can be broken into three parts, usually performed as a cycle
several times in any one excavation:.
- Prodding - with a thin probe to loosen ground
Picking/scraping - with a broad tool that may be twisted
to break up the ground.
Digging with a trowel-tool to remove soft or loosened
demining groups only issue one tool with which to carry out
all three stages - frequently a bayonet.
picture shows a deminer in the Balkans. Most deminers work in
a similar position. He probes to loosen the ground and feel
for obstructions, then scoops the loose spoil away. The ground
in this area is soft and the anticipated mines would
be shallow, but the deminer still uses both hands to push his
probe into the ground.
is because of ground friction on the blade of the tool. The
tool should always be inserted at an angle of 30 degrees (or
less) to the ground. If you push a probe 14cm into the ground
at this angle, the point will only be 7cm deep, so the "search"
depth is shallow.
push the tool 14cm into the ground usually takes more force
than is safe, and requires the use of both hands.
long-handled probe allows two-handed pushing. Clearance with
just a probe generally means clearance to a depth of 5cm or
using a metal-detector, the safest way to explore the detector-reading
is to excavate.
marker is placed at the closest point of the reading. Sometimes
another marker is placed in what seems to be the centre of the
reading. Then the deminer moves back at least 20cm and starts
a downward sloping excavation. Usually the area will be prodded
first, then loosened spoil is removed. I recommend using anvil
root-secateurs to cut any roots encountered, and a long trowel
to remove the loose spoil. By prodding into the face of the
excavation (working from the bottom upwards) , then removing
the spoil before prodding again, the deminer should strike the
mine on its side rather than on its pressure plate and so should
"feel" where it is.
hand closest to the ground may be the left or the right hand.
deminer is leaning forward to prod - and with his visor raised
so that he can see clearly. (Sadly, the condition of many visors
means that raising the visor at the most dangerous time is common.)
man is prodding with a needle probe. He uses his left hand to
guide the probe.
deminer in Cambodia is digging with a wood chisel. The deminer
is not wearing a huge hat - it is a cotton towel to shield his
head from the sun.
picture shows a deminer in Afghanistan. He loosens the ground
by twisting a short bayonet, then scoops the loose spoil away
with his left hand.
this picture the length of the bayonet is clearly visible. Bayonets
get shorter over time - as they get blunt and are sharpened
using a grind-wheel.
the locally made trowel this man is using to start his excavation.
this locally made prodder in Afghanistan. Its broad blade means
that it is also used as a scraping tool or trowel. The deminer
wears a glove on his left hand because he scoops loosened spoil
away with that hand - and the glove prevents scratches.
is also in Afghanistan - where the ground is so hard that the
deminer starts his excavation using a pick. This pick is more
like a thin axe on a long stick. Picks in Afghanistan vary.
is a more conventional double headed pick on a thin wooden shaft.
The deminer swings in from the side to "shave" away the face
of the excavation and has often continued right up to the mine
without changing tools. Unsurprisingly, there have been frequent accidents when using a pick-axe.
deminer in Cambodia has a long-handled trowel but is using it
in a way that could cost him both hands.
deminer in Angola is excavating with a very short trowel. The
short tool encourages him to lean forward right over any possible
with a short, locally-made tool. The tool is so short that his
fingers would be almost on top of any detonation.
deminer in Angola is cutting a root with secateurs. Both hands
are very close to the ground.
is in Cambodia where a deminer is cutting roots with a knife.
Both hands are very close to the ground.
groups only issue one tool for investigating metal-detector
readings. Usually the single tool is a bayonet or thin probe,
but sometimes it is a trowel. Clearly, it is not possible to
move spoil aside with a thin probe, and it is not possible to
probe with a trowel, so the safety of an excavation is compromised.
When that happens, severe injuries that require surgical amputation
user's hands only have to be 30cm away from the blast to avoid
the worst of these injuries.
The best way to achieve distance from an excavation is to use long handled rakes designed for the purpose.