Chilean Army and Navy Complete Majority of Humanitarian Demining Plan

Chilean Army and Navy Complete Majority of Humanitarian Demining Plan

By Dialogo
February 25, 2015






Special teams from the Chilean Army and Navy have been deployed throughout the country with a goal of intervening in 22 mined areas and destroying 19,000 terrestrial explosives in 2015.

Chlie has launched the effort to fulfill a commitment signed at the Ottawa Convention of 1997, which prohibited the manufacture, use, and storage of antipersonnel terrestrial explosives and also called for the removal of planted mines. According to the Ottawa Convention, the signatory countries had an initial term of 10 years to comply with the demining plan, but in 2012 Chile obtained an eight-year extension, with a new deadline set for 2020.

The Army and Navy have allocated $5 million annually to the Humanitarian Demining Plan. In 2014, the Military deactivated 17,000 mines in 27 areas.

An ambitious demining effort


Ultimately, the goal of Chile's Humanitarian Demining Plan is to dismantle 85,921 antipersonnel and antitank mines installed in 112 minefields, covering an area of 12.4 million square meters, that must still be deactivated.

“We’re well on our way,” said Defense Minister Jaime Burgos, who also serves as president of the National Demining Commission (CNAD). “This goes beyond the fact that the commitment is a legal obligation. It’s also a moral commitment to be able to say, as soon as possible, that Chile is a country free of landmines.”

As of February, the Army and Navy had destroyed 95,893 antipersonnel and antitank mines out of 181,814 devices planted in the border regions in northern and southern Chile, according to the CNAD. Those figures mark a 52 percent completion rate for the plan and the demining of 10.8 million square meters, corresponding to 88 minefields.

“In addition to antipersonnel mines, the national plan also added antitank mines, the elimination of which was not required by the agreement,” Mendoza said.

In 2014, Chile dismantled more than 6,000 landmines along the country’s border with Peru. About 70 specialized Army Troops are continuing to clear explosive devices. Their goal is to clear more than 71,000 explosive devices by 2020. Additionally, the stock of explosives stored in Military facilities were completely destroyed in 2003, well before the deadline.

“We have made progress at an annual rate of 10 percent, which leads us to believe that we will meet the deadline,” said Colonel Juan Mendoza, CNAD's executive secretary.

The National Demining Commission was created in 2002, when Chile ratified its commitment to the international agreement. The multi-agency commission is charged with coordinating the demining work. It operates under the Ministry of Defense and includes the secretariats of Foreign Relations, Finance, and Health, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of the Armed Forces.

Most mines were planted in northern regions


The demining efforts aim to destroy the widespread mines that were planted along the country's borders with Peru and Bolivia, in the north, and with Argentina, in the south, in the 1970s.

The majority of the mines – precisely 161,439 – were planted in the northern regions of Arica, Parinacota, and Antofagasta. The rest were planted in the extreme southern region of Magallanes.

A deployment of 200 Soldiers from the Army, duly prepared and equipped, is carrying out much of the demining work under extreme conditions, such as in the desert and highlands of northern Chile.

“These areas are far from urban life, with high temperatures, where large distances must be covered on a daily basis. They live in camps throughout the year, under the most suitable conditions possible,” Mendoza said.

Meanwhile, the Navy, which joined the Demining Plan in 2008, is concentrating its efforts on five southern Chilean islands, including Isla Nueva, Isla Picton, and Isla Hornitos. There are 17 minefields with 3,492 explosives to be eliminated on the five islands; the effort is 23 percent complete, according to Captain Erich Von Unger, who is responsible for the plan.

The demining is being carried out by 55 Marines, who can work only during the summer season, from September to March, due to the low temperatures and heavy rainfall during the rest of the year.

“It’s a complex issue because it’s a very isolated area, requiring the assistance of the Air Force for transportation, and with very adverse weather conditions, such as snow, rain, and winds,” Von Unger explained.

The victims


The Ottawa Convention also requires countries to care for the victims of existing minefields. Along with providing assistance and repairing damage, the countries are expected to educate their populations.

“We believe it's feasible to implement increased security measures to mitigate the imminent risks posed by these explosives,” said Elir Rojas, a geologist and director of the NGO Zona Minada, which closely follows the issue.

To date, 177 victims – including civilians and soldiers – have been killed or mutilated by the accidental detonation of a landmine in Chile.







Special teams from the Chilean Army and Navy have been deployed throughout the country with a goal of intervening in 22 mined areas and destroying 19,000 terrestrial explosives in 2015.

Chlie has launched the effort to fulfill a commitment signed at the Ottawa Convention of 1997, which prohibited the manufacture, use, and storage of antipersonnel terrestrial explosives and also called for the removal of planted mines. According to the Ottawa Convention, the signatory countries had an initial term of 10 years to comply with the demining plan, but in 2012 Chile obtained an eight-year extension, with a new deadline set for 2020.

The Army and Navy have allocated $5 million annually to the Humanitarian Demining Plan. In 2014, the Military deactivated 17,000 mines in 27 areas.

An ambitious demining effort


Ultimately, the goal of Chile's Humanitarian Demining Plan is to dismantle 85,921 antipersonnel and antitank mines installed in 112 minefields, covering an area of 12.4 million square meters, that must still be deactivated.

“We’re well on our way,” said Defense Minister Jaime Burgos, who also serves as president of the National Demining Commission (CNAD). “This goes beyond the fact that the commitment is a legal obligation. It’s also a moral commitment to be able to say, as soon as possible, that Chile is a country free of landmines.”

As of February, the Army and Navy had destroyed 95,893 antipersonnel and antitank mines out of 181,814 devices planted in the border regions in northern and southern Chile, according to the CNAD. Those figures mark a 52 percent completion rate for the plan and the demining of 10.8 million square meters, corresponding to 88 minefields.

“In addition to antipersonnel mines, the national plan also added antitank mines, the elimination of which was not required by the agreement,” Mendoza said.

In 2014, Chile dismantled more than 6,000 landmines along the country’s border with Peru. About 70 specialized Army Troops are continuing to clear explosive devices. Their goal is to clear more than 71,000 explosive devices by 2020. Additionally, the stock of explosives stored in Military facilities were completely destroyed in 2003, well before the deadline.

“We have made progress at an annual rate of 10 percent, which leads us to believe that we will meet the deadline,” said Colonel Juan Mendoza, CNAD's executive secretary.

The National Demining Commission was created in 2002, when Chile ratified its commitment to the international agreement. The multi-agency commission is charged with coordinating the demining work. It operates under the Ministry of Defense and includes the secretariats of Foreign Relations, Finance, and Health, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the heads of the Armed Forces.

Most mines were planted in northern regions


The demining efforts aim to destroy the widespread mines that were planted along the country's borders with Peru and Bolivia, in the north, and with Argentina, in the south, in the 1970s.

The majority of the mines – precisely 161,439 – were planted in the northern regions of Arica, Parinacota, and Antofagasta. The rest were planted in the extreme southern region of Magallanes.

A deployment of 200 Soldiers from the Army, duly prepared and equipped, is carrying out much of the demining work under extreme conditions, such as in the desert and highlands of northern Chile.

“These areas are far from urban life, with high temperatures, where large distances must be covered on a daily basis. They live in camps throughout the year, under the most suitable conditions possible,” Mendoza said.

Meanwhile, the Navy, which joined the Demining Plan in 2008, is concentrating its efforts on five southern Chilean islands, including Isla Nueva, Isla Picton, and Isla Hornitos. There are 17 minefields with 3,492 explosives to be eliminated on the five islands; the effort is 23 percent complete, according to Captain Erich Von Unger, who is responsible for the plan.

The demining is being carried out by 55 Marines, who can work only during the summer season, from September to March, due to the low temperatures and heavy rainfall during the rest of the year.

“It’s a complex issue because it’s a very isolated area, requiring the assistance of the Air Force for transportation, and with very adverse weather conditions, such as snow, rain, and winds,” Von Unger explained.

The victims


The Ottawa Convention also requires countries to care for the victims of existing minefields. Along with providing assistance and repairing damage, the countries are expected to educate their populations.

“We believe it's feasible to implement increased security measures to mitigate the imminent risks posed by these explosives,” said Elir Rojas, a geologist and director of the NGO Zona Minada, which closely follows the issue.

To date, 177 victims – including civilians and soldiers – have been killed or mutilated by the accidental detonation of a landmine in Chile.


Great effort, little-recognized by the Chileans, where many have risked their lives in their professional capacity at every instant. Special thanks to these selfless soldiers from the Engineers Corps of the glorious Chilean Army and to the Marines of our Chilean Navy. Military practice and intention needs to go hand-in-hand if not better yet supported by the political will of the Chilean government. Progress is slow, but we hope they won't stop in their actions of removing landmines in the affected areas.
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