Clearance of landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) is a challenging, time-consuming and expensive activity utilising manual deminers and Mine Detection Dogs (MDD). For these reasons, ensuring that clearance takes place only in areas where mines/ERW contamination are confirmed remains one of the most important objectives of the land release concept.

Determining the exact location of minefields or cluster munition strikes can be one of the most difficult tasks faced by national authorities and operators . Research has concluded that in most mine/ERW affected countries, the Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHA) are exaggerated in terms of size and inaccurately placed in terms of geographical location. To address these challenges, the Mine Action sector requires improved Non-technical Survey (NTS) and Technical Survey (TS) methods, allowing for clearance to be conducted in the most effective and efficient way possible. It requires a systematic approach where a combination of three operational assets -- machines, animals and deminers – are employed in a pre-determined sequence at different stages of survey and clearance operations.

The GICHD works to improve and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of survey and clearance operations. By combining these methods and procedures with modern information management tools, results can be significantly improved. This is done through training courses and by providing operational support and advice to both National Mine Action Authorities and operators in mine/ERW-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. The Centre also assists the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in maintaining the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) series.


New technologies are developed, tested and used 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:

  • advise on improving technology by assessing the effectiveness of technology that is already in use
  • collects and disseminates information about successful technology and sound methodological approaches to the wider community
  • acts as a focal point for certain aspects of technological development, testing, assessment and dissemination in mine action
  • informs the broader mine action sector 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 and excavation tools to identify, remove and dispose of landmines/ERW. Although relatively slow progress is made with manual clearance, the method is widely used by mine action programmes due to the high level of confidence associated with the land they clear. Manual deminers establish lanes and grid systems, conducting targeted and systematic investigations as well as area clearance. To ensure safety, deminers are required to maintain a predetermined distance between each other, usually 25 meters apart. Once a mine/ERW is identified, the deminer carefully excavates it. Depending on the type of mine/ERW, it is either blown up in situ or neutralized/disarmed and disposed of at the end of each working day.

Animal detection systems (ADS)

If trained and tested in accordance with IMAS, ADS have the potential to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of TS and clearance operations. The animal most commonly used for mine/ERW detection is the dog, owing to its proven ability to work with and be trained by humans. Rats can also be used. Dogs and rats are trained to detect various types of explosives or other material associated with mines/ERW. The animals tend to be more effective in low-density or individual mines/ERW within SHA/CHA boundaries, rather than in areas of high-density contamination. Dogs are particularly useful for TS operations. They have the ability to cover large areas much faster than manual deminers. Other recommended tasks for ADS could include:

  • post-clearance sampling of areas already cleared by manual and mechanical demining (Quality Control)
  • areas that are inaccessible to machines
  • access routes to hazardous areas
  • cluster munitions strikes and battle areas

ADS are a powerful tool with operational added value when used in combination with manual and mechanical systems. They have the potential to can significantly increase the productivity of TS and clearance operations.

SMART mine detection dog (MDD) system

The SMART mine detection dog (MDD) system is a significant technological innovation that challenges the traditional role of mine detection dogs (MDD). This revolutionary dog harness is connected to a wireless network, removing the need for a lead, and allowing the handler to track and control the dog’s movements through a GPS and smartphone. With the SMART system, dogs can run freely through dense vegetation and rocky areas that are not accessible to THE IMPACT OF EXPLOSIVE HAZARDS people or machines, in order to detect the presence of explosive hazards. This breakthrough technology was developed by the GICHD together with DIGGER DTR and funded by the Swiss Foundation World Without Mines. It offers an entirely new method to complement the land release process and will permit more effective use of MDD. Moreover, the MDD SMART system is fully compatible with the GICHD-developed IMSMA software (Information Management System for Mine Action), which generates maps and reports on the location of explosive hazards. The data from the SMART System can be recorded directly into IMSMA, facilitating better operational planning and decision making.

Video: SMART Mine Detection Dog (MDD) System 

Mechanical systems

Mechanical demining systems can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of mine/ERW clearance operations. A variety of mechanical systems are manufactured to destroy and detonate mines. Machines have the potential to accelerate the progress of other assets through removing vegetation and tripwires and breaking up soil in support of manual deminers and ADS. They play a crucial role in the Systematic investigation variant of TS. 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
  • mechanical systems created from agricultural vehicles and machinery as a low-cost alternative to other options available on the market