Facts About Landmines

Facts About Landmines

Posted
10/16/03
  1. WHAT ARE LAND MINES?
  2. HISTORY OF THE WEAPON
  3. HOW MANY ARE THERE?
  4. HOW ARE LAND MINES USED?
  5. HOW MANY VICTIMS ARE THERE?
  6. WHERE DO MOST ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES COME FROM?
  7. COUNTRIES CALLING FOR A TOTAL BAN
  8. COUNTRIES THAT HAVE BANNED THE EXPORT OF ALL ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES
  9. INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES

1. WHAT ARE LAND MINES?

Land mines are containers of explosive material with detonating systems that are triggered by contact with a person or vehicle. They are designed to incapacitate that person or vehicle through damage caused by an explosive blast, fragments, (or, in the case of some antitank mines, a jet of molten metal). They are generally buried within 15 cm of the earth's surface, or laid above ground.

ANTIPERSONNEL (AP) Land MinesWhile land mines come in a variety of models (there are currently more than 600 different types), all land mines can be grouped into two broad categories: antipersonnel (AP) land mines and antitank (AT) and mines.

An antipersonnel land mine is an explosive device made toinjure or kill a person. There are three general types of antipersonnel land mines:

a: Explosive blast effect AP Land Mines: "Irresistable to Children"
These are the most commonly found antipersonnel land mines, designed to rip off the lower half of the leg and project shoe, dirt and bone higher up into the leg, causing secondary infection and higher amputation. They are sold for as little as $3 each. One type of explosive blast effect AP mine is the "butterfly" mine, commonly found in Afghanistan. These have a combination of odd shape and bright color that seems irresistible to children.

b: FRAGMENTATION AP Land Mines: Death from 50 Meters

Most of these mines have metal casings designed to rupture into fragments upon the detonation of the mine, or are stuffed with ball bearings, flechettes (tiny metal darts), or metal fragments that are turned into lethal projectiles by the detonation of the mine. They can cause extensive damage to the legs, stomach and chest. Most AP mines shoot their fragments within a 60° horizontal arc and a 2 meter vertical height and can kill up to 50 meters from the mine.

c: BOUNDING AP Mines: "Bouncing Betties"
Perhaps the most deadly of all AP land mines are the bounding fragmentation land mines, or "bouncing betties." These mines are generally triggered by as little as 1.5kg of pressure on trip wires and/or direct pressure. Once triggered, a first charge lifts the mine up to waist height before fully detonating. Upon detonation, the explosion shoots out metal fragments in a 360-degree horizontal arc. These fragments can kill up to 35 meters or more from the land mine, and severe injuries at more than 100 meters.

ANTITANK (AT) Land Mines: The Big Killers

Antitank mines are designed to destroy or incapacitate tanks and other vehicles. They are much larger mines than AP mines, and have a far heavier explosive charge -- up to 14 kg. The effect of antitank mine blasts on vehicles that lack armor (light-skinned vehicles) such as pickup trucks, utility vehicles, passenger cars, and jeeps is usually catastrophic. Antitank mines also prevent vehicles, including those carrying medical and relief supplies, from using the road and railroad systems. They prevent villagers from bringing goods to market, and impede the clearance of antipersonnel land mines on roads.

Most of the serious land mine incidents involving multiple casualties to UN or NGO personnel have been caused by antitank mines.

Source: CARE/Mines Advisory Group

2. HISTORY OF THE WEAPON

During the First World War the use of battle tanks spurred the development of the anti-tank mine. These mines were large, clumsy and easily re-deployed by the opposing forces - and often re-laid against the tanks of the original mine layers. For this reason the anti-personnel mine was developed, designed to prevent enemy soldiers from removing the anti-tank mines.

Between 1918 and 1939 the development and use of the anti-personnel mine became a priority among military strategists and it was widely used throughout Poland, Russia and Korea. At this time its use was, on the whole, controlled, targeted at soldiers and linked to specific military objectives.

It wasn't until the 1960s that the random dissemination of mines began.

During the US forces' 9 year bombing campaign of Laos, thousands of mines were dropped by plane in a vain attempt to close the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It has been estimated that over 2 million dollars' worth of bombs were dropped each day. But Cambodia suffered still more, with mines deployed even more extensively - and this time at random - by opposing factions in the civil war.

By the time Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979, randomly targeted and remotely delivered mines were accepted as normal.

Today, there are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 250 million stockpiled in at least 108 countries around the world. Between 5 and 10 million more mines are produced each year, benefiting the producers to the tune of $50 to $180 million annually.

Source: One World

3. HOW MANY ARE THERE?

There are estimated to be around 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground and another 100 million stockpiled around the world.

Worst affected areas:

  • Afghanistan
  • Angola [* CARE Demining Program at work]
  • Cambodia [* CARE Demining Program at work]
  • Iraq
  • Laos

Mines also represent a serious problem in:

  • Bosnia
  • Croatia
  • Georgia
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nicaragua
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan

Each day over 70 people are killed or injured by anti-personnel mines.

That's around one person every 15 minutes.

Half these people die - either immediately from the explosion (as is the case with most children) or from blood loss and exposure.

Source: One World/CARE

4. HOW ARE LAND MINES USED?

Defending Military Positions: Warring groups use land mines to provide additional protection for their forces and positions.

Channeling Movement: Land mines are often used to prevent people and vehicles from moving through certain areas, and to channel them on to certain routes from which they can not deviate.

Defending Socioeconomic Targets: The most common use of mines in civil conflicts is to protect economic and social targets such as bridges, dams, oil, gas and water pipelines and railroad stations from attack or sabotage by the enemy.

Causing Chaos, Terror and Economic Dislocation: Increasingly over the last two decades, land mines have come to serve not only as military but as political weapons. Many parties to civil conflicts have sought to instill a sense of dissatisfaction in the civilian population, based on the perceived impotence of the government to protect them from mine casualties. In addition, by laying mines in agricultural fields and plantations, around irrigation systems, in forests necessary for firewood, and in villages themselves, groups of combatants have succeeded in driving large numbers of civilians out of rural areas and into large cities and towns, adding enormously to thesocial and economic burdens of those in control of the cities.

Source: CARE

5. HOW MANY VICTIMS ARE THERE?

  • 1 million people have been killed and maimed by anti-personnel mines.
  • 26,000 people a year become victims: that's...
  • 70 people a day, or around...
  • one person every fifteen minutes.
  • 300,000 children and counting are severely disabled because of land mines.

Half the people who stand on an anti-personnel mine die from theirinjuries before they are found or taken to hospital. An even higher percentage of children die because, being smaller, their vital organs are closer to the blast.

Who is at risk?

After the end of hostilities, even decades afterwards, anyone who strays into a minefield (and most are unmarked) are at risk.

Everyone is vulnerable. Women collecting water, children gathering firewood or playing, men working on the land or tending cattle. Anyone who goes about their normal day in a mined area is at risk.

Most minefields are unmarked. So you may have no idea that you are in danger until it is too late.

If the horrifying thought suddenly strikes you that the field you have strayed into might be mined, there is not a lot you can do about it. You could painstakingly test each centimeter of the ground in front of you before each step - sliding a knife into the ground at 30 degrees to see if there is anything dangerous underneath. But even that is no guarantee. You may not discover the mine until you put your weight on it, as at least 6 kilograms of weight may be necessary to activate it.

If you have strayed into a minefield, you have to face the fact that - as the Mines Advisory Group says - "the most likely outcome of straying into a minefield is death or serious injury".

What is the cost to communities?

Land mines do not just kill and injure: they also createlonger-term costs for communities.

Medical costs: People who have survived the blast and are found in time have to be transported to hospital. Once there, blood transfusions, surgical time and skill, painkillers, antibiotics, artificial limbs, and rehabilitation are all necessary - and they all cost money, impoverishing the community, and sometimes stretching resources to breaking point.

Employment: Employment prospects for victims are scarce. If the person is the breadwinner, whole families are affected.

Loss of land: Access to land for agriculture, grazing, and trading between communities is severely restricted.

As much as 35% of land in Afghanistan and Cambodia is now unusable.

 

Source: One World

6. WHERE DO MOST ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES COME FROM?

In recent years, the world's larger producer countries have been:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Chile
  • China
  • Former Czechoslovakia
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Former East Germany and reunited Germany
  • Greece
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • North and South Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Former Soviet Union
  • Sweden
  • UK
  • USA
  • Vietnam
  • Former Yugoslavia

CARE has joined the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines. This coalition of more than 400 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) takes a clear and unequivocal stand against the proliferation of these insidious weapons.

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