Andy Smith
Mine action specialist

Mined areas, section 1



Humanitarian Demining

Mined areas: Section 1 (of 3)

Most of the photographs in this presentation were taken by me, but a few have come from other people. My thanks to them.

Demining is done in many different ways and in all kinds of context. It can never be made simple because the context is always complex. This series of presentations is meant as in introduction that you should build on with personal experience. The following pictures show either mined areas, places that have been searched and cleared, or places that are being searched and cleared. You will notice that the expression mine-'field' can rarely be applied.

Each mined area is unique in terms of terrain, vegetation, obstructions and climate - also in terms of the mines and explosive hazards that may be expected, and the search and clearance procedures available to be used by the deminers. That said, there are similarities and they often present similar difficulties.


This is in the Balkans. A lane has been cleared up this hill by deminers. Think about how difficult it is to use a probe in this ground. Also consider how hard it would be to use any machine over that uneven ground and with that gradient. The visor lying in the middle was being worn by a deminer when he detonated a mine as he started to work on a new search lane.

This African hillside is similarly rocky. This minefield has been burned in an unintentional bush fire and some of the mines have been damaged (plastic parts melted).

This ditch beside a road was mined to prevent attackers taking cover in it - using it as a trench. Local people placed a plank across it and have continued to use that bridge since the mines were placed. Mines are often placed where soldiers might take cover during an attack - so in ditches, gullies, behind walls or trees, etc.

Mines were laid among these trees to slow down the enemy's advance. The leaf-litter makes it easy to conceal the mines, and the spindly trees make it almost impossible to spot a tripwire.

Anti-tank mines were placed on this track through the same scrubby woodland. Small anti-personnel mines were placed around them to make it hard for anyone to remove them. Only two mines were found on two kilometres of road.

Mines were laid in this meadow close to a village to prevent the safe return of the locals who had been driven out as part of "ethnic cleansing".

Mines were laid high in these remote hills to prevent infantry moving across them in the dark and making surprise attacks. This gulley would have provided cover to attackers, so it was mined.

There are as many types of land that is mined as there are types of land. But there are sometimes similarities. Demining in this rocky area in Bosnia is not so different to…

… demining on this rocky hillside in Afghanistan.

...or this military post in Iraq.

Using a metal-detector around this crumbling building in Afghanistan presents some of the same problems as clearing in a town in the Balkans. There is less metal debris, but the building clay in Afghanistan causes electromagnetic disturbance that some metal-detectors cannot cope with.

The metal contamination is extreme in this metal-strewn suburb of Sarajevo.

And there is a lot of metal contamination in this Cambodian village…

…and around this old railway station in Mozambique.

And around this well in Sri Lanka.

The mined area in the landscape above is "obvious". The road crosses a bridge and the area around the bridge is heavily overgrown. The rest of the land is farmed. People would usually go down to the river beside a bridge to get water and wash clothes. In this case they clearly avoid it. The government mined the bridge to prevent it being blown up. It was mined defensively, and local people know to avoid it. In fact, the mining is often most effective if the enemy also knows the mines are there - so although the mined area is not marked, it is often meant to be obvious.

The bulldozed sand bund (berm) behind the deminer marks a common defensive line in Sri Lanka. The mines and barbed are are in front of the bund to deter attackers, who are meant to know the mines are there.

The danger area here is also obvious. One side blew up the bridge successfully, then placed mines all around the ends so that the enemy would be unable to safely rebuild it. One side is denying an area to another - for predictable strategic purposes.

Although it is also obvious that the remains of this bridge may be mined, the rapid spread of undergrowth makes it difficult to predict where they may be with any precision.

Abandoned military equipment like this tank is often mined to prevent it or the bodies around it being safely recovered.

The same is true of this tank which broke down and was abandoned. You can see a skull beside it and may be able to see a mine: there are several.

Go to Section 2.....