Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Trials comparing various manual demining methods


Manual demining is the most frequently used way to conduct Search & Clearance, and has been the least studied. Many presume that we know what we are doing, and that manual demining is easy. My knowledge of accidents made me doubt these assumptions. Contracted to GICHD, I set out to discover how the widely used demining methods compare with each other. The results surprised me. Clich here for a PDF of the report.

Here are a dozen provocative soundbite conclusions that will raise the odd eyebrow. All of them are backed by hard evidence:

  1. Using a garden spade for rapid area-excavation can be safe

  2. Conduct area-reduction AFTER clearing the mines

  3. Effective QA/C requires on-site facilitators, not post-clearance policemen

  4. The slowest method can be the most cost-efficient

  5. SOPs So Often Pass their “Use-by” dates that they are frequently useless

  6. Quality Assurance must be conducted as Quality Control

  7. Many experts don’t know how to use metal-detectors (see metal-detector setup)

  8. Sustainability is a starting point not a goal

If you disagree, you should read the test report to find out how these conclusions can be justified.

I designed these trials after carrying out a series of field studies during 2004. While informed by those field studies, the trial design owes most to my previous experience of manual demining and varied trials of equipment around the world. That said, the actual format was severely constrained by the limited time and money available. Field study reports were generated as the work progressed. These included detailed time and motion records of deminer activity over the full working day in a dozen minefields. I summarised these reports for inclusion in the GICHD publication A Study of Manual Mine Clearance. My summary was later edited for incorporation into "Book 3" of the GICHD study but Book 3 was not written by me. It includes a study and brief trial in Lebanon that I had nothing to do with (the Trial in Lebanon was conducted after my trials, despite being presented as having come first). I accepted the GICHD editing of my text in most places but when they changed my original meaning significantly, apparently for political reasons, I could not accept their edit. Anyone wanting to see my original reports should email me. Book 3 of the GICHD study is here.

The field trials were conducted in collaboration with ITEP, QinetiQ (for the UK) and BAM (Germany). All assisted with monitoring and evaluation and agreed the findings. The trial report is extensive, too long to include it in the GICHD Study of Manual Mine Clearance. It was on the ITEP website until it was lost can be downloaded from the ITEP website or by clicking here [this is a 2.5 megabyte *.PDF file including many photographs.] If you have a slow connection, be patient and it will show up in Adobe reader, and you can then save or print it.

Your comments and arguments would be appreciated. Please email me.