Falklands plagued by `40,000' landmines
Monday 30 March 1998
Official figures say 14,000 anti-personnel mines have remained uncleared on the islands since the 1982 war, though some estimates have put the figure at nearer 40,000.
They are creating a major headache for Whitehall officials because Britain does not have the technology to clear them. Under the Ottawa Treaty, due to be ratified by MPs in the autumn, the UK will have 10 years to complete the work.
Attempts during the 1980s to develop equipment capable of detecting and clearing the mines were abandoned when it became clear that 100 per cent effectiveness could not be guaranteed. Islanders said they did not want to risk mine-clearers' lives in clearance operations when even a 1 per cent failure rate would mean they still could not use their land. Twenty square kilometres of beach and former farmland are out of bounds to islanders.
The problem is that the mines are plastic, and fiendishly difficult to detect. They are also buried in shingle and peaty soil which moves around and which makes using vehicles for the work very difficult.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said Britain might have to ask for an extension to the 10 year clearance period. "Clearly we are committed to the Ottawa Treaty but the Falklands do present particular difficulties because of the nature of the terrain. We are currently considering how to deal with this in the light of our treaty obligations," he said.
Yesterday the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency's technical manager with responsibility for the Royal Engineers' equipment said that although the latest technology might be adaptable to the job, he had not been asked to look into it yet. John Hambley said that during the 1980s, experts had looked at either burning or digging up the mines by remote control as well as at detecting them with ground-penetrating radar systems. However, all the methods had their drawbacks.
"The decision was made that it was better to leave the mines where they were. What we had was not going to be reliable enough, and it was still quite costly," he said.
The Royal Engineers have cleared about 1,400 mines since the war, mostly in sensitive areas. But they did so by lying on their stomachs and using probes, a painstaking and labour-intensive process. For example, they cleared a path to a windmill so that local people could gain access to carry out maintenance work.
Wendy Teggart, general manager of the Falkland Islands Government's London office, said the islanders had felt that even if the mines were cleared they might not be confident enough to use the land.
"As a Falkland Island mother myself I would not be happy with my children playing on an area that was cleared," she said. "With the best will in the world, someone could say they believed it was clear when it was not."
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
Germanwings crash: The poignant final photograph taken by Iranian journalist on doomed flight after watching Barcelona play Real Madrid
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...