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Mine clearance

01-12-2006 Feature

Mine clearance refers to the detection, removal and destruction of all mines in a given area that is known to be mined with the objective of making the land safe for use. It is sometimes referred to as "demining" or "humanitarian demining".


 Mine clearance is key to eliminating the scourge of anti-personnel mines. It is essential to enable people in mine-affected communities to go back to living normal lives, free from the fear of death or mutilation by anti-personnel mines hidden in their fields, pastures, footpaths and playgrounds. 
© ICRC / T. Gassmann / 
Luanda, Angola.Physical rehabilitation centre supported by the ICRC.  
    As land is cleared, it can be returned to productive use, feeding families and contributing to post-conflict reconstruction and economic development. Refugees and internally displaced persons can return home safely.

Clearance of anti-personnel mines from border areas and former front lines is also crucial to promoting security in areas recovering from armed conflict and to building confidence between neighboring States.

What are the Ottawa Convention’s mine clearance requirements?  

The Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-personnel Mines (the Ottawa Convention) requires each State Party to:

  • identify all areas under its jurisdiction or control in which anti-personnel mines are known or suspected to be emplaced; ensure, as soon as possible, that all such mined areas are perimeter-marked, monitored and protected by fencing or other means in order to prevent civilians from entering and being injured by the mines;
  • destroy all anti-personnel mines in the mined areas as soon as possible, but not later than 10 years after the entry into force of the Convention for that State. The first such mine clearance deadlines will fall in 2009.

If the Convention’s deadlines are to be met, both mine-affected and donor Sta tes will need to increase their efforts and resources devoted to mine clearance. The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World (the Ottawa Convention’s First Review Conference) has provided the opportunity for States Parties to assess progress made so far, as well as the challenges that remain for clearance and other related Convention activities. 


Which States party to the Ottawa Convention have mine clearance obligations?  

As of 1 December 2006, there were 152 States party to the Convention. Of these, 47 have reported mined areas on territory under their jurisdiction or control, or are presumed to have mined areas based on statements they have made.

How does mine clearance work?  

Mine clearance is a painstaking, resource-intensive process. In order to achieve mine clearance within its Ottawa Convention deadline, it is essential for each mine-affected State to develop and implement a national “mine action” plan, and to make known to other States or relevant institutions its needs for assistance in implementing this plan.

Development of a national mine action plan typically begins with an overall assessment of the situation in the country. This is followed by a survey of mine contamination that consists of mapping dangerous areas and establishing clearance priorities. Surveys usually rate each mined area according to its impact on the civilian population, with high-impact areas slated as priorities for mine clearance. Mine clearance operations apply using one, or a combination, of three main elements:

1. manual demining using metal detectors and a prodder or ex cavator to uncover the mine;

2. manual demining with mine detection dogs;

3. mechanical mine clearance using machines. Before being formally released to local communities for their use, cleared areas are typically subject to various checks to ensure that people are confident that the land is safe for use.

In practice, when clearing a contaminated area, deminers remove all types of explosive remnants of war. This includes unexploded and abandoned ordnance, as well as mines. 

What is the current state of mine clearance?  

Out of the 47 States party to the Ottawa Convention that have declared that they have mined areas:

  • In January 2003, Costa Rica became the first State party to declare that it had completely cleared all anti-personnel mines from areas under its jurisdiction and control. Djibouti became the second to do so in April 2004. This means that both States have reported fulfilling their mine clearance obligations well in advance of their 2009 deadlines.

  • Many mine-affected States Parties, such as Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Cambodia, have developed and are implementing specific strategic mine clearance plans in order to meet their respective deadlines. Other mine-affected States Parties must urgently do so if they are to successfully meet their deadlines.

It is not possible to know with absolute certainty how many mined areas remain to be cleared worldwide. Many mine-affected States Parties have made considerable progress in terms of surveying and identifying mined lands to be cleared. However, there is still a significant lack of knowledge in several mine-affected countri es regarding the extent of the landmine problem.