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A land mine is an explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically detonated automatically by way of pressure when a target steps on it or drives over it, although other detonation mechanisms are also sometimes used.[1] A land mine may cause damage by direct blast effect, by fragments that are thrown by the blast, or by both.

The use of land mines is controversial because of their potential as indiscriminate weapons. They can remain dangerous many years after a conflict has ended, harming civilians and the economy. 78 countries are contaminated with land mines and 15,000–20,000 people are killed every year while countless more are maimed. Approximately 80% of land mine casualties are civilian, with children as the most affected age group. Most killings occur in times of peace.[2] With pressure from a number of campaign groups organised through the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global movement to prohibit their use led to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. To date, 164 nations have signed the treaty, but these do not include China, the Russian Federation, and the United States.[3]

Definition

In the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (also known as the Ottawa Treaty) and the Protocol on Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices, a mine is defined as a "munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle."[4][5] Similar in function is the booby-trap, which the Protocol defines as "any device or material which is designed, constructed or adapted to kill or injure and which functions unexpectedly when a person disturbs or approaches an apparently harmless object or performs an apparently safe act."[5] Such actions might include opening a door or picking up an object. Normally, mines are mass-produced and placed in groups, while booby traps are improvised and deployed one at a time.[6] Also, booby traps can be

The use of land mines is controversial because of their potential as indiscriminate weapons. They can remain dangerous many years after a conflict has ended, harming civilians and the economy. 78 countries are contaminated with land mines and 15,000–20,000 people are killed every year while countless more are maimed. Approximately 80% of land mine casualties are civilian, with children as the most affected age group. Most killings occur in times of peace.[2] With pressure from a number of campaign groups organised through the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a global movement to prohibit their use led to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. To date, 164 nations have signed the treaty, but these do not include China, the Russian Federation, and the United States.[3]

In the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (also known as the Ottawa Treaty) and the Protocol on Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices, a mine is defined as a "munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle."[4][5] Similar in function is the booby-trap, which the Protocol defines as "any device or material which is designed, constructed or adapted to kill or injure and which functions unexpectedly when a person disturbs or approaches an apparently harmless object or performs an apparently safe act."[5] Such actions might include opening a door or picking up an object. Normally, mines are mass-produced and placed in groups, while booby traps are improvised and deployed one at a time.[6] Also, booby traps can be non-explosive devices such as the punji stick.[7] Overlapping both categories is the improvised explosive device (IED), which is "a device placed or fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating explosive material, destructive, lethal, noxious, incendiary, pyrotechnic materials or chemicals designed to destroy, disfigure, distract or harass. They may incorporate military stores, but are normally devised from non-military components."[8] Some meet the definition of mines or booby traps and are also referred to as improvised, artisanal or locally manufactured mines.[9] Other types of IED are remotely activated, so are not considered mines.[7]

Remotely delivered mines are dropped from an aircraft or carried by devices such as artillery shells or rockets.[5] Another type of remotely delivered explosive is the cluster munition, a device that releases several submunitions ("bomblets") over a large area.[10] If they do not explode, they are referred to as unexploded ordnance (UXO), along with unexploded artillery shells and other explosive devices that were not manually placed (that is, mines and booby traps are not UXOs). Explosive remnants of war (ERW) include UXO and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO), devices that were never used and were left behind after a conflict.[5][11]

Land mines are divided into two types: anti-tank mines, which are designed to disable tanks or other vehicles; and anti-personnel mines, which are designed to injure or kill people.[9]

History

The history of land mines can be divided up into three main phases: In the ancient world, buried spikes provided many of the same functions as modern mines. Mines using gunpowder as the explosive were used from the Ming Dynasty to the American Civil War. Subsequently, high explosives were developed and used in land mines.[12]

Before explosives

Roman caltrop

Some fortifications in the Roman Empire were surrounded by a series of hazards buried in the ground. These included goads, foot-long pieces of wood with iron hooks on their ends; lilia (lilies, so named after their appearance), which were pits in which sharpened logs were arranged in a five-point pattern; and abatis, fallen trees with sharpened branches facing outwards. As with modern land mines, they were "victim-operated", often concealed, and formed zones that were wide enough so that the enemy could not do much harm from outside, but were under fire (from spear throws, in this case) if they attempted to remove the obstacles. A notable use of these defenses was by Julius Caesar in the Battle of Alesia. His forces were besieging Vercingetorix, the leader of the Gauls, but Vercingetorix managed to send for reinforcements. To maintain the siege and defend against the reinforcements, Caesar formed a line of fortifications on both sides, and they played an important role in his victory. Lilies were also used by Scots against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and by Germans at the Battle of Passchendaele in the First World War.[13]

A more easily deployed defense used by the Romans was the caltrop, a weapon about 12–15 cm across with four sharp spikes that are oriented so that when it is thrown on the ground, one spike always points up. As with modern antipersonnel mines, caltrops are designed to disable soldiers rather than kill them; they are also more effective in stopping mounted forces, who lack the advantage of being able to carefully scrutinize each step they take (though forcing foot-mounted forces to take the time to do so has benefits in and of itself). They were used by the Jin Dynasty in China at the Battle of Zhongdu to slow down the advance of Genghis Khan's army; Joan of Arc was wounded by one in the Remotely delivered mines are dropped from an aircraft or carried by devices such as artillery shells or rockets.[5] Another type of remotely delivered explosive is the cluster munition, a device that releases several submunitions ("bomblets") over a large area.[10] If they do not explode, they are referred to as unexploded ordnance (UXO), along with unexploded artillery shells and other explosive devices that were not manually placed (that is, mines and booby traps are not UXOs). Explosive remnants of war (ERW) include UXO and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO), devices that were never used and were left behind after a conflict.[5][11]

Land mines are divided into two types: anti-tank mines, which are designed to disable tanks or other vehicles; and anti-personnel mines, which are designed to injure or kill people.[9]

The history of land mines can be divided up into three main phases: In the ancient world, buried spikes provided many of the same functions as modern mines. Mines using gunpowder as the explosive were used from the Ming Dynasty to the American Civil War. Subsequently, high explosives were developed and used in land mines.[12]

Before explosives

A land mine can be triggered by a number of things including pressure, movement, sound, magnetism and vibration.[35] Anti-personnel mines commonly use the pressure of a person's foot as a trigger, but tripwires are also frequently employed. Most modern anti-vehicle mines use a magnetic trigger to enable it to detonate even if the tires or tracks did not touch it. Advanced mines are able to sense the difference between friendly and enemy types of vehicles by way of a built-in signature catalog. This will theoretically enable friendly forces to use the mined area while denying the enemy access.

Many mines combine the main trigger with a touch or tilt trigger to prevent enemy engineers from defusing it. Land mine designs tend to use as little metal as possible to make searching with a metal detector more difficult; land mines made mostly of plastic have the added advantage of being very inexpensive.

Some types of modern mines are designed to self-destruct, or chemically render themselves inert after a period of weeks or months to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties at the conflict's end. These self-destruct mechanisms are not absolutely reliable, and most land mines laid historically are not equipped in this manner.

There is a common misperception that a landmine is armed by stepping on it and

A land mine can be triggered by a number of things including pressure, movement, sound, magnetism and vibration.[35] Anti-personnel mines commonly use the pressure of a person's foot as a trigger, but tripwires are also frequently employed. Most modern anti-vehicle mines use a magnetic trigger to enable it to detonate even if the tires or tracks did not touch it. Advanced mines are able to sense the difference between friendly and enemy types of vehicles by way of a built-in signature catalog. This will theoretically enable friendly forces to use the mined area while denying the enemy access.

Many mines combine the main trigger with a touch or tilt trigger to prevent enemy engineers from defusing it. Land mine designs tend to use as little metal as possible to make searching with a metal detector more difficult; land mines made mostly of plastic have the added advantage of being very inexpensive.

Some types of modern mines are designed to Many mines combine the main trigger with a touch or tilt trigger to prevent enemy engineers from defusing it. Land mine designs tend to use as little metal as possible to make searching with a metal detector more difficult; land mines made mostly of plastic have the added advantage of being very inexpensive.

Some types of modern mines are designed to self-destruct, or chemically render themselves inert after a period of weeks or months to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties at the conflict's end. These self-destruct mechanisms are not absolutely reliable, and most land mines laid historically are not equipped in this manner.

There is a common misperception that a landmine is armed by stepping on it and only triggered by stepping off, providing tension in movies.[36] In fact the initial pressure trigger will detonate the mine, as they are designed to kill or maim, not to make someone stand very still until it can be disarmed.

Anti-handling devices detonate the mine if someone attempts to lift, shift or disarm it. The intention is to hinder deminers by discouraging any attempts to clear minefields. There is a degree of overlap between the function of a boobytrap and an anti-handling device insofar as some mines have optional fuze pockets into which standard pull or pressure-release boobytrap firing devices can be screwed. Alternatively, some mines may mimic a standard design, but actually be specifically intended to kill deminers, such as the MC-3 and PMN-3 variants of the PMN mine. Anti-handling devices can be found on both anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines, either as an integral part of their design or as improvised add-ons. For this reason, the standard render safe procedure for mines is often to destroy them on site without attempting to lift them.

Anti-tank mines

Anti-tank mines were created not long after the invention of the tank in the First World War. At first improvised, purpose-built designs were developed. Set off when a tank passes, they attack the tank at one of its weaker areas — the tracks. They are designed to immobilize or destroy vehicles and their occupants. In U.S. military terminology destroying the vehicles is referred to as a catastrophic kill while only disabling its movement is referred to as a mobility kill.

Anti-tank mines are typically larger than anti-personnel mines and require more pressure to detonate. The hig

Anti-tank mines were created not long after the invention of the tank in the First World War. At first improvised, purpose-built designs were developed. Set off when a tank passes, they attack the tank at one of its weaker areas — the tracks. They are designed to immobilize or destroy vehicles and their occupants. In U.S. military terminology destroying the vehicles is referred to as a catastrophic kill while only disabling its movement is referred to as a mobility kill.

Anti-tank mines are typically larger than anti-personnel mines and require more pressure to detonate. The high trigger pressure, normally requiring 100 kilograms (220 lb) prevents them from being set off by infantry or smaller vehicles of lesser importance. More modern anti-tank mines use shaped charges to focus and

Anti-tank mines are typically larger than anti-personnel mines and require more pressure to detonate. The high trigger pressure, normally requiring 100 kilograms (220 lb) prevents them from being set off by infantry or smaller vehicles of lesser importance. More modern anti-tank mines use shaped charges to focus and increase the armor penetration of the explosives.

Anti-personnel mines are designed primarily to kill or injure people, as opposed to vehicles. They are often designed to injure rather than kill in order to increase the logistical support (evacuation, medical) burden on the opposing force. Some types of anti-personnel mines can also damage the tracks or wheels of armored vehicles.

In the asymmetric warfare conflicts and civil wars of the 21st century, improvised explosives, known as IEDs, have partially supplanted conventional landmines as the source of injury to dismounted (pedestrian) soldiers and civilians. IEDs are used mainly by insurgents and terrorists against regular armed forces and civilians. The injuries from the anti-personnel IED were recently reported in BMJ Open to be far worse than with landmines resulting in multiple limb amputations and lower body mutilation.[37]

WarfareFrom 1999 to 2017, the Landmine Monitor has recorded over 120,000 casualties from mines, IEDs and explosive remnants of war; it estimates that another 1,000 per year go unrecorded. The estimate for all time is over half a million. In 2017, at least 2,793 were killed and 4,431 injured. 87% of the casualties were civilians and 47% were children (less than 18 years old). The largest numbers of casualties were in Afghanistan (2,300), Syria (1,906), and Ukraine (429).[60]

Environmental

Natural disasters can have a significant impact on efforts to demine areas of land. For example, the floods that occurred in Mozambique in 1999 and 2000 may have displaced hundreds of thousands of land mines left from the war. Uncertainty about their locations delayed recovery efforts.[59]

Land degradation

From a study by Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, land degradation caused by land mines "can be classified into five groups: access denial, loss of biodiversity, micro-relief disruption, chemical composition, and loss of productivity". The effects of an explosion depend on: "(i) the objectives and methodological approaches of the investigation; (ii) concentration of mines in a unit area; (iii) chemical composition and toxicity of the mines; (iv) previous uses of the land and (v) alternatives that are available for the affected populations."[61]

Access denial

The most prominent ecological issue associated with landmi

Natural disasters can have a significant impact on efforts to demine areas of land. For example, the floods that occurred in Mozambique in 1999 and 2000 may have displaced hundreds of thousands of land mines left from the war. Uncertainty about their locations delayed recovery efforts.[59]

Land degradationFrom a study by Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, land degradation caused by land mines "can be classified into five groups: access denial, loss of biodiversity, micro-relief disruption, chemical composition, and loss of productivity". The effects of an explosion depend on: "(i) the objectives and methodological approaches of the investigation; (ii) concentration of mines in a unit area; (iii) chemical composition and toxicity of the mines; (iv) previous uses of the land and (v) alternatives that are available for the affected populations."[61]

Access denial

The mo

The most prominent ecological issue associated with landmines (or fear of them) is denial of access to vital resources (where "access" refers to the ability to use resources, in contrast to "property", the right to use them).[62] The presence and fear of presence of even a single landmine can discourage access for agriculture, water supplies and possibly conservation measures.[61] Reconstruction and development of important structures such as schools and hospitals are likely to be delayed, and populations may shift to urban areas, increasing overcrowding and the risk of spreading diseases.[63]

Access denial can have positive effects on the environment. When a mined area becomes a "no-man's land", plants and vegetation have a chance to grow and recover. For example, formerly arable lands in Nicaragua returned to forests and remained undisturbed after the establishment of landmines. Similarly, the Pengu

Access denial can have positive effects on the environment. When a mined area becomes a "no-man's land", plants and vegetation have a chance to grow and recover. For example, formerly arable lands in Nicaragua returned to forests and remained undisturbed after the establishment of landmines. Similarly, the Penguins of the Falkland Islands have benefited because they are not heavy enough to trigger the mines present.[64] However, these benefits can only last as long as animals, tree limbs, etc. do not detonate the mines. In addition, long idle periods could "potentially end up creating or exacerbating loss of productivity", particularly within land of low quality.[61]

Landmines can threaten biodiversity by wiping out vegetation and wildlife during explosions or demining. This extra burden can push threatened and endangered species to extinction. They have also been used by poachers to target endangered species. Displace people refugees hunt animals for food and destroy habitat by making shelters.[61]

Shrapnel, or abrasions of bark or roots caused by detonated mines, can cause the slow death of trees and provide entry sites for wood-rotting fungi. When landmines make land unavailable for farming, residents resort to the forests to meet all of their survival needs. This exploitation furthers the loss of biodiversity.[61]

Near mines that have exploded or decayed, soils tend to be contaminated, particularly with heavy metals. Products produced from the explosives, both organic and inorganic substances, are most likely to be "long lasting, water-soluble and toxic even in small amounts".[61] They can be implemented either "directly or indirectly into soil, water bodies, microorganisms and plants with drinking water, food products or during respiration".[61]

Toxic compounds can also find their way into bodies of water accumulate in land animals, fish and plants. They can act "as a nerve poison to hamper growth", with deadly effect.[61]Toxic compounds can also find their way into bodies of water accumulate in land animals, fish and plants. They can act "as a nerve poison to hamper growth", with deadly effect.[61]

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NotesNotes

  1. ^ "Land mine". Merriam-Webster. 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.