Every year, landmines maim or kill thousands of people – mostly innocent and defenseless civilians. According to the landmine monitor, there was still a global average of 19 casualties per day in 2017, including 47% children (ICBL, 2018). Mines obstruct economic development and reconstruction, prevent access to basic needs and services as water and education, inhibit the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and have other severe consequences that last for years after emplacement. Detection of landmines is however a complicated, dangerous, costly, and time-consuming process and many developing countries lack the resources to properly commit to the task. Meanwhile the affected communities have little choice but to live on or nearby landmine contaminated land. APOPO provides a sustainable, locally sourced and cost-effective solution for landmine detection. All of APOPO’s operations are in limited resources settings in countries which otherwise remain dependent on expensive imported know-how. APOPO trains local communities on its Detection Rat Technology, empowering them to tackle mine detection tasks more independently and at lower costs.
Mine detection rats can quickly and accurately detect landmines, significantly speeding up mine clearance efforts and allowing communities to once again use their land productively. The great advantage of rats is that they are fast, thus cheap, to deploy because they only search out the scent of explosives, whereas deminers need to investigate every alert their metal detectors make, be it scrap metal, an old coin, or an actual landmine. APOPO’s Mine-Detection rats can search around 200 square meters in 20 minutes. This would take 25 operational hours using metal detectors (up to 4 days). They can detect both metal and plastic-cased landmines, making them highly efficient landmine detectors.
The landmines are indicated by the rats, by scratching on the ground, are followed up by our manual demining team, who detects and destroys the mines. A deminer first locates the mine and exposes it to a level where it can be clearly identified. The exact location is clearly marked with warning signs, and at the end of the day, the supervisor will come back to it and lay a demolition charge next to it. Then they stand off to a safe distance and detonate the explosive, which destroys the mine.
A landmine is defined by the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty as “a munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle.” Landmines are generally divided into two main groups – anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. The former are designed to explode when a person steps on them or disturbs them. The latter are intended to explode when at least 200 kilograms of pressure is applied—when a car, jeep, truck or tank drives over them for example.
UXO stands for unexploded ordnance and refers to weapons that for some reason failed to detonate as intended and can still explode even decades later. Ordnances are explosive weapons such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades.
Cluster munitions are weapons that can be dropped from the air by planes or fired from the ground. They open in mid-air and release numerous explosive bomblets, or submunitions, over a wide area. Many explode immediately but most don’t.
Explosive remnants of war (ERW) are explosive munitions left behind after a conflict has ended. They include unexploded artillery shells, grenades, mortars, rockets, air-dropped bombs, and cluster munitions.
There are different types of injuries caused by landmines, depending on the type of mine: – Blast landmines are pressure-activated and generally produce injuries from the explosive detonating; – Fragmentation landmines contain shrapnel, which is fired out into victims when the mine detonates; – Bounding fragmentation landmines jump out of the ground to waist level when activated and fire thousands of deadly fragments, in some cases to a radius of around 100 metres. – Anti-vehicle or anti-tank (AT) landmines are larger and take greater pressure to activate (do not fall under the land mine ban treaty). Rip through vehicles and cause lethal injury to drivers and passengers.