Issue 6.1, April 2002
by Detlef Shroeder,GICHD
Antipersonnel (AP) landmines continue to threaten the lives and livelihood of millions. The UN names 86 countries affected by mines in recent statistics. Although it has not proved possible to estimate the number of mines deployed world wide, it can be recognized that mines are a scourge for those unfortunate enough to live within their proximity.
The Ottawa Convention was signed in 1997, and an important aim of the Convention is that all AP mines should be removed and destroyed by 2010. Achieving this aim will be a major challenge for the mine action community. The speed and safety of demining operations must be increased. Efficiency and cost effectiveness must be improved. The use and continued development of mechanical mine clearance systems may prove to be the best means for the realization of the 2010 aim. Mechanical equipment can save precious time for manual deminers by preparing the ground for them; machines can be employed ahead of deminers to remove, detonate, destroy or sift out mines. These functions can be combined, and some of the latest designs are using a "toolbox" system, greatly increasing the range and work flexibility of existing machines. Demining organizations can now employ a range of commercially available machinery for their operations because of the many companies developing a wide variety of purpose-built machines for mine clearance.
The History of Mechanical Mine Clearance Equipment
Mechanical means of mine clearance were first developed for military purposes such as mine field breaching. Flails were developed in South Africa and the United Kingdom during the second World War. The idea of mechanical mine clearance is not new. What is surprising is how little mechanical clearance was further developed until the last decade.
The GIHCD Mechanical Mine Clearance Catalogue
It is now often stated that humanitarian mine clearance began in Afghanistan in 1989. Since that time, mine clearance organizations have used machines to clear mines or assist manual clearance with varied results. Until recently, most machines were designed for military and not humanitarian tasks. Through continued experimentation and adaptation, considerable experience has been built up by mine clearers and the choice of tools for the task has expanded. In 1999, the German government, acting on behalf of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), took the responsibility for producing a catalogue of the mechanical demining equipment available on the world market. The German government has in turn tasked the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) with amending and updating the list to form a mechanical demining equipment catalogue.
The Aim of the Catalogue
The GICHD catalogue has two aims: to provide current
information about machines for mine clearance available on the international
market and to provide an annually updated database for such equipment.
Previous catalogues have given a general overview of available
The Concept of the Catalogue
The GICHD catalogue highlights different machines and provides a concise explanation of their mode of operation. The machines are grouped in categories such as flails, tillers, combined systems, sifters, vegetation cutters, mine protected vehicles and "multi-tools."
In general, the information given for each machine covers four pages, including illustrations. Technical data for each machine is included in tables at the back of the document. Each machine is detailed in paragraphs covering:
The catalogue covers 31 different machines. Published in
January 2002, the catalogue will be distributed to members of the
international mine clearance community, including NGOs, charities,
The information contained within the catalogue comes from three main sources:
Mechanical Mine Clearance Catalogue does not in
any way endorse the products shown. The organizations that produce the
equipment featured within it are independent
The GICHD Mechanical Mine Clearance Equipment Catalogue is designed to be a definitive list of demining machines on the international market. It aims to be as comprehensive as possible, and will be updated annually. It features machines designed for mine clearance, commercial machines successfully adapted from other military or civilian purposes and prototypes and machines still under development. It will enable a dialogue between producers, evaluators and users, to improve the capabilities of equipment by the cross-pollinations of positive ideas throughout the international humanitarian demining community. Finally, it will hopefully improve the prospect for the worldwide eradication of AP mines by the year 2010.
*All photos courtesy of the author.