More on landmine clearance in Chile

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s Patagonia region 

This month the Chilean army will begin removing landmines along the road from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine National Park in the country’s southern Patagonia region. The area is a prime tourist destination, attracting around 150,000 visitors annually, and this is what the U.S. State Department has to say about safety:

Minefields are found in Chile’s northern border region with Peru and Bolivia and around the southern border with Argentina in Patagonia. Minefields are generally marked, but markers may have shifted or may not be visible. Follow clearly identified roads and trails when traveling in minefield areas. Border crossings should only be made at authorized locations. Consult with park or other local officials concerning minefields and other hazards.

And the British Foreign Office tells travellers:

Chile has a small but significant landmine problem. Landmine accidents mainly affect livestock and small numbers of local people crossing the borders at unauthorised crossing points. Minefields are located primarily in the border areas adjacent to Peru and Bolivia in the extreme north of Chile, Regions XV, I and II, and Argentina in the south in Region XII. Although most minefields are clearly marked, some signs and fences have been subjected to the effects of weather or vandalism and may be hard to recognise, particularly in the north of the country. Minefields are, in some cases, laid right up to the edge of highways. You should also be aware that there are mined areas in six government-protected wilderness areas in Regions XV,I and II in the north and XII in the south. You are advised to check with local authorities before travelling to these areas, stick to clearly marked roads and observe all warning signs.

A recent story by Mercopress states that the Chilean army is working to clear five minefields in the area, including 30 hectares owned by a rancher who has lost 26 cattle to explosions.

And the American defence magazine Dialogo has just published this report on landmine clearance along Chile’s border with Peru, where last February heavy rains dislodged several explosive artefacts and forced the temporary closure of the Panamerican Highway:

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 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


Original contaminated area (m2)

Cleared or released area (m2)

Remaining area (m2)









Magallanes y Antártica Chilena




















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:

And an overview: