are differences of opinion about whether it is safer to blow
in-situ or to render the item safe for later destruction. As
usual, everyone is right - for a given value of "right".
can readily understand the need for professional training before
anyone should approach many complex items of ordnance with souvenirs
or ashtrays in mind. Half an hour in the bar with many EOD-techs
convinces me that having good reference material is often not
enough to even be 100% sure of the right identification, never
mind the approach. None
the less, formal EOD training "rules" and requirements are not
applied to the disarming and dismantling of mines in most places
Under a wide range of terms, render-safe, FFE, FFI,
disarming and neutralising is routinely done by many groups
in the field. [For newcomers, FFE - Free From Explosive and
FFI - Free from initiators.]
FFE - Free From Explosive but still including its metal content
[and sometimes its detonator, so only nominally "FFE"].
Many responsible demining groups who are anxious to comply with
contracts that specify depth and who want their deminers to
be really confident in their metal-detector and their ability
to use it - routinely FFE mines found during Technical Survey,
area reduction or in the first part of clearance in order to
be certain that their metal-detectors can detect the metal content
at the required depth. Sometimes you could use the same mine-model
from another area, but it helps to have several so that deminers
are not delayed waiting for a turn - and the condition of the
metal in some old mines varies widely according to the ground
they have been in (the GYATA-64s in Mozambique is an example). Using locally found mines makes sense and leaves the deminers
really confident of the results.
FFI - Free From its Initiation system and detonator: FFI mines from
the mined area are used by some dog groups in their
daily "refresher" training and dog assessment prior to deployment.
The same arguments about the realistic condition of the mine
apply when a dog is used instead of a metal-detector - only
more so because many dog-handlers argue that it is the entire
"bouquet" of mine content, casing and the chemical interaction
with the surrounding ground that dogs find (preferably without
then trying to dig it up!).
Defuse/disarm: The actual deminer rarely performs a full FFE, although I have
seen deminers routinely removing the booster, detonator and/or
fuze from mines, so allowing them to be safely
moved for bulk demolition. Some groups replace safety pins or
clips - but there have been accidents doing this and it is frowned on by others.
When dogs are used for QA, or there are fragmentation mines,
many argue that the mines in good condition should be moved
in order to contain the effects of their destruction. Bad experiences
with the PROM and VALMARA-69 aside, this is widely done without
Lifting: while lifting and moving some items of UXO is common, I have only seen one demining group that routinely lifts mines without defusing or disarming then. These mines are placed in sand boxes and transported from the site to a bulk collection point each day. The movement of live and primed mines in this way is not normally acceptable. Usually
it is the local Section, Squad or Team Leader who disarms or
takes mines apart.
While I know that many EOD trained people
like to promote their skill as a "black art" - it is not hard
to render-safe and FFE many/most blast mines that are in good
condition. It is routinely done - and it is usually done for
a better purpose than the manufacture of a display-case souvenir
or an ashtray.
accidents that occur while disarming blast mines in Humanitarian
Demining are rare - although it is true that there have been
more than have occurred while laying charges to destroy mine in-situ. Some groups routinely
do it and do not have accidents, others have had several that
have occurred with the same mines undergoing the same disarming
the "common sense" appeal of the rule not to handle more
than necessary, the evidence implies that it need not be especially
dangerous to disarm and/or FFE, FFI devices. As long as damaged
devices are always excluded and the range is limited to those
that are well known, many believe that the advantages in terms
of fast and efficient clearance can far outweigh the small risk.
Deminers: the people I know who routinely do it are not trained
to any Western standard. They were usually trained by being
shown and copying - and by thoroughly inspecting devices that
came from stores and had never been armed. Most of these devices
are pretty simple. Experience works better than any number of
blackboard sessions.... especially when coupled with a healthy
survival instinct. The best preparation would be a combination
of experience and theory so that those trained could cope with
a wider range of devices, but the "ideal" is rarely
achievable in a post-war setting, especially in a country that
has never had a developed formal education sector.
know of no demining group that routinely disarms UXO, although
many defuse mortar bombs when the fuze can be moved without
too much force. Large items of ordnance may have to be disarmed for safe disposal, but they are relatively rare in most demining scenarios. Civilians do it of course - for the recycling
value of the parts - and we all know of the many accidents that
they suffer. It is the civilians who need some training to improve
their awareness of what not to do, not the deminers. But I believe that it
would usually be cheaper to stimulate the local economy in other
ways and make it unattractive to people to risk their lives
for a few pennies.