2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 21 Feb 2003 15:31:23 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Rand Study: $50 mil Needed for Landmine Removal in 90 Nations

A major research and development program costing about $50 million over
five to eight years is needed to sharply accelerate efforts to remove
deadly landmines that kill thousands of civilians each year in 90
nations, according to a RAND report issued today.

It could take about 450 years to remove all the abandoned landmines from
current and past conflicts around the world if the current slow pace of
landmine detection and removal continues, even if no new landmines are
planted, according to the RAND Science and Technology Policy Institute

The report said research is needed to develop new technology than can
replace the World War II-era equipment that remains the mainstay of
worldwide efforts to remove landmines. Researchers cited the need for a
new generation of landmine detectors that would be more accurate and
reliable to speed landmine removal.

The U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office
of the President commissioned the RAND study, titled "Alternatives for
Landmine Detection." The study focuses on close-in detection of
anti-personnel mines in post-conflict regionsóso called "humanitarian

According to the report, current levels of funding are insufficient. In
2002, the United States invested only $2.7 million for research and
development on hand-held detectors for humanitarian de-mining.

Landmines claimed between 150 and 300 victims per month in Afghanistan
during 2000, half of them children. Earlier this year a U.S. soldier was
injured clearing landmines in Afghanistan, one of the world's most
heavily mined countries.

"There is a desperate need for better landmine detection equipment,"
said Jacqueline MacDonald, a RAND engineer and co-author of the report.
"Technology is available to create better tools to remove landmines, but
nothing will be developed unless there is investment in a
well-organized, focused research program."

Researchers said today's landmine detection equipment is primitive,
relying on technology that results in a high number of false alarms.
Detectors used today operate via a technology that is unable to
discriminate landmines from other metallic materials—by far the greatest
limitation of the process.

For example, during humanitarian de-mining efforts in Cambodia from 1992
to 1998, only 90,000 of the 200 million items detected were
anti-personnel mines or explosives.

After a time-consuming vegetation clearing process, buried metal items
are detected by moving handheld mine detectors in a sweeping motion,
followed by a lengthy and dangerous manual excavation. The arduous
nature of de-mining creates worker fatigue that frequently results in
human error. Missed mines are the second leading cause of worker injury
among de-mining personnel in the field, accounting for more than
one-quarter of accidents.

The RAND report concludes that no single mine detection technology
exists that operates effectively against all mine types in all settings.

"There are too many variables affecting detection," MacDonald said. "The
variety and depths of mines, soil type, moisture, terrain, location,
atmospheric conditions, and vegetation density all affect the
probability of detection."

In particular, plastic-encased mines are among the most difficult for a
metal detector to identify, because of their low metallic content.

Because no single landmine sensor can find all types of mines in all
environments while simultaneously decreasing the false alarm rate,
researchers recommend creating a system that combines two or more
technologies into a new landmine detection tool. Researchers also said
an effective system will link data from various technologies as well as
detect the chemical components of explosives.

"These systems would need to combine technologies that have distinct
false alarm triggers and that key on different mine features, increasing
the capability of finding a wider variety of mines and of operating
effectively in a range of environments," said J.R. Lockwood, a
statistician and co-author of the RAND report.

RAND's Science and Technology Policy Institute is a federally funded
research and development center sponsored by the National Science
Foundation. The institute undertook the study as part of its mission to
conduct objective, independent research and analysis on public policy
issues involving science and technology.


Press release:

Alternatives for Landmine Detection (publication):

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