many cases original survey marking is limited to the noting
of a Landmark and its relationship to a marked Benchmark from
which the surveyor's drawn map leads the reader to Turning Points
on the suspect area's perimeter. The turning points may be marked
out with stakes or painted stones, have metal posts driven into
the ground, or may be unmarked and rely on the demining group
taking measurements and directions from the map. Mined-area
warning signs may be positioned around the perimeter - especially
in areas that may be used by the public. The signs may be linked
by wire or plastic tape, or may be hung on posts and trees.
many countries NO WARNING SIGNS are erected as part of Level
1 or preliminary survey - and signs are only placed during Technical Survey
or immediately prior to clearance.
signs are used - usually with a skull and crossbones on them.
Early ones were made of sheet metal, but corrugated plastic
has been favoured for some years because of its low cost and
good weathering properties.
signs are sometimes used - the "hcr" sign is from Croatia, but
they are more vulnerable to wind damage than smaller signs…..
the sign is framed and well supported. [Picture Slavko Majetic]
placed when the mines were laid may not have the skull and crossbones
problem with traditional skull and cross-bone signs is that
they get stolen.
In some areas, the signs are deliberately
cut in half or holes made to make them less attractive.
you still see them on the fronts of trucks and in the offices
of Advisers and aid workers.
from souvenirs, plastic mine signs may be attractive to local
people who have few materials available to them. They have been
used to patch leaking roofs..…
used to make toys - such as the sail for this boat made out
of discarded polystyrene packaging in Cambodia.
are perhaps the worst culprits - and legislation is unlikely
to stop them.
some countries, an attempt to make the mine-signs durable and
less attractive to theft was made by casting them in concrete.
This is in Namibia.
A similar idea has been used in Cambodia.
In Cambodia, the signs were square boxes - and are reported
to have been taken as building materials because there are very
few stones at all in much of the country.
Thailand, the sign and its post is cast in concrete, then painted.
The reinforcing inside the concrete is bamboo, so reducing the
chance of it being stolen for its metal reinforcing. Its irregular
shape makes it unattractive to use as a building block. [Picture "Sakkie"]
warning signs may also be painted onto walls - as with this
sign in Angola.
people may also have improvised mined area signs. Some are durable,
but others are unlikely to last long.
warning sign has been chalked on the front of this train (not
really visible, it reads simply "Mina").
It can be a problem when official or improvised signs
last beyond their time of use or are moved. This can lead to
people ignoring signs that it is vital that they should obey.
signs can be confusing and not only when mine awareness groups
advise people to put a cut branch in the path close by. A cut
branch may have many other meanings, of course.
warning sign is made using part of an RPG - and is an improvised traffic cone. Large shell cases are frequently
used for this purpose in battle areas.
survey and clearance signs may also be painted onto available
walls or stones - as this Bench Mark sign in Afghanistan shows.
The problem with painting signs on buildings or large rocks
is that they may need to be expunged at a later date - and this
is not always done.
the edge of this village, the Technical Survey Turning Point
posts can be clearly seen (in the centre of the picture)
picture shows wooden survey markers - and a painted red band
on a tree (in the shadow behind).
are frequently used because they have a semi-permanence.
trouble with wooden markers used to mark a surveyed area is
that they may not last as long as necessary.
rot and are subject to insect attack.
parts of trees can also fade and become overgrown. And even
the plastic signs are subject to UV exposure and may fade…..
even when a sign does not fade, rot or get stolen - all warning
signs can be rapidly overgrown and become invisible.
a mined-area is fenced, it may not be clear which side to avoid
- and if the fence was placed by those laying the mines, they
may well have put mines on both sides to deter people from cutting
the fence. Fences also fall into disrepair or get overgrown,
heavily overgrown minefield fence.
a single rusting strand of wire is all that
was left of an original fence. And the Type-72 beside it
could have been missed.
this picture a single strand of barbed wire curving downward
is just visible amid new growth. This is not a very clear sign
for the general public.
areas may be marked with plastic tape and sticks - but this
can lead to confusion about which side of the marking is the
The building is clearly not to be entered
- but which side of the tape around the scrap metal is safe?
Plastic tape is also easily broken and can be moved
around by wind. I have found lengths of mine-warning tape blowing
around on roads several times.
well as for survey and permanent markers, painted stones are
also used to mark the extent of mined or cleared areas. In this
picture, the surveyors cut a path through the mined area and
marked it with red stones.
shows the Start point and rows of painted stones. The other
on the right, apparently randomly placed
may be confusing.
may be especially bad when there a lot of other stones around.
There have been accidents when the stones have been accidentally
or deliberately moved. The red metal flag
marks a place
where a mine has been found.
when the stones are in tidy piles, it can be hard to determine
where it is safe to walk. This raises the question of whether
clearance marking signs are exclusively for the deminers, or
also for the general public. If the latter, the potential for
confusion should be addressed.
groups, in this case a technical survey team in Afghanistan,
use stones but prefer to use flags whenever possible.
marking systems are also used in other countries, presumably
because those in charge were familiar with them.
unchecked area around this flail in Eritrea is confusingly marked
with rocks painted red and white. The absence of a "line" marked
by string or tape can make it hard to see exactly which area
the cleared area with painted stones is also common in areas
where the stones have to be brought in. The painted white stones
around this partly cleared pylon in Afghanistan are an example.
There was an accident at the pylon and work stopped, and the
edge of the cleared area was marked by a ridge of earth. The
marking is low-cost and convenient, but it is not always clear
where it is safe to go - and may be very unclear to the general
Stones may also be used in combination with sticks and string
or tape, as this picture from Somalia shows. [Picture "Sakkie"]
clearance, wooden sticks and tape are frequently used. The stakes
are of varied lengths and painted various colours to serve different
purposes - such as marking where a device was found on ground
that has now been cleared.
groups use tape or string to join wooden posts - but they may
do so sparingly.
the tape is taut, others slack.
the support sticks are close together….
far apart. In this example, mine tape has been used to join
poles over long stretches and a breaching lane is marked entirely
with red-topped posts with no tape at all.
this mined area, white tape is used to mark both the perimeter
and the clearance lanes. The perimeter posts are longer than
those used in the lanes. [Picture Dieter Guelle]
same tape may be used to mark out dog "boxes" as in this area
which was previously flailed and the safe-lanes cleared manually.
[Picture Dieter Guelle]
the string or tape used in a clearance lane is paid out as the
deminer works and may have no interim supports.
means that a lane always LOOKS straight, no matter how much
the deminer may have moved from side to side, but does lead
to a higher risk of walking on uncleared areas.
rolls of tape used to mark a clearance lane in this mined area
are made of canvas and are far more robust than plastic tape.
[Picture Dieter Guelle]
end of lane working area is marked by one or two sticks - in
this case two. [Picture Dieter Guelle]
sticks or painted wooden cubes are used to mark metal
detector indications in some places.
a mine has been discovered, markers are often placed to show
the spot prior to the device being destroyed or removed. These are often
collapsible cones. Colours vary - and are usually brighter than
this version from Cambodia.
In this case, also in Cambodia, the marker is cut from a mine
painted metal flag and a cloth flag are also used.
painted metal flag marking an exposed PMD-6. [Picture Dieter
marker triangles are cut from sheet metal with red tape on the
a triangular marker points towards the device,
collapsible red "box"
is visible from farther away.
are great many variations, but most are visible from some way
markers are meant to be more permanent.
is a concrete survey turning point marker cast into the ground.
clearance, permanent markers are supposed to be placed so that
the extent of the area is always clearly known. This is not
always done, and when it is done by putting metal into the ground
so that the metal can be found with a metal detector later,
it is sometimes "lost" or the metal may be stolen. This picture
shows a permanent survey mark in Mozambique in 2003. The concrete
contains metal, and written details are also cast into the concrete.
If reinforcing bar or other metal with a resale value is used,
even these durable markers may be dug up by children. When the
area is wanted for agricultural purposes, the farmers may remove
the markers because they get in their way.
are permanent survey markers used in Thailand. One shows the
Start Point, the others a Turning Point. In this case a combination
of temporary and permanent survey markers are used. [Picture
is a Turning Point stencilled onto a corrugated plastic sign
from the same demining group. [Picture "Sakkie"]
is no single integrated system using the same method and
materials for survey, mined area marking, clearance and
marking systems can fail due to failure of their materials,
inadequate placement or misuse by the public.
systems can be especially misleading.
systems often provide the ONLY warning signs prior to Technical
Survey and clearance.
4 is astonishing - but true. The lack of Survey Level-1 perimeter
marking systems ignores the needs of the civilian population
in many countries. Exceptions occur in countries such as Croatia
where legislation requires marking, and both perimeter marking
and wire-fencing of suspect areas is taken seriously.
data is available for civilian injury as a result of an inadequate
marking system. However, some deminer data is available. From
the Database of Demining Accidents…….
area-marking is cited as a possible contributory factor
in 10.5% of accidents involving deminers.
of all deminer accidents are classed as missed-mine incidents.
In 23% of these missed-mine accidents, inadequate-area marking
played a part.
From this one can infer that improved marking systems during
clearance could enhance deminer safety.
evidence and common sense allow me to infer that many civilian
incidents occur because the victims do not know they are in
a dangerous situation - and so any perimeter marking of suspect
areas during Survey could have a positive effect on
civilian injury numbers despite the fact that the prohibited
area would probably always be larger than strictly necessary.