United Kingdom

Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015

[Note: Some footnote references updated 25 Janyuary 2016. No other changes made since last publication date.]

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline: 1 March 2019
(Not on track to meet deadline)

Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 deadline: 1 November 2020
(Not on track to meet the deadline)

The United Kingdom (UK) initiated clearance on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas again in 2015, although it is not on track to meet its Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline. 

Recommendations for action 

  • The UK should present detailed plans and timelines for clearance of all landmines, and known or suspected cluster strike areas in mined and other suspected hazardous areas on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas.

Contamination

Mine contamination

The only mined areas under the jurisdiction or control of the UK are on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas.[1] As of 30 April 2015, the UK had almost 12.35km2 of mined area, as set out in the table below.[2] 

At the end of 2014, contamination stood at 12.6km2 across 107 mined areas, before clearance operations resumed in January 2015. A further 0.26km2 was cleared between January and the end of April 2015, releasing an additional nine mined areas.[3] 

Contamination by province as of 30 April 2015[4]

Geographic area

Mined areas

Area (m2)

Fox Bay

12

2,369,300

Port Howard and Port Fitzroy

6

1,300,700

Murrell Peninsula

6

6,046,800

Darwin and Goose Green

7

172,100

Stanley Area 1

8

134,600

Stanley Area 2

28

939,377

Stanley Area 3

7

1,096,913

Stanley Area 4

24

288,300

Total

98

12,348,090

 

The UK is affected by antipersonnel mines by virtue of its control and assertion of full sovereignty over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, which were contaminated during the armed conflict between the UK and Argentina in 1982. The conflict resulted in many thousands of antipersonnel and antivehicle mines being laid on the islands, most by Argentina.[5] It also led to contamination from other unexploded ordnance (UXO) and abandoned explosive ordnance.

In its 2008 Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request, the UK reported that 117 mined areas remained, totaling 13km2 and containing just over 20,000 mines (antipersonnel and antivehicle).[6] Clearance operations between October 2009 and March 2013 reduced mine contamination to 107 mined areas, covering a total area of 12.6km2.[7] Demining from January to April 2015 further reduced the mine contamination to 98 mined areas, covering 12.35km2.[8] 

No civilian mine casualty has ever occurred on the islands.[9] Over the years, however, there have been numerous instances where civilians have deliberately or inadvertently entered a minefield. The Ministry of Defence reported “infringement” of minefields by a total of six locals and 15 foreign fishermen or tourists between March 2000 and December 2008.[10] On 6 December 2008, three crew members of a Belgian yacht inadvertently entered a minefield at Kidney Cove on East Falklands but were not injured. In October 2002, a Falkland Islander was fined £1,000 for entering a minefield on Goose Green.[11] It is a criminal offence on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas to enter a minefield.

The socio-economic impact of contamination on the islands is said to be minimal. All mined and suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) are reported to have been “perimeter-marked and are regularly monitored and protected by quality stock proof fencing, to ensure the effective exclusion of civilians.”[12] According to the UK, the mined areas represent “only 0.1% of land used for farming. The mined areas cover a wide range of terrain including sandy beaches and dunes, mountains, rock screes, dry peat, wet swampy peat, and pasture land.”[13] A number of instances of cattle, sheep, or horses entering the minefields have been recorded since 2000, some of which resulted in the animals’ deaths.[14] 

Cluster munition contamination 

An unknown number of cluster munition remnants remain on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas[15] as a result of use of BL755 cluster bombs by the UK against Argentine positions during the 1982 armed conflict. 

In February 2009, the Ministry of Defence stated that: “According to historical records either 106 or 107 Cluster Bomb Units (CBU) were dropped by British Harriers and Sea Harriers during the conflict. Each CBU contains 147 BL755 submunitions and using the higher CBU figure (107), a total of 15,729 submunitions were dropped. Using a 6.4% failure rate assessed during in-service surveillance over 15 years, we would estimate that 1,006 would not explode. Given that 1,378 BL 755s were cleared in the first year after the conflict and that a further 120 have been found and disposed of since (totaling 1,498), clearly there was a slightly higher failure rate. Even if the rate had been closer to 10% and 1,573 had failed, we can only estimate that some 70 remain but that due to the very soft nature of the peat found on the islands, many of these will have been buried well below the surface. We believe that the majority of those remaining are now contained within existing minefields and these will be cleared in due course.”[16] 

In 2015, the UK affirmed to the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) that no known areas of cluster munition contamination exist outside SHAs on the islands, in particular mined areas, all of which are fenced and marked.[17] From 1982–1984, battle area clearance (BAC) was undertaken over large areas looking for cluster munition remnants and other UXO. Based on bombing data, areas where unexploded submunitions were expected to be found were rapidly targeted, and a large number were located and destroyed. Clearance operations involved both surface and subsurface clearance, using the British 4C metal detector.[18] 

The UK has stated that potential cluster munition contamination has, in part, been taken into account during mine clearance operations in the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, with two areas, Fox Bay 8W and Goose Green 11, selected for clearance partly based on records indicating that cluster munitions had been dropped there. No cluster munition remnants were found in these two areas.[19]

The UK reported destruction of 19 submunitions during Phase 4(a) clearance operations, in January to April 2015, also in Stanley Area 3.[20] UK records suggest that four cluster bombs were dropped in this area.[21] In 2010, the UK reported destruction of two submunitions in Stanley Area 3, during clearance operations across four mined areas in 2009–2010.[22]

Other explosive remnants of war 

The extent of other explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas is not known, but survey and clearance results in the past few years suggest some UXO remain to be cleared.

Program Management

A National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) was established in 2009 to oversee clearance of mined areas.[23] The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) chairs the NMAA, and the Falkland Islands government and project contractors are also represented.[24] 

In October 2014, the Governor’s Office in Port Stanley announced that demining contracts had been awarded to two companies for Phase 4 of clearance on the islands. Battle Area Clearance, Training, Equipment and Consultancy International Ltd. (BACTEC) was awarded the land release contract, which will involve survey of SHA and removal of any contamination, while Fenix Insight will be responsible for the Demining Project Office (a form of mine action center) and ensuring quality management of the demining operations. While the announcement by the Governor’s Office asserted that 108 minefields existed at the start of Phase 4,[25] the FCO subsequently confirmed that the correct figure was in fact 107.[26]

It was envisaged that over Phase 4 of the project, at least 23 mined areas as well as one battle area would be cleared.[27] To implement Phase 4, which began in January 2015, BACTEC has a team of 46 demining staff, along with other support and management personnel.[28] BACTEC has also been using three mechanical assets during the project: two flails and a tiller.[29] As of October 2015, the UK reported it was working to complete Phase 4 and to prepare for the next phase of demining operations “where possible.”[30]

Strategic planning

The UK has not provided plans to implement Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty beyond the end of 2015.[31]

Information management

In 2015, the UK government disseminated reports on three phases of “exploitation work” conducted during Phases 1, 2, and 4 on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas. These reports, although specific to the Islands, were released in the hope they may be of broader interest to the mine action community with regards to the effects of aging and weathering of these types of mines. The reports focus on two antipersonnel mine types, SB33 (Italian) and P4B (Spanish), and two antivehicle mine types, SB81 (Italian) and C3B (Spanish).[32]

Land Release

No clearance or land release took place in 2014 and no land was cancelled through non-technical survey. Instead, the UK focused during the year on agreeing a plan for the next round (Phase 4) of mine clearance operations, and preparing and mobilizing for clearance operations to commence in 2015.[33] 

In June 2015, the UK stated that the first three phases of clearance had been completed, along with the first stage of Phase 4. Phase 1 took place from October 2009 to June 2010; Phase 2 from January to March 2012; Phase 3 from January to March 2013; and Phase 4(a) from January to end-April 2015.[34]

During the first three phases of clearance (from October 2009 to March 2013), 10 mined areas were cleared, totaling 0.9km2,[35] with the destruction of 974 antipersonnel mines and 600 antivehicle mines.[36] Phase 2 of the project (January to March 2012) focused on clearance and cancellation of areas not containing mines, with almost 3.5km2 released through cancellation and BAC.[37] A further 183,000m2 of BAC was released in Phase 3 (see section on cluster munition remnants).[38] Phase 4(a) released a further nine mined areas, totaling 264,800m2. Details of mine clearance in Phases 1, 2, 3, and 4(a) are set out in the table below.[39]

Mine clearance by project phase and area from October 2009 to 30 April 2015[40]

Project Phase

Geographic area

Mined areas released

Area cleared (m²)

Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed

Phase 1
(Oct 2009 to June 2010)

Fox Bay

1

24,175

0

0

Darwin and Goose Green

1

24,175

0

0

Stanley Area 1

1

33,420

488

568

Stanley Area 3

1

7,770

190

0

Total Phase 1

 

4

89,540

678

568

Phase 3
(Jan 2012 to March 2012)

Stanley Area 1

1

550

0

0

Stanley Area 2

4

805,550

296

32

Stanley Area 3

1

19,990

0

0

Total Phase 3

 

6

826,000

296

32

Phase 4(a)
(January 2015 to May 2015)

Stanley Area 3

10

264,800

2,425

26

Total Phase 4(a)

 

10

264,800

2,425

26

Total Phases 1, 2, and 4(a)

 

20

1,180,340

3,399

626

 

The UK does not use the separate categories of confirmed hazardous areas (CHAs) and SHAs on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas. However, although records do not exist for some of the mined areas, there is a high degree of confidence that mines will be encountered in most of them.[41]

No submunitions were destroyed in 2014.

Progress in 2015

Phase 4 consists of two sub-phases, both in 2015; 4(a) which ran from January to 30 April 2015, and 4(b), which was scheduled to run from September to December 2015. At the end of 4(a), nine mined areas totaling just over 0.26km2 had been cleared.[42]

In addition to these, work also commenced on a number of other SHAs, which were due to be completed in Phase 4(b). These tasks were suspended from May to September 2015 due to weather conditions.[43] Work resumed in September and was due to continue until December 2015.[44] In addition to suspended tasks, clearance of new tasks was also due to be completed in Phase 4(b). A total of just under 0.93km2, across 15 mined areas, was expected to be released under 4(b).[45] In addition, 1.19km2 of BAC, is also forecast to be cleared during Phase 4(b).[46]

A media article stated that according to Guy Marot, BACTEC Program Manager, “the Bactec team was operating about four times faster than in 2010 when the project started and this was mainly due to techniques having improved as well as the understanding of how the mines have been laid.”[47]

Nineteen submunitions were destroyed during clearance operations from January to April 2015 in Stanley Area 3.[48] 

Treaty Compliance

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the 10-year extension granted by States Parties in 2008), the UK is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2019. The UK is not on track to meet this deadline.

Total mined area cleared so far represents approximately 9% of overall mine contamination. This is far less than the 48% that the UK forecasted it would clear after five years, in its 2008 Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline extension request.[49] As at 30 April 2015, almost 12.35km2 of mine-contaminated land remained across the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, of which the UK planned to clear an additional 15 mined areas totaling 0.93km2 by the end of 2015.[50] The Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 Committee observed “the United Kingdom’s plan for 2015 represents a significant increase in ambition.” The committee further observed “that, notwithstanding this ambition, the United Kingdom’s pace of implementation suggests that it will not be able to complete implementation of Article 5 by its deadline in 2019.”[51]

In its 2008 Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline extension request, the UK reported 117 mined areas totaling 13.12km2. On the basis of additional information obtained by the UK from ongoing survey and clearance activities, the total contaminated area was increased to 13.53km2.[52] As of the end of Phase 4(a) demining operations in April 2015, just over 1.18km2 of mined land had been cleared since the UK joined the Mine Ban Treaty, releasing 19 mined areas in total. Of this, just over 0.26km2 was cleared in early 2015, and the remainder over the previous five years, although three of the past five years saw no clearance of mine-contaminated land (see table below).[53]

Mine clearance in 2010–2014[54]

Year

Area cleared (m2)

2014

0

2013
(January to March)

826,000

2012
(January to March)

0*

2011

0

October 2009 to June 2010

89,540

Note: * Phase two focused on clearance and cancellation of areas not containing mines, with 3.5km2 of SHAs cancelled and battle areas cleared; in addition to 0.18km2 of BAC in Phase 3.
 

The Mine Ban Treaty Ninth Meeting of States Parties in December 2008 agreed to the UK’s request for a 10-year extension but noted the UK had agreed to provide, not later than the end of June 2010, a detailed explanation of how demining is proceeding and the implications for future demining in order to meet the UK’s obligations under Article 5.[55] As of June 2015, the UK had not yet fulfilled this commitment, though it had reported on clearance operations to date on the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, as well as clearance plans for 2015.[56]

At the June 2010 Mine Ban Treaty Standing Committee meetings, the UK stated that the FCO would analyze data gathered from the Phase 1 operations on four sites in 2009−2010, “and make recommendations for future work based on this analysis.” It added, “We intend to report the findings of our analysis and agreed next steps to States Parties at the Meeting of States Parties in November 2010.”[57] The UK did not announce further clearance plans at the December 2010 Meeting of States Parties or subsequently.

In June 2011, the UK stated that it had planned a two-year pilot project in its extension request before it would be in a position to set out a full plan to meet its legal obligations.[58] On that basis, the UK was due to present the full plan in 2013. The FCO said in May 2014 that it would release details of plans for a fourth phase of demining “as soon as possible.”[59] 

In June 2015, the UK provided details of the clearance operations to-date (Phases 1 to 4(a)), along with forecasts for Phase 4(b), which was due to take place from September to December 2015.[60] Once this phase is complete, 83 mined areas will still remain.[61] The UK government funds all mine-clearance operations on the Islands.[62] 

Many remaining mined areas are in extremely remote locations, exposed to adverse weather conditions, and in the UK’s view, pose negligible risk to civilians.[63] In addition, the UK has also reported concerns about the environmental impact of demining.[64] The UK said in June 2015 that it was reviewing how it might address these challenges as it seeks to fulfil its Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 obligation, and that it was considering how it will continue with the next phase of demining without significant delay.[65] 

Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 compliance

Under Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the UK is required to destroy all cluster munition remnants in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 November 2020.

As the majority of remaining contamination is believed to be contained within existing minefields, in order for the UK to meet its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, it must also clear those minefields.



[1] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 30 May 2008. There is a sovereignty dispute over the islands with Argentina, which claims jurisdiction over the Falklands/Malvinas. Argentina has been granted an extension to its Article 5 deadline until 2020.

[2] Response to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) questionnaire by Foreign Office official, Arms Export Policy Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), 3 June 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 30 May 2008, p. 2.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 27 May 2009.

[10] Letter from Permanent Joint Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence to Landmine Action, 16 February 2009.

[11] L. Johnson, “Lucky minefield incident for landing crew in Falklands,” MercoPress, 9 December 2008.

[12] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, Executive Summary, 18 November 2008, p. 2.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Letter from Permanent Joint Headquarters of the UK Ministry of Defence to Landmine Action, 16 February 2009.

[15] There is a sovereignty dispute with Argentina, which also claims jurisdiction over the islands.

[16] Letter to Landmine Action from Lt.-Col. Scott Malina-Derben, Ministry of Defence, 6 February 2009; and email correspondence from Foreign Office official, FCO, 11 June 2015.

[17] Email from Foreign Office official, FCO, 1 July 2015.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., 11 June 2015.

[21] Ibid., 1 July 2015.

[22] Statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Tenth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 1 December 2010.

[23] Statement of the UK, Standing Committee on Mine Clearance, Geneva, 27 May 2009.

[24] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[25] Governor’s Office, “Falkland Islands demining contracts awarded,” 28 October 2014.

[26] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[27] Governor’s Office, “Falkland Islands demining contracts awarded,” 28 October 2014.

[28] In total, 74 staff are said to have been employed on the project.

[29] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[30] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015.

[31] “Preliminary observations of the committee on Article 5 implementation – observations on the implementation of Article 5 by the United Kingdom,” 23 June 2015.

[32] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015; statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015; and exploitation reports available on the Mine Ban Treaty website.

[33] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[34] Ibid.; and email, 11 June 2015.

[35] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[36] Ibid., I July 2015; and statement of UK on clearance of mined areas, Mine Ban Treaty Third Review Conference, Maputo, June 2014.

[37] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.; and emails 11 June 2015, and 1 July 2015.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Email from Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015.

[42] Response to NPA questionnaire from Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015; and statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015.

[43] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015; and statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015.

[44] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015; and email, 13 October 2015.

[45] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015.

[46] Ibid.

[48] Email from Foreign Office official, FCO, 11 June 2015.

[49] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 30 May 2008; and “Preliminary observations of the committee on Article 5 implementation – observations on the implementation of Article 5 by the United Kingdom,” 23 June 2015.

[50] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015; and email, 1 July 2015; and response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015.

[51] “Preliminary observations of the committee on Article 5 implementation – observations on the implementation of Article 5 by the United Kingdom,” 23 June 2015.

[52] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 30 May 2008; and “Preliminary observations of the committee on Article 5 implementation – observations on the implementation of Article 5 by the United Kingdom,” 23 June 2015.

[53] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Decision on UK Article 5 deadline Extension Request, Ninth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 28 November 2008.

[56] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[57] Statement of UK, Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 22 June 2010.

[58] Ibid., 21 June 2011. Notes by the ICBL.

[59] Email from Foreign Office official, FCO, 21 May 2014.

[60] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[61] Ibid.; and email, 1 July 2015; response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 2 October 2015; and statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015.

[62] Response to NPA questionnaire by Foreign Office official, FCO, 3 June 2015.

[63] Ibid.; and statement of UK, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid.