disposing of them.  Some of the largest unmanned ground vehicles in the Armtracrange can destroy and withstand a 10kg anti-tank mine with very minor damage to the demining tool other than consumable parts.


Eradicating the problem

Eradicating landmines around the world isn’t something that will happen soon, but with the dedicated work of demining companies and the military, along with the creation of innovative and safe equipment, there will hopefully come a time when landmines are no longer a problem.  People in former conflict zones will be able to walk into town, visit a neighbour or plough their field without worrying about what lurks beneath the ground, waiting to steal their health or even their lives.

Find out more about how we can help with mine disposal and the entire demining process by visiting our website or getting in touch.