The mission is clear: to make Colombia a country free of suspected antipersonnel mines. This is the task of the Army’s Humanitarian Demining Engineer Brigade, which seeks to clear and decontaminate Colombian territory from the threat of antipersonnel mines planted by illegal armed groups. In Colombia, the Navy’s Marine Corps Explosives and Demining Group and five civilian organizations also carry out humanitarian demining.
Diálogo visited the Brigade’s facilities to talk with its commander, Colombian Army Colonel Jhon Fredy Correa González, about demining activities and the tasks ahead to fulfill the Brigade’s institutional function.
Diálogo: Why was the Humanitarian Demining Engineer Brigade created?
Colombian Army Colonel Jhon Fredy Correa González, commander of the Humanitarian Demining Engineer Brigade: Until about eight years ago, Colombia, after Afghanistan, occupied the dishonorable second place in the world with the greatest number of antipersonnel mines. Of our 32 departments, only one was free of suspected contamination, and that was San Andrés and Providencia. We have approximately 12,600 registered victims of antipersonnel mines, of which 60 percent are members of the Public Force and 40 percent are civilians — among them more than 1,200 are children. Under this scenario, the first steps were taken with the Ottawa Convention [signed in 1997], but after that we created units such as the 60th Demining Battalion. In 2017, we created the Humanitarian Demining Brigade with more than 4,000 Army men and women in order to attack this scourge, and we started with hard work in the most affected areas, such as the departments of Antioquia and Huila, among others.
Diálogo: What are the Brigade’s capabilities?
Col. Correa: The Brigade is made up of seven units that are deployed nationwide to decontaminate the territory [and get it to be] free of suspected antipersonnel mines. We began with manual demining techniques, and we implemented the canine and mechanical demining techniques, techniques that we have been strengthening and perfecting under international standards and approved operational procedures.
Diálogo: Which are the most affected regions in Colombia?
Col. Correa: Antioquia was undoubtedly one of the departments most affected at the beginning of this work. In departments such as Cauca, Arauca, and Santander, where, unfortunately, non-repetition conditions do not exist, we haven’t been able to begin working as such in those departments.
Diálogo: What progress is being made in the 2025 Humanitarian Demining Operations Plan, which envisions a Colombia free of suspected antipersonnel mines?
Col. Correa: Since the Brigade was created, through the Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines, 298 municipalities were assigned [to us] and we’ve delivered 246, almost 80 percent progress in terms of municipalities declared free of suspected contamination by antipersonnel mines.
Diálogo: What kind of interinstitutional work does the Brigade carry out?
Col. Correa: The Brigade has created a distinguishing seal that identifies products grown in areas free of suspected contamination, that is, post-clearance products, in order to sponsor or coordinate sponsorship for these products so that the economy can start flowing again. We have witnessed the appreciation of lands, where the population was previously afraid to enter, and today they are gaining significant economic value. Our work fills us with pride because we’ve seen that humanitarian demining has been able to propel the economy and land use forward.
We’ve worked in coordination with the Colombian Navy, for training through the International Humanitarian Demining Center; we’ve also coordinated with municipalities, department authorities, and different government agencies, such as the Land Renewal Agency and the Land Restitution Agency.
Diálogo: How do you share experience/training with partner nations since you are considered “pioneers” in this task?
Col. Correa: We’ve had almost 50 years of experience with explosive devices due to Colombia’s internal conflict, and we’ve interacted with different governments such as Cambodia, Spain, and Brazil, with whom we’re currently exchanging experiences with explosive devices. The Brigade, because of its size, is the only one in the world with quite considerable experience in this area; we’ve contributed to the knowledge and documented all the ways in which illegal organizations have victimized the country.
Diálogo: What has been the response of the communities that have been cleared of antipersonnel mines?
Col. Correa: One of the concerns that our country folks have had is what comes after demining. We have to remember that these are inhospitable areas, difficult to access, areas oftentimes outside the reach of subsidies, that is why we have had this policy or initiative with a distinguishing seal to try to revive the economy with these products that are beginning to be harvested in these regions. This is the case, for example, of cocoa in the Meta department, in which farmers of that region participated in the international fair Expo  Dubai.