Gichd

An excessive use of clearance resources in areas that may not contain landmines and/or ERW represents an error in miscalculation rather than justifiable prudence. Nonetheless, in many countries, contaminated areas consist of unpredictable patterns of hazards. Moreover, many countries have been shifting towards ending large scale mine action operations, where a high proportion of remaining sites have a lower probability of containing hazards. To address such challenges, the mine action sector requires enhanced allocation of clearance resources and, in particular, improved technical survey techniques and methods for land release. A systematic approach is required where a combination of tools, machines, animals and deminers are employed in a determined sequence at different stages of the survey and/or demining operation.

Rat with mine

The GICHD’s team works to improve and increase the effectiveness of survey and clearance systems in humanitarian demining. By combining efficient methods and procedures with modern information management tools, existing survey and clearance methods can be significantly improved. The GICHD conducts training sessions and provides operational support and advice to operators in mine-affected countries. The team participates in tests of survey and clearance systems and assists in bridging the gap between operators, researchers, development institutions, manufacturers, national authorities and donors. GICHD also assists United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in maintaining the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) series.

Technologies

New technologies are used, tested and developed within the context of manual clearance, animal detection and mechanical systems. The GICHD acts as an interface between researchers, manufacturers and field operators to avoid spending funds on duplications or developing non-applicable technical solutions. To this end, the GICHD aims to:

  • advise on improving technology by assessing the effectiveness of technology that is already in use;
  • collect and disseminate information about successful technology and sound methodological approaches to the wider community;
  • be a focal point for all aspects of technological development, testing, assessment and dissemination in mine action; and
  • inform the mine action community about technological developments and technical solutions that enhance operational activities, improve safety, take into consideration the impact on the environment and assist in treaty compliancy.

Manual systems

Manual mine clearance methods have not changed significantly since World War II. Techniques continue to rely on deminers working along marked lanes using metal detectors, prodders, rakes or excavation kits until a suspicious object is encountered. Although relatively slow progress is made with these methods, they are widely used by mine action programmes due to the high levels of confidence associated with the land they release. Manual deminers create and clear lanes and grid systems, performing targeted and systematic investigations as well as area clearance. For safety, deminers are usually placed in a defined distance from each other. Once a suspicious object is discovered, the deminer then carefully excavates around the object and, if it appears to be a mine or an item of explosive ordnance, it is either blown up in situ or defused and destroyed at the end of day.

Animal detection systems (ADS)

ADS can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of survey and mine clearance operations. The animal most commonly used for mine detection is the dog, owing to its proven ability to work with and be trained by humans. Rats are also used. Dogs and rats are trained to detect specific odours associated with explosives. The animals tend to be at their best when indicating individual mines or within minefield boundaries, rather than in areas of dense concentrations of mines. Animals can be very useful in technical survey roles. Other recommended tasks for ADS could include

  • rapid sampling of areas already cleared by manual and mechanical demining;
  • areas that are inaccessible for machines;
  • approach routes to hazardous areas; and
  • cluster munitions strikes and battle areas.

ADS cannot replace deminers, but they are a powerful tool when used in combination with manual and mechanical systems and can significantly increase the productivity of a demining programme.

Mechanical systems

Mechanical demining systems can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of mine clearance operations. A variety of mechanical systems are manufactured to destroy and detonate mines. Mechanical systems can be highly cost-effective components in a demining programme. They can greatly accelerate the progress of other assets, through removing vegetation and tripwires and breaking up soil in support of Animal detection systems (ADS) and manual demining. They can play a crucial role in technical survey and, in some cases, can be used as a primary clearance method. Today, a multitude of mechanical systems are available on the market, including:

  • mechanical systems to detonate and destroy mines;
  • mechanical systems equipped with power supply, navigation and positioning systems;
  • remote-controlled mechanical systems; and
  • mechanical systems created from agricultural vehicles and machinery as a low-cost alternative to other options available on the market.