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History of Landmines

Landmines have a long history, dating back to the Greek and Roman empires
. However, it is during the Second World War that antipersonnel and antitank landmines started to be widely used for defensive and tactical purposes and to achieve military objectives. Troops typically placed the mines by hand, but first mapped the location of the minefields for future clearance, even though many of the mines laid were not immediately cleared. In many European countries, a residual threat still exists from landmines placed during the Second World War.

This antipersonnel mine is activated by stepping on it.

Advances in technology in the 1960s made it possible to scatter mines mechanically rather than planting them by hand
. This meant that hundreds of landmines could be deployed at the same time using aircraft, rockets or artillery. While a troop of 30 men could lay approximately 50 mines per hour, one remote delivery system could scatter over 200 mines at the same time. During the Vietnam War, vast areas of land in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were completely saturated with mines using these delivery systems.

As conflicts became more brutal, the effect of landmines was no longer strictly limited to military targets. In the 1980s, mines quickly became a weapon of choice in many internal conflicts. The low cost of antipersonnel mines made them particularly appealing to guerrilla and military forces in developing countries. The production of smaller and more sophisticated landmines and the development of homemade devices prompted a huge increase in the amounts placed in the field. Plastic mines, which cannot be identified with metal detectors, also became common. Civilians became targets because antipersonnel landmines were used intentionally to harass and terrorize them, forcing them to leave their homes and blocking access to important infrastructure like water and electricity. All these factors led to a global crisis—but the biggest contributing factor was the increase in the planting of mines around the world.
The Yugoslav PMA-2 is a plastic mine but also has a metallic component. It is amongst the smallest type of anti-personnel mines.

In 1992, six humanitarian organisations joined together to create the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). From their work in mine affected countries they had seen first hand the horrendous toll landmines take on innocent people in countries where conflict has already caused so much pain. The work of the ICBL, which grew to a membership of more than 1400 non-governmental organisations, in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations and governments worldwide, aims to make the history of landmines a short one. In July 2002, more than two-thirds of the world’s countries were party to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention, which bans the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel landmines.


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