Here are some common terms and definitions
used by the United Nations and other organizations that work on
Mine Action. You will find some of these terms used in the Schools
Demining Schools website and in other resources. These explanations
may help you understand any terms that seem complicated or unfamiliar,
as you research and learn about mine action around the world.
A device fitted to an anti-tank or anti-personnel mine that causes
a mine to explode when it is handled or disturbed. Anti-handling
devices are intended to prevent the clearing of mines by opposing
forces. These devices are very dangerous for civilians as well as
the people who clear the mines, who are called deminers.
A landmine designed to be exploded when a person comes in contact
with it. Anti-personnel mines are usually set off when they are
stepped on or when a tripwire is disturbed.
A landmine designed to disable or destroy vehicles, including tanks.
They are also known as anti-vehicle mines. Anti-tank mines can be
detonated by large amounts of pressure or remote control, and some
could even be set off by a heavy person. If these mines are fitted
with sensitive anti-handling devices, even a child could detonate
A device or material which is designed to injure or kill by taking
a person by surprise. A booby trap functions unexpectedly when a
person or vehicle approaches it, or performs an apparently safe
act. An example of a booby trap is a household appliance which explodes
when it is picked up, or a corpse that explodes when it is moved.
An anti-personnel mine that is set off by a tripwire
or pressure and then explodes in the air and scatters fragments
in all directions. These weapons can kill or mutilate over a wide
An area that has been physically and systematically processed by
a demining organisation to ensure the removal and/or destruction
of all mine and UXO hazards.
Activities which lead to the removal of mine and UXO hazards, including
technical survey, mapping, clearance, marking, post-clearance documentation,
and the handover of cleared land. Demining may be carried out by
different types of organisations, such as NGOs, commercial companies,
national mine action teams or military units. A deminer is a person
who works to clear mines, as part of this process.
Directional fragmentation mine
A directional fragmentation mine, often called a Claymore-type mine,
is designed to send out steel balls or cubes in a 60 degree arc
over tens or even hundreds of metres. When detonated by tripwire,
it becomes unlawful under the Ottawa Treaty.
The act of making a mine safe by removing the fuse or igniter. The
procedure normally removes one or more links from the firing chain.
A fragmentation mine is often detonated by a tripwire.
It sends pre-shaped pieces out in all directions over several metres.
A mechanism that sets off a mine or weapon.
An assessment of the socio-economic impact caused by the presence
of mines and UXO in a particular area. An impact survey assists
in the planning and prioritisation of mine action programmes and
Mine action aims to reduce the social, economic and environmental
impact of landmines and UXO. Mine action is not just about clearance
and the banning of production; it is about how people and societies
are affected by landmines . The objective of mine action is to help
people live safely--free from the dangers imposed by landmines in
their areas, and to address the needs of victims; through risk reduction
education, advocacy, detection, and clearance. See “What
is Mine Action?” for further information.
Mine action center
A center that coordinates mine action initiatives within a country.
A government or the United Nations usually runs such centers.
An area which is dangerous due to the presence or suspected presence
The organized marking of minefields. Easily visible and recognizable
mine warning signs are placed around the perimeter of the minefield
to alert people to the presence of mines. A mine marking is also
a commonly used mine warning sign.
An area of ground containing mines. Sometimes, these mines are laid
in a pattern, and other times they are not.
The act of replacing safety devices such as pins or rods into an explosive
item to prevent the fuze or igniter from functioning. Neutralizing
does not make an item completely safe, as removal of the safety devices
will immediately make the item active again. A neutralized item may
still remain dangerous to handle.
Remotely delivered mine
Anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines can be “remotely delivered”
by aircraft, helicopter or artillery, so they are called remotely
delivered or scatterable mines. An example, the "butterfly"
mine, referring to its shape, has killed or injured many children
in a number of conflicts around the world.
Risk reduction programs teach people who live in affected areas how
to stay safe and avoid the dangers of landmines, and specifically
how to look out for warning signs.
A road or path which is known to be free of mines.
A post or pole attached to a fuse mechanism on the upper surface of
a mine. Pressure exerted on the tilt rod sets off the mine. These
are used particularly on anti-tank mines.
A thin, non-reflective metal or colored wire that can be used as a
mechanism to trigger an anti-personnel mine or a booby trap. A tripwire
is usually stretched low but slightly above the ground so that any
passerby will "trip" over it, thus setting off the explosive.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO)
Explosive munitions which have not been set off. UXO may already have
been fired, dropped or launched but has failed to detonate as intended.
These unexploded mortars are extremely dangerous for children who
may play with them or try to dismantle to sell as scrap metal. . Unused
munitions are not technically UXO, but are often considered to be,
as it’s a simple way of referring to them.
United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
The focal point within the United Nations system for all mine-related
issues. UNMAS is the office within the UN Secretariat responsible
to the international community for coordinating activities related
to the fight against landmines. It is also responsible for initiating
mine action programmes in the context of humanitarian emergencies.
Glossary of Mine Action
Terms and abbreviations, UNMAS