Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

How to get mines out of the ground safely…

This information has been in the “Generic SOPs” on this website for a long time but some people have found it hard to find.

Exposing explosive devices is by far the most dangerous demining activity. More accidents occur doing this than during all other activities combined. Most of these accidents occur because pressure is unintentionally applied to the top of a pressure sensitive anti-personnel mine. Because the mine may be in an unstable condition, accidental initiations may occur even when the process is properly conducted. The use of the correct PPE, tools and procedures can prevent the initiation of the mine leading to severe injury. The most common severe injuries occur to the hands and the eyes. It is proven that the correct use of purpose designed tools in disciplined procedures can protect hands, and that wearing 5mm polycarbonate eye protection can save eyes.

Before excavating a mine you will either have to use a detection system to decide where there is something under the ground that needs to be exposed, or you will have decided to excavate over the entire area using an “Area Excavation” system.

An example of how to use a metal-detector during demining is given here.

When you have used a detector of some kind to pinpoint an area that needs to be excavated, you do not simply prod the ground. Reasons for not ‘prodding’ are explained here.

To ‘safely’ expose the source of your detector signal, follow one of the excavation systems explained here. The word safely is stressed because safety is a relative term. These methods have been found to be the safest because there is a good chance of being uninjured even if you get things wrong. If the buried device is movement sensitive, large, or presents a higher threat than an anti-personnel blast mine, don’t get it wrong because you may not survive. 
In all cases, use long blast-resistant handtools and 5mm polycarbonate eye protection as a minimum, adding frontal body protection as the third priority.