Issue 6.1, April 2002


Application of the Technical Survey in the Demining Process


The author proposes a way that Technical Surveys can be used as a step in the process to eliminate the negative socio-economic impact of mines/UXO in the most productive, cost-effective, efficient manner and to guarantee that the best technology for the task is applied.

by J. J. van der Merwe, UNOPS

(page 1 | 2)

Technical Survey as Part of an Integrated Solution

The solution to a country’s mine and associated socio-economic problems is through the provision of a combination of mine action services. The Technical Survey described in this document mainly refers to a step in the demining process; however, while Technical Surveys are being carried out, similar needs assessments should take place to collect information for planning and implementing mine awareness and victim support programs.

In order to prepare an annual workplan, it is suggested that the following approach be taken to ensure that these services are provided in a coordinated and balanced package.

  • After the database has been populated with information collected through the GMAA process, communities have to be prioritized and a selection has to be made of those communities where mine action activities will be undertaken to provide relief of the impact caused by the presence of mines and UXO. This process should take place at the Mine Action Center level under the supervision and coordination of the program director, and it should include all departments within the Mine Action Center, such as information, operations, mine awareness, victim support and administrative/logistical support.

  • Community Mine Action Liaison (CMAL) is a process designed to place the needs and priorities of mine affected communities at the center of the planning, implementation and monitoring of mine action and other sectors. CMAL is based on an exchange of information, and it involves communities in the decision-making process in order to establish national priorities for mine action. It is intended to ensure the mine action programs are sensitive and respond to community needs and priorities and to ensure that affected communities understand and support mine action.

  • The next step should be for senior personnel from the Mine Action Center (including representatives from mine awareness, victims’ support and the local authorities) to visit these communities to inform them of the events that will follow. It is very important to communicate the sequence of events so that people do not assume that the area has been cleared after the Technical Survey.

  • Once communities have been informed, the technical surveyors (demining, mine awareness and victim assistance personnel) deploy to the community and commence collecting the information required to develop a specific mine action plan for the community. To make the project a success, the mine awareness personnel should begin educating the community on the process, the danger and also their responsibilities. The mine awareness messages should be adopted throughout the process to educate communities on the dangers and remedies.

  • After selected communities have been surveyed, the information is verified and an annual workplan is developed. Depending on the nature of the program, this will be done on a national, regional or district level. This annual workplan should include operational activities for demining, mine awareness and victim support.

Information to Be Collected During the Technical Survey

The Technical Survey is the primary source of planning information for mine and UXO operations and usually involves gathering specific information, entering the contaminated area and mapping the suspect area. In doing so, the survey process will

  • Provide essential information for regional and local planning.

  • Provide information to assist in defining training requirements.

  • Provide planning information for subsequent area reduction, clearance and marking operations.

  • Provide the basis for scheduling demining assets to limit down time.

  • Expedite demining activities through the provision of accurate and in-time information on the particular site.

During the Technical Survey, the following information should be collected:

  • Confirmation of the blockage data that was collected during the National Survey.

  • Assessment of the ground in terms of the soil, metal contamination, vegetation and slope.

  • Presence of mines and UXO.

  • A definition of the area in terms of its size, described through angles and bearings. Area measurements should be more accurate than those calculated during the national survey and should be within 10 percent of the actual area.

  • Suggestion of the depth to which clearance should be conducted. This suggestion doesn’t replace the requirement to clear to a depth determined by the future intended use of the land; it is rather a suggestion based upon actual information collected in the hazardous area.

  • Resources required to carry out demining activities per identified area and the estimated time for manual teams, mechanical teams, mine detection dog teams and EOD teams as appropriate.

In addition to the information mentioned above, a detailed site sketch must also be prepared, as this will be provided to the demining organization that will eventually carry out the task. The following information should be noted on the sketch of the area:

  • Exploratory lanes and safe access routes as applicable.

  • Benchmarks and turning points as applicable.

  • Distances and bearings from the benchmarks and turning points.

  • Location of visible mines/UXO and the pattern of mines (if known).

  • Location(s) of any mine, UXO or other devices destroyed during survey.

  • Location(s) of any accidents in or around the contaminated area.

  • Natural prominent features such as hill contours, creeks, bushy areas, etc., and other prominent man-made features within the hazardous area (houses, tombs, fortifications, canals, roads, hills, rivers, etc.).

In order to collect the required information, it will be necessary to enter hazardous areas by breaching exploratory lanes into the suspect area. Once the information has been collected and documented, it should be returned to the Mine Action Center to be included in the mine database. This will assist in the preparation of the annual program and the tasking orders that will be provided to demining organizations. These tasking orders will describe in detail what the demining requirements are (area and depth), which kind of resources and how many of them are best to use and how long they are expected to work on the task to address the impact that was defined during the GMAA process.

Sequence for Carrying Out the Technical Survey

Sketch Map 1: Sample map of suspect areas located near a village.

After impacted communities have been ranked in priority order and a selection has been made, the Technical Survey should be carried out to collect sufficient information to enable the demining requirement to be more accurately defined. These demining activities include areas that need to be reduced, cleared and/or marked. Sketch Map 1 (above) shows an example of a village and (4) suspect mined areas within the village boundary. These hazardous areas were identified by interviewing the inhabitants of the village during the National Survey. The identified suspect areas have impact on the villagers or prevent them from living a normal life free from the dangers of mines and UXO.

Sketch Map 2 shows one of the suspect areas and indicates the blockages caused by the presence of mines. The suspect area is blocking access to:

  • Pasture land for grazing. The identified suspect area is right in the middle of agricultural land and at the moment an area of 12,500 m2 is blocked for grazing.

  • Drinking water. The villagers have to walk around the hazardous area, instead of through it, to the spring that supplies the village with drinking water.

  • Powerline. The powerline was damaged in the war, and the area underneath the line would have to be cleared to reconstruct the line and pylons.

Sketch Map 2:
Blockages caused by mine presence in a suspect area.

The next step in the process should be to plan, prepare for and execute the Technical Survey. As previously stated, the aim of the survey is "to collect sufficient information to enable the clearance requirement to be more accurately defined and for the subsequent clearance operation to be conducted in a safe, effective and efficient manner."

Using the road and the already defined benchmark as the starting point, one should analyze the blockages caused by the mines, and then propose solutions to address how these blockages can be eliminated through marking, reducing and/or clearing the areas concerned. This initial planning is done before carrying out the Technical Survey, and it is done by analyzing all available information and preparing an initial plan. The survey is then focused on collecting the correct information that would allow such a final plan to be devised. Explanatory breaching lanes into the suspect area should also be planned. The purpose of these lanes is to allow safe access into the suspect area in order to collect specific information that can be used to develop a detailed plan for the site. The number and location of these lanes will depend on the information requirements. There could be a number of solutions to remove the impact in this particular case. One possibility would be to treat the areas as follows:

  • Pasture land. Depending on the terrain, vegetation and mine threat, the area could be covered using mechanical systems or mine detection dogs. The terrain feature in the bottom right hand corner of the suspect area could either be fenced off or cleared manually.

  • Drinking water. As a first step, a safe lane could be made through the suspect area to provide villagers access to the spring.

  • Powerline. Due to the fact that the powerline is part of the area required for pasture land, one should clear the area around the powerline and pylons at the same time when the pasture land is being cleared; however, a different method might be applied due to the presence of scrap metal and power cables on the ground.

This pre-planning exercise will focus the members of the Technical Survey team on the information they need to collect in order to confirm the initial plan. To support the identified planning requirements, lanes would have to be breached into the suspect area. To collect the information identified above, one could establish lanes as shown in Sketch Map 3.

Sketch Map 3:
Establishing lanes to collect information on a suspect area.

The information collected through the survey will either confirm the preliminary plan or indicate that the plan needs to be amended.

After the survey has been completed and the information has been entered into the mine information database, a final plan should be developed for this particular site. The same process has to be carried out for each one of the six other identified suspect areas. These areas could eventually become one cluster, and resources should be shared and moved among the six different sites to prepare the ground, reduce the suspect area and/or clear and mark contaminated areas. Caption: Establishing lanes to collect information on a suspect area.

As a result of analyzing the information collected though the Technical Survey, a plan to manage the mine problem is developed. The main focus of the plan is to address the impact of the mines and UXO on the community where they are found. One of many solutions is shown graphically in Sketch Map 4. The plan should ensure that the whole area identified in the GMAA process is taken care of and as a result is accounted for.

Sketch Map 4:
One solution for managing the mine problem in a specific suspect area.



In the absence of effective new technologies, better resource allocation can reduce demining costs and increase the rate of land release and clearance. Technical Surveys will provide the planners of demining activities with crucial information to plan area reduction, clearance and marking activities. It will also ensure that the resources on a particular site are used with the highest efficiency and that these resources are targeted to provide the identified relief. Finally, the Technical Survey will provide the necessary milestones to estimate and later gauge the progress of operational activities.

Contact Information

J. J. van der Merwe
UNOPS Mine Action Advisor
The Chrysler Building
405 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10174
Tel: (212) 457-1283
Fax: (212) 457-4049


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