The Mine Action Technology Workshop

by Nicole Neitzey [ Center for International Stabilization and Recovery ]

Sponsored by the United Nations Mine Action Service and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, the Mine Action Technology Workshop is a biannual event held in Geneva, Switzerland in early September. The 2010 event featured theoretical and practical discussions, as well as a newly added opportunity to see technology in action. This article highlights the events and outcomes of the workshop.

Workshop participants pose for a group photo at the site of the demonstration day.
All photos courtesy of Erik Tollefsen/GICHD.

In September 2010, 75 participants from more than 30 countries attended the United Nations Mine Action Service/Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining’s Mine Action Technology Workshop. The third workshop of its kind (the previous two were held in 2006 and 2008), the 2010 workshop’s theme was “Merging Mine Action Technology and Methodology.” The proceedings involved more than two days of densely packed presentations and demonstrations from scientists, manufacturers and operational staff, presided over by facilitators Christopher Clark of UNMAS and Erik Tollefsen of GICHD.

The workshop’s discussion started with an aerial view of technology (quite literally, with presenters from the European Space Agency and a manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles), and became more practical on Day Two, with discussions of actual testing and trials of different technologies. Day Three brought things closer to ground level, with field demonstrations of different equipment types ranging from personal protective equipment and handheld detectors to deflagration technology and large-scale machines. As one of the presenters described it, the workshop began discussing “the man on the moon” and progressed to “the deminer on the ground.”

Workshop Highlights

Day One covered Remote Sensing and Information Management, giving participants an idea of technology that could be used for remote detection of mines. Day One also included presentations on a current study to determine how space assets could be used in demining1,2 and on how aerial systems are used or are tested for mine-action applications.3,4 Afterward, participants broke into three groups to discuss the presentations and raise questions for the presenters in a session dubbed “hard talk,” which was designed to allow the community to ask the manufacturers concrete questions about their technologies in order to better understand their feasibility and applicability in mine action. The day concluded by transitioning to more practical kinds of briefings that would characterize Day Two, featuring presentations on how soils affect metal-detector performance5,6 and results from recent testing on blast-resistant wheels.7,8

As mentioned, Day Two presenters discussed more practice than theory, talking about personal experiences, lessons learned from the field and innovative projects that are under way. Presentations covered specific mechanical-demining equipment9 and planning tools.10,11,12 Country-specific case studies were also presented, such as Phase 1 of the Falkland Islands clearance project13,14 and South Sudan’s land-release procedures.15 The afternoon session focused on technology related to explosive-ordnance disposal and stockpile destruction, including discussions of environmentally safe stockpile-destruction technologies16 and the Moldova stockpile-destruction project.17 A report on a novel initiative by Golden West Humanitarian Foundation in Cambodia to break down unexploded ordnance and reuse the filler explosive in clearance operations was also presented.18,19 Another presenter highlighted a subject of growing concern in the community: improvised explosive devices and related security issues.20, 21, 22, 23

The workshop’s third and final day let participants get hands-on with technology in field demonstrations. The group traveled by bus to the grounds of the nearby Swiss Army/Civil Defence Training Centre, where manufacturers of different tools displayed their equipment. Exhibits included deminers’ vests and visors, deflagration technology, large machinery, geographic-information-system technologies and handheld detection systems. Participants were given the opportunity to test some of the equipment themselves or see the demonstrators put the tools to use. Day Three was a unique opportunity to see and hear about the capabilities of different technologies as well as ask the different organizational representatives questions.

Participants saw live demonstrations of several types of machinery available to demining programs, a new feature added to the agenda for the 2010 Workshop.
Participants saw live demonstrations of several types of machinery available to demining programs, a new feature added to the agenda for the 2010 Workshop.

Outcomes and Conclusions

This third workshop on mine-action technology brought a number of new topics to the foreground for discussion, along with several recurring concerns mentioned in the past. It was clear many advancements have been made in recent years in terms of mine-action equipment and methodologies—including land release and innovative solutions, such as the explosives-harvesting program—but some participants remained frustrated with the technology’s slow pace moving from concept to field use. Although some were skeptical that certain technologies could be effectively used in mine-action operations (at least anytime soon), most everyone in attendance realized the benefit of uniting in such a forum to link together the “men on the moon”—the innovators and scientists—with the “deminers on the ground”—the operational field personnel who will ultimately put their ideas to the test, and hopefully use these new technologies for the benefit of mine-affected populations.

Overall, the workshop was a success. In addition to positive responses to the 2010 proceedings, most participant feedback indicated continued interest in attending such events. Attendees welcomed the new workshop features, including the “hard talk” session and the exhibition day. The workshop’s chairs hope to build on the 2010 workshop’s success and continue providing this unique opportunity for the community to network and convene around technology issues on a regular basis. J

For more information on the workshop, including the agenda, presentations and photos, visit the GICHD site at http://www.gichd.org/operational-assistance-research/clearance-technology/technology-machines-demining-equipment/mine-action-technology-workshops/third-mine-action-technology-workshop/overview/.

Biography

Nicole NeitzeyNicole Neitzey is the Technical Editor for The Journal of ERW and Mine Action and serves as Grants Officer for the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery/Mine Action Information Center. She has worked for CISR/MAIC since 2001. Neitzey graduated from James Madison University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in technical and scientific communication, and an online publications specialization.

 

Nicole Neitzey
Technical Editor/Grants Officer
The Journal of ERW and Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University
800 South Main Street, MSC 4902
Harrisonburg, VA  22807 / USA
Tel: + 1 540 568 3356
Fax: + 1 540 568 8176
E-mail: neitzenx(at)jmu.edu
Website: http://maic.jmu.edu or http://cisr.jmu.edu

Erik Tollefsen
Project Manager - EOD, Stockpile Destruction and Technology
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
7bis, avenue de la Paix
P.O. Box 1300
1211 Geneva 1 / Switzerland
Tel: + 41 22 906 16 95
Fax: + 41 22 906 16 90
E-mail: e.tollefsen(at)gichd.org
Website: http://gichd.org

Chris Clark, MBE MC
Senior Liaison Officer
Team Leader - Standing Capacity
UNMAS/Geneva
Tel: +41 22 917 2262
Mobile: +41 794 298640
Website: http://www.mineaction.org

Endnotes

  1. Kruijff, Michiel. “Space Assets for a Demining Assistance: Towards an Integrated Operational Service.” European Space Agency. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 6 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/B-6Sept2010-ESA-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  2. Bouvet, Thomas. “Space Assets for Demining Assistance.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 14.1 (Spring 2010: 48–49). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/14.1/SpclRpt/Bouvet.shtml. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  3. Connell, T. and Johansen, J. “UAV: A New Dimension in Survey Operations?” DanChurchAid, Sky-Watch. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 6 September 2010. http://bit.ly/fINU1h. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  4. Yoresh, Avi Buzaglo. “Identification of Mine Fields by Aerial Photography.” GEOMINE LTD. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop, Geneva 2010. 6 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/E-6Sept2010-GeoMine-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  5. Preetz, H. and J. Igel. “Soil Impact on Metal Detector Performance and Soil Characterization Maps.” Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 6 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/G-6Sept2010-SoilImpact-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  6. Igel, Jan, Holger Preetz and Sven Altfelder. “Predicting Soil Influence on the Performance of Metal Detectors: Magnetic Properties of Tropical Soils.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 13.1 (Summer 2009: 103–107). http://www..jmu.edu/cisr/journal/13.1/rd/igel/igel.shtml. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  7. Cepolina, Emanuela Elisa. “Toward LOCOSTRA: Results from a Comparative Test on Blast-resistant Wheels.” PMARlab, DIMEC, University of Genova, Italy. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 6 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/H-6Sept2010-LOCOSTRA-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 15 December 2010.
  8. This research is a follow-on to an earlier study: Cepolina, Emanuela Elisa and Matteo Zoppi. “Could Local Agricultural Machines Make a Country ‘Impact Free’ by 2010?” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 13.2 (August 2009: 47–52). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/13.2/focus/cepolina-zoppi/cepolina.shtml. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  9. Aliyev, Arif. “Mechanical Demining Capacity ANAMA and an Efficiency of the MDMs.” ANAMA. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/
    Technology-Workshop-2010/I-7Sept2010-ANAMA-TechWS.pdf
    . Accessed 17 December 2010.
  10. de Brun, Erik. “Roller Trials and Concept of Roller Testing.” Humanistic Robotics. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/M-7Sept2010-Roller-Trials-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  11. Heaton, Sarah. “Humanitarian Demining Program 2010.” United States Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining R&D Program. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. September 7, 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/O-7Sept2010-USDoD-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  12. Lodhammar, Pehr and Erik de Brun. “Management of Mechanical Demining Operations.” GICHD, Humanistic Robotics. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/N-7Sept2010-Management-MechOps-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  13. Swanson, Robin. “Falkland Islands De-mining Programme; the Challenges of Clearance.” UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/
    Technology-Workshop-2010/L-7Sept2010-Falkland-TechWS.pdf
    . Accessed 17 December 2010.
  14. Swanson, Robin. “Falkland Islands Demining Pilot Project: Completion of Phase 1.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 14.3 (Fall 2010: 50–54). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/14.3/notes/swanson/swanson.shtml. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  15. Barnes, Leonie. “Mine Action and Technology – Mechanical Clearance and Land Release.” UNMAS Sudan. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/K-7Sept2010-LR-Sudan-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  16. Szynalewski, Waldemar. “Environment-friendly and Safe Technologies for Destruction of Ammunition Stockpiles.” Jakusz Company. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/P-7Sept2010-StockpileDestruction-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  17. Eldred, Paul. “Technical Solutions in Self Help Stockpile Destruction Programmes.” Norwegian People’s Aid. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/T-7Sept2010-Moldova-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  18. King, Colin. “Destruction of Cluster Munitions in Moldova.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 14.3 (Fall 2010: 13–15). http://www..jmu.edu/cisr/journal/14.3/focus/king/king.shtml. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  19. Austin, Len. “Explosive Harvesting System (EHS) - From Initial Concept to Operational Reality.” Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining R&D Program. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/S-7Sept2010-GoldenWest-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  20. Hess, Roger.“Explosive Harvesting Program.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 10.2 (Winter 2006: 90–93). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/10.2/r&d/hess/hess.shtml. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  21. King, Adrian. “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) - A Growing Threat to Humanitarian Demining Operations.” Hazardous Management Solutions. UNMAS/GICHD Mine Action Technology Workshop 2010. 7 September 2010. http://www.gichd.org/fileadmin/pdf/technology/Technology-Workshop-2010/R-7Sept2010-ThreatToHumanitarianOps-TechWS.pdf. Accessed 17 December 2010.
  22. King, Adrian. “The Growing Threat to Humanitarian Operations.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 14.3 (Fall 2010: 58–61). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/14.3/notes/king/king.shtml. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  23. King, Adrian. “IEDs and Their Impact on Mine Action.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action, Issue 13.3 (Fall 2009: 54–59). http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/13.3/specialreport/king/king.shtml. Accessed 9 February 2011.