Campaign to ban use of mines

November 23, 1994

Campaign to ban use of mines

By Elaine Chew

There are 100 million landmines laid around the world, the majority of them in Third World countries. Although most were laid during war, they have the ability to be activated up to 75 years later.

Mines cause the deaths of at least 10,000 non-combatants each year and wound another 5400 who suffer serious injury, including amputations and permanent disablement. Modern mines often are designed not to kill but to tear off limbs and leave the rest of the body intact, creating a burden for enemy forces.

Mines also increase world poverty by using up already inadequate medical resources and preventing use of agricultural and grazing land.

Last December, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a worldwide ban on the export of landmines. Both the United States and France imposed moratoriums on exports of landmines, and in December the Clinton administration wrote to 44 governments, asking them to ban such exports.

There are also many technical obstacles to removing mines already laid and those which continue to be laid each day. Mines are no longer easily found with a metal detector. They are now made of lightweight plastic, with only a tiny metal pin strip that is difficult to be picked up on a metal detector.

Worse yet, there are some which have a porcelain or matchstick-like flint instead of the metal pin and are impossible to find without combing an area with human search parties.

The cost of clearing landmines is 100 times the cost of laying them, and the finances needed for these operations often cannot be paid by countries recovering from war.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is circulating petitions and writing letters to governments urging them to initiate action at the UN to achieve a complete ban on landmines worldwide.

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