Some background on Chile’s landmines

A photo of the kind of landmine discovered near the Pan-American Highway, circulated by local Chilean authorities. The notes say the device "cannot be neutralized" and is "difficult to detect."

This week’s closure of the Chile-Peru border was a reminder that the detritus of war takes decades to clean up.  An estimated 20,000 people use the Chacalluta pass between Tacna and Arica every day, and when officials discovered that floods had washed up some landmines planted during the Pinochet regime, some 1,400 Chileans and 2,000 Peruvians were stranded on the wrong sides of the border for two days.

It isn’t clear how many landmines were discovered, but officials detonated at least four devices found in the vicinity of the Pan-American Highway.  The local Intendencia office released photos of two of the kinds of explosives found, both of Belgian origin (see photo above).  According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor http://www.the-monitor.org/custom/index.php/region_profiles/print_profile/242 Chile was, until 1985, a “producer, exporter, importer and use of antipersonnel mines.”  The country has signed the international Mine Ban Treaty, but the chart below suggests only about half the mines have been cleared.

Cumulative clearance in 2002–2010

Region

Original contaminated area (m2)

Cleared or released area (m2)

Remaining area (m2)

Arica

14,477,055

3,583,627

10,893,428

Antofagasta

6,203,380

4,418,991

1,784,389

Magallanes y Antártica Chilena

2,290,199

1,233,633

1,056,566

Tarapacá

136,021

12,932

123,089

Valparaíso

20,066

6,066

14,000

Metropolitana

80,560

80,560

0

Totals

23,207,281

9,335,809

13,871,472

Here’s a link to an earlier interview by the Global Mine Action Registry with a Chilean naval officer discussing the challenges of demining in the country: http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/5.2/focus/elizabethadams.htm

And an overview: http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/13.1/profiles/chile/chile.htm

 

 

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