Chilean Army to Remove Mines in Patagonia

By Dialogo
September 25, 2012

The Chilean Army will remove anti-tank land mines planted during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), near the road that leads to a national park located in Patagonia, southern Chile, according to a military source.

“There are five minefields that pose considerable danger to those who travel the road, so we aim at minimizing the risks for tourists,” said Luis Zegpi, the Army 5th Division’s Commander-in-Chief, on September 23.

The mines were positioned in the late 70s, near the road leading to Torres del Paine National Park, 1,864 miles south of Santiago, near the border with Argentina. Torres del Paine is the most visited park in the country, with over 150,000 visitors per year.

“We are working to respond to a very urgent need,” added Zegpi, since this destination is very popular among tourists, and the only precaution to avoid accidents are signs that state “Danger, Minefield”.

In Chile, more than 180,000 mines were buried in the northern and southern borders of the country during Pinochet’s dictatorship, and so far, about 50,000 mines have been eradicated, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Last February, the Chilean-Peruvian border was closed due to a heavy storm that caused a land mine slide into the area, and in May, a Peruvian citizen died in a land mine explosion while he was trying to cross the international border illegally. In August, Chile and Peru agreed to delegate the removal of border mines to the humanitarian organization Norwegian People’s Aid.