An anti-personnel mine is “a mine designed to be exploded by the
presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate,
injure or kill one or more persons.” These hidden, indiscriminate
weapons cannot tell the difference between the tread of a soldier or a
child. They continue to kill and maim long after wars have ended.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), more
than 350 different kinds of anti-personnel mines have been produced by
more than 50 countries. AP mines act to injure or kill victims by both
the explosive blast and the fragmentary metal debris projected upon
Generally speaking there are two types of AP mines: blast mines and
fragmentation mines. Placed in or on the ground or scattered from the
air, blast AP mines are often less than 10 centimetres in diameter and
are activated by the weight of a foot. They are the most common type of
AP mines. One of the most insidious mines is the "butterfly"
mine a blast mine scattered from planes that looks like a toy but
which explodes when played with.
Fragmentation mines are generally activated by a trip wire and
project shards of metal at incredible speeds toward the victim.
In addition, "bounding mines" are fragmentation mines that
jump into the air before exploding, spraying fragments across a large
Anti-personnel mines came into widespread use during the Second World
War. They were intended to stop the theft of anti-tank mines. Anti-tank
mines were intended to destroy battle tanks, but they could be easily
seen by foot soldiers, who stole them and implanted them in their own
minefields. Anti-tank mines were originally unexploded artillery shells
with their fuses exposed. The first anti-personnel mines had the
capacity to explode with the weight of a foot. During the Cold War, a
number of technological advances were made and the use of these weapons
Used by military forces throughout the world, the low cost and easy
deployment of landmines have made them a weapon of choice in the world's
poorest countries. In countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan,
Cambodia and Bosnia, the threat of landmines is a terror ordinary people
live with every day.
In some situations, various types of AP mines are used together to
create an elaborate labyrinth in a mine field, designed to trick even
the most skilled demining crews. This may include piling mines on top of
each other underground and placing different mines close to each other
so that by diffusing one, other nearby mines are detonated.
Anti-personnel mines are not indispensable military tools. According
to a 1996
Red Cross study, military experts examining 26 wars where
anti-personnel mines were used concluded that mines did not lead to a
strategic advantage in war. The reality is that mines do more to create
fear and cause suffering in civilian populations than they do to deter
the movement of soldiers. According to the United Nations, landmines are
at least 10 times more likely to kill or injure a civilian after a
conflict than a combatant during hostilities. Once mines have been laid,
they are completely indiscriminate in their action. Unless
cleared, they continue to have the potential to kill and maim long after
the actual fighting has ceased.
In addition, AP mines are often used by warring parties to
purposefully induce terror in villages and communities. This is a far
stretch from the stated defense uses of AP mines and it affects
civilians already caught in the crossfire of surrounding battles.
The major producers of anti-personnel landmines in the last 25 years
have included the United States, Italy, the former Soviet Union, Sweden,
Vietnam, Germany, Austria, the former Yugoslavia, France, China and the
United Kingdom. The most commonly found mines around the world were from
China, Italy and the former Soviet Union.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 14
countries had not banned the production of anti-personnel landmines.
These were Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, North Korea,
South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.
Some of these countries have not actually produced AP mines in recent
years, but refuse to ban production officially.
The ICBL also points out that with the exception of the Former
Republic of Yugoslavia, the most mine affected countries in the world
received all their mines from sources outside of their borders. While it
is difficult to track mine shipments, there are no major AP mine
exporters anymore, and Iraq remains the only country that has not made
an official statement that they no longer export AP mines.
Canada ceased production of anti-personnel mines in 1992. It had only
produced one type of anti-personnel mine, commonly known as the
"Elsie" mine a plastic-bodied, cone shaped mine that cost
approximately $40 to purchase. The Elsie anti-personnel mine was
produced by SNC-Industrial Technologies Inc, a subsidiary of the
SNC-Lavalin group. Prior to 1986, the Elsie anti-personnel mine was
produced by the crown-owned Canadian Arsenals Ltd, which was then sold
to the SNC-Lavalin group. The last export of anti-personnel mines from
Canada was completed in 1987 with a shipment to Kuwait.
The widespread use of anti-personnel mines has created a humanitarian
crisis of global proportions. Attempts have been made to estimate the
number of AP mines in the ground around the world through reporting
procedures by countries under
the Ottawa Convention. However, it is now apparent that the number of
mines in the ground is not an accurate measurement of the landmine
Instead, the most significant measurement of landmine consequences is
the amount of high-priority land that contains mines. This is land that
is arable, socially and / or economically valuable or essential for
transportation to the local residents. The risk of death or injury
inhibits use of the land. Whether a field has 2 mines or 10,000 mines
means it cannot be used by a community. Since any attempt to determine
the number of mines laid around the world will only be an estimate, mine
action groups now focus attention on the humanitarian crisis posed by
The real seriousness of the landmine problem is reflected in the
numbers people affected by landmines, especially new victims
estimated to be in the tens of thousands each year. Landmines cause huge
barriers to social and economic development in some of the world’s
It is estimated that since 1975, there have been more than one
million landmine casualties most of them civilians, many of them
children. Where they do not kill immediately, landmines severely maim
their victims, causing trauma, lifelong pain and often social stigma.
World wide there are some 250,000 landmine amputees. Survivors face
terrible physical, psychological and socio-economic difficulties.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, there are
three types of injury anti-personnel mine injury amongst survivors. The
most severe injury results from stepping on a buried anti-personnel
mine. This usually results in the amputation of the foot or leg with
severe injury of the other leg, genitalia and arms.
The second type of injury occurs when a victim triggers a
fragmentation mine. If death is not instant, there are wounds similar to
those from any other fragmentation device and can affect any part of the
The last type of anti-personnel landmine injury is caused by
accidental detonation while handling a mine generally seen among
mine-clearers, those planting mines or curious children who pick up or
play with mines. This involves severe wounds to the hands and face.
Surgeons with the International Committee of the Red Cross estimate
that up to half of all AP mine victims die on site within minutes of a
blast and that only 28 per cent of AP mine casualties arrive at a
hospital within six hours of the explosion.
Due to their small size and the relative closeness of their vital
organs to the mine blast, children are more prone to death and serious
injury from landmines than adults. They are more likely than adults to
die immediately or shortly after being injured, because they are not
able to survive the blood loss during the time it takes to get them to a
hospital for emergency treatment.
The suffering of landmine victims is compounded by the lack of
medical and transportation infrastructure in most countries that have an
AP mine problem. For example, even if the victims survive the blast and
make the long, arduous journey to a medical centre, the physical
injuries are usually far greater, the emotional trauma much deeper, and
the economic prospects significantly bleaker than for an adult.
AP mine injuries for children are most difficult for surgeons to
treat because of the need for constant blood transfusions, antibiotics,
anaesthetics, X-ray films and follow up medical attention. Children may
require ongoing amputations for prosthesis fittings on growing limbs. A
10-year-old amputee may require at least 25 prostheses during his/her
lifetime. Artificial limbs cost about $125 each beyond the means of
many victims, where average wages are only $10 to $15 a month.
For successful rehabilitation to occur, there must be extensive
rehabilitation programming including job, and independent living skills
training, at a minimum. In most underdeveloped countries, this is simply
not available to children. For example, UNICEF estimates that only 19-20
per cent of disabled children in El Salvador receive rehabilitation
therapy. The rest are forced to fend for themselves and often have to
steal or beg to survive.